Fatima Bhutto draws road map for India-Pakistan peace


Thiruvananthapuram : The road to peace between India and Pakistan will have to be mapped by building on the shared heritage and the common social malaise confronting the two nations. And the onus of the task lies on the youth, author and peace activist Fatima Bhutto said here Saturday.

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“We (people of India and Pakistan) are the same.”

“You are like me. We need more people-to-people contact to promote peace. Our destinies as countries are inextricably linked as our past were… Justice is within the borders and not outside it,” the Karachi-based writer said.

She was delivering the sixth K.C. John Memorial Lecture on “India and Pakistan: Road to Peace” at the Kovalam Literary Festival 2011. The two-day festival began Oct 1 at the Kanakakunnu Palace, a former summer retreat of the erstwhile rulers of Travancore, in the capital.

“Despite being separated at birth and shared heritage, India and Pakistan have created enormous gulf between their people. They cannot visit each other’s country without going through enormous official procedures,” Fatima said.

Fatima harked back to the 5,000-year-old civilisational roots of the people of India and Pakistan along the Indus Valley to emphasise the need to hammer out common policies to battle hunger and underdevelopment.

“India and Pakistan over the centuries have shared something hopeful, peaceful – a joint heritage that modern day hostilities could not erase,” she said.

“But there is lack of coordination,” she lamented. “We could develop policies together… But we don’t do that – instead we feed the world when the hungry in our country starve.”

Analysing the areas of serious conflicts, Fatima said there were “three countries in the world that did not sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty – India, Pakistan and Israel.”

“India and Pakistan are still suspicious of each other while the Israel government has managed to get itself out of it,” she said.

And the suspicions were very elementary, she added.

Fatima is the grand-daughter of slain Pakistan prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the niece of Benazir Bhutto, the country’s first woman prime minister, who was killed in 2007. Fatima’s father Murtaza Bhutto was gunned down in a political battle in 1996.

Fatima said “India and Pakistan have the largest migration history in the world with the biggest displacement… When we parted, the world shook”.

“The freedom movement was iconic but the only problem was that we quickly turned on ourselves. What Pakistan did to India, Bangladesh did to Pakistan. Punjab was almost a holocaust,” she said.

She said Bangladesh and Pakistan have one of the uncertain food policies and “terror has displaced millions of people who are hungry”.

“But nearly 50 percent of the world’s hungry are in India,” she said identifying the problems endemic to both the nations.

“Trade between India and Pakistan is a fraction of the trade that we do with strangers. Trade between the two countries was much larger and we should be giving 40 billion dollars in trade. Many other arch rivals have better trade ties,” she said.

The young Indians and Pakistanis had made peace a reality, she said. Clad in one of her grandmother’s saris, Fatima stole the show with her appeal for lasting peace across the border.

Fatima is the author of three books, including a new biography of the Bhutto clan.