No negativity, but India does figure in Pakistan

February 18th, 2008 - 3:36 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) The once-endemic anti-India rhetoric is gone. Even Kashmir did not figure in campaign rallies. As Pakistanis voted Monday, there appeared to be some genuine admiration for Indian democracy. On private television channels, experts discussing the reason for the lack of strong democratic roots in Pakistan inevitably bring in India as a comparison.

“We didn’t go for land reforms, India did. That was the key for democracy,” said one expert on Aaj TV.

There are also comparisons between the voting turnouts between the two South Asian neighbours. The numbers who vote in Pakistan is invariably low compared to India.

The voter turnout in the last election in 2002 in Pakistan was 41 percent while in India it was over 56 percent in 2004.

On the street, Pakistanis do talk about Indian democracy though they are also aware of some of its flaws.

“There is accountability in India. You can throw out anybody from power. Even if we vote, I don’t know if it will matter. There is too much dhaandli (rigging) here,” said a 53-year-old Islamabad resident who gave his name as Ashiq.

Karachi-based economist Kaiser Bengali pointed out that the lack of electoral rhetoric against India was a reflection of the general feeling among Pakistanis.

“There has been an absence of anti-India sentiment for the last one decade,” Bengali told IANS, adding: “You should be happy about it!”

Added political analyst S. Akbar Zaidi: “India does not matter. America does not matter.”

The only time India’s 1998 nuclear tests have been mentioned at campaign rallies is when speakers talk about Pakistan’s tit-for-tat tests.

“Remember how Nawaz Sharif conducted six nuclear tests against India,” thundered Shahbaz Sharif, brother of the former prime minister. The statement, at one of the last rallies at Rawalpindi Saturday, was greeted with roars of approval.

According to Pakistanis, the last time a political party indulged in virulent anti-India rhetoric during elections was in 1970, a year before the India-Pakistan war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

There is, however, strong palpable and vocal anti-Americanism, which has turned into near hatred for President Pervez Musharraf because of his support to the US war on terror.

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