Interview with an Indian Writer Mr. Frank Huzur
This is the second interview of series Pakistan Times starts as an effort to promote peace rather than war. Pakistan Times has decided to involve as many as people from various walks of life both in India and Pakistan rather to have only Journalists. Sole cause behind these interviews is promotion of peace and not hurting anyone’s feelings and projection of neutral and unbiased perspectives. Team of Pakistan Times wishes to bring constructive change through these interviews. My apologies from Mr. Frank Huzur because i conducted this interview in December 28, 2008. Since Pakistan Times was under maintainance process and still is being brought changes.
Pakistan Times is thankful to all Indians and Pakistanis who took extra pain and spared time out of their schedules to make sole cause of Peace promotion within region; Team of Pakistan Times is confident that these interviews can create buzz on horizons of Internet.
Frank Huzur is a poet, playwright and a biographer. His stint in journalism has brought him to Pakistan on several times. In recent times, he has traveled to Pakistan, Lahore, Islamabad, Mianwali, in search of credible research and source about Imran Khan. He has just finished Imran Khan biography, that’s too an authorized biogrphy. For him it was quite a major breakthrough moment for an Indian writer like him writing a biography of a Pakistani politician. The news has been received with much enthusiasm and surprise. Imran Versus Imran-An Untold Story is now complete in writing. His publisher, Falcon & Falcon Books Ltd, London, is expecting to publish it in March.
He is also a creative consultant and joint editor with Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature. The Foswal, an apex body of SAARC, is the most active literary and cultural wing so far as building the bridge of peace and joy between different SAARC countries is concerned.
Editor: Who do you think is behind Mumbai Terrorist Attacks? Who were the Dakkan Mujahideen and groups like them?
Frank Huzur: Terrorism is a beast with seven heads and more than ten horns. The image is one of diversity at the front end and yet a deep satanic unity. Galileo, the much-cursed astronomer once said:
All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them. For a plot hatched in hell, don’t expect angels for witnesses.
Mumbai massacre has also triggered a bouquet of its own conspiracy theory. Tragedy with me was that I was not present on the spot. I was holed up in my New Delhi home writing the Imran Khan manuscript. So, I was one more mute spectator to the sixty-hour long horrific drama beaming live into millions of drawing rooms through sky broadcasting. Investigation into the attacks so far are wheeling around the confessions of Ajmal Amir Qasab, the lone gunman captured alive, now in the custody of Mumbai police. His confessions reveal he hails from a village in Punjab Province of Pakistan. He admits he was trained for Jehad by Lashkar-e-Taiyba. Moreover, Intelligence officer from FBI have also questioned the young assassin. Only time will prove whether New Delhi claim is true or Islamabad is feigning innocence about implicit or explicit involvement of masterminds of terror now in house arrest in Pakistan.
I am a Pakistan observer and an Indian author. A poet or author or journalist away from the field of action will be the least qualified one to prove the truthfulness of claims of shadowy groups like Deccan Mujahideen or Indian Mujahideen. I am afraid some security experts, either in India or Pakistan, can give you better picture and help debunk the shards of canards scattered all over the place Mumbai to Mirpur. What New Delhi announces appears another dose of conspiracy theory to Islamabad. Walls of distrust and suspicion have returned to monstrous level, not witnessed in the past four years. In fact, one thing that I have noticed is that all of these conspiracy theories depend on the perpetrators being endlessly clever. I think you will find the facts also work if you assume everyone is endlessly stupid. Whoever is the executioner, be it LeT, Al Qaida or some Mujahideen, had its calculation sheet neatly balanced. There are pluses and minuses to be gathered from horror of such scale. The global war on terror has, at long last, reached the shores of India. Until now, Indians were not in the line of fire, for their assistance with the American war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and Waziristan was in non-combatant form. Now, New Delhi is hailed as the strategic ally of the USA, especially after consummation of Civil Nuclear Co-operation Agreement. The USA, too, has moved in swiftly to take India on the board, thereby, drawing much reluctant New Delhi into the morass of the Afghan war. Acts of tragedy of such horrendous scales wouldn’t be achieved unless the pyramid of terrorism and extremism is not counseled by top dog boys of sophisticated Intelligence apparatus and bankrolled by a caucus of bankers.
Editor: How these attacks effected Indian Minorities particularly Muslims?
Frank Huzur: Let me start by saying Indian Muslims are very angry and agitated. Never before did the community feel so much disdain and contempt for Pakistan as they have in store nowadays. Already, the community has been under tremendous strain in the aftermath of blast after blast in different Indian cities. Apparently after each of such acts of mass violence, Investigating agencies, which are predominantly Hindu in character, swoop on Muslim settlements across cities to present their prize-catch of culprits. A huge crowd of rational thinking media persons and Human Rights activists across the length and breadth of India, who are Hindu in name and origin, have confessed in open public discourse that to have a Muslim name in modern India invite swell of suspicion and fear.
Little wonder, Mumbai massacre has brought mountain of tragedy for Indian Muslims. Nearly quarter of those killed by the band of ten gunmen were Muslims, most of them hailing from average common economic background. Quite a few of them were eliminated while waiting to board train for their native places in province of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Nevertheless, every single Muslims is viewed with utmost suspicion and contempt. However, there are silver lining behind the dark clouds. The entire Muslim community of India condemned the attacks in one voice, millions of them in Mumbai wore black bands in collective hour of mourning on their arms. Muslim intellectuals condemned the attacks and vociferously supported tough action against those responsible for the trauma. Nearly all of them are unanimous in their belief that Pakistan government is sheltering the mastermind of terror attacks. If any community this attack was perpetrated against, it was Muslim community. Terrorists wanted to trigger massacre of Muslims in name of their dangerous designs— It is fasad, not Jihad, as terrorist like Qasab are singing about their missions.
Just as hundreds of Hindu women in Hyderabad of Sindh, Pakistan, hit the streets screaming slogans against Indian Government over pointing accusatory finger at their homeland-Pakistan for involvement in Mumbai massacre, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, not the least some super-stars and recognisable faces in Indian celebrity world of Bombay—hit the streets as band of angry protesters against the politicians and terrorists alike. Ironically, there were some motley group of militant Hindu boys in the same protest march who had banners in their hands, which said—Send all Indian Muslims to Pakistan! What a dramatic irony for a Muslim in these troubled times, and what a terrible strategy on part of those who are committing acts of terror in name of Islam and calling it Jihad. Indian Muslims have coined a new term, Fasad, to clothes such Jihadi terrorism. Though, the credit goes to India’s finest socio-political thinker M J Akbar to coin this term, Fasad.
Editor: Do the people of India want War?
Frank Huzur: Like I said, there never was a good war or bad peace. In war, fathers bury their sons and in peacetime, sons bury their fathers. People of India don’t vouch for war. However, a tiny minority of war mongers in Indian government and Opposition alike, aided and abetted by a considerable section of jingoistic media, prominently charged by visual media, is bundling all the fuge of provocation into the bag of dirty tricks. This is a very small crowd of agent provocateurs, which comes across as Islamophobic even during peacetime. Lashkar-e-Taiba repulsive acts have added huge hose of firewood in their hate-ideology. It’s the moment this belligerent section of Indian society, especially Hindu society of which upper caste Hindu constitute the vocal lot- don’t want to go waste. Only this very section invokes spirit of Israeli aggression against Palestinians, Gaza settlers, who are being pounded to scrap of dust once more. However, this very tragedy has its own set of exception and aberrations. There are quite a few Muslims ideologue and discourse maker too, who wants Indian government of Manmohan Singh to take harsh punitive measures against Islamabad.
Nevertheless, majority of Indians, 9 out of every 10 Indians, would not want Manomohan Singh-led UPA government to bomb Pakistan or carry out surgical strikes over terror camps. That Indians don’t want war was explicit in the mandate voters of Delhi delivered in favour of the Congress government. The Capital went to polls on 29th of November when entire country was in flames over Mumbai massacre. Each and every poll pundit predicted a clean sweep for the Hindu nationalist BJP, the principal rival and claimant for power at both state and Centre. To utter dismay and consternation of the BJP and to pleasant astonishment of the Congress itself, the Congress not only secured third successive term, it virtually trounced the BJP. The mood has changed across the country. Indians are angry at their political representatives more than they had been over Pakistan in recent past. They want accountability from Politicians. The BJP’s Hindu vs Muslim cards fell with deep thud on the ground. It came a cropper.
Editor: Do you think Indian media played immature role in agonizing Indian masses blaming Pakistan for these incidents; as a pressure building strategy for Indian Government to attack Pakistan?
Frank Huzur: To considerable extent, some news channels did go over the hill and indulged in silly broadcasting to jerk up their viewers’ rating. Indian television industry, especially broadcasting sector, is still in its infancy. Even Indian government has taken strong exception to the tone and tenor of broadcast. Nearly all the private channels have been rebuked for child-like exuberance. Indian print media, newspapers and magazine, however, didn’t put up any show of a spoiler, and have played out extremely responsible, mentoring role. You can’t do anything about such hate-mongering, either in India or Pakistan. Both countries have to learn to come to grip with larger issues and message of their violent outburst and highly partisan reporting. Especially for television channels, it was a great soap opera, a huge tunnel of opportunity in hours of gravest humanitarian crisis. Now, some television reporters are walking with their chest puffed up in public claiming they were screaming live from the foreground of Taj Mahal hotel. These acts of hysterical reporting has brought them a little tonic in this business of high visibility where reporters or editors don’t want to move out of swanky cushions of studio neon lights into far-flung pockets of rural India, where over 180,000 farmers have killed themselves for want of food crops and financial debt, as well as hundreds of thousands of them have been displaced by the spillover impact of ‘Shining India project’ as their farmlands were bought for throwaway prices to create ‘Special Economic Zones’.
Indian viewers, like electorate of India, are gullible, docile and comfort-loving. This class of about 400 million people have privilege of watching television on cable and dish set top boxes, and these are the people who determine the course of broadcasting. They want drama, however much of it, on small screen to titillate their basic and baser instincts. Mumbai attacks broadcasting was entertaining this very segment of Indian urban population, which has, of the past decade, started enjoying living in communal atmosphere. Although communal harmony and amity reigns supreme at the back of minds of this very highly vocal segment, it is yet easy to lit the spark of division, on caste, class and religious lines.
Editor: Few people in India believe that these attacks were planned to kill people like Hament Karkary who exposed the involvement of RAW in Samjhota incident; how do you see this?
Frank Huzur: Dreaming doesn’t cost a penny. There are, for sure, a huge segment of communal organisations, primarily some zealot, Jehadi Hindu militant groups, who were cursing this valiant and meritorious civil servant. Until his tragic killing in the shoot-out, he was an eyesore to the India’s largest Opposition party, Bhartiya Janta Party and some of its allies and affiliates, such as Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, radical Hindu parent organisation of the BJP, Bajrang Dal, a militant youth wing of RSS, and last but not the least, Abhinav Bharat, a surprise package among militant Hindu groups who target Muslims, Christians and vulnerable section among downtrodden Hindus who are on the brink of deserting the Hindu faith and embracing either Buddhism, which is a fad among Dalits of modern India or Islam or for that matter Christianity.
The conspiracy theory is still going around in certain segment, especially Muslims and Christians of India, the common masses on streets, do sniff sinister agenda at work. One Cabinet Minister, A R Antulay, in the Manmohan Singh government dared to question the circumstances of Hemant Karkare’s death on the floor of Parliament. He was demonised in Indian media, heckled by members of BJP in Parliament and was put to sword in his own party. He had to tender his resignation to Sonia Gandhi. No decision has been taken so far. Meanwhile, Antulay has somersaulted on his statement after assurance from the Interior Minister, P Chidambram. What is the assurance from the new Home Minister of India is known only to Antulay.
Indian media heaved a sigh of relief when the issue died down a chilling death. It would be difficult to establish whether there was a hidden force at the centre of Hemant’s and his colleagues’ death. Only posterity would enlighten us on this if there was a foul play. As of now, the UPA government, which didn’t tinker with Hemant Karkare’s investigation into terrorist cells of certain Hindu groups, has ruled out the possibility of conspiracy. Much of Indian street opinion has also turned its face away from this debate now.
Your suspicion about involvement of RAW-Indian external spy agency, into such attacks might be a little unfounded. The groups which have been apprehended have, however, succeeded in engaging a tiny minority of some officials of Indian Defence Services, they might have friends in Indian Intelligence apparatus, too. However, these groups have flourished with tacit support of certain political groups, who benefits out of their subversive, terrorist activities. Both Muslims and Hindus die in any single blast on Indian streets and bazaar.
Though Hemant Karkare was successful in busting the myth of home-borne terror outfits, his revelation into Malegaon blasts, where most of the victims were Muslims and slant reference to blasts in Samjhauta Express, with the shocking arrest of a serving colonel officer of Indian army, has, indeed, jolted the majority of Hindus out of slumber. It is a rude awakening for these vast sections of Indian Hindu electorate, who had been dulled into believing that all the terrorists are only Muslims. Which is why the BJP terror propaganda in the quick aftermath of 26 November attacks on Mumbai was given a dumb hearing by this segment.
Majority of Hindus in India, I would say 7 out of 10, are secular in their political belief and highly tolerant of other faiths, including Islam. They have been fooled in the past by hardline voices in the BJP and Shiv Sena, their awakening over the years has forced even the BJP to abandon its pet Hindutva agenda.
At end of the day, only candid investigation process can bring out the truth. Till then, Indian people will have to wait and watch how the investigation takes it logical course. The skeptics would certainly like to find out who was really behind Hemant Karkare’s assassination, terrorists who attacked Mumbai or homebound terror groups who were exposed by the Anti Terrorism Squad chief. Speculations are not suitable for such occasions until the investigation concludes. However, majority of Indians are convinced he was killed in the brushfire of terrorists, shooting indiscriminately at Victoria terminus.
Editor: Do you think India will go for War; how do you perceive two Nuclear powers fighting? How can it effect the world peace?
Frank Huzur: Henry Kissinger spoke about George W Bush after 9/11 in these words,
“I can think of no faster way to unite the American people behind George W Bush than a terrorist attack on an American target overseas. And, I believe George W Bush will quickly unite the American people through his foreign policy”.
Indian has missed the bus of waging war against Pakistan. Like Vir Sanghavi, a senior political commentator observed the other day, the round one of the present game of hide and seek between New Delhi and Islamabad has gone to Islamabad. If ever India has had a bright opportunity to bomb Pakistani targets, it was within the very first week of Mumbai massacre. Had New Delhi acted swiftly the way it ordered Commando action at the five star hotels under siege, the world would have been beholden to its aggression out of sympathy and commisseration in moment of collective grief. Not now! Indian foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, only harped over his now famous one-liner, ‘all options open’, while the Indian Defence Minister A K Antony sang paen to no-war policy with Pakistan, what with Indian Prime Minister speaking about creating more pressure, diplomatic pressure over Pakistan.
Nuclear bomb has played its pivotal part in forcing deterrence over military escalations. Both sides would know the price of such escalations, which might devour the sensible approaches and fuel unintended nuclear strike like consequences. If ever, God forbid, anything like Nuclear war breaks out as Humphrey Hawkley predicts in his magnum opus fiction work, Dragon Fire, it would wipe out half the population of Indian sub-continent, blacken the white roses of historic Indus valley civilisation and blunt the ability of people of the region to challenge the easiest of challenges in daily life and time. It would trigger apocalypse, and Europe and America would be affected as much in size and scale of devastation and destruction.
In current scenario, nuclear strike look next to Impossible. However, frightening are future prospects of Islamist and Jehadi Hindus ruling over the both nations. Like some obscure American Intelligence reports speculates remanants of Al Qaeda and Taleban might achieve suitcase nuclear weapons in the next decade or so, if similar catch goes to other terror groups or ideology masquerading as democratic force in India, the future of Armageddon in Indus Valley does look gleaming bright. Such forces of doom should be resisted with full force of public opinion.
Editor: How do you see Kashmir issue should be resolve? Do you find any connection with current situation?
Frank Huzur: Kashmir has been hanging fire and it looks only President-elect Barrack Obama administration can cut the gordon knot. He has been beholden to the pestering wound of thousands of Kashmiris both across the divide. Promise in Obama’s tenure does look tantalising at the moment as he is determined to appoint a special envoy for India and Pakistan with an eye on cutting through the stalemate. However, it would be a difficult ask from anyone, whether Bill Clinton or anyone, to persuade New Delhi and Islamabad to concede grounds. Without concessions from either side, there is no solution in sight.
General Pervez Musharraf did promise with ‘out of box’ recipe. However, even he fell prey to populist posturings and ended up making the entire cause a favourite seminar obsession from Brussels to Delhi and Islamabad. Not much could be achieved also with inability of the New Delhi government, especially UPA government, to break the jinx for fear of conceding a votebank issue to rival Hindu party like the BJP. Courage and sacrifice would determine the resolution of Kashmir in future. As for any connection with current tangle, shadow of Kashmir does loom over terrorist activities like the one at Mumbai.
Lashark-e-Taiaba has proven record in fomenting secessionist violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The kind of hold-out-hostage-taking operation has been quite a Kashmir phenomenon, though on quite smaller scale. The target at Mumbai was chilling high and sophisticated in nature and scope. There were no public declaration of intent though. Nevertheless, Kashmir was not the only motivation for orchestration of such brazen acts of terror. It was aimed at the very heart of corporate India. Moreover, terrorists involved were not a single Kashmiri.
Editor: What Indian and Pakistani government should do on diplomatic levels?
Frank Huzur: Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb citizens who love their country and hate the enemy. Indian Prime Ministers is a liberal intelligentsia, an economist of much high reputation and conviction. Manmohan Singh stands to hear all such allegations from militant Hindu politicians and groups in India. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also are liberals at hearts. They are trying to prove their liberal tendencies every other day in their national broadcast. Both governments are promising to move an inch ahead every other day. However, Indian government is deeply constrained over mounting public pressure. Elections for Parliament are only a next couple of months away. Indian government will be growing panicky by March if Islamabad doesn’t deliver on its promise of prosecuting masterminds of terror attacks or for that matter if Zardari government doesn’t hand over JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, New Delhi government will be more jittery facing electorate.
Cooperation should be the key word for both Capitals. So far, New Delhi government has not adopted tough stance on continuity of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Until the other day, when External Affairs ministry issued advisory for Indian public, asking them not to travel Pakistan in these times, Indian government had not upset the apple cart of people-to-people exchange. However, New Delhi is under immense pressure from hawkish elements in both media and opposition to discontinue the diplomatic relations. If New Delhi is not satisfied with the diplomatic success by March, its patience out of fear of losing Parliamentary elections might run out. March-April are very crucial for diplomacy watchers of India and Pakistan.
Editor: What do you think should be done to resolve the tensions between India and Pakistan?. What should be the role of Media in defusing tensions in South Asia?
Frank Huzur: Some veteran doves like Kuldeep Nayar are still, eternally optimistic. He is going full steam, whole hog with his people-to-people exchange programme, and will be hosting people from Lahore in Amritsar in the first week of January. People like me are also for more cultural and literary exchange. However, I would want to urge both government to increase the tempo of more and more bureaucratic, both civil and military, exchange between the two countries. Unless civil servants, who are policy makers, start meeting with each other in droves on regular intervals, much unlike foreign secretary-level or home-secretary level talk, wire of perennial tension between two nuclear powers of South Asia would be a pipe dream.
Media has to play a pivotal role in diffusion of ‘hate-thy-enemy’ propaganda. More than the government, media on both sides have to take a bow to ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. Alas, these are only wishful proposition. Media is not an Independent entity in our part of the world. It is very much a cog in the wheel of market economy, which further influence the policy making of governments. It will find it extremely difficult to wriggle out of state-influenced propaganda. Media can only be independent in this region when each and every citizen, just like in the UK and USA (barring 9/11 paranoid American media) become a stakeholder in media broadcasting. Majority of people in India and Pakistan watch television for drama, fun and frolicking pleasure. Reading a newspaper is not a mass obsession.
In India alone, not more than 150 million out of one billion population subscribe to newspapers. Imagine, 850 million people are deprived or dispossessed enough to subscribe to newspapers. There is a collective antipathy among a huge crowd of people in claiming share in news enterprise result in unfair newscast, thus influencing the news broadcasting, results in media house dependence on government hand-outs or a tiny group of industrial houses. You can’t overlook the concern of your patron. This is a miserly picture of dependent media in Indian sub-continent.
Editor: What are you doing to promote peace?
Frank Huzur: I am a poet, playwright and a biographer. My stint in journalism has taken me to Pakistan on quite a few occasions. In recent times, I have traveled to Pakistan, Lahore, Islamabad, Mianwali, in search of credible research and source about Imran Khan. Writing Imran Khan biography, that’s too an authorized biography, bestowed upon me an added responsibility. It was quite a major breakthrough moment for an Indian writer like me writing a biography of a Pakistani politician. The news has been received with much entuhsiasm and surprise. Imran Versus Imran-An Untold Story is now complete in writing. My publisher, Falcon & Falcon Books Ltd, London, is expecting to publish it in March.
This 550 page biography is my tribute to not only Imran Khan’s politics of struggle and sacrifice, but also to Pakistani people, the society, majority of which does pray for hope, reason and peace to prevail and win between India and Pakistan. I am also a creative consultant and joint editor with Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature. The Foswal, an apex body of SAARC, is the most active literary and cultural wing so far as building the bridge of peace and joy between different SAARC countries is concerned. It also publish a current affairs and literary journal, Beyond Borders, which has maximum focus on peace and harmony.
Editor: Who is the beneficiary of war between India and Pakistan?
Frank Huzur: Nobody wins a war. War is devastating for both opponents in the field of action. Only those who deals in divisive politcs and defence deals have the last laugh at end of the day. People of any nationalities are doomed to weep under the influence of inflationary economy in times of war. War is not only an economic disaster, it is also an emotional catastrophe, regardless of level of enmity between the warring parties.