Pakistan-born Canadian journalist and author Tarek Fatah, whose acerbic dismissal of radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood have won him fans and followers in India, says he’s an Indian at heart.
Fatah, a regular in Indian television studios, says he sees no future for Pakistan with provinces such as Balochistan and Sindh struggling to break free. The founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress hails India’s shift in its Balochistan policy claiming it has turned the international focus on an issue which was kept under wraps.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, he talks about Balochistan, India-Pakistan relations and the unrest in Kashmir.
What do you think is the endgame for the Balochistan struggle?
Until a few years ago, it could have been resolved in a way whereby it could have been part of the federation based on what some of the nationalist politicians had presented - a six-point plan remarkably similar to what Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman had done and won the election on in 1970.
It said, since it is a federating unit, the Centre should remove military positions in civilian areas and the army should go back to the barracks. That centre would have to respect the electoral decision made through free and fair elections.
Another point was that the indigenous people would not have their rights diluted by getting millions of settlers to alter the ethnic balance. Similar to what Hawaii has or Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. This was presented by the former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal. He said it was the last offer.
The government completely rejected it and this is what sent the signal that the only option Islamabad suggested is subjugation and eradication of the Balochi language.
Baloch representatives are talking about a government in exile. What is your view?
In the past there used to be a central command, this time, there are four to five different military structures, depending on geographical areas. The day their command structures come under some sort of a unified (command), the Pakistani army will have no way of resolving this.
A government in exile will have to happen. After India’s intervention, there is hope that the Baloch leadership will come together in some sort of a confederacy.
How has India’s shift in Baloch policy been received internationally?
Pakistan is absolutely shocked. They never imagined Indians would even know what is Balochistan. They keep claiming Indian agents are working there and if they are there is no evidence of this massive Indian aid reaching there. Our friends there still sleep on the rocks, they don’t even have blankets to sleep in the hills.
Pakistan faces a new situation but the rest of the world is learning for the first time. Since most journalists and NGOs have become subservient to public relations companies and rely on press releases and lobbyists; neither the Baloch have the capacity nor the understanding of how international media works. So their voice has never been heard.
Do you then see more countries emulating India’s intervention to stop human rights violations in Balochistan?
The vice-president of European parliament Rashad Suleymanov said it very explicitly in Geneva that European parliament will move to impose sanctions on Pakistan if the atrocities in occupied Balochistan do not stop. There are people who are aware of it. A few Congressmen in the United States are aware of it and they too are finding validation of their positions in how India has raised the issue. Up till now, it was a cry in the wild.
What is the situation in Sindh like?
The character of Sindh has been diluted by the Urdu-speaking immigrants who came from India. First, Jinnah took away their main city Karachi and turned it into an Urdu-speaking city where no other language was permitted. This meant 90% of the population was disenfranchised, because they spoke Gujarati, Sindhi and Balochi.
Even Konkani used to be spoken there. The Goan Catholics, the Zoroastrians are all gone. No Gujarati-speaking person could get a job because the requirement was the ability to converse and write in Urdu.
The Sindhi were shoved away from their urban centres.
There is a Sindhu-desh independence struggle but because of the Bhutto family, Pakistan has a regional political party system. The Muslim League’s base is in Punjab, the People’s Party is in Sindh. They are more anti-India and more belligerent against the Baloch than anybody else. They haven’t found the leadership that could lead them in the right direction.
Why are you so bitter when you speak of Pakistan, particularly the Punjabi community there.
It is the colonial power, which has blood on its hands. It bullied itself into its own humiliation when Pakistan was made. 60% of Pakistan spoke Bengali but it is the Punjabis who insisted that Urdu be imposed on Bengalis. The cultural crimes of the Punjabi elite are going to haunt them and if it was one incidence, one could understand. Their attempt to appear as the descendants of Babur and Taimur will launch the retake of Delhi as the Mughal empire evokes bitterness in me. It is an insult to human intelligence and my Punjabi ancestry.
When was the last time you visited Pakistan and do you have family there?
I visited Pakistan last in 2006. My brother had to change his last name. I do have extended family and unfortunately, sometimes they face questions. They have to disown me. That is what restricts most sincere people to speak out because the Punjabi Pakistani state has a very feudal, medieval way of torturing relatives or running away with daughters.
How do you see the current turmoil in Kashmir? Do you agree that the BJP-PDP alliance has not been accepted by the people?
It is an unnatural alliance but that is the nature of parliamentary politics. You had the Lib-Lab alliance (arrangement between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party in the UK) and an alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States during the second World War.
Politics and human endeavour require a delicate balance between common objectives and if it is a legitimately elected member of the assembly. My concern more is that nobody took their oath of office in Kashmiri.
This is the Arabisation of the people that is happening and you can notice it in (Hizbul Mujahideen commander) Burhan Wani’s message. This is not Sheikh Abdullah’s language, this message is coming from ISIS.
This is not about occupation or territorial integrity or freedom; this is about Islamisation and domination of the world by a fanatic Islamic-Fascist order. What is really funny is that the Left gets dragged into it and the liberals come up with the defence of the very people who would hang them. How will the Kashmiris defend the waters of Indus being given to Pakistan at their expense?
There is no national interest. They (Kashmiris), a segment of Indian Muslims, and the Indian left want some exotic fantasy of Pakistan to remain there. So they can live the drama of peace, progress, why can’t we live together. It is a complete fraud.
On one side, you have a completely fascist order based on lies and deception and on the other side is the Hindu guilt-ridden liberal class that says we have a model where we can practice outreach and brotherhood but is it the Hindu right-wing that is not allowing that.
The real ultra-right is the Muslim liberal class, it is not the other way round.
You are very critical of the Left.
I think the CPM is the ultra-right wing party in India. How could the left, who are the Marxists, defend the rights of those who are fascists - the Muslim brotherhood, the Jamat-e-Islami.
How could Sitaram Yechuri go to the house of a proclaimed fascist? To the house of a Muslim brotherhood fascist whose aspiration is the world where every non-Muslim will either convert or will have to pay tax. Do you think SA Dange or EMS Namboodiripad would have gone there? I don’t think even Jyoti Basu would have gone there.
He could have gone to a Muslim dancer or architect’s house ... He goes to the worst face of Islam for talks. The ugliest face of Islam is represented by ISIS and they are the ones driving the Kashmir agenda. Why can’t people listen to what Burhan Wani said with two rifles - we don’t want a Caliphate in just Kashmir or India, but all over the world.
Do you want an Indian citizenship?
I would love to but there is not a system in India wherein I could apply for it. Imagine, Portugal’s prime minister is the first European head ever to be of Indian origin, he would I’m sure love to visit Goa. I don’t blame anyone, but it is just how things are.
I have asked but there is no application for citizenship. Our entire family is Mumbai Punjabis, but we can’t be Indians. I am as Indian as anybody else.
As an India watcher, what do you think has changed in India in the past decade?
What is changing in India is the status of young girls. There is something remarkably different between girls on this side of the border and that. Young girls (in schools) are in skirts and ties, on bikes, sitting confidently. You cannot see this in Pakistan. In the 1950s in Lahore, you could see these things. Most women went to work on a bicycle.
There is no one Pakistan - the Balochis and Sindhis want independence, Karachi mayor is in jail, they are in a delusional state; the Pashtuns have been Arabised through the Afghan wars and the Punjabis want to be Urdu speaking. There is a dysfunctional identity crisis but the majority of the ruling class, those who matter are fundamentally hostile and think it is their god-given duty to destroy anything that is un-Islamic.
That’s what they have been taught - Hindus are weak and our job is to civilise them.
You cannot deal rationally with a group of people who are brainwashed. You start abusing on TV. We are dealing with a considerably more rational reasonable people (in India) because of women’s empowerment in India.