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Dissection of strife

Pakistani publisher and editor Jugnu Mohsin takes some of the most controversial topics troubling her country head on at the Khushwant Singh Lit Fest.

chandigarh Updated: Oct 20, 2013 12:56 IST
Nanki Singh
Nanki Singh
Hindustan Times

Jugnu Mohsin’s poetic and polished Urdu has everyone captivated. Not only because it sounds beautiful, but mostly because there is hardly anyone speaking the language that once bonded India and Pakistan.

A Pakistani publisher and editor of the Lahore-based, The Friday Times (Pakistan’s first independent English language newsweekly), Mohsin is the wife of Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of the newspaper as well as former chief minister of Pakistan Punjab.

(Photo: Keshav Singh/HT)

Happenings in the recent past don’t bear good news for Pakistan and Mohsin is gravely aware of that. She is afraid there will come a time when Pakistan Punjab and West Punjab would evoke memories of nothing but the war. Excerpts from a conversation about war and Pakistan.

A deepening web of terror
There is a certain way of thinking that is deeply imbedded in the psyche of the peasants in Pakistan’s Punjab area, says Mohsin, adding, “Most of them, on being asked about their belongings, still say, ‘What we eat and consume is ours and the rest belongs to Ahmad Shah Abdali.’ This only shows that the population is repressed by invasions. Even those made centuries ago by Ahmad Shah (Founder of the Durrani Empire and considered the founder of Afghanistan).

But, why does the youth continue to gravitate towards terror? “Economic hardship and a lack of education has manufactured a notion wherein the idea of liberalism in Pakistan has taken a backseat. It is now the fiery orthodox views preached by the mullahs that reign,” she says.

Shift in sympathy
Mohsin makes a startling point when she says, “Some sections of my country do not wish to make peace with India. So, to make people forget that Pakistan and India were once the same place, they are making them lose their moorings by subtly pushing the public’s sympathies towards the Arab nations. It is easier for the majority to identify with another Islamic nation.”

Kasab and his doing
Mohsin is asked how she reacted to the capture and consequent hanging of Ajmal Kasab, convicted of multiple killings during the Mumbai blasts of 2008 and alleged to be a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. “He belonged to village Faridkot, which is two hours away from my own village, Shergarh.

I was in Delhi when I heard about Kasab’s treachery and I sent someone from my village to find out who this man is who had been capable of such a heinous act. I learnt from my source that Kasab’s house was a hovel with no ‘pukka’ bricks, all mud and straw. His mother Noor Fatima was sitting there with a TV blaring nearby showing Kasab, and all she kept saying while rocking back and forth was, ‘That’s my son, I sold my son, that is him.’ She had sold him to the Wahabis for `1,50,000, who had told her to use the money to get her daughter married,” Mohsin recalls, adding that two days later Noor Fatima seemed to have moved and someone else was living there.

Malala, the braveheart
Mohsin believes Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani activist who had been shot in the head allegedly by Taliban gunmen for speaking her mind, has electrified the people of Pakistan with her bravery.

“I asked Malala about her travels and this is what she told me: ‘Yahan darakht hain, phool hain aur darya hai. Par Swat ki khoobsurti nahi,’ (Here, there are trees, flowers and rivers. But not Swat’s beauty). So she is still a child who just misses her home,” says Mohsin. On meeting Malala’s father, Mohsin asked him what he did to raise such an exceptional child and he replied, “It is not what I did but what I did not do and that is, ‘Maine uske par nahi kaate.’ (I did not clip her wings).

Malala’s mother is still a traditional woman, but according to Malala’s father, she cried whilst sitting next to Ban-Ki-Moon’s wife at the United Nations, tears of pride streaming down her face for her daughter. She was also fearful of the repercussions she would face back home in Pakistan,” says Mohsin, and signs off with, “I am here because I love Khushwant Singh and because his love for Punjab — both in Pakistan and India— continues to inspire me.”

First Published: Oct 20, 2013 12:53 IST