‘Pakistan democracy will win when intolerance ends’

Both Ispahani and her husband are hopeful of better ties between the two countries

Bengaluru: On July 27, 150 enraged Sunni extremists attacked a peaceful community of Ahmadiya families living in central Pakistan. Three Ahmadiyas - one woman and two young children, both girls - lost their lives in the fire that burned down eight houses. The mob's anger was sparked by a blasphemous image on Facebook. Police in Gujranwala, where the incident took place, said no arrests were made.

Pakistan might have maintained a stony silence over the brutal killings that took place in full public view. The mob ravaged, murdered and burned down their homes as authorities sat back and let it happen. However, one voice rose above the din - that of Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of the Pakistan Parliament and the wife of Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington.

The couple have been in self-imposed exile for several years now, but Farahnaz Ispahani, who was in charge of the media under former president Asif Ali Zardari's government, and continues to work with them, albeit from outside, will not let anything stand in the way of a faith that can only be described as idealism.

What stands out most about her, apart from that distinct air of quiet breeding, is that no matter how bad things get, she will not stop believing.

Her faith in a democracy for Pakistan, the end of the military regime and the age of intolerance remains unchanged, relentless. Will the extremist military outfits in Pakistan be the nation's downfall? "We're making progress. This is our second democratic government, we can only grow stronger," she said in an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle. The military that has held the country in a death grip for decades cannot do so forever, she believes.

Both Ispahani and her husband are hopeful of better ties between the two countries saying, ‘‘Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a wonderful gesture by inviting Nawaz Shariff to his swearing-in ceremony. This was outside of the military establishments and if things continue to go in this direction, the extremist groups will find themselves weakened.’’

Is former military leader Pervez Musharraf, who was charged with the murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder Benazir Bhutto, being victimized? ‘‘Victimized is a strong word,’’ said Ispahani, although she added, ‘‘There were security lapses, the UN Commission Report proved that. Benazir Bhutto had been promised safety in Pakistan, by Musharraf himself. That promise was not kept. The charges against Musharraf are not 'victimising' him in anyway.’’

Good relationships with neighbouring countries is the way forward for Pakistan, she said. ‘‘Nawaz Sharif for instance, is determined to let the military know who is boss, by developing relationships with other regional nations. Less terror, more trade!’’

Does the PPP have a future under Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, or will it fall apart as the Congress did, when the bastion was handed to Rahul Gandhi? ‘‘For one, Bilawal is only 25, not 45, like Rahul Gandhi,’’ Ispahani retorted with a laugh. ‘‘The two do have a lot in common, though, they’re both bound by dynasty politics, both have lost a parent to terror, they're both moderate voices. That said, Bilawal is a remarkable young man, and he can help restore the party, but there is much to be done still. Pakistan needs to put its intolerance aside, like the Afghans did. They said that whoever you are, whatever your religious beliefs, Afghanistan comes first. That is the Pakistan we want to see.’’

( Source : dc )
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