Not for the first time have tensions risen between India and Pakistan. And not for the first time has the rhetoric differed so vastly on either side on the border. The 14 February strike by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 42 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers, followed by India's air strike at a JeM camp in Balakot, the eventual capture of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman and now his return led the countries down a road where both cried victory with every new development.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan's announcement that the captured pilot would be returned elicited jubilation on both sides. In Pakistan, thinkers claimed a diplomatic victory and lauded Imran for his meditated responses in the scenario. India too hailed this as its own victory, with many facets of media removing Pakistan's agency in the pilot's safe return and instead lauding the Modi government for it.
Dawn's Lahore editor Asha'ar Rahman said it was nice to be on the "right side of war." In his column in Pakistan's oldest newspaper, Rahman wrote, "Patriotism aside, it is also good to be recognised for once by many as being the lesser suspect or less suspicious of the two parties to an imminent armed conflict."
Rahman put the focus on the daily Pakistani experience of bearing the brunt of terrorist activities in the world's eyes, mentioning how India was quick to pin the blame of the Pulwama attack on Pakistan. "But a reading from across the border — or simply a Pakistani reading, if you must — of the scene brings out the stark reality that, if anything, Modi’s modern rule in this vastly experienced democracy, with its particular emphasis and its certain thrusts, has left large number of Indians (especially in the country’s cow belt) most vulnerable to the beat of war drums," he added, highlighting the role the upcoming elections might have had to play in the cries emerging out of India for a war.
The letters to the editor section of the newspaper too had effusive praise for the way Pakistan dealt with things. "Now that Prime Minister Imran Khan has read the riot act to the Indians, New Delhi should realise that Pakistan's patience has finally worn out," writes one M. Haris Zohaib Akbani from Karachi.
One Mansoor Ahmed Jamali echoes Rahman laconically, "...the situation is very tense, to put it mildly. The reason as everyone knows is that it is election time in India and this is Narendra Modi's election strategy to win the next elections."
The Daily Times labelled Pakistan's decision to free Abhinandan a "MAGNANIMOUS GESTURE" (emphasis theirs). The editorial said, "On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan demonstrated that Pakistan doesn’t just talk about restraint and the need for peace but that it has the will to walk the talk too."
The overarching tone of the country's English language dailies was that of appreciation for Imran. Long since believed to be a puppet in the hands of the country's military, the Pakistan prime minister's repeated pleas for dialogue and the shunning of the kind of rhetoric that many political figures in India have resorted to, gave The Express Tribune the chance to note that the responsibility to react sensibly is now Prime Minister Modi's. "PM throws ball in Modi's court," said the paper's Friday lead headline.
Inside, opinions editorials by Karachi University professor Dr Moonis Ahmar and security analyst Dr Ahmed Saeed Minhas noted how Pakistan has "restrained" itself from being violent in the scenario. "Why is there a lack of sanity and wisdom on the part of the Indian leadership to deal with popular revolt by the Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley and committing an act of aggresssion against Pakistan?" Ahmar wrote.
The weekly paper, The Friday Times ran several opinions editorials on the situation. Almost all of them focused on the telltale hypocrisy of the censure of Paksitan. "While most world leaders have asked both countries to exercise restraint, we have not seen much condemnation of the Indian intrusion on Tuesday morning," wrote former Radio Pakistan director Murtaza Solangi.
On the Pakistan Observer, retired Pakistan army General Mirza Aslam Beg hailed the "befitting response" given by Pakistan.
Among journalists, Mehr Tarar called out actor Veena Mallik's joke on the captured Wing Commander's moustache as "utterly tasteless" and retweeted Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar's observation on Imran's stance. "Never has any leader in his speech ever asked for heart wrenching emotions to calm down and give peace a chance," Dar had tweeted.
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah was not alone in calling Abhinandan's return a "diplomatic victory" for India. The phrase, far removed from the concept of a real victory, also dominated headlines of newspapers and bulletins of news channels.
Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was one of the few who noted the global perception swaying in Imran's favour while calling out the rabid nationalism on display on many news outlets.
We in India may not like this, but in terms of pure optics, @ImranKhanPTI at the moment is winning the day by taking the moral high ground .. we have a strong case on terror but too many of our leaders busy calculating votes at the moment..
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) February 28, 2019
The idiocy of our commando tv news media will reach a point where we will force the two countries to war. Won’t even wait for the brave Wing Commander to come back before embarking on another bout of hysteria. Utterly embarrassing. — Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) February 28, 2019
Calls were made from various sectors to notch down the euphoria in India. Former Indian Administrative Service officer Shah Faesal, wrote that it was time to refrain from announcing quick victories. "Those who are claiming a diplomatic victory here rather than appreciating IK's statesmanship, should wait till the pilot reaches home," Faesal wrote on Twitter.
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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2019 15:38:16 IST