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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Wagah Saga

Bread not Bombs !

For years, the military flag-lowering ceremony that takes place every evening at the Wagah border post has drawn crowds of partisan tourists who cheer every hostile strut and stare traded by the border guards on both sides. Hundreds of people gather on both sides of the Wagah (Pakistan border post with India) to witness the flag-lowering ceremony and watch the urbaned border guards march. On a daily basis, both sides clap for there own country to express mutual insult and renew their hatred for each other across the frontier. Participants on both sides are addicted to this pantomime of hatred and raise slogans promising the destruction of each other’s country. This is happening for years and has poisoned the minds of an untold number of spectators who go there to see soldier’s strutting. I am always wondering who ordered this childish display of choreographed aggression?

While locals enjoys, foreigners pity the two nations that allowed the farce every evening. Our daily cheap entertainment has apparently caused suffering to the innocent soldiers who obey the orders of their “seniors “and carry out the daily farce. It has gone on for years and poisoned the minds of an untold number of spectators who went there to see soldiers strutting. Our cheap entertainment has apparently caused suffering to the innocent men who obeyed orders and carried out the daily farce. The savage stomping of the foot and then raising it unnaturally to the face of the opponent was a travesty of the goose step itself. What the soldiers got was not victory over the rival country but a jolt in the joint that disabled them for normal service.

This silly drill was very symbolic and hardly covered the leadership on both sides of the border with glory. It not only perpetuated war but also showed the border post as a point where people were asked to expect aggression in place of trade and tourism. Peace movements from both sides went to Wagah, every time the drums of war were sounded, to offset the war obsession. They were most often not allowed to meet and returned broken-hearted after seeing the horrible drill. The foreigners who saw this were disgusted and took movies of it to show back home to scare their children of the dangers of war. This ritual was a ritual of dishonour.

The distant future in our region is that of peace and not war. Sooner rather than later armed rangers will be replaced by staff that examines traded commodities going to Central Asia in the west and Bangladesh in the east. As high as 55 per cent potential of intra-regional trade in South Asia has remained untapped and more than $1.8 billion worth of trade potential between the arch-rivals has remained unutilised, which is over 80 per cent of the existing bilateral trade.

Regional trade could directly affect South Asia’s human development through generating employment, enhancing income and contributing to poverty reduction. Countries need to trade to upgrade worker knowledge, reduce poverty and improve well-being of people. One-third of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line, which is only second to Bangladesh in the region. A large section of the population lives on $1.25 a day!

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