Dear Prime Minister,
I write to you to convey both my fraternal greetings and to offer you an important message that I believe is deeply meaningful at this time in history. I have often said and I continue to say that you are Pakistan’s greatest leader since Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is because of this that I feel the need to express my feelings of sorrow upon reading reports that peaceful Sikh activists were prohibited form conducting their activities in Pakistan as it relates to the 2020 referendum that non-violent Khalistan activists shall hold within India.
Whilst I completely respect Pakistan’s sovereign decision to accept or prohibit any particular activity from taking place on your country’s soil, the idea that your government should capitulate to the enemies of Pakistan while disregarding friends of Pakistan filled me with a deep sadness. In February, Indian aggression threatened Pakistan’s sovereignty but thanks to your government’s resolve and the supreme professionalism of Pakistan’s Army, the aggression launched by New Delhi as a vulgar, crude and lawless election stunt, was halted without bloodshed. The humane treatment of the Indian pilot whose plane Pakistan lawfully downed was a testament to the fact that Pakistan’s Army will defend the freedom of the people while both meeting and exceeding the requirements of humane treatment of captives that are mandated by international law.
Sadly, Pakistan’s enemies do not exercise the same levels of restraint. Whether BLA terrorism, the expansionist ideology of the Kabul regime or the aggression that has become so highly amplified during India’s heated election season, it is clear that Pakistan is not offered the same respect and restraint that Pakistan freely gives to others.
I am deeply grateful that your government has taken a lead in offering the Sikh community on both sides of the border an opportunity to make pilgrimages to holy sites in a congenial manner. This is a credit to yourself and a credit to PTI. It is because of this that I was all the more saddened to hear of reports that Khalistan activists will not be allowed to fully and freely conduct their peaceful activities in Pakistan.
I remember very well, seeing images of Khalistan activists in North America, Europe and beyond, proudly holding the flag of Azad Kashmir in February of this year when Modi and his election machine were attempting to turn the world against Kashmir and by extrapolation against Pakistan. I remember also seeing Khalistan activists being physically confronted by Hindutva radicals and standing their ground with dignity.
Much like the Pakistan Army, Sikhs are not known for starting conflicts, but they are known for finishing them. There is no greater virtue than dignity with a purpose when confronted with aggression without aim. This is something I have personally come to admire about Sikh civil society. It is peaceful and yet it is robust in defence of dignity and freedom.
When it comes to public votes on national self-determination, the nature of the modern world dictates that such things transcend national frontiers. Peaceful West Papua demonstrations are held outside of Indonesia, peaceful Catalan demonstrations are held outside of Spain and peaceful Scottish demonstrations are held outside of Britain.
Therefore, there is nothing at all unusual about a Khalistan demonstration being held in Pakistan, except for the fact that India has chosen to make a placid matter into a controversy. I must reemphasise that it is Pakistan’s right to allow or prohibit whatever it wants on its own soil. But speaking both ethically and practically, it makes little sense for Pakistan to capitulate to New Delhi’s election season bullying at a time when Canada, Britain, Germany and others have refused to be moved by such threats.
When just months ago, I read of Hindutva mobs attacking Muslim Kashmiris my heart sank to my feet and tears filled my eyes. But when I heard that the Sikhs of Jammu provided Muslims with shelter – shielding them from violence and offering compassion during a time of strife, I saw that humanity is able to transcend all other lower considerations.
Khalistan activists are not calling for blood, they are not calling for chaos, they are not calling for discord. They are simply asking that their voices are heard and that their votes are taken seriously in an atmosphere of respect in-line with the international standards of peaceful self-determination. Pakistan has many well known enemies, but the Sikh community calling for democracy represents a friend of Pakistan and perhaps more importantly a friend of Kashmir. As such, there is no reason why such individuals should not be free to express their completely peaceful point of view in Pakistan, not least because this same community has put itself on the front line of the freedom struggle in Kashmir.