By Noor Pamiri:
It is suicidal, in the world of digital trolls, to try to talk sense when craziness has engulfed all sides of the almost-always simmering borders. What is it, if not craziness, when people, many of them opinion makers of some repute, shamelessly dare to talk about a nuclear war, and devilishly attempt to downplay the potential death of tens of millions of people in such an eventuality?
Nevertheless, I would like to venture into the minefield.
PM Modi addressed issues like hunger and poverty, in one of his recent speeches. His message, rather a challenge, directed at the youth of Pakistan had a taunting tone, to say the least. But, still, he deserves some credit for diverting our attention from the talks of a potential nuclear Armageddon to the real issues that the common people of India and Pakistan face every day, and every night.
There are numerous credible studies to suggest that despite of all our rhetoric and slogans of prosperity, tens of millions of people on both sides of the border continue to live in horrible poverty, unable to make the ends meet despite of working day and night. Their situation has not changed since the much celebrated departure of the British rulers. Some say it has actually worsened! Hunger, poverty, diseases and homelessness are rampant in the villages, towns and cities of our nations. This is despite the fact that our region has an exceptional potential to excel on all fronts and make poverty history.
I would like here to remind our leaders that by talking about war and destruction, you probably want to turn the wheels back for the people who have made little progress in their lives after decades of hard work.
It is my deep conviction that we do not need to compete to be able to end poverty, illiteracy, hunger and the myriad other problems faced by tens of millions of our fellow citizens.
The war against poverty can only be fought through cooperation, exchange of good practices and, above all, maintenance of peace.
There are many shining examples of Pakistani and Indian experts and organisations cooperating successfully to win our common war against hunger and poverty.
Renowned development guru, former CSP officer, Shoaib Sultan Khan’s role in the formulation of a successful rural development model in Andhra Pardesh, and other states, stands testimony to the fact that we have and we can cooperate for development, instead of indulging in useless rhetoric.
“India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), a rural poverty alleviation program with a massive budget of $5.1 billion, which benefits 350 million people, is inspired by the work he [Shoaib Sultan Khan] did in Andhra Pradesh,” writes Sharad Mathur in his article titled, “Shoaib Sultan Khan: The Man Who Fought Poverty for India and Pakistan.”
The materialisation of the ‘Andhra Pardesh Model’ of rural development was, undoubtedly, a result of the joint efforts of experts and government functionaries and other stakeholders from both sides of the border, and both countries have benefited from it. Shoaib Sultan Khan, based on his rich experiences within and outside Pakistan, continues spearheading the rural development movement in Pakistan.
My concluding message to the leaders of Pakistan and India is that too much blood has been shed in the name of security. We, the common people of the two countries, are fed up of the rhetoric and the ‘preparedness’ mantra. Our countries cannot, and will not, be safe and secure if the masses are unhappy and poor.
Therefore, let’s not taunt each other about our shortcomings, because there are many on all sides. Let’s not compete to fight poverty. Let’s, instead, cooperate with each other, and invest more in the development of people, to win the war against poverty and hunger, because this common struggle has to be grounded in the values of humanism, not jingoism.