LAHORE: The atmosphere in Pakistan has been crackling with Kashmir-centric rhetoric since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the United Nations General assembly on September 22.
Seen leading the barrage is Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif. “The defenders of our skies, in a state of constant readiness, Alhamdolillah. Our motorways are our runways,” he tweeted with the hashtag of the Pakistan Air force. He also shared photographs, which were, however, fakes.
They were not of PAF jets standing ready on the highway, but of US and South Korean F16s on display. The Pakistan Air Force described the runway landings as “routine”. The minister is known for anti-India ranting. Previously in an interview, he had said on the use of nuclear weapons, “We should pray that such an option never arises, but if we need to use them for our survival, we will.”
Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar does not agree. “Should we use nukes as Khawaja Asif suggested and destroy ourselves and them as well? Is that an option?” she asked. She said in a recent interview that tit-for-tat statements, warmongering and calling India an ‘enemy’ is what Pakistan has done for 60 years and that hasn’t changed anything.
The Pakistani media has helped in escalating the tense situation. A breaking news report even said India has finalised plans to attack selected targets in Pakistan under the Cold Start strategy and “that although Pakistan will not initiate an attack, it would respond with full force in case of any strike by India”.
How is last week’s Uri attack along the Line of Control impacting the common man in Pakistan?
“I have heard that Pakistan is going to attack India but I don’t know whether it will affect or change my life for the better,” says Waqas Ahmed, 60-year-old tobacco vendor in Islamabad.
“My daughter is getting married next month and I’m collecting money for her dowry, I work all day, go home at night watch talk shows where they talk about war these days, but honestly my life issues remain the same,” he smiles. Lahore medical student Basit (17) joked, “As long as we get holidays from school so that I can watch cricket matches on television… I am okay with attacking India,” he laughs.
Commenting on jets being flown over Islamabad in the last week and air routes being closed, Tooba Haq, an elementary school teacher, said, “This is an extended Defence Day (September 6) for the government. They are using it as an opportunity to show off their decades-old agendas in the garb of India or Kashmir.”
However, there are some war enthusiasts as well.
“Pakistan should go and attack India first so that we teach them a lesson,” says 17-year-old Mohammad Mohammad Hammad, a friend of Basit.
“Why will we promote terrorism in India when Pakistan itself is a victim of terror. I have no doubt that India did this itself to malign us.”