With Love, From
By Syed Said
15 November, 2004
just returned as a member of the Indian Saarc law delegation to Pakistan,
I am amused when people here ask me if we were subject to any hostility
or antagonism in our neighbouring state. The questioners find it impossible
to believe in the truth of my response.
The truth is that
having widely travelled out of my country and having played host to
many a foreign guest, I have yet to come across people like our Pakistani
friends whose warm conviviality and kind hospitality can be matched
only by the love and friendship of which they are a delightful quintessence.
It was 5.30pm on
Thursday (Feb 19) when 40 members of the Indian Saarc law delegation
- only three amongst them being Muslims - boarded a PIA flight from
Delhi to Lahore and were specially welcomed by the captain just before
In less than an
hour, we were walking into the splendid international arrival terminal
of the Allama Iqbal International Airport. The elegance of the airport
made me remember a Persian ode of the great poet after whom the airport
has been named. Iqbal says:
Tu shab aafreedi,
(Thou madest the
night, I the lamp to light it
Thou madest clay,
I moulded it into a goblet
Wild wastes, mountains
and jungles were made by Thee
lands and gardens were laid by me)
We had to take a
connecting fight out of Lahore to Karachi in four hours. These four
hours were spent at the airport chatting with locals who had identified
the commonality of our cultural baggage.
At about 10pm, we
were airborne for Karachi and landed in Karachi at 11.45 sharp. A more
bravura airport and a warmer reception. It was well past midnight when
we left Karachi airport for the hotel where the delegation was to stay
and where the conference was to be inaugurated the next evening.
At that late hour,
the numbers in which our hosts were present to receive us and the sincere
warmth with which they welcomed us would have made even the frailest
traveller instantly recover from the most gruelling jetlag.
We were in Karachi
for five days and for most of us, these five days, were amongst the
most incredible ones ever. From private lunches and exclusive dinners
to roadside eating and bay watching at Clifton, cutting across all classes
and categories of people, we found ourselves being received by only
one sentiment - love.
The moment your
"Indian" identity is disclosed, you find oodles of people
rushing up to you, wishing to talk to you, offering local assistance
and wanting to load you with gifts.
While the onyx seller
in Sadar sells you a thousand-rupee vase for Rs500 because you are an
Indian brother (Hindustani bhai), the local PCO-wallah refuses to charge
you for phone calls made back home as you are his guest (mehmaan) and
your host driving you around Karachi - whom you have met for the first
time - does not let you pay even for the most expensive designer wear
purchased from the most upmarket mall.
We were stupefied
at this unanticipated reception. We found it even harder to shun our
unfounded notions about the status of women in Pakistan and admit that
Pakistan does not discriminate against its women any more than we do.
We were also dazed
at being told by our friends in the profession that Pakistan subscribes
to the same principles of rule of law and equality before law, as we
do. To carry home written evidence of this understanding, we queued
up at the law books stall at the hotel which ran short of copies of
the Constitution of Pakistan just as soon as some of us realized that
The 10th Saarc Law
Conference was inaugurated by Pakistan Chief Justice Nazim Husain Siddiqui
on the evening of Friday (Feb 20) amidst a galaxy of jurists, judges,
academicians and lawyers from all over South Asia and concluded two
days later in the afternoon of Sunday (Feb 22) with the addresses of
the chief justices of all Saarc member states.
While an impressive
"Karachi Declaration" was signed by the Saarc chief justices,
the conference delegates came out with a list of proposals after having
discussed threadbare technical and legal issues concerning the region.
I do not know how
far the chief justices' declaration or the delegates' proposals will
take us in establishing a legal entente cordiale between the two countries.
But like most of my Saarc law colleagues, I do know that the personal
bonds of attachment and friendship that we have created in our neighbourhood
in these five days will only be augmented in the times to come.
Syed Said Mahmood
is an Advocate, Supreme Court of India, and doctoral scholar, Amity
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, New Delhi