Punjab University has once again proved to be a centre of excellence and learning comparable with any centre of excellence of the contemporary world, by arranging a thought-provoking discussion between Kashmiri and Pakistani journalists.
This was no ordinary a session as the Kashmiri journalists’ majority came from Occupied Kashmir also known as IHK (Indian Held Kashmir), a region behind the iron curtain (the iron curtain is there because of the presence of more than half a million Indian troops equipped with powers vested in them through draconian law, namely Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA).
Prior to this meeting between Pakistani media seniors and the Kashmiri intellectuals and journalists, we had a different perception of things as they exist and prevail inside Srinagar and other parts of IHK as well as inside India.
Many perceptions got cleared on this occasion the credit for which certainly goes to the enlightened Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran and his Varsity colleagues who realized the significance of holding such a conference followed, of course, by a sumptuous dinner. Certainly, learning through direct interaction is the most effective way of getting educated. Yet greater education comes when misconceptions are cleared.
The media seniors of Pakistan have collectively appreciated this endeavour on the part of Punjab University management. It was during this interaction that many of us came to know that some journalists of Pakistan, who come in contact with Indian or Kashmiri journalists, maintain a posture that smacks of sense of insecurity. At this juncture, we made it clear to the visiting journalists that they are just a handful of journalists who meet Indian or Kashmiri journalists and other people on the other side of the divide with this approach and that majority of Pakistani journalists had no sense of insecurity. Insecurity from whom? It was made clear on this occasion that Pakistani society is a vibrant society that is growing at a wonderful pace and there is nothing to be scared about. Almost all the Kashmiri journalists not only agreed with this point of view of Pakistani journalists but also voluntarily offered the same comments. The visiting delegation, in this context, said that they were rather happy to see stability and prosperity in Pakistan which was at variance with the wrong perceptions created about Pakistan back in their region.
Also wanted things to move in such a manner that jingoism is not allowed to play any further role on both sides of the divide. Greater stress was laid on continuation and expansion of the existing CBMs (Confidence-Building Measures) so as to enable the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control to meet their near-and-dear ones who stand separated for decades.
It was indeed yet another learning experience to be present inside the Committee Room of Al-Razi Hall of Punjab University and learn all this through direct interaction which means interaction free from propaganda and psychological warfare machinations that are most often resorted to by jingoistic lobbies in the region, especially inside the Indian establishment.
(The writer is a seasoned journalist and media academician. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)