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Official abduction

Official abduction

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 24, 2007

Introduction: Doesn't Pakistan trust Indian doctors?

It was an incident even the Pakistani establishment's devoted fan club in Delhi - hyperactive since the Samjhauta Express terrorist strike of February 19 - would be hard put to defend. Seven Pakistani survivors of the train attack were being treated at one of India's best medical facilities - Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital. Many of them had serious burn injuries. One seven-year-old boy was on the ventilator. Two of them were a grieving couple, parents who had lost five children in a personal tragedy of unfathomable proportions. Suddenly, the Pakistani Government swooped down on them, rushed them from the burns ward to the heat of the Delhi afternoon, took patients off the ventilator, and insisted they were all going home - in a military transport aircraft that had been flown in from Pakistan. Pleas and requests were ignored; the cry of one patient, that there was no one to look after him in Lahore, was rejected. The mourning parents were forced into an undignified squabble with officials of their own Government when they insisted they were going back to Panipat to try and locate the remains of their departed children. To add to the insensitivity, the C-130 Hercules stayed put at the airport and departed way behind schedule due to that old chestnut, "technical reasons". From doctors at Safdarjung Hospital to families of the victims - to, of course, the hapless patients themselves - nobody could quite explain or understand the Pakistani Government's haste. After all, it is not usual for a national Government to shanghai its citizens out of a foreign country where they have suffered an accident or a terrorism incident. When 9/11 happened, Britain or India - why, even Pakistan - did not fly military planes to New York to immediately bring home survivors from the individual country. Islamabad's action has left a bitter aftertaste in Delhi.

Over the past week, it has become something of a cliché for careerist peaceniks in India to use the Samjhauta explosion as a vindication of the bizarre idea that India and Pakistan are somehow equal victims of terrorism. Both countries, societies and Governments are similarly placed, it is argued, and must be seen as two sides of the same coin. In virtually abducting its citizens and taking them home, the Pakistani establishment has debunked this idea. True to its jackboot instinct, it has proved that it has no democratic sensibilities and or even pretences. In any country where public opinion truly matters, such an occurrence would have been impossible. Certainly, India is different. Second, despite the nice things Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri may have said in Delhi, it is now abundantly clear that far from treating India as a friendly partner, the Pakistani Government is inherently suspicious of it and worried what even a week's stay in an Indian hospital may do to its hapless citizens. This is the sort of mentality that built the Berlin Wall.

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