By Fram Dinshaw
I cannot write about Pakistan without mentioning Kashmir – a beautiful yet cursed land it has fought over with India ever since both countries became independent over 60 years ago – a conflict every bit as bloody but much less well known than the Arab-Israeli struggle that has raged for just as long.
My aunt grew up in India, and spent time in Kashmir during the 1990s, when Kashmiri and Islamist militants backed by Pakistan battled it out with Indian security forces. They’re still fighting it out today, and India still accuses Pakistan of sheltering militant groups dedicated to driving out Delhi’s troops. Yet the violence has lessened somewhat, which is just as well, for in 2002 India and Pakistan were on the brink of war over this province, and it could have gone nuclear.
She described a land of thick green pine forests and streams where you could catch salmon and trout, all against a backdrop of the snowcapped Himalayas, where people went skiing before returning to Srinagar, the state capital, where you could souvenir shop in the bazaars or take a boatride on nearby Dal Lake. It could quite easily have been in BC in those happier times, perhaps Whistler, Kamloops, or even the Coast Mountains above Vancouver.
Not quite BC though. Perhaps never. Our chilled out West Coast doesn’t have military checkpoints on every street corner, or curfews at night, where anyone on the streets was arrested – or worse. There are no gun battles between guerrillas and government troops up on Grouse or Cypress Mountains – where the muzzle flashes and pop-pop-pop of Kalashnikovs being fired can sometimes be seen from villages in the valleys. It seems ridiculous to even think such things could happen on the slopes of our own Coast Mountains. Long may such ideas stay absurd.
Still, just stop and have a thought about this before I describe why all this happened in my next post.