Today, I wish Pakistan and India could be more like Canada

Published: November 5, 2015

If a peaceful coexistence with diverse communities is possible in Canada, it is possible in India and Pakistan too.

Dear Pakistan and India,

Today was a beautiful day in Canada. The sun was shining bright, and it was a warm day in the cold month of November. The temperature in my city was 20 degrees centigrade. Warmer still were the temperatures of hearts in Ottawa where our new handsome Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, whom you loved when he relished biryani in a mosque or performed bhangra with the desi community, was taking the oath of office along with 30 other ministers. Half of these ministers are women.

A 12-year-old boy from the indigenous aboriginal community led Trudeau to the ceremonial hall. The ceremony began by paying tribute to the Algonquin community on whose territory they were standing. Two indigenous ministers were sworn in. Acknowledging the centuries old injustices to the indigenous people, one of them was named minister of justice.

Today was the first time in Canada that a Muslim minister was sworn in, and that too a woman, who came here as a refugee with her widowed mother and sisters after fleeing war-torn Afghanistan.

There are three South Asians taken in as ministers. One of them holds the coveted position of minister of defence. Another was a bus driver before he came into politics. Two individuals with disabilities, one with impaired vision and another on wheel chair also became ministers. Yet another one of the minister’s parents worked as immigrant factory workers all their lives. A doctor became the health minister, and a university scientist became the minister of science. A new portfolio of immigration, citizenship and refugees was created.

An incredible step has been taken towards celebrating diversity today. The world has been watching Justin Trudeau with awe.

And yes, our premier (chief minister) of Ontario is a gay woman who is a grandmother and says family comes first.

But why am I writing this all down for you?

I was 24-years-old when, as an Indian, I married a Pakistani, and embraced my Pakistani-Indian status. I know some people would frown and wonder how that could work, but I have loved every minute of my marriage. It has been 25 years since then. But that’s another conversation.

In contrast to that, I have been a Canadian for only five years, yet I feel safer here than back home.

Sitting here, witnessing diversity unfold its virtues in Canada, my heart weeps for the havoc that has been created by ‘otherising’ and demonising diversity in India and Pakistan.

From the persecution of Ahmadis, to the killings of Shia youth, to burning Christians, to forced conversions of Hindus, to the recurrent Hindu-Muslim communal riots, to the lynching of Muslims for eating beef, to the burning of low caste children, with every new tragedy a little of Pakistani-Indian dies within me.

The unending arguments of how different Indians and Pakistanis are, despite sharing the same history, same geography, same ethnicity and even the same genetic pool, looks more ridiculous when you watch different skin colours and different ethnicities stand together in peace at the swearing in ceremony in Ottawa.

Of course, I am not in denial and painting a completely rosy picture of Canada. The new government has to honour its promise to pull out of the war in the Middle East, and rehabilitate 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next two months. We also have to work hard to make sure that this diverse government is more than just an amalgamation of ‘difference’; it has to function as a ‘collective’.

The niqab has already been made a non-issue, and but we still have to work to undo the clauses from the oppressive bill which made Canadian immigrants second class citizens with the stroke of a pen. We also have to make our prime minister speak up for justice for the Palestinians just as he speaks for Israel’s right to existence and safety. It is, indeed, hard work in progress.

I can stand here and say all this, in the strongest of words, without being worried of being termed a traitor or being doused in ink.

Canada is not a utopia. It has numerous challenges, like unemployment, economic hardships, systemic racism etcetera. But today was a good day. It brought hope for real change.

Being a Pakistani-Indian, I also dream to see the same change happen in my other two homes too. I want the minorities there to feel safe; I want the majority communities to show tolerance. I want prosperity and dignity of life for the one billion youth that reside in South Asia. I want the women there to feel safe and empowered as equal citizens.

I want all the communities, big or small, to shun bigotry and extremism. I want the young generation to stand up and challenge the dogmas from within their own communities. I do not want any one Canadian to even think or say,

“See we provide safety and security to you here, which is why you do not go back home.”

I want my compatriots in Indian and Pakistan to know that diversity and secularism are not fiction.  If a peaceful coexistence with diverse communities is possible in Canada, it is possible in India and Pakistan too.

I also want to tell the sceptics in India and Pakistan that no foreign agenda can make a mess, if the people within are not ready to let that happen.

I also want to beg the youth of India and Pakistan to rise against extremism, hate and intolerance, as you are the only hope for a peaceful South Asia.

I want to tell the hate-mongers that only peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan, and in South Asia at large, is the path to prosperity.

I also want to tell my folks in India and Pakistan, that despite the safety I enjoy in Canada, I miss you and love you both.

And I am not alone. Most South Asian Canadians I know feel the same.

Best wishes,

An Pakistani-Indian

ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Beautifully written.Recommend

  • Vectra

    Yea but his new defence minister was born in India.Recommend

  • rationalising argument.

    so according to you indigenous people of india should lead a person of white european decent to become prime minister of india like in canada to become diverse.Recommend

  • Newton

    So you want a powerful military to give up its perks, its nukes, its lands and its toys? Canada and the US are both real democracies, remember.Recommend

  • xclusive

    this new defence minister has also spent 20 years in the canadian army…is a retired colonel and has been awarded 13 medals for his various tours all over the world including 3 in afghanistan…so does it really matter where he was born…Recommend

  • Ahmed Baloch

    Good one madam….but India cannot compromise on kashmir…and it would not be in interest of world to see another islamic country where pundits and buddhist as well as all other religion will be suppressed…Just think of this ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF KASHMIR…..i dont think thats feasible and kashmir would have been independent had intruders from pakistan not attacked it in 1948..and UN resolution clearly states that pakistan should take out its army from occupied GB and occupied kashmir…den plebiscite can be conducted….but than kashmir is now not a disputed territory…i hope every pakistani knows kashmir has been taken out of UN from 2010 onwards….pakistani politician keep making their public fool….they should think practically…if they would have been so much capable…den 90,000 brave soldiers would not have surrendered,,…and least said about human rights in kashmir…it would be good….world knows some great statistics about bengali women rape and balochi genocide…..Recommend

  • Punch

    Muslims (Sunni’s) cannot even live with their own sub-sects like Shias, Hazaras, Ahmedias etc, how can they live with Hindus.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/TheViewThroughJagansLookingGlasses?ref=hl Jag Nathan

    India should never have anything to do with Pakistan. I dont want it and most Indians dont want it. Recommend

  • Gopal Kulkarni

    I applaud the author’s good intentions and noble desire. Also I have seen several such wonderful writings. Perhaps the author and some others have actually acted on this to some degree. But I have a different question – ultimately who will bell the cat?
    Article says – “Most South Asian Canadians I know feel the same” – so are they willing to give up their love of $$ and return to Indian/Pakistan? Will they actually make change happen on the ground? I have heard – Be the change you want to see (honestly, I have not achieved this). If and when this happens, can change happen? May be. Until then we can get some relief reading well intentioned articles from good hearted people. Disclosure – I lived in the US for a long time and then returned to India and worked for a NGO.Recommend

  • Anon

    Why drag India into this? ( why hyphenate India with Pakistan?). India is the most diverse nation on earth with plenty of economic grievances and yet there is remarkable inter-community peace.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    However good it may sound, it is just not possible for an Islamic nation to have open borders with a non-Muslim nation, like what we see in Europe or even US/Canada.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Author selectively didnt mention about forced conversion by marriage by Indian Muslims. She should not call herself Indian. What about Hindu right to existence and complete partition of India? What minorities of Pakistan are you talking about? Why the writer doesnt demand the same from Saudi Arabia?

    I wont be surprised to know that her ancestor voted for Pakistan but stayed in India.Recommend

  • Humza

    I can’t understand why you can’t just celebrate being Canadian? Learn to write about your new home and let people in South Asia deal with their own issues. After all that is your new identity. Why this long winded piece about India and Pakistan? You are an Indian who married a Pakistani and now lives in Canada where you are now a citizen. Does a Chinese person who marries a Brazilian and adopts American citizenship say he is Chinese, Brazilian and American? No he would be an American of Chinese heritage. You keep going on in past pieces about being an Indian Pakistani. No you are a Canadian of Indian origin.Recommend

  • Ajay

    Dear Author, had Pakistan opted for the peaceful coexistence with India and cooperation to build a welfare society, right after its birth, the story would have been completely different. The benefits to the people by way of education. Healthcare, science & technology, industry, trade & commerce, tourism, employment etc. would have been immense. And the respect and acceptance by the World as a peaceful progressive Nation would have been priceless. This was the spirit of Nehru, Gandhi and founding fathers of India. But alas Pakistan chose conflict in the lust of grabbing Kashmir and many useless ego based issues to show its supremacy as a military power and look where it stands today. Please touch your heart and say if the dogmatic attitude in the name of Islam was beneficial or done more harm than good for the people?Recommend

  • Vimal Krishna

    I feel writer is the missing the cause of friction between the two nations.
    One side it is ambition to lead entire muslims world, driven by notion of ummah, as they have assembled the NUKES.
    The other side rediscovering hindu heritage and blending that with modernity.
    With such high ideals where is common point? One side is driven by army, other is democracy.
    Religion is also not the same , and notion of religion is at the core.Recommend

  • Umar

    Correction: 5 cabinet ministers of South Asian origin including four Indians and one Afghan.
    Recommend

  • Guy

    “We also have to make our prime minister speak up for justice for the Palestinians just as he speaks for Israel’s right to existence and safety.” Hmmmm as if the the author controls the lever of power. That is the problem with minorities. If someone show sympathy to them they start asking for sky (not to be taken in context for conflicts all over). Moreover the author need to think more about her adopted country, where she got married rather than where she was born. There cannot be any breakthrough in India Pak relations. Just neutrality will be a great achievement. Resolve all the issue & build an iron wall.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Dr.Ilmana

    you are no longer an Indian. There are 200 million Muslims in India and you could never find love here?Recommend

  • Jasvinder Singh Marwaha

    Wishful thinking. When you have unfinished agendas (Kashmir) and you have to settle scores (1971), how can you be at peace with yourself and others? Existence of some institutions depends on these thoughts. And what is a Pakistani Indian- You marry a Pakistani- you are a Pakistani.Please do not create another category of people.Recommend

  • Asif Khan

    Canada is the most despicable country on the
    face of this planet. You know why? Canada commits crimes against humanity in a
    very serious way, by taking children away from their fathers.

    A country where
    women can get away with lies and the poor father is left without his children.
    Children and wife takes the house and the assets whereas the husband goes to
    the slammer, where the man is forced to live without his children for the rest
    of his life in shelter houses whose condition is nothing less than painful
    reality that is hard to describe here. If the father wants to see his children,
    he has to go through an expensive court procedure where all the laws favor the
    woman.

    The author’s desire to link it with my motherland Pakistan is a nothing
    less but a sinister attempt to deceive and distort facts from reality. Our
    motherland Pakistan may have many ills but never have I seen that the full
    force of the law will side with a particular gender to deny rights i.e. his/her
    fundamental rights of parenthood at the expense of the other. Long live
    Pakistan.Recommend

  • Shireen Chagani

    Very well written !!! excellentRecommend

  • ask

    Just as the bete noir of Hindutvas-Sonia Gandhi-was born in Italy.Recommend

  • Gulwant Singh Bedi

    Trudeau can fire him anytime. If he does not toe Trudeau’s line and
    vision. [And somehow inserts any personal pro Indian agenda]
    Trust a hate monger to bring a bad taste in a conversation.
    Kudos to Madam doctor. What a brilliant article.Recommend

  • wb

    “I want my compatriots in Indian and Pakistan to know that diversity and
    secularism are not fiction. If a peaceful coexistence with diverse
    communities is possible in Canada, it is possible in India and Pakistan
    too.”

    Wow! Just wow!

    So, sitting in a country which practically obliterated the original people, colonized the land and after greedily grabbing everything it could from every corner of earth with every illegal means and sings songs of tolerance and democracy…you’re teaching India to be diverse and tolerant.

    Just wow! When Zorostrians, Jews and St. Thomas were persecuted by the marauding Muslims in the middle ages, it was India that gave them shelter. When Buddha gave a new ideology, we neither crucified him nor did we call him a jhoota-nabi, we accepted him as our own. Even after independence, nobody talks of revenge for the Muslims just because invaders from Babar to Tipu Sultan who all committed acts of extreme violence and barbarism.

    And you’re teaching India the concept of secularism by giving example of Canada? That’s like teaching hunting to a lion with the example of a cat. Or teaching Eagle to soar high by observing crows.

    Dear lady, if anything you should teach Canada the concept of democracy, tolerance and secularism from India. Whatever your identity crisis is, India is not responsible for it.

    Also, the day you became an Indian-Pakistani, you lost the right to preach India. You can only preach Pakistan.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    she is a hardcore islamist..who is going to listen you?Recommend

  • jayant

    i love ur comments . Keep up the good work bro, putting some sense in a Pakistani is dong job of god !.Recommend

  • JP

    Again, there, the Banarsi Mullah came out of the Ashram/Potala?
    to make a completely vapid, confusing, disjointed bigoted, racist,
    comment. Comment? No, no, a diatribe, straight from the offices
    of Vishwa Hindu Parisdhad in Bangalaru[?]..er..sorry Poona it is.
    Poona where they have roving bands of Shiv Saniaks hunting for
    Muslims.
    Well the Shiv Sena are the new boy scoutsof BJP. They carry ink.
    And they will plant beef in your refrigerator. All Muslims in Bharat:-
    “Please Keep Your Refrigerators Locked. Double Locked.”Recommend

  • Parvez

    Canada’s population is 36 million today……India + Pakistan’s is about 1.5 BILLION give or take a few million, its a completely uneven comparison…….even as a wish it sounds very primary school level.Recommend

  • Jehangir Khan Mescanzai

    Same guy who
    says Nawaz Sharif is God’s gift to Pakistan. And investors are lining to
    invest their pesos in Pakistan. The line is wrapped around the block. Who
    are YOU to sermonize her? And tell her what her status is. And why
    should she forget her culture, her up bringing, her former country. Her
    family ties, her childhood friends, her neighborhood, just because she is
    Canadian Indian now. Remember US and Canada are great countries
    BECAUSE of their diversity only. “Give me your huddled masses”
    She comes from an area where civilization took root 5000 years ago.
    While the Europeans were hunting rats and rabbits to survive.
    And what is wrong in expressing an opinion ? She is entitled to it. She points
    specific ethos, and a lot of ‘what ifs’. In a manner, India and Pakistan ARE
    like US and Canada. Indo/Pak culture is the same. Yes, majority, speak the
    same brand of language. Simply put, THEY would be understood in other’s
    country. So many similarities, like US and Canada. Would it not have been great if things had started out on the right foot? Or even later.
    If some visionaries had been given half a chance. Never happened ….karma.
    And if a German marries a Papu/New Guinean and gets a US citizenship…
    the point is MOOT.Recommend

  • Lion of Gandhara

    “The unending arguments of how different Indians and Pakistanis are, despite sharing the same history, same geography, same ethnicity and even the same genetic pool”

    This is factually incorrect. Most Pakistani ethnic groups and Indian ethnic groups aren’t the same and gene pool is shared by all humans, difference is that Pakistanis are 80% Caucasian and 20% Australoid/Mongol while Indians are just 40% Caucasian and 60% Australoid. So no we’re not as mixed as Indians racially hence ‘Pak-istan’ – land of the pure.Recommend

  • Undhyu Patil

    your country India made you a gynecologist. What have you done for your country sweetie?Recommend

  • jayant

    Locked ? Double locked how u guys have kept ur brains since 7th century ?Recommend

  • neat

    Canada has become India’s puppet. This guy is no different. Pakistanis living there are ignorant and naiveRecommend

  • sterry

    She moved to Canada and after 5 years thinks she can advise Indians on how to think because she is so impressed! Do you think Indians need advice from your kind of Indian? Do you know the history of European conquest of North America? or what happened to native people there?Recommend

  • yucalyptus

    This article with all its positivity is suffice to say what she contributed to India with constructive thoughts. Better than many mediocre articles in the sub-continental media.Recommend

  • Shereen Abidi

    Way too early to decide that :)Recommend

  • IBN E ASHFAQUE

    Asif not only that the author eulogizes gays that are considered not permissible by Islam. Long live Pakistan.Recommend

  • loyalindian

    Such a biases point of view. Only highlighting negative points of one side and positive of other. Completing negating a positive vs. Positive and a negative vs. Negative comparison. Such an unbalanced comment.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think your main target audience is Pakistan here because India is already a more diverse and tolerant country than Canada.Recommend

  • abhi

    Somehow picture of Sonia Gandhi comes to my mind.Recommend

  • J

    The author of the blog has a very refreshing outlook. May she
    spread her message with leaps and bounds. So positive.
    There has been a colossal ‘brain drain’ from the Indian Peninsula.
    Make that the Sub Continent. The brightest and sharpest left for
    happier, well paid, no corruption, shores. The dredges were left,
    and this is the result. The current Hindu extremism, reign of terror
    in Hindustan, and the terrorists in Pakistan are peas in a pod.
    Land of the Pure, has it’s writ in Lahore and 20 miles in and around Islamabad ONLY.
    Talking about the European conquest of the indigenous population
    of North America, well, what has THAT got to do with this blog?
    Would you like know about the Muslim conquests? Specially North
    Africa? Or what the Mighty Warrior Salah-uddin did to the Christians
    of Jerusalem when he conquered it? No, YOU would cringe.Recommend

  • neat

    Keep at it RSS and VHP and Pakistan-2 will be inevitableRecommend

  • abugi72

    We have Muslim presidents and Sikh prime ministers, what’s the issue with this Author? If at all she wants to preach, she has to preach Pakistan not India…
    Some incidents happen in nation of 1.2 billion people but amplifying that phucking dadri incident where ONE muslim out 176 million muslims was dead, she is painting as if there is genocide happening in India.
    And that killing of Dalit children is coz of known personal conflicts between the families not a caste-based killings… if u want to make ur point by pandering to propaganda filled in media…
    Then there is no mistake in average person who thinks Pakistan = Terrorist state and Muslims = Terrorists coz that’s what media propogates…Recommend

  • ShiroKage

    I’m pakistani and same here. we’re both different countries anyway.Recommend

  • ShiroKage

    but our sects actually have the freedom unlike you people banning muslims from eating meat lmao. we didn’t ban no one from their basic rights..Recommend

  • Gopal Arunachal Pradesh

    Notice my name? It’s phony. Just like you, writing under a Muslim name.
    The Kashmir issues can be solved. Was almost solved by Musharraf. And
    with cooler heads, [instead of a hate monger like the Butcher of Gujrat]
    Take it for granted, Balochistan will ALWAYS be in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sudipta

    I am very much surprised that you put India and Pakistan on equal footing!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Ram

    Hello Dr So if claims to be Indian (which I am not sure) you should know that we had a Sikh as a prime minister a Muslim as a president our opposition leader is from Italy for crying out loud, just because we elected BJP you don’t get to preach us about Secularism, there is NO country in the world as diversified as India I wonder you have no knowledge of it, you simply choose to ignore and simply seize the moment and blast India to gain few brownie points from your Pakstanie friendsRecommend

  • Pure

    Reading so many silly comments here , makes me vomiting, most of you dummies go back and stay in your lala land .Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    India will be India and not Canada or any place else. Since you are a Pakistani (There is no such thing as a Pakistani- Indian) now, you can advise Pakistan about what it needs to be.

    India needs Indians ( and we have plenty) not Pakistani-Indians ( whatever that is) or Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Sanjay

    Dr Ilmana, the author, Are you so illogical? Do you have any base for comparing Canada with India ? what cannada has done ? What is the totol population of muslims in Canada ? 2-3 million ? or less than that ? And there is secularism there ? What rubbish you are talking ? Canada was totally intolerant towards relgious freedom and now they are learning tolerance from India. NO COUNTRY in this world does have a moral right to point a finger at India interms of religious freedom. One day US was also talking big. But as soon as the population reached 8 million and just 3 thousand people died in 2 WTC tower USA panicked and it attacked a country and killed so many people. So was that a very tolerant act of USA which could not tolerate 3000 people of its country and we bear tyrany after tyrany for so many centruries, Let few terrorist attacks happen in Canada and let me see how it stands those. And by the way has Canada allowed the muslims polygamy since it is their basic right and they have that right in India also ?Recommend

  • Sanjay

    selective mentioning always by the anti-hindu people. I want to see if the muslim population becomes 10 million in canada and 3-4 terrorist activity is done then how much canada will show demecracy there.Recommend

  • Azhar Mushtaq

    Very well written Dr. Ilmana Fasih. A food for thought article. Wish all Pakistani and Indians can understand.Recommend

  • guest

    I can feel the sincerity by the author to see a peaceful south Asia which is only possible with the diversity in our societies, though it seems a very far-fetched dream, but no harm in trying and working hard on this dream.Recommend

  • Jasvinder Singh Marwaha

    Sir tell us the positive things about Pakistan. I am sure most of us would like to be enlightened.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Great comment mate. This is another blogger who is high on the effects of affluence. How it was acquired hardly troubles them. But they have no problems pontificating. Those countries have a lot to learn from India that has played host to every tyrant and yet has been amazingly restrained – even accounting for the stray mindlessness.Recommend

  • JEAN PIERRE MIKHAEL

    God bless you its true.Recommend

  • LS

    Did not expect a Pakistani to understand. They act as if they are always on moral high ground not realizing their own condition. Wake the world when you are successful in demolishing every terrorist in the country, every misdeed your majority does. There is reason why Pakistan is ranked lower than India on human rights and tolerance and every other parameter that world watches.

    There is a reason why Pakistan was thrown out of UN Human Rights commission this time around in the election.

    You are in no position to teach or preach anyone.Recommend

  • LS

    Really? Remind me what does your constitution says about “Blasphemy” and how it is misused by an average Pakistani to kill, maim rape anyone they like?Recommend

  • LS

    Factually incorrect. European Y Haplo group is R1b. There is no R1b in Whole of South Asian continent. What Pakistani and North Indians have is R1a (along with L and H haplogroups – others haplogroups are minority) which is similar to what Central Russians have. Dravidians on the other hand have majority L Haplogroup along with H, L F and J.

    http://www.transpacificproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Y-Haplogroups-World-Map.jpgRecommend

  • Muhammad Mohsin Shahzad

    May be that’s why the whole campaign of Indian Cricket Team for the last world cup was based on Pakistan…Remember “Mauka Mauka”. Yeah right..Indian’s are not obsessed with Pakistan. Then made a story about a Pakistani spy pigeon LOL….I mean who writes this stuff for Indian media haha a spy pigeon…. LOL….And there are many other instances like these….Right now Aamir Khan said that intolerance is on a high in India and Indians were like …Aamir go to Pakistan…I mean why are Indians obsessed with pakistan. On the other hand, in Pakistan no ad even mentioned India in the world cup or elsewhere coz we actually don’t want anything to do with India and just peacefully co-exist.Recommend

  • shankar bhandarkar

    Dear Sir’s
    I stay in mumbai, the life itself is fast and NO One wants to Know about the other, here in India especially in Mumbai we have nothing against pakhistani people, Hindu & Muslim have stayed here for nearly 1000 years, In Old Times the Muslims Ruled but No More such thing can happen any more all are Equal here, and the Problem is Pakisthanis do not agree that The Very Country is derived from Land taken out of India itself before 1947 the whole place was INDIA itself, We have no Problem about it but they want to make it More a HINDU vs Muslim Issue, which is wrong, be happy man where ever you are…..maintaining good relations with India will only solve all their Issue’s which they do not understand at allRecommend