8 October 2016
“To the world, most of the time, we are siblings; constantly at loggerheads, trying to get into daddy’s good books so that he may buy us a toy, or take us for a drive, or better yet, increase our allowance. Other times, we are like a divorced couple, sharing space, constantly bickering over who lost out in the settlement, unable to finally come to terms with the fact that we are no longer together.”
In a lengthy Facebook post, that has been shared more than 4,000 times, Islamabad-based Alizay Jaffer shared her thoughts about the complex relationship between her home country of Pakistan and India. Relations between the two countries, which historically have been tense, have deteriorated again this month.
“When I think about some of my best days and nights in the last 10 years, more than 50% of them were spent with my brothers and sisters from across the border,” Jaffer wrote in a post that was shared on the same day India said it carried out “surgical strikes” on Pakistan. The Pakistani army dismissed Indian claims, saying it was an “illusion” India was trying to feed its media. The strike was in retaliation to a militant attack at an Indian army cantonment in Uri, Indian-administered Kashmir.
Jaffer wrote that the 18 September attack, which was described as “despicable” and “cowardly” by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will in the long term be perhaps be remembered as unremarkable.
“In 20 years’ time, Uri will be just another event in the text books. It will be labelled as yet another period in our collective histories when our ‘cold war’ with India almost turned into ‘hot war’. It will be just another opportunity for me to pick on my Indian friends or vice versa.”
The post has had more than 10,000 reactions, most of them positive. Some have called it “inspiring”. One user said it was “the best ever FB post”. Another told Jaffer that she had “won many hearts”.
Jaffer, who is 29 and works in the development sector, emailed BBC Trending that she was “pleasantly surprised to receive messages from (people) across the border (in India) stating that I have changed people’s views on Pakistan and some stating that reading my status made them believe all is not lost and peace is possible.”
However, others, like a social media user called Anirudh Kandari, felt there was more nuance to the argument, he posted “It’s very nice to romanticise in literature and I really appreciate you for writing such a lovely piece, but at the end of the day how can we be friends when the basic nature of our existence is hate”. Another user took it further and told Jaffer to comment when a “terrorist…kills your loved one”.
While tensions on the border have escalated in recent weeks, there have been shows of cross-border unity. The Humans of Pakistan Facebook page shared an image of two Pakistani boys who talk about their Indian friend on the “other side of the river” who they skim stones with. They said they aren’t sure of the boy’s name as the “river makes it hard for us to talk to each other”.
Jaffer says comments like these were in the minority. She adds that her family and friends were also supportive of her post, although they did make fun of her for being “emotional on Facebook”.
She adds that she has no personal connection to India, bar the Indian friends she made whilst studying in London. She still keeps in touch with still, and referred to that connection in the conclusion of her Facebook post; “It is comforting somehow, that when I messaged one of my closest friends across the border, expressing concern over the destructive megalomaniac tendencies of our governments, he responded and said, ‘It doesn’t matter what they do, you know I will always love you’.”
Jaffer told BBC Trending that she chooses her words carefully when it comes to the issues surrounding India and Pakistan. “I’m not a journalist, social/political commentator nor an expert of any sort. Hence I do not feel I am qualified to comment on such matters. I merely expressed my opinion, which is something I am entitled to do.”