It was Day 2 of non-military target practice. Pakistan downed at least two Indian fighter jets after a retaliatory strike a few kilometres from a military administrative unit.
DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor explained that the decision not to hit the actual target was aimed to show India that Pakistan could have hit the actual target, but decided not to because “We did not want to retaliate at the cost of regional peace. We do not want escalation.”
Soon after, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation. After justifying the retaliatory attack and the day-plus delay in the response, and offering some information about the Indian pilots held by Pakistan, he made what may be the most important statement of his political career.
“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?”
In one simple sentence, PM Imran summarised why the hawks on either side need to hold their silence, because an all-out war in the subcontinent will have no winners. Not in India. Not in Pakistan. Not in the world.
It has been heartening to see the political leadership and the media in Pakistan almost unanimous in their support for de-escalation, even if the paths suggested vary.
Until the Pakistani response, however, even the once sane voices across the eastern border seemed to have been replaced by crazed chicken hawks, baying for blood from behind their comfortable studio desks and political offices hundreds of miles from where the blood of innocent Indian and Pakistani soldiers will be spilt, all pawns in a game being played so that the grossly incompetent Bharatiya Janata Party government of Narendra Modi can win reelection.
Yes, Pakistan was late to the game, and the Indians were able to brutally slaughter dozens of Pakistani trees, but what happened when Pakistan actually showed up at the table?
The chicken hawks transformed back into voices of reason, calling for a drawdown.
Braying for war will be the death of us all, but of course, Modi is used to winning elections on the back of dead bodies. We must not abet him.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2019.