Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Indian Supreme Court who also served as Chief Justice of three high courts and who is currently Chairman of India’s statutory media regulatory body, the Press Council of India, is known for making stunning statements and has lately been in the news for his outspoken ‘words of wisdom’ on almost everything from the state of media to the failures of the government in India. Recently, at a seminar in New Delhi, he shocked his own people by telling them that at least 90 percent of them were “idiots”.

On the same occasion, Katju, in his typically uninhibited manner, also took a freaky shot on Pakistan by distorting our history as a nation and questioning the very creation of Pakistan. He described it a “fake” country that, according to him, was created artificially by the Britishers through their “bogus Two Nation Theory”. Katju had the audacity even to claim that “in the next 15-20 years India and Pakistan would reunite.” Obviously, it was for the Indians to prove him wrong on calling them ‘idiots”, but for us in Pakistan, it surely was our challenge to demolish his ‘reunification’ illusions and prove him wrong on what he thought of our nationhood and about our country’s future.

I immediately wrote an article in TheNation giving a dispassionate account of history to establish why Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent, having lived together for centuries, remained poles apart eventually becoming two independent states in 1947. In response to my article, Katju lost no time in sending a detailed rejoinder entitled “Truth about Pakistan” to the same newspaper in which he categorically said: “Pakistan was doomed from its very inception.” He believes that “created in pursuance of the wicked British policy of divide and rule and the bogus Two Nation Theory”, Pakistan is bound to reunify with India.

In his article, Katju also quoted me from an e-mail message that I had addressed to him warning that I was not sure if any Pakistani newspaper will print anything questioning the very raison d’être of Pakistan. I was wrong. The esteemed paper published not only his bizarre, untruthful “truth about Pakistan” devoting to it more than half of its op-ed page, but also the text of my e-mail message that Katju had unethically and illegally shared with it in blatant breach of the privacy of the mail exchanged between two individuals. It was a breach of the Code of Ethics followed by both the Press Councils of India and Pakistan.

Justice Katju’s article finding op-ed space in a major Pakistani newspaper known for its ultra-conservative outlook and ideological ‘guardianship’ shocked the Indians, who expressed surprised at this. The Indian Express (“Pakistan all-praise for Markandey Katju”; March 7) viewed this an event worthy of special attention disclosing how the Pakistani “newspaper that had traditionally taken an anti-India stance", "surprisingly" agreed to publish Katju’s article. But the ‘Katju story’ did not end there. My own read on the feedback was disappointing. Pakistani readers paid no serious attention to Katju’s article. They just ignored it as yet another volley of a dogmatic if not rabid school of thought from across the border that never accepted Pakistan’s creation.

From the Indian side, many knowledgeable comments were posted, mostly dismissive of Katju’s ‘reunification’ theory. One was, however, shocked at the unworthy and graceless language that some of the comments from across the border used for Pakistan and its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. They crossed all limits of civility. It was by no means a ‘spirited’ feedback. It was just filth and vulgarity. I am sure even Justice Katju must have been ashamed of the profanity heaped on our Quaid. I feel sorry for him.

Katju presented his aberrant ‘reunification’ theory without being disrespectful to anyone. That is, perhaps, the spirit of his ‘satyam bruyat’. Jinnah is one of those rare leaders who received some of the greatest tributes paid to any one in modern times, some of them even from those who held a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Katju’s own illustrious grandfather, Dr Kailash Nath Katju, one of India’s leading lawyers who participated in the country’s freedom movement, then serving as Governor of West Bengal, also paid glowing tribute to our Quaid describing him as "an outstanding figure of this century not only in India, but in the whole world."

No matter what Katju says because of his short-sighted view of history, but one must give the devil his due credit. His “satyam bruyat” reveals in him a man of secular, moderate and progressive outlook. Indeed, Katju disapproves of religion-based oppression and discrimination in his country. In his “truth about Pakistan”, his description of Pakistani cities - Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, etc - as “killing fields” with almost daily bomb blasts, sectarian violence and persecution of minorities was no exaggeration. According to him, “nobody knows when he steps out into the streets of these cities whether or not he will return alive.”

By describing Karachi as a “Jurassic Park”, he is not depicting any imaginary scenario. He is presenting our sordid reality. The problem, however, is that we are not even ashamed of what we are doing to ourselves. We have become a suicidal nation. We are killing ourselves. Our problem is not of nationhood. Our problem is governance. Corrupt rulership, religious bigotry and interfaith intolerance are our bête noire.  What if Katju has shown us a dreary mirror? Don’t we see in it a mutilated and disjointed nation? We see a mass of hollow people with wooden faces leaning together as a paralysed body making gestures without motion, and reflecting an image of what T.S. Eliot once described as “shape without form and shade without colour.”

We see in the mirror a country looted and plundered by its own rulers, and left with no dignity and sovereign independence. We also see a hapless nation, debilitating itself physically as well as spiritually. No wonder, the world now calls us the “most dangerous nation” on earth. Isn’t it time for us to change and behave like a nation?

No matter what Katju’s ‘reunification’ dreams are, he should be mature enough to rise above illusions and accept the historic reality. Pakistan is going to stay no matter what havoc is wreaked upon it by its corrupt and self-serving rulers. If anything, he should devote his energies and current media authority to ameliorating the environment between the two nuclear-capable neighbours. India and Pakistan, even as two separate nations, at peace with themselves would be a formidable power as a strong factor of balance and stability in our region and the world at large.

Finally, here is a word of advice to Justice Katju. Speak truth by all means, but speak in such a way that it does not hurt others. Never speak truth, which is unpleasant to others. Never speak untruth only to please yourself.  This is the path of eternal morality, the “sanatana dharma” that, indeed, transcends all divides and barriers.

The writer is a former foreign secretary  Email: shamshad2001@hotmail.com