Islamabad, June 7: Almost a martyr. That is how Pakistan’s people and government saw L.K. Advani today, signalling the success of his weeklong image makeover bid.
“Stunned” by Advani’s resignation as BJP president, Islamabad declared that his remarks on Mohammed Ali Jinnah had given the BJP leader a “new look” and blamed the media for projecting him in a “wrong way”.
“I think everybody in Pakistan is surprised as to why this happened, because this time in Pakistan he impressed by a new gesture and his remarks about Quaid-e-Azam and other things which have given him a new look in Pakistan,” information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said.
During his tour of Pakistan, the former deputy Prime Minister had regretted the Ayodhya demolition, accepted Partition as “an unalterable reality of history” and praised Pakistan’s founder as a secular leader and “an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”.
“People who think that he is a hardliner... have forgotten his old statements (and are) looking towards a new Advani. And that was good for good relations,” Ahmad said.
“He showed a lot of courage, wisdom and statesmanship,” agreed the secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), Mushahid Hussein Syed. He said Advani’s gesture augured well for both India and Pakistan in their quest for lasting peace.
“The entire development shows up the biases of the hardline Hindu elements' who don’t simply want the peace process to flourish,” reasoned Omar Saleem, a student doing his masters in IT.
He was “really pleased” with Advani’s remark that the day of the Babri Masjid demolition was the saddest of his life. “The statement showed Mr Advani came to Pakistan with an open heart and mind,” Saleem felt.
Civil engineer Stevens John wondered whether it was a crime to admire the Quaid-e-Azam.
“Maybe the praise Advani earned from Pakistanis was too much for the hardliners to digest,” he suggested.
The information minister observed that the BJP leader had got a “very warm” reception in Pakistan.
“Everyone is saying that things are moving in the right direction. But his resignation has stunned the whole nation,” Ahmad said.
“His statement in Pakistan changed the total era. Everyone is saying he is a reasonable man and the media has projected him in the wrong way. He got an excellent reception in Pakistan this time.”
“I am sure Mr Advani has been able to discard the anti-Pakistan label attached to him,” a leading analyst on Indo-Pak affairs, Kamal Matinuddin, said.
He felt Advani must have realised the need to bury the acrimony of the past and work towards lasting peace and harmony.
“But for me, his resignation came as a surprise because none of the remarks he made in Pakistan was either controversial or humiliating for any segment of the Indian society,” Matinuddin said.