Hafiz Saeed counters Mani Shankar Aiyar on Pakistan television show

Dove was pitted against hawk live on television on Thursday evening when noted anchorperson Hamid Mir brought in “India's most wanted'' Hafiz Saeed on telephone to present the other voice to Rajya Sabha member and advocate of peace with Pakistan, Mani Shankar Aiyar.

As is invariably the case with anything India-Pakistan, the verdict was divided on how that six-minute encounter went. While Mr. Aiyar's reference to the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JuD) head as ‘Hafiz Sahab' has brought him brickbats from Indian netizens, their Pakistani counterparts thought otherwise. And, not many took offence to the parliamentarian reiterating India's demand for Hafiz Saeed's arrest.

The brief encounter saw Hafiz Saeed justifying JuD's opposition to granting Most Favoured Nation status to India till pending issues including Kashmir are resolved. Alleging that India was building dams on the other side of Kashmir to divert waters and dry up Pakistan, he said: “It will create a crisis. They will make their land fertile. They will sell their cheap products here and try to turn Pakistan into their market.''

Asked how pending issues could be resolved without talks, the JuD leader maintained he had never opposed dialogue with India but alleged that New Delhi had never shown seriousness in resolving issues.

“India has always indulged in delaying tactics while pushing its agenda.''

Given a chance to rebut, Mr. Aiyar countered: “Hafiz Sahab belongs to a minority group and the majority of Pakistanis want peace with India. Like Hafiz Sahab, we also have some Hafizs who do not want progress but thankfully common people here want better links. We want him arrested and taken to a terrorism court.''

When it was pointed out that there was no case against him, Mr. Aiyar shot back that is what India was upset about. Hafiz Saeed's defence was that a High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan had acquitted him after being arrested by the Pakistan Government on charges made by India. “India is unwilling to accept our courts, our laws…the reality is that India does not accept Pakistan's existence,'' the JuD leader said to which Mr. Aiyar said India not only accepted Pakistan as an independent country but also wanted to see it become strong and prosperous.

Pat came Hafiz Saeed's reply. “If you accept Pakistan then why not accept our courts' verdict. If you do not like our courts, then take me to any foreign court and produce your evidence before that court. But you are not willing to accept any court's decision. Then how do they say they accept Pakistan. You should not feel offended by my words but there should be an answer to this.''

At this point, for reasons best known to Mr. Mir, he cut short the discussion with Hafiz Saeed and did not insist on a reply from Mr. Aiyar who was in Pakistan to deliver the second in a series of lectures organised by the Jinnah Institute on India-Pakistan relations.