Former Pakistan cricket star and current opposition politician Imran Khan admitted that he grew up hating India, but that once he visited the country his views drastically changed.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, an English-language cable news broadcasting network in India, Khan said: “I grew up hating India because I grew up in Lahore and there were [the] massacres of 1947, [and] so much bloodshed and anger. But as I started touring India, I got such love and friendship there that all this disappeared.”
He added: “As time passed, I realized that there’s so much we have in common. We have a similar history, there’s so much in culture that’s so similar compared to Western countries. Above all, there is so much the people of two countries [can] benefit from if we have a civilized relationship.”
Khan, a vociferous opponent of the current leadership in Pakistan, has also spoken out against the rise of Islamic militancy and intolerance in his country.
He assured that if his party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) rose to power in the next election, he would work to improve ties between the two South Asian giants.
“I can give [it] my best shot. I can fight to the last ball. We can only try. Success is sometimes not in our hands, it is in hands of the Almighty. So I can say that I will give it my best shot,” he said.
He also stated: “I, for one, have received so much love in India. Absolutely, I have no prejudice against any country, and more specifically, India.”
Discussing the tour of Pakistan in 2005-2006 by India’s cricket team, Khan gushed: “I’d never seen two countries as close as that. So it’s very sad that Mumbai [terrorist attack in 2008] happens [and] we were back to square one”.
Khan’s comments come in the wake of a report by an American government commission that schools in Pakistan systematically indoctrinate students to hate India, Hindus, and non-Muslim minorities within Pakistan itself.
“Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,” the report said.
”Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam whose culture and society is based on injustice and cruelty, while Islam delivers a message of peace and brotherhood, concepts portrayed as alien to the Hindu.”
In September, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that violence against minorities is increasing.
Recently, three Hindu doctors were murdered in Shikarpur – although it’s not clear if these killings were bias-related.