Ideas and Action for a Better India
by Sudheendra Kulkarni
Yesterday (March 14, 2015) the Observer Research Foundation (Orf Mumbai) had the honour of organising an interaction with Mr. Isphanyar Bhandara, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. He represents the minority Parsi community in the country’s parliament. He is also the CEO of Murree Brewery, the only brewery in Pakistan.
His late father Minoo Bhandara (1937-2008), also a distinguished MNA in Pakistan, was a dear friend of mine. We met several times in Delhi between 1998 and 2004, when I was working in the Prime Minister’s Office. We also met in Islamabad, where he introduced me to several prominent Pakistanis, including Ardeshir Cowasjee, the celebrated Pakistani columnist, who passed away in 2012.
Minoo Bhandara (seen in an accompanying photograph in his brewery) was an ardent advocate of improved relations between India and Pakistan. I had the pleasure of introducing him to former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji and Deputy Prime Minister Shri L.K. Advani ji.
Thereafter, he became an unofficial messenger between Vajpayee and Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf. He was close to Musharraf – also geographically. His beautiful house in Rawalpindi was just a stone’s throw away from Army House, Musharraf’s official residence.
When Minoo Bhandara passed away in a tragic road accident in China, Khushwant Singh wrote a moving tribute.
“Every time Minoo came to India, it was to attend a conference or seminar on Indo-Pakistan relations. He put the Pakistani point of view to Indian audiences. Back in Pakistan, he put the Indian reactions in articles he wrote for Pakistani journals. He was a true bridge-builder between the two nations. With his going that bridge has fallen.
“For me, Minoo’s death has been a personal loss. With all my Pakistani friends from my Lahore days now resting in their graves, he was my last remaining link with a country I call my watan — my homeland. That link has been snapped.”
Minoo Bhandara, a strong Pakistani patriot, was an admirer of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He believed that Jinnah did not want Pakistan to become a theocratic nation, but a country in which all religious communities co-existed peacefully with equal rights and without any discrimination. Jinnah articulated this vision of religious tolerance and social harmony unequivocally in his address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. In a courageous move, Minoo Bhandara inserted a notice in ‘Dawn’ newspaper in April 2007, which read:
“Quaid-i-Azam’s Speech of Aug 11, 1947. A Constitutional (Amendment) Bill has been moved in the National Assembly, which purports to include the famous speech of the Quaid or its salient features, as a substantive part of Article 2 of the Constitution. Details can be seen atwww.quaidvision11august1947.info Click your support or email M P Bhandara, Member, National Assembly of Pakistan, at email@example.com.”
Isphanyar Bhandara is continuing his father’s admirable tradition. At ORF Mumbai yesterday, he spoke about the condition of minorities in Pakistan and also about the need to normalize relations between India and Pakistan. (Seated to the right of Isphanyar Bhandara in the second photograph is my dear friend Maneck Davar, a prominent Parsi citizen of Mumbai.)