Millennium Post

Peace prescription at the border

Peace prescription at the border
It was an initiative by the people of India and Pakistan rarely seen and all for a noble cause that there should be peace in the sub-continent. The theme of the initiative was that the people of the two countries do not want conflict and terrorism should end. There should be increased trade between India and Pakistan, the visa policy should be relaxed and the borders should be opened so that people can meet each other. Slogans like awam ko aman se milne do
and Dashat gari khatam karo were raised.  

Journalists, political leaders and peace activists from Pakistan and India assembled at the Wagah-Attari border on 14-15 August midnight to pay homage to the martyrs of the freedom movement, lit candles in their memory and vowed to promote peace and friendship between the two countries.

South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), in collaboration with the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch, organised the candle vigil to express the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and India for good relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Hundreds of people on both sides of the international border shouted for peace lending their voice to the demand for friendship. In a unique show of solidarity and friendship, they exchanged flowers, bouquets and candles across the zero line of the border raising slogans, Shuhadai Azadi ko Salam [Tributes to the martyrs of freedom movement]. Long live India-Pakistan dosti [friendship], Jang nahin aman, dehshat nahin baat cheet [peace not war, talks not terror]. Addressing peacenicks on the Wagah [Pakistan] side of the border, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam called on the governments of Pakistan and India for establishing a peace park on the zero line in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for freedom from the colonial rule. He appealed to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to relax the visa regime for free movement of people, especially journalists, peace activists, artists, writers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals, across border.

On the Attari [Indian] side of the border, people from all walks of life, led by SAFMA India joint secretary Satnam Singh Manak and Hind-Pak Dosti Manch leader Ramesh Yadav raised slogans paying tributes to the freedom martyrs and condemning elements that wanted to scuttle the peace process.

They said they were trying to strengthen people-to-people relations and endorsed the SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam’s demand for a peace park at the Wagah-Attari border.

Leading journalists, civil society members and politicians including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Member of National Assembly Tehmina Daultana, Pakistan Peoples Party member of the Punjab Assembly, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Jinnah took part in the vigil from the Attari side.

Earlier, Speakers at a seminar called on India and Pakistan to lift barriers to the free movement of people, goods and information, revive traditional trade routes and form a South Asian Tourism Union.

Historian Ayesha Jalal, economist Akmal Hussain, human rights campaigner I A Rehman, SAFMA India General Secretary Satish Jacob, Indian journalist Seema Mustafa and South Asian Women in Media president Pamela Philipose spoke at the seminar arranged by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) in partnership with Hind-Pak Dosti Manch. Delegates from India and Pakistan attended the seminar named In Pursuit of Shared Destiny in the Sub-continent as a part of the Independence Day celebrations.

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said improvement in relations would help India and Pakistan overcome issues of poverty, hunger, energy and backwardness. He spoke about how trade, tourism and free movement of people across borders between the two countries could create a great economic uplift in the region. SAFMA had been advocating ‘liberal’ visa regime in the sub-continent to encourage people to people contact for long lasting peace and understanding.

Alam demanded that journalists, artists, writers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals should be granted a similar visa as being given to businesspersons.

Taking a critical stance on the paradigms of nation and national sovereignty, Jalal stessed the need for making the notions of sovereignty adjustable to change and subservient to the aspirations of the people. She said India and Pakistan have lost a lot by not being open-minded and reaching an understanding about important issues, especially the Kashmir one.

Jalal said both the nations should try their best to achieve some type of long term, progressive understanding which would help all future generations of South Asia. She ended her speech by saying that if Pakistan and India did not want to be swept away by the West’s ‘New World Order’ ambitions, they must start building bridges between their nations.

Economist Akmal Hussain said both the nations, by objectively re-examining the past and by reconstructing the present ideas about each other, can improve the chances for a better future of the region. 'South Asia is at a conjunctional shift. If proper and foresighted decisions are made and implemented, Pakistan and India, along with China will become a global economic power'.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Director I A Rehman said India and Pakistan shared a lot of problems such as illiteracy, poverty, corruption and even extremism. He said hopes for the region’s shared destiny had been kept alive in the 1985’s Non-Alignment Movement charter. He said the biggest problem for peaceful ties between the two nations had been nationalism and egotism, which created even more divisions among the people than before.

Rehman said that a sustained and progressive dialogue was greatly needed to resolve all important problems and issues in the region. 'Nothing would be achieved if we continue to stick to our decades long nationalistic, stubborn positions.'

The general mood in Lahore and other cities is that after opening doors to investments from Pakistan, India is now looking to allow its companies to invest across the border as part of its effort to further deepen bilateral ties with Islamabad.

'There is a need to give clarity in the policy about government's intent both on inbound and outbound investments... Since, investments from Pakistan have been allowed, there is a reason to clarify the policy on Indian investments,' said the official who did not wish to be named.

India and Pakistan have taken several measures to improve bilateral trade and business relations to slowly rebuild ties that were strained after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. [IPA]
Harihar Swarup

Harihar Swarup

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