People to People Initiatives in South Asia

Daily Times, May 25, 2005
‘Accessing people-to-people initiatives’: ‘Long-term targets needed for peace process’

Staff Report

LAHORE: Talk of peace between India and Pakistan will remain just that, talk, unless people are involved in the process at the grassroots and targets are set for the next five to ten years.

This was said on the first day of a conference titled ‘Accessing people to people initiatives’ arranged by civil society groups.

Dr Mubashir Hasan, the founder of the Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), said the ‘elite’ played an important role in the peace process. “The elite is divided into two sections. It split in 1980. The elite on both sides of the border realised that peace was in their interest. Judges, journalists and other big fish were part of the elite.”

He said the common man had always wanted peace and now the ‘elite’ wanted it too, but in their own interest. “We are exploited. Peace will come, but not for people. There is no democracy,” he said.

Asma Jehangir, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said people knew that the government played politics in the name of peace. She called for the documentation of all peace efforts made up till now.

“A healthy indicator of this peace process is that now the leaders of both countries term it irreversible. If the Wagah border (crossing) is opened for a day, there will be a traffic jam on the road to Wagah. If Lata Mangeshkar comes here, Lahore will stand still. We want a kind of a peace in which the fundamental rights of people flourish. The arms race should be stopped. There should be security of ballot and other democratic institutions should also flourish,” she said.

Ms Jehangir said there was a need to set priorities and deadlines for the peace process.

Admiral (r) Ramdas said the ‘vested interests’ of ‘certain elements’ like the bureaucracy and religious fundamentalists must be curbed. Ego and prejudice should be set aside in the search for peace. And Pakistan and India must avoid heeding ‘external pressure. IA Rehman, director of the HRCP, said peace should not be a single slogan but be linked with democracy. He said ‘myths’ of prejudice and security needed to be punctured.

There was also a discussion on the role of writers which included speeches by Kishwar Naheed and Nirpuma Dutt. Ramesh Yadav, Sohan Singh Saleempura, Madeeha Gauhar, Salima Hashmi and Sehba Chachi took part in a discussion on arts and theatre.

Earlier, Muhammad Tahseen, Smitu Kotahari, Kamla Basin and AH Nayyar briefly spoke about the objectives of the conference.

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