In this globalized world, it is quite easy to communicate with anyone around the planet. One can travel other countries in hours as compared to days & months. The case of Pakistan & India is different. Two neighboring countries, whose citizens can’t visit each other with ease. The visa process is hell & one of the most difficult one. A difficulty, which is solely reserved for each other. No wonder then that SAARC is a failed organization & has done nothing substantial for the region. How can it succeed when both the main players have a trust deficit which no one is interested in improving? Not that the situation can’t be approved, after all France & Germany were able to do it.
In an effort to improve the Indo-Pak visa policy & highlight its benefits, Institute of Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS) arranged a conference on the 14th of January. Dr. Khalid Zaheer was one of the speakers, who spoke on the topic ‘How will a relaxed policy help attain peace?’ By the time I reached the venue his session was already in the Q & A phase. In answering one of the questions he said that the reason for the success of the negative forces is that they are very much committed to their cause, which we in the majority believe to be wrong. Those of us who are in the majority are not committed to the cause in which believe in, thus, tilting the balance in their favour.
Rtd. Professor Nabeela Kyani of Government College Univerity, narrated a story titled ‘An Ink Bottle’. The story revolved around an old man, who had witnessed partition of subcontinent. He left his belongings in the custody of his Hindu friend. When things settle down & they start waiting for the stuff, the delay causes his family to believe that they will never see their things again. The old man however, sticks to his belief that his friend is a good & trustworthy person. Meanwhile he falls in love with a University professor & takes his mother to her place, who rejects the proposal because the girl is Christian. In the end a truck does deliver their stuff along with a handwritten list, which even had the empty ink bottle listed & returned.
Maas Foundation performed their play ‘Surkh Lakeer’ (Red Line). The play showed the story of partition in the settings of a single home. The children want to meet but their elders have prohibited them to cross the ‘red line’ that marks the partition. During all the heated exchange & claims of never crossing the line, failed attempts by the younger generation to connect; they realize that they will have to make contact for trade. One side will need onions; the other side will need salt. For this they agree to make some space between the ‘red line’. Later the next generation turns this into a ‘white line’, signifying the success of peace & harmony.
Mrs. Rubina Ghazanfar & her children were at the conference to share their story of ‘Mother-Child Liver Transplant’. Her case was miss-handled in Pakistan & on getting a second opinion she was informed that she needed a transplant immediately. The only two options that were affordable for the family were China & India, from which they picked India as it was cheaper than China & above all because there was no language barrier. They found the people really caring & at times using the Pakistan card, brought then blood donors who were otherwise a bit slow in reacting. Mrs. Ghazanfar said that that visit made her realize that she should have the opportunity to visit India & invite friends just like in case of any other country. The visa process was however, torturous, especially for people who are already at the verge of their nerves due to a major health issue. The family wanted to be able to take more people with them as they were going to stay for around four months, but only one attendant was allowed to look after two people who were going to undergo major surgeries. They were also, not allowed multi-entry visas which would have made it easier for the family to coordinate.
In a nut shell, around 200 people from Pakistan have had their transplants in India, & this was just one family sharing their story. There are many such stories which reflect the desire of the people for peace & normalcy between the two nations, for a better future.
Former Secretary General SAARC Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Rehmtullah Javed, in his talk also, stated that friendly relations between India & Pakistan are the need of the hour, but they need to be on equal footing. A lot of the points he mentioned are debatable. On one hand he claimed that he was travelling to India quite frequently, & obviously that was because of his official position, & yet he didn’t put forward any concrete solution for the common people.
Sajida Mir (MPA PPP) & Arifa Khalid (MPA PML-N) were invited for the prize distribution ceremony for the easy & poster competitions that IPSS had conducted among a number of local schools. Saijda Mir, in her address appreciated the efforts of IPSS & agreed that it was a cause that should be pursued by the government. (My reaction: You & your party ARE THE GOVERNMENT). Arifa Khalida, surprisingly spoke very well & pointed at the right issues. She highlighted that the youth was being fed hatred for the sole purpose of political gains. The comment that got a loud applause was that she admitted that our education system needs to be changed. (Again my reaction: can we take a step further from lip service only).
There was a petition aimed for the government of Pakistan, asking for a relaxed policy that was mutually agreed by all the participants of the conference.
It is hoped that around 250 people who attended the people, took with them the message & need for peace, & the need for the majority to seriously commit themselves to the cause they believe in & want to see materialize. Things are not going to change overnight & therefore, it is important that the process is started today for a better & peacefully future to become a reality. We have a rich heritage to be proud of, basing our identities on hatred for the other does not make us a better patriot, it just makes us look stupid & prone to exploitation. The third party always benefits when the other two are busy fighting.
In the end Wahab Shah closed the conference with his dance performance.
p.s There was a video message from the Indian partners as well but it was before I reached.