Published: Daily Times – September 8, 2012
* Group says militaries, extremists are against relaxation in visa policies
By Kashif Hussain
LAHORE: More than 85 percent of Pakistanis want relaxation in visa policies between Pakistan and India and they term it need of the new geo-political and economic situation of the region.
This was disclosed by the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) during its signature campaign in five big cities of the country, including Lahore, for ending rivalry and to easy visa procedure between the two countries.
IPSS representatives Saeeda Diep and Professor Rahim, while addressing a press conference at Lahore Press Club on Friday, said that they had succeeded in getting more than 85,000 people’s signature and most of them had demanded that governments of Pakistan and India relax their visa regime.
To a query about opponents of the campaign, they said that they visited more than 40 educational institutes and private trade organisations such as FC College, LUMS, BNU, GCU, PU and LCCI and found “hardly one or two percent” opposition to the issue.
They also said that they had received threat calls from some extremists in society while some people tore documents through which they were requested to sign on the resolution regarding relaxation in visa police.
Saeeda Diep and Professor Rahim said that such “reactionary people were not more than 10 to 15 percent of the total signatories of the resolution”. To another query, IPSS representatives claimed that hurdles in a relaxed visa policy between Pakistan and India had been created by militaries and extremists from both the countries. “But the majority of both sides are in favour of easy border in all seven countries of the SAARC,” they added.
Earlier, addressing the press conference, they demanded that Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar sign an agreement to relax the Pak-India visa regime.
Saeeda Diep said her organisation had collected more than 85,000 signatures of Pakistani citizens on the petition during the last eight months, adding that an Indian partner organisation, including the NGO of Kuldeep Nair, namely Hind-Pak Dosti Manch, Yuvsata and Punjab Folklore, had done the same job on the Indian side.
She said that the campaign in Lahore, Multan, Pakpattan, Faisalabad and Okara showed that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani citizens wanted peace with India and they supported dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries.
The IPSS representative stated that according to news, the upcoming relaxation in the visa regime was limited to senior citizens, businessmen and group tourists. She argued that a relaxed visa was a basic human right of families divided across the border.
She also announced that IPSS had planned to hold a ‘Signatories to Peace Convention’ in Lahore on September 22 to be attended by parliamentarians, journalists, activists and dignitaries from both Pakistan and India to take stock of what comes out of Indo-Pak talks.