PAKISTAN TODAY – EFFORTS UNDERWAY TO BUILD SUPPORT FOR RELAXED INDO-PAK VISA POLICY
Published – Pakistan Today – July 31, 2012
LAHORE – A campaign has been launched to build ‘constituencies of peace’, demanding a relaxed visa policy between the traditionally hostile countries, Pakistan and India, under the banner of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS).
The IPSS took the initiative a year ago, launching a multi-pronged strategy to assess and mobilize public opinion, for a relaxed visa policy between the two countries. A petition was also filed to the prime minister of Pakistan last year in august, and so far around 80,000 people from different walks of life have signed the petition, pressing upon the government for a relaxed visa policy.
“We initially identified five communities i.e. journalists, youth, divided families, traders and parliamentarians in cities including Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Okara and Pakpattan. We received an overwhelmingly positive response from all these sections of society and these cities, with a majority of parliamentarians who endorsed our petition, but would not sign it without a go ahead from their party heads,” the IPSS chairperson Deep told Pakistan Today. JUI-F Punjab head Riaz Durrani, has endorsed the petition and signed it too. The process will be further enhanced after the first phase.
The NGO set up stalls in various educational institutions and bus stands, where people were informed about the petition and their response on it was sought. The petition maintains that “the undersigned…believe that India and Pakistan are neighbouring countries and should live as friendly neighbours and not enemies, through this petition we advocate the easing of Pakistan-India visa policy and desire to see concrete steps taken in this direction, that can pave the way for continued peace and harmony in the region through trade, tourism, collaboration in education and healthcare sectors”.
“On average we daily interact with around 4000 people and get 250 signatures. Last year public opinion was not being mobilized for peace as it is being done now,” Deep added.
Stalls have been set up in markets such as Anarkali, Ichra and Liberty as well as public and private educational institutions. The media can play a very important role on both sides of the border in achieving peace.
Getting signatures after filing the petition to the PM is the first phase which will conclude on August 25, when a ceremony will be held and prominent personalities from India will be invited and taken to the cities where IPSS has already worked.
“In the next phase we plan to meet heads of political parties and get their signatures, so their members can also endorse it freely. The plan will be enhanced from five cities to more while mobilization will continue, plus people from other professions will also be included followed with talks by prominent Indians,” Deep said, adding that the struggle will continue till we get a relaxed visa policy, which needs to be changed for continued peace in the region.