THE TIMES OF INDIA – PEACE MESSENGERS FROM ACROSS BORDER
Published: The Times of India – March 5, 2009
JAIPUR: At a time when Pakistan is desperately trying to come to terms with Monday’s Lahore attack, that happened days after Taliban took over the Swat valley, a 10- member delegation crossed the border into India to spread the message of peace.
The delegation ran a signature campaign in unison with their Indian counterparts condemning the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. Carrying the signatures of more than 35,000 Pakistani citizens who condemned the attack, the delegates want to hand it over to the Indian authorities. “We understand that Indian officials have been busy in New Delhi, but we will hand over the document and will be joined by our Indian counterparts who also want to hand over their document,” said Saeeda Diep, head, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore.
The group feels this is a right time to travel with the peace message because people should understand that the mode of operation of those involved in the Lahore attack was similar to the 26/11 attack in Mumbai and hence they too are victims.
“Pakistan shouldn’t be seen in a negative light, people should understand that because democracy isn’t strong in our country, the administration is helpless in dealing with terrorists and giving the charge of Swat to Taliban was an indication of this,” said Diep.
The members were of the view that the perception towards their country isn’t right and people still think they live in medieval times. They maintained peace can prevail between the two neighbors if governments, instead of thinking emotionally, take a positive approach. According to Punhal Khan, a delegation member, terrorism isn’t a Pakistani phenomenon —- it’s rather a problem in South-east Asia, he said, “Illiteracy is the breeding ground of terrorism and wherever in the region we have illiteracy there is some form of terror activities taking place.”
According to the delegation members, if India relaxes the strict visa guidelines for travelling to Pakistan and more people are allowed to mingle things will improve between the neighbours. However, a member had a word of caution for India’s proximity to the USA, “We have suffered for our proximity to the US and want to get away from it at the earliest. You on the other hand want to embrace them. As neighbours we would say look how dearly has such friendship cost us.”