TIMES OF INDIA – SHETTY, DALER ROOT FOR INDIA AND PAK
Published: Times of India – April 1, 2011
MOHALI: Actor Suneil Shetty and singer Daler Mehndi turned peaceniks, sporting stickers carrying joint symbols of India and Pakistan. They also received joint flags from peace activists of Pakistan and India before entering the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium here.
Spectators were surprised when a young Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Arif, a lawyer Mariam Arif and Sayeeda Diep identified themselves as Pakistanis before handing over flags and stickers to Indians and Pakistanis. Diep who has faced threat to life from extremists for opposing mullahs on their position on slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer, has faced incarceration four times. Hers is one of the few voices across the border asking for abrogation of blasphemy law that took the lives of Salmar Taseer and minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who had opposed it.
Diep felt relieved after months when she shared her views with Indian spectators and saw some hope for peace between the two countries through cricket diplomacy. The event of her choice in India came after she was hospitalized following Taseer’s murder. She was taken to hospital when her tears did not stop for three days and she slipped into depression, losing hope that Pakistan will ever become a secular state.
The peace activist started a candle light campaign in Lahore to ask for registration of a case against the maulvi who had declared a fatwa against those who attended Taseer’s funeral whom she considered most liberal, frank and clean face of Pakistani politics. For fear of terrorists, only four persons joined her march on the first day but the number has now swelled to 70. Diep said she herself distributed around 500 flags and explained the concept of peace and friendship between the two countries.
Students from an NGO Yuvsatta from Chandigarh and Lahore-based Institute for Peace and Secular Studies distributed over 10,000 peace flags and 20,000 stickers with flags of both the nations among the cricket fans going to watch the game.