Rights activists from the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies gathered at the Lahore Press Club on Saturday to acknowledge the efforts of Dr Mubashir Hasan and Kuldip Nayar to build better ties between Pakistan and India.
The two leaders were also presented a Sindhu Aman Award each for their services in bringing the two nations closer by opening a new chapter in the struggle through the inauguration of the Relax Pakistan-India Visa Campaign.
Speaking at the occasion Kuldip Nayar said, “Many talk about Bhagat Singh but rarely acknowledge the sacrifices of heroes like Ashfaqullah Khan, who was executed during the independence struggle for looting a train to fund the revolution.”
Nayar regretted that there was a lack of acknowledgement for many heroes of the independence movement from both sides of the border.
Nayar, a journalist, mentioned that a peace vigil had been held for 15 years on every August 14 on the Indian side of the Wagha Border. He said this was meant to signify the friendship between the peoples of the two countries.
He recalled the hurdles faced by the participants during these peace vigils.
“There was some resistance in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil conflict. But the fact that even a few people showed up at these vigils reflected that there was hope,” he said.
Nayar criticised the role of the governments and the intelligence agencies and alleged that some of them fostered mistrust amongst the peoples of the two countries.
Advising Pakistanis to “cherish their cultural heritage”, Nayar said it was unfortunate that history taught in Pakistani schools was quite distorted.
He advocated greater economic and political ties between the two countries and said he hoped to see South Asia become a “common market” for the people of the region. “We have to keep in mind that India and Pakistan cannot live without peace,” he added.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt highlighted the need for a greater exchange of artists between the two countries. He also demanded relaxation of visa policies between India and Pakistan. Bhatt advised the media to focus on “celebrating the shared culture of the region” instead of creating a “war-like” scenario.
Dr Hasan, born in Panipat, India, said he had never intended to leave the land.
He shared instances where, he said, he had tried to work with the governments of both the countries to create peaceful ties. He said despite the challenges, he was hopeful of a bright future for the region.
IA Rehman, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan general secretary said that 99 per cent of the population of India and Pakistan wanted easier visas.
Later, Rehman presented the awards to Dr Hasan and Nayar.
IPSS chairperson Saeeda Diep said she hoped that the award will be presented every year to a person each from the two countries who had worked for bridging the gulf. She said the name Sindhu signified the common origin of the people of the region. “We all belong to the Indus Valley civilisation. That is where this name comes from.”
Towards the end of the event, a petition was signed by Dr Hasan and Nayar, requesting prime minister of Pakistan to show more initiatives for peace as well as easier visas to create better opportunities for the people of the two countries to interact.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.