KARACHI: In a coordinated move, activists and organisations working for regional peace launched the ‘Peace Now and Forever’ campaign simultaneously in various cities of India and Pakistan on Saturday.
In Pakistan, the campaign was launched by the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy. The launch was held at the Karachi Press Club, where campaign founder and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan representative Asad Iqbal Butt and other activists shared details of the campaign.
Butt said the campaign was conceived with the objective of addressing deteriorating relations between Pakistan and India as well as to provide platforms to enable common citizens to demand peace and condemn attempts at war mongering without being apologetic or feeling guilty about their stance.
He shared that Nobel laureates Malala Yousufzai and Kailash Satyarthi are also joining the campaign.
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Butt shared that apart from a joint signature campaign, many other programmes in different cities and towns are being planned during the campaign period, especially on the seven weekends that fall within the time period. Lectures on peace, including the need for cordial relations between Pakistan and India at schools, colleges and universities, film and documentary festivals for the youth, culture camps, interfaith prayer meets, peace caravans, rallies, marathons and outreach to political parties and elected representatives have been planned as part of the peace campaign.
Butt said that in Karachi other events would also be held, including a Sindh-level cultural function on August 11, in which various organisations from across the province would take part.
Many more cities and towns in Pakistan, India and other countries are expected to join the campaign in the coming days, he explained.
The campaign will conclude with the Festival of the Sub-Continent for Union of Hearts in different cities and towns on August 14 and 15.
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Later, Butt shared the demands of the signature campaign and said developing an institutionalised framework to ensure that continuous and uninterrupted talks between India and Pakistan take place regularly no matter what must be given priority. Make dialogue uninterrupted and uninterruptible, he said, adding that it should be ensured that all political leaders, diplomats and civil servants from both countries conduct talks on the side lines of all international and multilateral forums.
He also said that there should not be any ban on people to people contact and removal of all such existing restrictions. Any sort of visa restrictions should be removed and visa-free travel should be allowed between the two countries, he demanded.
“We pledge to uphold the principles of impartial reporting and urge media houses on either side to prevent the growing militarization of debate. We must act responsibly and stop broadcasting hate speech and creating public hysteria aimed at the other country and/or vulnerable communities,” he said.
Butt was accompanied by Anis Haroon, Sheema Kermani, Mahnaz Rahman, Dr Jaffar Ahmed, Dr Riaz Ahmed, Habibuddin Junaidi and Aabida Ali, who are all taking part in the campaign.