Peace activists fear that the 400 Indian doctors, who were due to arrive in Pakistan to help flood survivors, may be refused visas.
Under the banner of ‘Aman Kay Barhtay Qadam’, 400 Indian doctors have vowed to come to Pakistan to assist people suffering from diseases at relief camps. The move was proposed at a joint meeting of peace activists from both sides on August 15 in Lahore.
However, they will have to overcome a major hurdle to make goodwill initiative possible - acquire visas. “There couldn’t be a better time for this to happen, but there are certain sections that do not want peace and I feel that they (Indian doctors) might not get the permission,” said AH Nayyar, president of the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC).
“While the Indians are trying to get visas, the attitude of our government suggests that their efforts won’t be encouraged. The Interior and Foreign ministries will both come up with several security related reasons and eventually, the visas will be refused,” he said, adding that unlike the governments, the people of both countries look forward to this cooperation.
Pakistan Medical Association’s Dr Tipu Sultan, who is also the president of the PPC Sindh Chapter, believes the post-flood problems will be of a greater magnitude than the catastrophe itself.
“There will be numerous problems and issues in the aftermath of the floods. Thousands might die of diseases such as gastroenteritis and malaria. These times call for decisions to be made in the interest of the public, he said.
“When we can take aid from the US, China and Brazil, what’s the problem in taking help from India. The Indian doctors coming here to help is a good step towards peace,” Sultan remarked.
Classical dancer Sheema Kirmani, who is part of the Aman Kay Barhtay Qadam initiative and has been campaigning for peace between the two countries for a long time, says it’s a wonderful proposal. “The media reported that we need more doctors to look after the victims so it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Sharafat Ali, an associate member of PILER - an NGO involved in the peace process, told The Express Tribune that the Indians have proposed to stay in Pakistan from four weeks to four months, depending on how long their help would be required.
“Though Pakistan’s Foreign Office officials have indicated that the country is not inclined toward accepting India’s monetary assistance of $5 million for flood survivors, there is still hope that the doctors from across the border might be allowed to come here for the sake of the survivors,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.
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