Giving Peace a Chance
Is peace a realistic alternative in politically frenetic South Asia? It must be. That is why Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali has been honoured with the Didi Nirmala Deshpande South Asian Peace and Justice Award in Patiala, India.
The award is supposed to be conferred on individuals of the region who play a significant role in promoting peace. If Karamat Ali played such a role and was given an award for his initiatives, where is the peace then?
The Indians and Pakistanis bicker and fight on the line of control, there is no peace within Pakistan, what with the terrorists and the militants doing everything in the country that is antipeace, while the Afghanis have their own agenda and peace does not appear to be an alternative for them either.
Look around at other parts of South Asia. Bangladesh plans to go into elections in January next year. Are the two major parties there, even the minor ones, looking for peaceful means to contest the elections? Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a long-drawn 25 year civil war and the country would like to settle for peaceful ways now but the remnants of the LTTE would have none of it.
The other smaller South Asian countries like Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, are also not models of peace either.
It therefore came as quite an eyeopener when Karamat Ali, received the Peace Award. The prize was given at the regional seminar on ‘Exit of NATO Forces from Afghanistan and its Impact on India and Pakistan’.
It was also the 84th birth anniversary of Didi Nirmala. The ceremony was organized by the Folklore Research Academy of Amritsar and Akhil Bharat Rachnatmak Samaj. It attracted scholars, journalists, writers and peace activists from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan who paid rich tributes to Didi Nirmala and also shared thought-provoking opinions on the issue of NATO presence in Afghanistan and its impact on India and Pakistan.
Those who spoke on the occasion included Ahmed Fashim Hakim, a peace activist from Afghanistan, Prof. Kamal Mitra Chinoy from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, senior journalist and teacher Qamar Agha from New Delhi, Dr Sarfaraz Ahmed of Area Studies Centre, Peshawar, Dr Riaz Shaikh of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) Karachi, Mohammed Tahseen of South Asia Partnership (SAP) Pakistan and others.
They talked about the role of NATO forces and US allies all over the world and the threats that their actions pose to peace and prosperity in South Asia.
“The fact remains that only the people of Afghanistan have the right to decide the future of their war-torn country. Pakistan and India should pay heed to their own issues and strive for permanent resolution of their mutual issues, in line with public sentiment,” said Szabist’s Dr Shaikh.
Other scholars urged both Pakistan and India to start slashing their annual military budgets by, at least, 10 percent, citing peoples’ dislike for a nuclear race as a solid reason for a ‘no-war pact’ among the South Asian nations. They stated that the public wants peace, hence, both Pakistan and India should announce abolition of war initiatives and take steps for demilitarization.
Karamat Ali spoke of the pride at being honoured with the award. In his acceptance speech, he said, “Didi Nirmala was like an elder sister to me. I am proud of this achievement and the fact that the committee and my friends chose me.
“South Asian countries must take austere measures such as formulating an anti-war pact, deducting expenditure on weapons procurement and work towards making South Asia a nuclear-free zone. Moreover, they must give fundamental rights to people who have migrated from one Saarc nation to another and relax visa requirements for South Asians,” said Ali.
Farhat Fatima of PILER read out a paper written by BM Kutty as a tribute to Didi Nirmala and her pivotal role for peace promotion in the South Asian region.
The participants vowed to continue Didi’s mission with a commitment and dedication. The participants agreed on the need to strengthen networks within South Asia and bring the people closer.
At least, they gave peace a chance!