Giv­ing Peace a Chance

Southasia - - PEACE AWARD -

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!

Kara­mat Ali

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