New Year celebration at Allahabad by artistes from Pakistan
|A dance performance|
In 1994 some activists from Pakistan and India met in Lahore and decided to launch a peace movement in the sub-continent. Their efforts culminated in the first convention of Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFFPD). It was the first time such a large number of Pakistani activists were awarded visas to go to Delhi.
Having held its conventions in many South Asian cities in the following years, PIPFPD had its eighth one on 29-31 December 2011 at Allahabad, India.
A strong contingent of more than two hundred Pakistani delegations was able to cross Wagha by foot under the leadership of veteran peace activist IA Rehman, chairperson of the Pakistan chapter of PIPFPD.
The Pakistani delegation
The Pakistani delegation was given a reception and lunch at Amritsar, although India has no chapter here. The Indian peace activist and journalist Jatin Desai and some other colleagues had come specially to the border to escort the Pakistani delegation to Allahabad. They had booked three air-conditioned coaches but the ‘Tata-More’ express tested the patience of Pakistanis. It took more than 30 hours to reach Allahabad. The organizers had to cancel the reception and start the cultural program without the Pakistani contingent. The Pakistanis, however, were able to watch the performance arranged by Nadira Babur, daughter of Late Sajjad Zaheer (he was the first secretary-general of the Communist Party of Pakistan) and wife of actor Raj Babar. She also presented a skit based on ‘Namak’, the short story written by her mother Razia Sajjad Zaheer on her visit to Pakistan.
On 30th December the inaugural session was presided over by Ved Bhasin (India) and Justice (R) Sher Mohammad Khan (Pakistan). Tapan K. Bose and IA Rehman, respective chairpersons of the India and Pakistan chapters, were also on the dais.
It was the first time such a large number of Pakistani activists were awarded visas to go to Delhi
A performance during the culture eveing
The Indian chapter in its report specially mentioned that after the Mumbai terrorist attack, when relations between Pakistan and India plummeted and all kinds of dialogues were stopped, the Mumbai chapter and Citizens Initiative for Peace were able to make a 100 km long human chain around Mumbai, with more than1.5 million people participating, which definitely thwarted the nefarious designs of hawks in India. The Indian chapter wanted to hold this convention at Jammu but could not get permission.
Pakistan’s report was presented by Khawaja Muhammad Waseem.
IA Rehman in his speech said that the superpower design of globalization, and the military and economic doctrines flowing out of it, have assumed the form of the movement to strengthen the colonial stranglehold over a large part of humankind. The sovereign rights of small and weak nations, including their right to devise and maintain democratic and egalitarian orders for themselves, are under grave threat. In his usual humorous style he pointed out that PIPFPD will achieve adulthood next year (18). It had to now act as a ‘major’.
|A qawali performance|
IA Rehman, even after traveling with two hundred delegates on a train and back, showed no sign fatigue on his face
Tapan K Bose, co-chair and one of the founders of the Indian chapter, was very candid and frank in his speech. We know he had been bitterly criticizing the human rights violations of the Indian government in Indian-administrated Kashmir, but this time he equated Indian activities in Afghanistan as a ‘British colonial legacy.’
One must admit that Indian scholarship is ahead of Pakistan’s, and India’s intellectuals are alive to a more diverse range of national and international issues.
The keynote address was presented by Ravi Sinha of New Socialist Initiative; his topic was ‘Global Capital, Compliant Nation-States and Totalitarian Communities: Three Formidable Barriers to the Advance of Democracy’. Professor Jean Dreze talked about the history and danger of war.
The participants were divided into five groups and had thorough discussions on the following themes: demilitarization and peace dividends; democratic solution to Kashmir; religious intolerance; democratic governance and global and regional cooperation.
|The Orrisa traditional dance|
The convention had a number of weakness but the organizers must be given credit for being able to get together people from all regions of Kashmir and from both sides of the border. They had a frank discussion on all aspects of the Kashmir issue. One could see a strong urge for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue in their eyes, and the best way was to encourage visa-free travel between the two Kashmirs and more trade on modern lines.
The convention was heavily loaded with cultural events. The Pakistanis made full use of these. When Lal Qalandar was sung many Pakistanis could not resist and men and women stepped in to perform a bhangra. Veteran peace activist IA Rehman, even after traveling with two hundred delegates on a train and back, showed no sign fatigue on his face.
It was interesting to see Pukhtuns of Pakistan presenting their cultural dance and believe it or not there were some women also.
The cultural evenings were so attractive that almost all the delegates religiously attended them. The Konark Sun Temple teenage boys’ troupe performed their special Golipua Orrisa and enthralled the audience.
|Delegates relax during recess|
The convention was held at St. Joseph College in Allahabad. The organizers presented all kind of cuisines from different parts of India but one failed to understand why breakfast was served at 9.30 am on the convention ground. The place was well-decorated with different kinds of banners and flags. There were many stalls, including one by the Progressive Writers’ Association. Pakistanis had the opportunity to buy ‘Chicken’ of Lucknow. Zafar Bakht, the local host, convinced mobile phone service provider Airtel to give connections for cell phones to the Pakistanis, but it did not work out.
It was interesting to see Pukhtuns of Pakistan presenting their cultural dance and believe it or not there were some women also
Allahabad is the perfect city of sangam, a place where the rivers Ganga and Jamuna merge. But it is polluted. The great Hindu festival of Kum is held here every year. Last time we missed the famous Allahabad amrood or guava but this time our trip coincided with the season. This is the city of Nehrus and Bhachans. It is worth mentioning that Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal, donated his house in Allahabad to the Congress party, which has converted it into a museum.
The daily English newspaper Northerindia Patrika editorially welcomed Pakistan’s ambassadors of peace.
The presence of a military tank at the St. Joseph college compound, where the peace convention was held, is beyond comprehension!
Pakistanis have a special association with Allahabad because it is here that Allama Iqbal presented his famous 1930 address. Some Pakistani “Muslim” historians in the delegation took it upon themselves to visit that historic place but came back disappointed because the “Hindus” had not maintained it properly.
The organizers made sure that Pakistani delegates celebrated New Year’s eve in a free and open atmosphere. (contributed by Pervaiz Kazmi)