‘We can still lead future generations away from hatred’
Karachi: It seems that the visit of an Indian delegation to the country turned out to be a tour de force as the three visitors vowed to leave Pakistan on a positive note, and with many pleasant memories, as they revealed in a candid talk at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.
The three visitors, all members of a socio-political NGO, Delhi Study Group, were Vijay Jolly, an Indian BJP leader and president of the group, Vijay Mehta, president of the Indian desk of the Indo-Polish Chamber and vice president of the NGO, and Lubna Asif, an Urdu journalist and joint secretary of their group.
In their opening remarks Khursheed Abbasi, secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Idrees Bakhtiyaar, president of the PFUJ, and Asad Butt, representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, welcomed the guests and invited them to speak on the topic, ‘The role of media in the context of Pak-India relations’.
Abbasi said it was only after visiting India that his perception changed about the people there. “There is this invisible fear lurking on both sides of the border which can only be diminished once cordial relations are achieved.”
Bakhtiyar also voiced a similar opinion and said there were a lot of misunderstandings prevalent at the public level that could only be removed through greater people-to-people contact.
“At times, some media outlets do spew a lot of objectionable content which is not found in the mainstream media of Pakistan.”
Asad Butt opined that instead of investing in weapons procurement, both countries needed to focus on improving the lives of their people. “There are many on either side who are still living below the poverty line and, if we decide to cut back on our purchases of tanks or fighter jets, we can provide them the basics – clean water, food, education – and commence a process of sustainable societal development,” he said.
“For political purposes, both sides continue to spend on arms. Atomic rays don’t need a visa to cross borders; their sole purpose is to annihilate humans, so we need to find a solution for such a situation.”
Vijay Jolly, a member of the current ruling party Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), asserted that the purpose of the group’s visit was not a ‘political’ one.
“We have come from Delhi but not with a political message. We are here to understand Pakistan from our own view and to work towards increasing people-to-people contact. We bring good tidings from India as it is our firm belief that friendship between Pakistan and India can bring about a positive change in the lives of millions.”
Jolly, whose father had migrated to India from present day Lahore, shared a personal anecdote relating to the emotional moment when he managed to locate his ancestral house in Lahore during this trip.
“I was elated to be able to feel that house with my colleagues and friends. There are no differences between us, we share the same habits and traditions; we even appear to be citizens of the same country.
Before coming to Pakistan, I was also warned about looming terror threats but, after meeting people here and getting so much love and respect, our perception has indeed changed.”
Referring to the role of the media, Jolly said it plays a key role in improving relations because it can indoctrinate many ideas via a single news piece or show. “It is the media which paints the bigger canvas for the masses. We need responsible journalism because we owe it to our future generations that we give out a message of progress and prosperity.” As for the anti-Muslim tag associated with the BJP, he dismissed the idea as a misconception, stating that the party would never have been able to sweep the elections like it did without having support from the minority and majority.
“I consider terrorism and extremism a dark cloud which can envelop any county and halt its path to progress.”
Jolly called for measures to ease the visa acquirement process so that tourism and trade could be boosted.
Vijay Mehta stressed the need to lead the younger generation away from hatred. “The new generation doesn’t know about the partition or 1971. If we keep reminding them of those times, then we are sowing the wrong seeds. The problems and issues of the current generations are different and we have no one to blame for them but ourselves.”
“We keep talking about those turbulent years. It is like a fertiliser for our politics, and only when media outlets stop printing statements inciting hate, will people stop reading and believing such ideas. That is because man is habitual creature; people will read and believe whatsoever is printed on our front pages.”
Mehta was of the view that our collective journey on the road to prosperity would only truly begin once Indo-Pak relations thaw out.
Lubna Asif pointed out that given that terrorists always managed to enter the countries without visas, it was the people who actually want to visit each other in peace who are affected by our strict policies.
Prior to Tuesday’s event in Karachi, the delegation was in Islamabad to participate in a two-day workshop on human trafficking organised by the International Conference of Asian Political Parties. They also met with a number of politicians including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mushahid Hussain and others.