Aman Ki Asha vital for peace in region
Speakers at International Literary, Cultural Conference urge Indian media to convey Pakistan’s peace message to Indians especially youth without any angling; Aman Ki Asha is not a debate but a conversation of love and affinity; Najam Sethi, Ataul Haq Qasmi, Mujibur Rehman Shami, Arif Nizami, Sofia Bedar, Sohail Warraich, Salim Safi, King Sukh Nath, Orya Maqbool Jan and others address the event
LAHORE: Peace between India and Pakistan is a need of the hour and Aman Ki Asha initiative is vital for peace in the region.
The Indian media should convey Pakistan’s peace message to Indians, especially the youth, without any angling, as Aman Ki Asha is not a debate but a conversation of love and affinity between the two sides.
This was crux of the speeches made at the International Literary, Cultural Conference here on Monday. King Sukh Nath, editor, ‘Times of India’, said in his speech that peace between India and Pakistan was a need of the hour, which could be ensured only if people from both sides of the border come closer. He was addressing the concluding session of the 4th Alhamra International Literary and Cultural Conference, held here with the media partnership of the Jang Group.
The concluding session of the three-day conference – held on ‘Aman Ki Asha and Our Media’ – was chaired by senior analyst and Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Najam Sethi. Main speakers of the conference included senior journalists, columnists and intellectuals from India and Pakistan, like Mujibur Rehman Shami, Masoom Muradabadi, Arif Nizami, Mehmood Sham, Iftikhar Ahmad, Salim Safi, Orya Maqbool Jan, Sohail Warraich, Sajjad Mir, Afaq Khayali, Yasir Pirzada and Ataul Haq Qasmi.
Speaking on the occasion, Times of India Editor King Sukh Nath said that peace was a prerequisite to deescalate tension between the two countries, stressing the role of the people on both sides in this regard. The tension and misunderstanding between the neighbours could only be addressed if people from both sides come closer, he added.
King Sukh Nath went on to say that during the peace process, there might be many setbacks to this resolve, but the peace process should continue. “I wish this Aman Ki Asha does not become Nirasha”.
The Times of India editor said that at the moment both sides were apprehensive about each other’s intentions. Whenever there was terrorism in India, many suspected Pakistan’s involvement in it. When he was coming to Pakistan to attend the conference, he added, his friends had also advised him to remain careful while going around (in Pakistan). Most of them even wondered why he was going to Pakistan, which according to them was not a safe land, he said.
Sharing his experience in Pakistan, King Nath said that during his stay in Lahore, he had also gone to a cinema to watch an Indian movie. He was not ‘pleasantly surprised’ to find that there were no difference between Delhi and Lahore as both cities shared many similarities.
He said he had been living in Delhi for the last many years and could understand Punjabi language. In Lahore too, he found people speaking the same Punjabi language which seemed to be mixed with Urdu, just like in Delhi where people speak Punjabi mixed with Hindi. People in Pakistan have shown great acceptance to the culture of other nations, he added.
Najam Sethi, addressing the conference, said that the peace resolve was not initiated on the wish of any NGO; it was based on people’s desires. In Pakistan, media, almost all political parties and non-political groups were united on the agenda of peace with India, he said and added that Indian media could also play its role in continuing the peace caravan and convey the message of peace from Pakistan to the Indian people, especially to the youth of that side without any angling.
Discussing the role of media and the peace initiative between the two countries, Najam Sethi said in 1989 the prime ministers of both sides, Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi, had reached an understanding over withdrawal of troops from Siachen glacier and visa issues but, due to media pressure, these agreements could not even come to surface at that time, and no progress was made on the issue.
He said the media in Pakistan had subjected the Benazir government to severe criticism. In India too, Rajiv Gandhi, sensing the mood of the media, did not continue any progress over the agreements and conveyed to the Pakistani government that he would work over the issue after the general elections in India, to be held after a few months.
Sethi said that, in 1997, Nawaz Sharif and Indar Kumar Gujral governments held discussions over the issue of Kashmir and negotiated whether it was a ‘dispute’ or just a ‘problem’. The foreign secretaries of both sides held negotiations over the issue and, after lots of discussions, Pakistan convinced India to accept Kashmir as a ‘disputed’ issue, he said. That the elections were round the corner and, to avert the media criticism, Indian side could not work over it, he added.
In 1998, the media from both sides once again became active in the wake of nuclear tests episode when the BJP government conducted nuclear tests and the Nawaz government followed suit, he said. In 1999, when the ‘Dosti Bus Service’ was initiated, the Indian media played a very positive role and the Indian premier visited Pakistan on the bus, Sethi said. The atmosphere in Pakistan, Sethi went on to say, was slightly tense due to criticism by some political parties, like Jamaat-i-Islami but the media here played a positive role by appreciating the peace resolve. However, after a brief period of time, the Kargil issue surfaced and eventually the incident of October 12, 1999 took place, and the Nawaz government was toppled by Musharraf.
Sethi said when Musharraf came to power he was not welcomed by the media, though he did not face any ‘disappointing’ situation on this front either. Before going to India for the Agra Summit, Pervez Musharraf during a sitting with journalists sought their opinion and 75 to 80% of them had suggested him to take a tough stance against India on the issue of Kashmir, said Sethi. During an interaction with the media in India, the dictator had hinted at ‘out-of-the-box’ solution to the Kashmir issue, which was widely appreciated in Indian media. Even the BJP was upset over the popularity of Musharraf in Indian media, he said. The talks failed when Indian government set a pre-condition to the dialogue over the Kashmir issue.
Musharraf returned home annoyed, Sethi added. However in 2005, when Musharraf announced holding unconditional talks with India, the media on both sides supported the resolve, he further added.
Masoom Muradabadi, a senior journalist from India while addressing the audience, said that he had been living in Delhi for the last 36 years, but the cultural values he witnessed in Pakistan were no more found there in India. He said people-to-people contacts between Indians and Pakistanis were stronger than any other nation, but politicians had tangled them in different issues just to bar them from raising a voice for their basic rights.
Senior journalist Arif Nizami said on the occasion there had been a lot of confrontation and tension between the two countries, but “let’s give peace a chance now”. He said that one of reasons for toppling of the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999 was the same ‘Aman Ki Asha’, but that process should continue. He said that India was a big country but it had shown big-heartedness towards Pakistan.
Senior journalist Mujib-ur-Rehman Shami said it is high time that both sides learn from their past mistakes and look forward to find a solution to the core issues. He said that all issues could only be resolved if the two neighbours start a process of self-accountability and asses the mistakes they had made in the past.
Citing the example of the USA and Japan, Shami said that in the Second World War, both the sides were bitter rivals but now they had shaken hand and were striving for a better relationship. He said the same should be done by India and Pakistan, adding that both of them should end bitterness.
Renowned journalist and Geo TV host Iftikhar Ahmad told the participants it was really unfortunate that whenever someone talks about ‘Aman Ki Asha’ (a desire for peace) in Pakistan, he is dubbed as a traitor or an agent of RAW. He said that we should learn to live with reality. It is a harsh reality that we are facing gigantic challenges. We need to tackle them instead of indulging in non-issues, he added.
Iftikhar Ahmad said that instead of showing concerns on the problems of other nations, we should first put our own house in order and correct ourselves. He said that it was an irony that we, as a nation, are ready to ‘own’ the responsibilities of others whereas in reality, not a single Muslim country was ready to allow us a visa-free entry. He said that we should learn from the way the European nations sought solutions to their problems.
He said we all should keep in mind that neither we are going to raise a flag over Lal Qila nor anyone was willing to change our borders. We all should change ourselves, know our rights, face the truth, fulfil our responsibilities as a nation. “Let’s do something for a strong Sub-continent,” added Iftikhar Ahmed.
Responding to the elements criticising the media, he said that no one forces the viewers to see any TV channel, adding that they had the right to view as per their choice. However, he said that no one had the right to insult the media, adding that those who chose wrong leaders and continue to bear with the problems caused by none other than themselves should not malign the media. He said no society could survive with this attitude.
Sohail Warraich, senior journalist, said on the occasion that the media had started a tradition of ‘alternative opinion’ in Pakistan, which did not exist in the past when people used to watch only state-run television and listen to the one-sided version of affairs.
He said that our nation was transforming from a state of confusion to a state of optimism and the Jang and Geo are number one media outlets just because of the people who rate them as number one.
Renowned singers including Ataullah Esakhelvi, Sanam Marvi, Hamid Ali Khan and Imran Shaukat performed at the end of the conference.
A large number of people attended the event.