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Yes, demonstrate goodwill and friendship, not pointless jingoism

Peace activists welcome toning down of official ceremony on India Pakistan border at Wagah

9 November 2010

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The representatives of civil society organisations and the peace movement in Pakistan and India, have welcomed a decision to tone down the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah Border

5 November 2010

A press statement issued by a group of civil society activists said, “We are happy that the authorities on both sides have at last realised the need for changing the character of the ceremony from a pointless display of power and bravery to a demonstration of goodwill and friendship towards each other. In this context, we wholeheartedly welcome last week’s decision by the DGs of Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Forces in their meeting in Lahore to replace the erstwhile militarist gestures with ‘smiles and friendly handshakes’ by the border guards.”

It further read, “We wish to emphasise that this is not enough and much more needs to be done if the two governments are sincere in moving towards a relationship of genuine peace and friendship between the two countries.” They called on the two governments to take a number of steps to ensure that the retreat ceremony was truly toned down. The statement listed following proposals: Removal of all symbols of militarism, such as tanks, missiles, guns, war planes, displayed in public places like road junctions and parks in various towns and cities of the two countries. Removal of all war-related propaganda and hate matter against each other from history books and other educational text books in the two countries. The statement said that in addition to release of all the fishermen detained in the two countries, orders be issued to maritime security authorities not to arrest or detain fishermen and their boats for inadvertently trespassing into each other’s territorial waters

It further demanded that citizens of the two countries arrested for overstaying and other minor violations of travel rules, and who had completed their terms of punishment be released forthwith. The Khokhrapar-Munabao Border be opened for regular trade, in the same manner and with the same facilities as at Wagah-Attari Border. Visa restrictions be eased, particularly for bilateral trade. Exchange of newspapers and magazines between the two countries be restored and TV news channels from one country be allowed to broadcast in the other.

The statement was signed by: Karamat Ali, BM Kuty of the Pakistan Labour Trust, Dr Tipu Sultan of the Pakistan Peace Coalition, Samina Khan of the Sungi Development Foundation, Dr AH Nayyar of the Pakistan Peace Coalition, Muhammad Tahseen, Abdul Khaliq Junejo, former senator Syed Iqbal Haider, Muhammad Ali Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Kuldip Nayar, Mahesh Bhatt, Kamla Bhasin of SANGAT, Admiral L Ramdas, Jatin Desai of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, Maharashtra, Mazher Hussain of COVA and Meena Menon.