Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) - Through a decade of stormy waters
by B .M. Kutty & Karamat Ali, Founding Members
[19 November 2003]
Strained, or should we say confrontationist, relations between the governments of Pakistan and India can be traced to day one Ó 14-15 August 1947. But then, the yearning for friendly relations and interaction among the people of the two countries is also as old as that.
As in many ways, the governments attempted to discourage and even undermine the chances of improvement of relations, the people of India and Pakistan, at various levels, were also trying to do the opposite. A number of peopleăs delegations of different denominations Ó cultural, political, lawyers, writers, trade unionists, women right activists, students, scientists, artists, academics, sportspersons and so on, at unofficial level tried to keep that urge for Indo-Pakistan friendship alive, in the face of unfriendly official policy on both sides of the Divide.
It was in this backdrop that a group of concerned citizens from India and Pakistan, from different walks of life, engaged in a process to initiate a people-to-people dialogue on critical issues of Peace and Democracy. As a follow-up to this, a group of 25 persons from the two countries met in Lahore on September 2, 1994 and after consultations came to the conclusion that the crisis in their relations was being deliberately maintained by the ruling elites in utter disregard of the common interest and aspirations of the people of the two countries.
It was agreed:
1. That war and attempts to create war hysteria should be outlawed;
2. That a process of de-nuclearisation and reversal of the arms race should be started;
3. That Kashmir not merely being a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, a peaceful democratic solution of it involving the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir is the only way out;
4. That religious intolerance must be curbed as these tendencies create social strife, undermine democracy and increase the persecution and oppression of disadvantaged sections of society;
5. And finally that the group constitutes a convening committee for setting up a Peoplesă Forum for Peace and Democracy.
It was decided to hold a larger representative convention, to which should be invited from India and Pakistan representatives of the human rights movement, workers organizations, peasant movement, womenăs movement, environment movement and other mass organizations, cultural workers, professionals and academics. Efforts should be made to involve persons well known for their commitment to peace, equity and social justice, communal amity, democracy and peopleăs solidarity in the sub-continent.
The above statement was endorsed by the following participants:
Nirmal Mukerjee, Rajni Kothai, K.G. Kannabiran, Prof. Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Teesta Setalvad, Tapan. K. Bose, Amrita Chhachhi.
I.A. Rehman, Karamat Ali, Dr. Mubarak Ali, Prof. Dr. Haroon Ahmad, Nighat Saeed Khan, Hussain Naqi, B.M. Kutty, Anees Haroon, Iftikhar-ul- Haq, Madeeha Gohar, Prof. Rashid Ahmad, Dr. Mubashir Hasan, Shahid Kardar, Khaled Ahmad, Prof. Mehdi Hasan.
Since then, not only has the PIPFPD held five joint conventions Ó first in Delhi-February 1995, second in Lahore - November 1995, third in Calcutta - December 1996, fourth in Peshawar - November 1998, and fifth in Bangalore - April 2000. Each Convention in one country registered a rise in the number of delegates coming from the other country, so much so that the fifth one in Bangalore was attended by 250 delegates from Pakistan, representing all the provinces, various occupations and cultural formations from across the country. Not only was the original founding Lahore Declaration (September 1994) re-iterated and endorsed at all these joint conventions but new ways to see them implemented in the face of new and difficult situations were recommended.
As we participate today in the 6th Convention being held in Karachi three years late on account of the extremely tense state of Pak-India relations during these years, faint rays of hope of a better tomorrow have appeared on the Indo-Pakistan scene, with the exchange of ideas on Confidence Building Measures, between the two governments. Let us hope that these faint rays of hope will be converted into a bright future of friendly relationship of cooperation and collaboration at all levels, as an outcome of this joint convention.
It is also to be noted here that in the 10 years since the PIPFPD came into being as an inclusive Pakistan ÓIndia Peopleăs initiative - inclusive in the sense that each and every Indian or Pakistani who subscribes to the founding objectives of the Forum, irrespective of his or her past occupations or ideological links, could become a member of the Forum and play his/her due role to promote those objectives, there have been a number of other initiatives at expanding people-to-people interaction at various levels.
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