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The News International, Wednesday, March 3, 2010 AN INITIATIVE OF THE TIMES OF INDIA AND JANG GROUP OF PAKISTAN

A road show for peace


Are you from India? Can I have your sign please? was a question that those associated with the organisers often heard during the Aman ki Asha event at Park Towers, Karachi, last Sunday. Asked why he wanted to meet Indians, one young man cradling a sixmonth old baby wrapped in pink, answered quietly, I want to ask them why they are being so hostile. Personal meetings rub the edge off hostility. As the poll conducted by the Jang Group and Times of India for Aman ki Asha in December 2009 underlines, the majority of people on both sides want peace. Being able to meet without the restrictions that currently mar travel between the two countries would help this process. But unless the governments of India and Pakistan change their visa policies, such mingling and meeting will remain a dream. Even the PakistanIndia Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy that has been providing a platform for such meetings since 1995, discussing all issues, including contentious ones like Kashmir, religious militancy and nuclear weapons, has been unable to hold its annual convention for the last few years. People to people meetings gain immeasurable strength when backed by the power of the media. That is what Aman ki Asha has the potential to do, as an initiative of the two largest media groups in Pakistan and India. Partnered by Park Towers and FM 107, the Aman ki Asha event in Karachi on Sunday was aimed at bringing the initiative to the public. Hopefully, more such events will take place in other parts of the city, and the country. aka

Time to smash the stereotypes


Indian journalist S. Balakrishnan was swamped by requests for interviews and autographs
But why? inquired Balakrishnan hen S Balakrishnan, Times of Indias Chief of sounding faintly amused. You see, Bureau in Mumbai, fi- the Jang Group and Times of India nally got a visa for Pak- are both established media groups. istan, he was so excited that he forgot We dont stand to gain anything from to do anything about the special this project. We are not making any treatment that Indian and Pakistani money from Aman ki Asha. Our purauthorities reserve for each others pose is to encourage peace. I think the young people of both citizens. But even the run-around involved in the police registration pro- countries can play a very important cess required of Indians and Pakistanis visiting each others countries within 24 hours of arrival and departure could not overshadow the warmth and hospitality he received. Nor did the blow of having his Indian cell number going blank, instead of being on roaming, as soon as he landed in Pakistan. We must be the only countries in the world who dont allow cell phone roaming in each others territory, he marvelled. His mission: to break the stereotypes about Indians and Pakistanis in each others country. What better All we place to start than with Abdus Sattar hear about Edhi, whom he is the role, he added. came to interview. Other stories he is terrorism. But so many People like Bal Thakeray he is taking back the work of the Citi- people are doing such about 84 years old -- are spent forces. zens Foundation network and the wonderful things here, The fact is that the people Layton-Rahmatul- and I want to highlight young dont carry any lah Trust Fund for them. past baggage. the Blind. All we They are not prejhear about is the udiced. They think terrorism. But so many alike, and can help people are doing such promote peace. wonderful things here, and I want to highlight He underlines people-to-people them. Balaji, who initially wanted to contact as vital for peace. Visas name his daughter Benazir eventu- should be available on arrival, but it ally compromised with the more sec- is vested interests and the governular, cross-cultural Roshan (a name ments who keep the people apart and shared by Hindus, Muslims and Par- prevent interaction between India and Pakistan. sis), now 26 years old. When your artists visit our counIt was something Roshan said back in 1988 or 89. We used to get try, we revere them, he said, talking PTV in India. Benazir was making a about the special reverence for legcampaign speech, and my daughter ends like Faiz Sahib, Mehdi Hasan said, Baba, she is speaking our lan- and others who remain very popular guage. That got me thinking about among the Indian people. Aman ki Asha can help in removthis wall of ignorance and the stereoing misunderstandings, as media can types that must be pulverised. His first visit to Pakistan coincided play a very constructive role in shapwith the event organised to commem- ing opinion. The Times of India carorate Aman ki Asha. The only Indian ries positive stories about Pakistan at the venue, he ended up being a vir- daily. Together, we can work for tual celebrity, swamped by requests peace between our countries, he said. for interviews and autographs. Unfortunately, for much of the Visitors thronged the galleries encircling the three floors of the build- media, page 3 has become page 1 ing, overlooking the main lobby that is, petty crime stories which where the event was being held. previous got scarce attention now Asked to address the crowd, the calm make the headlines. I mean, Abishek and collected Balaji did so smilingly, Bachan making kheer was news in unruffled by the clamouring hordes Pakistan. Thats not news, he added. Then, the media nearly caused a war and dozens of questions. He spoke about the need to forget after the Mumbai attacks. See, it is so the past differences and move on to clear that the people want peace. It progress, given our commonalities just shows what a disconnect there is our language, culture, food, the between the media and people, the sports we love, religions My God, media is just very far removed from we even share the same gaalis! Un- reality. Earlier, at an informal meeting at fortunately, we also share the dangerous combination of soft opposition the Karachi Press Club, he was presented with a Sindhi Ajrak. We are and corrupt ruling elites. When I landed at the Karachi Air- children of the same mother the port, I felt like asking the airline for a Indus Valley Civilisation, he said. About the Sindhi community in refund because I felt as if I was still in Mumbai, he joked. This is my first India, he said his neighbourhood was visit to Pakistan, but hopefully not the fifty percent Sindhi-speaking. Their last. I love everything I have seen contribution is immense, to business here. I have been studying Pakistani and commerce, to education, buildpolitics, current affairs, the social ing institutions like hospitals and colstructure, and the development that leges its a very self-reliant and has been going on here. I was very productive community. Indias gain is clearly Pakistans happy to see that my impressions about the Pakistani people were con- loss here, as most of those Sindhis happen to be Hindus who left their firmed. Someone commented that some native land reluctantly and quietly people were suspicious of Aman ki after 1947. Asha and termed it a hoax perpe Lubna Khalid and trated by the two media partners. Beena Sarwar

And the winner is


the people of Pakistan and India, if peace does indeed break out

ast Sunday, the popular shopping mall Park Towers, Karachi, was host to an unusually large crowd. But then, it was the venue of an unusual activity. Hordes of families crowded around the lobby that had been taken over by the Aman ki Asha event. Video screens broadcast the Aman the Asha anthem penned by Gulzar, sung by Rahat Fateh Ali and Shankar Mahadevan. Live coverage by radio jockeys (RJs) from FM Apna Karachi 107 added to the event. Two 7x10 feet white panels started out pristine white and were soon covered with messages, mostly of goodwill, for India. Pakistan-India Zindabad, We are one, and I love Pakistan and India to name a few. A group of students crowded around, stressing that peace was imperative between Pakistan and India. India is very much ahead of us in terms and education and health, we can benefit a lot from them in all fields of life, said Tooba Akhtar, an A-level student. There were a few spoilers of course -- hardly surprising given the historic tensions. The surprise perhaps is that there were so few spoilers. But then, as the survey conducted for Aman ki Asha in December 2009 found, 72 percent Pakistanis and 60

percent Indians desire peace. This and other survey findings were inscribed on the banners hanging from the third floor to the first level including 84% Pakistanis and 75% Indians want the Kashmir issue to be solved and 75% Pakistanis and 65% Indians think stable business relations can ease animosity. A teenager takes the microphone and sings a national song for peace. Then he writes on a panel: East or West, India and Pakistan are the best, and may there be peace between both the countries. FM 107 senior producer Murtaza Kazmi, also an RJ, gets the ball rolling along with RJ Payyam-eKhurram. Their live broadcast from the floor gen-

erates great interest. Several people, mostly women, step up to the microphone in the course of the event. The RJs innovatively start a debate between two volunteers from the audience (again women), who represent India and Pakistan. The winner is the one who, when asked what step she would take as foreign minister, says she would remove visa restrictions sage (above); and allow the people to meet writes her mes draw crowds riq Ta a id be each other. We are all winners COOKING SHOW HOST Zu um and Beena Benjamin An if there is peace between Pak- popular singers Khaled and the band istan and India, pronounces about loved Sketches. Murtaza. ones there. At the fringes, children get their Some visitors share their experiThe best messages, slogans, faces painted with the red hearts and ences and stories of traveling to songs and speeches (loudest ap- Aman Ki Asha logos. Others try India. Others talk plause wins) received gift vouchers miniature golf. and discount coupons from SoShadma from Delhi, married to a hail Mirza, General Manager Pakistani, hopes that the peace proSales and Marketing, Jang Group, cess will help end visa restrictions so who arranged the event. that she can visit her parents in Achi dosti apne sagey rish- Delhi more often. When I got married some eleven toN se ziyda achi hoti hai (Good friends are better than blood rela- years ago, I had no idea that it would tions, Zubeida Tariq, the popular become difficult to even travel TV cooking host, wrote on the ban- across the border. Today, the visa ner. She also judged some of the process takes almost three months, and when I get the visa, it is just for singing. Several live music performances one city only. I miss my parents a are interspersed through the day. lot, and wish I could meet them more They include well known singers frequently, she says sadly, flanked Khaled Anum and Beena Benjamin by her husband and two small chil(of the Benjamin Sisters fame) who dren. are also FM 107 hosts, Nida Arab with reporting by Rabia Ali

Acknowledgements
Aman ki Asha would like to especially thank and acknowledge our co-partners for the event on Feb 28 - Zehra and her team at Park Towers, Karachi, Mehdi Raza, CEO, Apna Karachi FM 107, Danish Saeed, Manager Programming, Apna Karachi FM 107 and Murtaza Kazmi, Senior Producer, Apna Karachi FM 107. We also want to thank the participating stores that so generously donated gift vouchers and discount coupons - Mohsin Feroze, MD Scentsation (a major gift voucher provider), Liberty Book Stall, English Boot House and Jafferjees as well as Fire Records for arranging some of the live performances

A YOUNG FATHER writes a message for his Indian counterparts (above); singer Nida Arab enthralls visitors. Photos: Mehmood Khan

Quest for peace


A Lahori living and working in Karachi recalls picnics at Wagah border when things were less acrimonious between Pakistan and India

People

speak

Students and housewives, bankers and grandparents at the Aman ki Asha event in Karachi express their views
past and look forward with hope and positivity, rather than grumbling about injustices. Summaiya Rehman, 31, housewife: We dont want peace with India. I cannot forget what our people have suffered because of them. Mohammad Masud, in his 60s, holding his granddaughter: It is only the media that can bring a change. The people dont hate each other. But policy makers dont listen to the people and media is what connects the two. Mustansar Hussain, 76: I want to see peace with India in my lifetime. This whole thing about war and hatred has been blown out of proportion. It is now time to enjoy our commonalities as well as differences. Farrukh Quyyum, 15, student: Peace with India is possible if they accept us the way we are. We are not going to bend over backwards for them if they cannot do the same. Mehmud Ali, early seventies: We have a lot of differences with the India, and instead of forgetting the differences we should celebrate them. I think Aman ki Aasha is a perfect platform for it Sabeen Ali, 8, student: I would love to visit India. It is my dream. Saher Baloch and Rafey Mahmood

y earliest memories are of picnics we had at Wagah Border, recalls Zehra, who grew up in Lahore. We often used to go there on Eid and we had a lovely time. The soldiers on both sides of the border were friendly, and the Indians across the border treated us with kindness. I remember that food was often exchanged between the soldiers of both the countries. We used to take Eid cakes and food along and offer them to our soldiers who used to share the feast with their Indian counterparts. Things were not that acrimonious then, she muses. I dont understand how and why our relationship has deteriorated so badly! We are neighbours, for Gods sake. As a Lahori, I take this distance, this mistrust very badly. We need to forget the past and start afresh. This can be our gift to the coming generations a tension free environment to flourish. For the past seven years she has been working as Director Marketing, Park Towers in the lobby of which the Aman ki Asha event was held. We have held innumerable events here, she says, but being a part of Aman ki Asha was a totally different experience for me. We do marketing events often. Whatever the occasion being commemorating all over Pakistan is commemorated here too. We want people to come with their families and

have a good time. We want to give them reason to come, and participating in a reason as wonderful as Aman ki Asha was an experience of a kind. Collaboration with Jang Group for promoting peace with our neighbours felt like a patriotic act. People are starved for recreation, but scared to come out, but since it was Jang Group that was behind this event, a lot of interest was generated and it turned out to be a very well attended event. Zehra feels very strongly about forging friendship bonds with India. Peace is necessary. We need to develop soft corners for each other. We need to make sure that the past baggage is not transferred to our future generations. Tell me one thing: why should people from both the countries live like enemies when all we need is to change our mindsets and think positively? When I discussed this initiative with my management, I got their full fledged approval to participate in this venture. We all really appreciate the efforts being made by Times of India and Jang Group. This is the first time in history that something like this has happened. I have hopes that these two media partners will succeed because media can do a lot to bring the peoples of Pakistan and India together. The Park Towers management wishes the Jang Group all the best and will support them in future to in their quest for peace. Lubna Khalid

Mohammed Amir, 35, banker: There has to be peace between India and Pakistan as theres no point in fighting anymore. Roshan Ara, 65, housewife: I visit India every year and not once have I faced any discrimination. People are respectful and nice to you even if you dont know them. Sumaira Khalid, 25, student: Even after living side by side for so many years we cannot visit India, which is sad, as we have so much to offer each other, through literature, arts and culture. Sumairas husband, 31, banker: It is high time we forget our skirmishes and move forward with the peace process. Abrar Aslam, 42, shopkeeper: I am not against peace, but in our excitement to initiate peace, we should not lose our prestige as a nation, and the initiative should be on an equal level. Amanullah Khan, 70s: If I close my eyes right now I can visualise the markets of Nanitaal where I spent my entire childhood, playing marbles in the narrow streets with my brothers. I dream that I can someday take my children and grandchildren and show them our mohallah. Noman Raheem, 12, student: By not taking our cricket team in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) they have proved that they are not

as serious about it as we are. Saud Nomani, 75, retired banker: If the media hadnt taken an initiative, the government would have never done that (started talks) in ages. Mohammad Saqib, teenager: We love their movie stars. All my family members keep track of the Indian film industr y. Similarly our music industry has a lot of listeners in India, which means no matter how much we deny we are connected. Its just about giving it a name. Adeel Azhar, 28, radio jockey, Apna Karachi 107: The peace initiative is incomplete if it is not on the basis of equality. The respect that we are giving should be reciprocated as well. Muzzamil Ibrahim, 27, MBA student: For the past three years, our self esteem, as a nation, has taken a beating because of our situation. We have no choice but to initiate peace, and start afresh. Imran Ali, 18, student: Peace is possible, but pros and cons of getting into a partnership of any sort, with India, should be considered beforehand. Sahar Hassan, 26, teacher: Our media has done what our government could not do in so many years. Im all for peace with India. Ruhma Masroor, 28, housewife: Peace is possible if we forget the

A sampling of slogans
from among the hundreds written on the panels
o Happy Holi (several holi greeting messages) oPeace. Backed by the power of the people: Aman ki Asha Shahrukh Hasan oOur insides are the same, so why the hatred? Instead of love! - Lubna oLet freedom reign for all Maha Shahid oMay this friendship stay life long. oI love Kareena Kapoor from . Lakhani India - V oIndia ki baqa Pakistan ki salamti se munsaliq hai (Indias welfare is linked to Pakistans wellbeing) Naseem Ahmed Seher oDil Dil Pakistan, Jaan Jaan India. We want that visa should be issued in both countries so that we visit each others country freely oI pray this Aman ki Asha will continue for ever oMy dream is to see the Taj Mahal. I want to see India but I couldnt get any chance for this. Can it be possible? Sania Saeed, 11 years old oWe belong together- the subcontinent united! Hope for better relations between the two countries Fatema Saifuddin oThe journey of a 1000 miles begins with a small step Shehzad Hasan, Honorary Consul General Panama o Love India, love Pakistan, Maintain Peace Aleza Momil oBe together always, unity is good Talat Ashraf oWe hate terrorism oThe Learning Tree students with lots of love for all our Indian friends oPeace is the desire of both India and Pakistan. Aman ki Asha will defeat the war-mongers on both sides of the border

A peace initiative whose time has come...


Destination Peace: A commitment by the Jang Group, GEO and The Times of India Group to create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together, contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.

DESTINATION PEACE LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK


Feedback, contributions, photos, letters: Email: amankiasha@janggroup.com.pk Fax: +92-21-3241-8343 Post: aman ki asha c/o The News, I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi

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