How important are the two Punjabs to the India-Pakistan peace project?
The key to improving ties lies in greater exchanges between the two Punjabs. There are around 110 million Punjabis on the either side of the border and a whopping 65 percent Pakistanis speak Punjabi. The focus on shared culture and heritage could be a vital binding force between the two Punjabs and eventually the two countries. WPC has so far organised 24 international conferences in India, Pakistan and across the world with the emphasis on improving the ties between the two countries as well as promoting Punjabi language, culture and the shared Sufi heritage.
How difficult has the road been so far?
We've made a historical contribution but faced difficulties as well. I've been under the fanatical threat and my house in Lahore was attacked in 2001. The organisation has made a historical contribution in bringing the two countries together starting with its foundation in Lahore in 1984, which didn't go down well with the fanatics. The conference came in the backdrop of the Siachen conflict. WPC played a prominent role in promoting good relations when it organised a conference in 1986, even when the rapprochement seemed difficult.
WPC talks about Punjabiyat. How would you define the concept?
Punjabi culture or Punjabiyat is the ethos of tolerance. We need to revive Punjab's rich Sufi legacy. It's because of this legacy that Punjab historically stood up to bigotry. It's also about celebrating our heroes. Every year, WPC organises a march to commemorate Bhagat Singh's supreme sacrifice in Lahore on March 23. We lay a wreath on the spot on Lahore's Shadman Chowk, where the prison Bhagat Singh was hanged once stood. We've also decided to build a memorial for the Punjabi hero. We're also lobbying to rename Shadman Chowk as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk. We expect that heroes from Pakistani Punjab would similarly be honoured across the border. We can have a Dulla Bhatti Road in Amritsar and what a great binding factor this could be. Bhatti was one of the great sons of the soil, who led a peasants' movement and was killed during Mughal emperor Akbar's reign.
We've a common past, history, struggles and heroes. Let them be the binding force. We've so much in common to be friends and very little of what divides us.
What can be the cultural confidence-building measures between the two countries?
I think we've taken a lead in this. After I took over as the head of Pakistan Academy of Letters, we published a large volume on Amrita Pritam's poetry. We've also begun to translate Indian languages poetry into Urdu. Let intellectuals take the lead and isolate terrorists and not allow them to hold the subcontinent's overwhelming peace-loving people to ransom.
-Times of India
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw