LONDON: Echoes of Aman Ki Asha reverberated at the annual dinner of the Pakistan-India & UK Friendship Forum at the House of Lords here, as speaker after speaker hailed the initiative by the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India and said it had captured the imagination of the public on both sides of the border.
For the last five years, leading lights of the Indian and Pakistani Diaspora communities in Britain come together in a show of unity under the umbrella of the Pakistan-India & UK Friendship Forum to make a symbolic stand against racism and communal confrontation and in favour of the shared social and cultural values: both in the UK and back home in Pakistan and India. The event stresses the loyalty of British Asians to the UK and its values whilst retaining the culture of their origin from South Asia.
At this year's event, Labour financier Conservative MP and Attorney General Dominic Grieve; the chief of defence of British armed forces, Sir Dvaid Richards; Labour's Sir Ghulam Noon and Lord Nazir Ahmed; Dr Rami Ranger, founder of the forum; Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Dr Ashraf Chohan, the secretary general of the forum, Lord Dolar Popat; Lord Diljit Rana; Angie Bray, MP; and Tony Baldry, MP, and the new president of the forum, made speeches.
All speakers agreed that Aman Ki Asha was the most innovative project to bring peace between the two countries and was a wake up call to the establishments of both countries. Sir David Richards acknowledged that Britain needed to have the full grasp of important countries such as India and Pakistan in order to understand the people of those countries better. He said the future and prosperity of those countries lay in working together. He said the three countries had a shared background and were tied in unbreakable relations.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, who also chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir, called on both countries to address the core issues and move forward. He, however, added that India should be as welcoming to Pakistanis as Pakistan was to Indians and gave his own example that India was constantly denying a visa to him and not allowing him to visit the Kashmir valley. He said Britain was the greatest country, which had provided excellent opportunities for immigrants from South Asia to prosper and make a name for themselves. Both Sir Ghulam Noon and Lord Ahmed praised Rami Ranger for being consistent with his efforts to bring the Pakistani and Indian communities together.
Sir Ghulam Noon, the Indian origin business magnate, told the audience about his visits to Pakistan and recommended every Indian to go to Pakistan and enjoy the best hospitality "one can't enjoy anywhere else".
He lamented that more than six decades had passed by since partition and still India and Pakistan were bent on outdoing each other through arms race and totally neglecting the education and health of their poor people while they should be concentrating on their shared ethos and what mutual strengths they had. He gave the example of European Union nations and believed that a united consortium in the subcontinent could do wonders for the uplift of the economy. Sir Noon stressed that a few misguided extremists could not be allowed to play havoc with the communal harmony and exploit the religion to stoke fears and divisions.
Dr Rami Ranger, MBE, warned in his speech that the Indo-Pak rivalry if exported to Britain could damage British society as a whole and expressed worry that in many countries the rivalry from back home was now beginning to damage society in many countries where South Asians settled in large numbers.
On the other hand, he added, the friendship of Indians and Pakistanis had far-reaching benefits for mankind throughout the world.
"Our founders created two separate countries to benefit their people and not for us to become rivals and to impede each other's progress along with that of society. It is time we drew a line under our rivalry and moved together as one to benefit one another." "Our love-hate relationship must now change to just love, having seen the consequences of our hatred for over six decades," he stressed.
He highlighted that the Pakistani squad in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games received the warmest and friendliest reception, which showed how at people-to-people level there was so much love for each other. Dr Ashraf Chohan recounted how the commonality between the people from India and Pakistan, which consists of language, food, culture and interests in music, is the key to the formation of the friendship forum.
He said the two countries needed to go beyond rhetoric and take practical steps to normalise relations. He said the leaders of the two countries needed to show courage like Nawaz Sharif, who in his capacity as the prime minister of Pakistan greeted Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the border.
"There has been greater diplomacy and there has been cultural exchange. However, the issue belongs there and the disputes remain live between the two countries, which now and again becomes so hard that a nuclear conflict becomes a possibility," Chohan said, urging both countries to address the core issues.
Tony Baldry, MP, said the forum had done a laudable job in bridging differences and bringing together the host community as well as the migrant Pakistani and Indian communities. He said life was too short to devote to negativities and differences and the best way forward was through friendship and peaceful coexistence.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
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Page 28 of 175
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