KARACHI: Calling for ending hatred and suspicion and easing the visa regime between India and Pakistan, Karachi and Mumbai Press Clubs have created history by signing an agreement for cooperation and mutual exchange.
In a joint declaration signed by office bearers of Karachi and Mumbai Press Clubs, during the visit of a media delegation from Mumbai, the media organizations have called for control and restraint on language used by journalists in covering developments in India and Pakistan.
During the seven-day long visit, the Indian delegation observed that the general consensus among various sections like media, businessmen, small shop keepers and even the man in the street was that the neighbours should now begin to normalize their relationships in their mutual interest.
“Indo-Pak Peace is an idea whose time has come,” said Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson of Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. “Our observation that the people in general are fed up with the long strife between the two countries and everyone wants an atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation so that all of us can live in peace and contribute to the growth of the region,” she said.
The visit was the result of a joint initiative by the Karachi Press Club and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER). Mumbai media delegation visited the Press Clubs at Karachi and Hyderabad (Sind), various newspaper offices and took part in discussions with media organizations, chambers of commerce and Karachi University.
Karachi Press Club President Tahir Hassan Khan said no one can now stop the media initiative from moving forward which will immensely help in establishing people-to-people contact. He also urged media persons from both sides to observe absolute restraint in their language while covering events related to both the countries. “Let politicians and bureaucrats fight, but we must come together to work for peace and growth of our nations,” he said.
He said Pakistani media sacrificed a lot and lost precious lives and reflecting similar feeling a sign at Hyderabad Press Club said: A Free Press Means a Free Nation”.
Prakash Akolkar, Chairman, The Press Club -Mumbai, said the delegation was overwhelmed by the rousing reception that received everywhere – from Karachi airport to chambers of commerce – and observed that the people from both the sides want peace and happiness. “We speak the same language, our eating habits the same, our clothes do not differ much and if there is anything that separates us is the border,” Akolkar said.
|Happy to work together: Karachi & Mumbai Press Clubs|
Media professionals, business leaders and politicians across the country have also called for easing the visa regime and facilitate free and frequent visits by people from both the sides.
Delegation coordinator Jatin Desai said it is about time that both the countries began sincerely implementing what they agreed upon at the recent SAARC summit. He also called for increasing the number of journalists being posted by India and Pakistan in each other’s country. This will help in people from both sides getting the proper perspective of happenings in the respective countries. He lamented the fact that as of now just two Pakistani media persons are allowed to operate in India and vice-versa.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Vice President Kurram Sayeed pointed out that businessmen in India and Pakistan could gain a lot by mutual cooperation. Indian business, for instance, could use Pakistan route for gaining access to Europe on one side and China on the other. “It will be a win-win situation if the business communities of both the nations worked together in a spirit of cooperation and understanding,” he said.
Pakistan has huge coal resources and energy is one field in which both of us can cooperate,” he said.
Contentious issues like Kashmir and cross-border terrorism also came up during the media delegation’s discussions at various forums.
Concept PR CEO B N Kumar who was also part of the delegation called for ending the feeling of hatred and suspicion on both sides and opening up the means of communications for improving the relations between both the nations.
PILER Executive director Karamat Ali said “I am of the firm opinion that Indo-Pak peace would help contribute to the development of SAARC countries. We need improve the people-to-people contact and enlarge the relationships to the entire SAARC region.”
“We only read or hear about SAARC only during summits and there is hardly any follow-up after the agreements and declarations,” he said. “Neither India nor Pakistan will grow if they continue to live in strife and losers would be the people,” he added.
Contrary to the initial doubts about the atmosphere of mutual suspicion, the media delegation was pleasantly surprised to find that the feeling across the socio-political spectrum was that it is the right time for renewing peace and cooperation between the two countries. “If we lose time now we will suffer forever,” said Dr Muhammad Farooq Sattar, Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Deputy Convener of MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement), the party floated by Altaf Hussain who is in self exile in the UK.