There is an outpouring of gratitude in India for the role played by Pakistanis, led by Ansar Burney, in getting freed Indian sailors from Somali pirates. But from the Governor Rajasthan, on whose desk the mercy petition for Dr Khaleel Chishty sits waiting for his signature, there is deafening silence. Fed up of the constant wait and wanting to dispel any ideas that the Governors power’s were limited if there is an appeal in the high court, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) sent the following letter. Which is also apparently sitting on his desk. Continue reading
Below, a heartening and hopeful account of Dr Chishty’s situation via email from Kavita Srivastava of People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), India, after meeting him at Ajmer prison hospital, addressed to Dr Chishty’s daughters and others involved in trying to provide him relief. The petition seeking pardon for Dr Chishty under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution has been sent to the President of India as well as the Governor of Rajasthan, signed by Mahesh Bhat, Kuldeep Nayyar, Jatin Desai, Kavita Srivastava and Adml. Ramu Ramdas. It is encouraging that the Indian media is taking up the case with greater vigour. Below, Kavita’s email, reproduced with permission. Continue reading
Details of my father’s case:
Before I go into his case a brief background of my father:
He is almost 80 years old. He received his PhD from University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1968 in Public Health Virology. He had an illustrious career as a professor and head of department of virology and microbiology at Karachi University. In the late 80’s he retired from his last job as the Director of Public Health at King Abdul Aziz Airport in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. He is a principled man who is well‐read, well bred and well traveled. He worked hard to raise a family of six children – one son (oldest, with engineering diploma), five daughters (one is a doctor, one is a Pharmacologist, two are graduates and myself an MBA in marketing). He educated us and built a house for us in Karachi and supported his younger brother in India as well. After retirement he wanted to live in that house in Karachi and enjoy his retirement with his family and his grandchildren.
The following events led to his current plight: Continue reading
Received an email this morning from Amna Chishty in Canada, copied to various people working to secure the release of her father, the aged Pakistani professor Dr Khalil Chishty, a prisoner in India for over 19 years, currently in Ajmer Prison hospital (report in The Hindu April 15, editorial in The News on April 13). She expresses her family’s gratitude for the continued efforts to help Dr Chishty and bring his case to the forefront and stresses the following points that need to be highlighted in the media:
My monthly column for Hardnews, India, August 2009 – http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2009/07/3122. Also published in The News on Sunday, August 9, 2009
Karachi, July 26 2009
Neighbours in peace — or pieces?
The auditorium was full of women from far-flung, poor localities of Karachi. One of them plonked herself next to me in the second row along with her daughters, a toddler and a six-year old. A gigantic banner featuring a photo of the late activist Nirmala Deshpande formed the backdrop to an array of speakers from India and Pakistan seated behind a long table on the platform. ‘PROMOTING PEACE IN SOUTH ASIA AND REMEMBERING NIRMALA DIDI DESHPANDE’ it read.
Mumtaz, the young Pahstun mother next to me, had studied up till the eighth grade, unlike most of the other women present. The toddler nuzzled against her to breastfeed from time to time.
The speakers included prominent Urdu writer Zahida Hina, peace activist and educationist from Lahore Syed Diep, parliamentarians from the PPP and MQM and Indian activist Sandeep Pandey from Lucknow, journalist Jatin Desai from Mumbai, and Kavita Srivastava of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) from Jaipur. Two other Indians weren’t given ‘clearance’ from Islamabad in time for the visit, meant to further the aims of a joint signature campaign for peace launched earlier this year.
Mumtaz and the other women, mostly wives of daily wage labourers, had been brought there by various ‘bajis’, women activists working in their areas. “I don’t understand everything they’re saying,” Mumtaz told me, “But I know they are talking about the need for peace between India and Pakistan. That is what we all want.”
Her immediate concern was to feed her family. “Maybe if these two countries stop fighting, our lot will improve,” she said optimistically.
“Let the people meet, all other matters will sort out,” a cyclist told Sandeep Pandey and other peace marchers who went from Delhi to Multan in 2005, demanding that the governments of India and Pakistan resolve all matters of dispute through dialogue.
Such basic wisdom is at odds with the justifications for continued animosity presented by ‘intellectuals’ on either side of the border. “India/Pakistan wants to destroy us”; “Stop appeasing India/Pakistan”; “There is no point in talking to them”.
If we listen to this babble of voices whose sole aim seems to be to present their own country’s case as better than the other’s, we’ll never get anywhere. There is an old saying in our part of the world, ‘Taali donoN haathoN se bajti hai’ – it takes two hands to clap.
Let’s stop these blame games and accept that there are problems on either side – of varying degrees and natures, and try and understand the complexities of the problems.
Those with access to the Internet have increased the potential for such understanding. But because we’re not used to talking to each other, the un-moderated exchanges posted on blogs are often crass and offensive. Direct interaction involving basic civility and an open mind is more meaningful.
Some time back, a Mumbaikar emailed saying, “Frankly, with Pakistan itself is in such a mess (Lal Masjid, Swat valley, Taliban, regular suicide attacks and of course the numerous Muslim organisations ranting about Jehad), do you really feel safe in your own country? And the most amusing thing is when Pakistan tells that India is its enemy number one. Wait for a few more years, am sure the Taliban will take over Pakistan. And what pains us, is what did we do to Pakistan. Kargil was Musharaf’s misadventure.”
I replied, yes, Pakistan is in a mess, due largely to the continual disruption of the political process, with no democratically elected government being allowed to complete its terms. “This is the biggest difference between India and us, and what I most envy about your country”.
Still, women do get around here too, carry on with their work and their lives. And at least elements within Pakistan’s establishment no longer consider India as enemy number one.
Kargil was indeed Musharraf’s misadventure. Many of us spoke out against it (were labelled as Indian agents). Pakistan’s military must be accountable and answerable to elected civilian governments. This will only happen if the political process is allowed to continue.
Rocky as politics in Pakistan currently are, with a floundering democratic process, it is only more democracy on a sustained and continuous level that will in the long run yield positive results.
‘HRCP urges Pakistan, India to resume prisoner swap, stop arrests for minor violations’, Aug 5, 2009 – http://hrcpblog.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/hrcp-urges-pakistan-india-to-resume-prisoner-swap-stop-arrests-for-minor-violations/
Why not hang Sarabjit Singh, March 2008
By Beena Sarwar
KARACHI, Jul 8 (IPS) – The months following last year’s Mumbai terror attacks have seen a renewed sense of urgency among peace activists in Pakistan and India. Citizens are pushing their governments to resume the composite dialogue process between the two nuclear-rival nations.
India suspended the process after the Mumbai attacks, accusing Islamabad of not doing “enough” to contain terrorism. But activists argue that terrorism is not Pakistan’s problem alone.
“Both countries are going through a critical phase,” says Jatin Desai, a veteran Mumbai-based journalist.
A frequent visitor to Pakistan, he was in the country with two other Indians, meeting community-based organisations, political leaders and media persons in Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad to take the push for peace to the people. His proposal to ‘twin’ the press clubs of Karachi and Mumbai was positively received.
“After the Mumbai terror attacks, Mumbai residents sent a clear message – No to war, No to violence, No to terror,” said Desai. “Thousands joined hands for a hundred kilometre long ‘human chain for peace’ on Dec. 10, 2008, to say this and urge a resumption of the peace process.”
He was speaking at a seminar in Karachi to underline the need for peace in South Asia and to honour Nirmala Deshpande, a prominent peace lobbyist, who passed away in May 2008.
A majority of participants in the seminar were women from low income localities whose husbands work as daily wage labourers. Mumtaz, a young woman suckling her toddler, told IPS that this was the second such event she had attended.
“I understand what it’s about,” she said. “They want peace between India and Pakistan. We should live in peace with our neighbours. Maybe then our lot will improve. We all want that.”
Breakthroughs between India and Pakistan are routinely subverted by violence like the Mumbai attacks.
The security establishments and military machines also have vested interests in keeping tensions simmering.
“There will be no peace until the arms race ends,” said Mohammad Ali Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, representing a community severely impacted by the hostilities, with whom the Indian delegates spent an evening.
“There are currently over 500 Indian fishermen in Pakistani prisons, and over 150 Pakistani fishermen in Indian prisons,” Shah told IPS. “Fishermen on both sides caught violating the maritime borders are treated as prisoners of war.”
A consular access agreement of May 2008 – aimed at facilitating early release of prisoners – requires both sides to exchange updated lists of each other’s nationals in their custody every Jan. 1 and Jul. 1.
Pakistan handed over its list to the Indian government. “But India defaulted both times this year, and has been unable, for unspecified reasons, to provide Pakistan with a list of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails,” reported The Hindu on Jul. 2.
The lists in any case are incomplete, with many prisoners unaccounted for.
Jaipur-based Kavita Srivastava of India’s People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), on her maiden visit to Pakistan, wanted information about five Indian prisoners incarcerated in Pakistani prisons since 1991.
“Only two are in touch with their families, we don’t even know if the other three are alive,” she told IPS. “When they heard that I got my visa, their families walked for a whole day to meet me. With tears in their eyes they begged me to bring any information I could.”
She was unable to ascertain their whereabouts but left with a promise from the provincial minister for prisons that “next time” she would be allowed to visit the prisons and verify for herself.
“Such visits are important to increase contacts. After all, we are one region. We should be able to meet,” Shakeel Silawat of the Youth Progressive Council told IPS, after arranging a visit for Srivastava with girls and women from his community. Silawats are Rajasthanis who often have families on both sides of the border.
“If there was dual citizenship for Indians and Pakistanis, believe me, many would take it,” asserts award-winning social activist Sandeep Pandey from Lucknow.
Pandey participated in the 2005 peace march from Delhi to Multan in the south of Pakistan’s Punjab province. The marchers had also received enthusiastic welcomes from Pakistani villagers along the way.
Karamat Ali from the Pakistan Peace Coalition which organised the visit said that the Indians left with “a sense of the urgency for peace with India which appears to be greater among Pakistanis”.
“They realise that they need to push the Indian government to change its attitude towards the elected government of Pakistan, go beyond pressurising the Pakistani government to ‘take action’, in order to break the grip of the establishment here,” he told IPS.
Such visits may not yield immediate results, but the fact that the governments allow them to take place is in itself a step, if not forward, then at least not backwards. And in the context of India and Pakistan, that can only be seen as positive.
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