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Pakistan women vow to build bridges

8 May 2000

Unlike Emperor Akbar who travelled all the way to Salim Chisti's dargah to ask for a son, the all-women delegation from Pakistan prayed for peace in Fatehpur Sikri enroute here.

They said that their relationship with Indians seem to have graduated from the customary "brother Indians" to solid friendship: "We have now earned the right to call you friends," said Hina Jilani, co-leader of the Pak women group.

Guided by State Tourism Minister Bina Kak, children in the historic Pink City buried pistols to reiterate the "no war, no bloodshed" sentiment. "We do not want our borders to be bloody. We want them coloured with a beer and gulal. We do not want tanks to devastate our fields nor body bags to arrive," said the delegates yet agreeing that the Indo-Pakistan relationship was at its lowest ebb. "The relationship is moving from bad to terrible.

Peace is a fantasy. The key question was should we accept the inevitability of war or draft an agenda for the people? "Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, the vested interests of the politicians and the media will ensure that the tension remains," said Asma Jehangir, activist and leader of the Pakistan delegation during an interaction at the Jawahar Kala Kendra here.

The peace mission has made some headway from the surface bonhomie during its weeklong stay in India. The shift was clear: from the need and desirability of peace, the focal point seemed to be the why and how of it. If Pakistan had its roadblocks by way of a military regime; India had to ensure that the hard stance of its political leadership underwent a change similar to Pakistan. "We, on our part, will marginalise forces in Pakistan who will not tolerate peace initiatives. You in your country should build an opinion that it is nothing but friendship between India and Pakistan which will bring prosperity," counselled Asma Jahangir amid applause.

Though the mission has not been politically blessed in Pakistan or India, some kind of sanctity has been accorded to it because Union Ministers Jaswant Singh, Ajit Panja and Sumitra Mahajan and Chief Ministers Digvijay Singh, Shiela Dixit and Ashok Gehlot have interacted with them.

The demand to "institutionalise" this peace initiative has been voiced in several quarters now, but the strength of the mission is that this is not a "one time exercise".

Dr Syeda Hameed, Member National Commission for Women and team leader for Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA), confirmed that the next thing on the agenda is a delegation of lawyers, generals and journalists who will visit Pakistan shortly.

Coupled with this is the determination not to let the men meddle any more.

While the first step is to free it from the clutches of the political leadership and convert it into a people's movement, the second is to leave the men on the periphery because of their earlier failures resulting in women being the sufferers. Besides women, as mothers, want to carve a better tomorrow for their children. A tomorrow that is bloodless and bombless.

Hindustan Times, Monday, May 8, 2000, New Delhi

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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