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November 25, 2013

All differences aside, let’s walk the talk

November 25, 2013


The atmosphere inside Karachi Press Club was lively, and the people friendly. The scene presented a far cry from the poker-faced politicians huddled up at diplomatic enclaves.
A 14-member delegation of the Mumbai Press Club (MPC) members on a visit to Pakistan joined their Karachi counterparts at a seminar on Sunday to discuss “What Media Can Do” to improve Pak-India relations.
The media persons were unanimous on promoting positive news to ease tensions between the two neighbouring countries for continuing with composite dialogues on regular basis.
This is the third such exchange visit in collaboration with the Karachi Press Club (KPC). Earlier Pakistani journalists had visited India in 2011 while an Indian delegation had toured Pakistan in 2010 led by Jatin Desai, who is the central figure behind bringing together journalists from both sides.
At the seminar, both sides were of the opinion that using negative terms for each other in the media should be discouraged. Highlighting the importance of peace between Pakistan and India for the welfare of the people, they urged the media to play a positive role so that governments of both the countries could move forward. Positive aspects and human rights issues, including the sufferings of people from divided families, should be highlighted, they agreed.
The seminar was chaired jointly by Mumbai Press Club (MPC) President Gurbir Singh and his Karachi counterpart Imtiaz Khan Faran. KPC Secretary Aamir Latif moderated the programme.
The senior journalists expressed their views on promoting bilateral relations between the two countries through trade, visa relaxations, cultural exchange programmes and in the fields of health and education.
Singh said that peace between India and Pakistan had remained “stubbornly elusive” over more than sixty years of their existence. It is an irony that people who share so much refuse to acknowledge their similarities and instead focus on their

In the past, he said, the state media played a negative role in exploiting these differences. But the advent of private media channels had brought a revolution in both the countries, which can help in adding a happy twist to a seemingly tragic story.
Instead of criticising each other, Singh claimed, India and Pakistan should adopt a strategy to combat the nuisance of international characters, who had damaged the relations between the two countries.
He lauded the efforts of “Aman ki Asha” – a proactive peace campaign launched by the Times of India and Jang Group, two of the largest and most influential media groups of India and Pakistan, respectively.
“I hope more of it is forthcoming,” said Singh. “I fear, however, the euphoria surrounding the current thaw in Pakistan-India ties masks the intractable obstacles to peace that remain – and the problems that could arise if peace is in fact attained.”
Then there’s public opinion, he added. For sure, many Indian and Pakistanis are fervent supporters of reconciliation. Many more harbour no ills toward each other. In fact so many of them are mired in poverty and focus on daily survival that apathy not anger is likely the most prevalent sentiment.
The MPC president claimed that both the countries had learnt a lot from the past derailments of the peace process. And the beauty of the current effort is the resolve that no incident will be allowed to stall the dialogue for peace. “We do realise that war only creates problems,” he said.
Indian journalist Jatin Desai called for relaxing a ban on journalists from both sides to move freely. “It is an irony that only two journalists of each country are allowed to work in the capital city alone and are not even permitted to go to other cities.”
He observed that anti-India politicking was a thing of the past in Pakistan, as no political party in the country felt the need to contest the last general elections on an anti-Indian platform. “There is complete civil-military consensus in Pakistan on improving ties with India, and we must do so together with full commitment from both sides, and without allowing space to detractors – those who wish to keep us estranged and apathetic – by playing into their hands.”
An improved India-Pakistan relationship was a passion of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and he had already proven his determination to take up this challenge from where he had left in 1999, he added.
Amir Zia, the editor of The News International, said that talks between the two countries should not become hostage to the issue of terrorism. “A handful of non-state actors should not be allowed to wreck the peace process between the two countries.”
The media-led Aman ki Asha peace campaign has provided an opportunity to the peace lobbies in both countries to air their views and try to imporve relations on the political and economic front.
He believed the perspective of the founders of both the counties were not conservative. Both Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru had a broader vision of friendship between the two countries.
Dialogues should continue and both the governments should stand for peace whatever be the situation, Zia said. “The actual decision will be taken by the governments but we must present a peaceful formula.”
Senior freelance journalist Jyoti Punwarni spoke in detail about the Hindu-Muslim relations and appealed to the media on both sides to avoid promoting negative aspects of the stories.
KPC President Faran was of the view that journalists from both sides should realise their responsibilities and focus on positive issues. “Peace dialogues can be held within the ambit of religion, politics and culture.”
He also suggested that journalists from both sides should raise the issue of visa relaxations with their respective politicians.
Fazil Jamili presented a heart-touching poem on Indo-Pak relations, which drew a huge round of applause from the people.




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