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SAAPE - Peoples’ SAARC Campaign on ‘Demilitarisation, Democratisation and Social Justice launched

10 July 2013

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South Asian states asked to stop extremism within the region, cut the defence budgets to divert funds for social development and sign a No War pact.

KARACHI: South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), a regional network and Peoples’ SAARC on Tuesday (09 July 2013) launched a Campaign on ‘Demilitarisation, Democratisation and Social Justice’ and demanded all the states of South Asia to stop extremism within the region, cut the defence budgets to divert funds for social development and sign a No War pact.

The Campaign launching ceremony, organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at PILER Centre, Gulshan-e-Maymar Karachi, was chaired by Dr. Jaffar Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi. Political, social human rights and peace activists and trade unionists attended the launching ceremony in a large number.

Other speakers of the function were Dr. Netra Prasad Timsina, Coordinator, SAAPE; Mr. B.M. Kutty, Secretary General of Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC); Dr. Riaz Ahmed, Head of Social Sciences, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) Karachi; Mr. Farooq Tariq, Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC) and SAAPE Core Committee member; Ms. Sheema Kermani from Tehrik-e-Niswan and a performance artist and a peace activist; peasant leader Mr. Punhal Sariyo, Ms. Zeenia Shaukat and Mr. Shujauddin Qureshi of PILER spoke on the occasion. 

The resolution passed on the occasion called upon all the South Asian states to promote real democracy with reservation of seats for peasants, rural workers, minorities and social activists in their parliaments. The local governance system should be strengthened in each South Asian country. All South Asian states were asked to provide social security to all to their citizens and the migrant workers without any discrimination.

The other demands included signing of the Charter of Democracy by SAARC governments, establishment of a South Asian Tribunal of Justice, eradication of terrorism and extremism, increase in the budgets on social development every year, education be accepted as a fundamental right of all South Asian children.
"We strongly demand for immediate, strong and sustainable people-to-people contact among the South Asian countries" the resolution stated adding that the religious tourism should be encouraged across the states of South Asia; "however, we strongly condemn the spread of religious fundamentalism religious tourism."
The participants demanded to eliminate the hate material from the academic curriculum in all South Asian states. The participants encouraged the confidence building measures taken by the South Asian states and demanded for taking more such steps.

The resolution stated that the participants believe that art and culture is an effective way to establish and strengthen peace and democracy in the society hence they demand to promote the same to bring the solidarity and harmony with in the region.

Dr. Netra Prasad Timsina, SAAPE Coordinator, hailing from Nepal, formally announced the campaign and gave the background about the Peoples’ SAARC, saying it is a common platform of people of the South Asian region. There is a 21-member core committee of SAAPE with its present secretariat in Kathmandu, Nepal. PILER is a focal member in Pakistan to represent the important forum.
Dr. Jaffar Ahmed, Chairman Pakistan Study Center University of Karachi linked poor education system depicting hatred sentiments in the syllabus, which is putting the people against each other. “Education brainwashes the minds of the youth as a result when people come to practical life they are influenced by the same sentiments which could be dangerous,” he warned. There is need of change the syllabus to educate the children rightly instead of changing their mind with giving direction to talk against the people believing in the other religions, he suggested. “Religious fundamentalism is being promoted for the political gains. We should stay careful to check around" he said adding "Issues like water has emerged a serious among South Asian states, affecting the relationship within the provinces and the nations,” he said.

He suggested initiating a South Asian level long march of peasants, fishermen, herders and workers. The meeting welcomed the worshipers to visit the other countries to pay homage to their spiritual saints but opposed the nefarious move if any comes to surface in the name of such visits and worship gatherings.
Mr. B.M. Kutty, Secretary General of Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) talked about the threats to peace in the region and said it is the common problem for the entire region. He said that whenever any network is formed at regional level it is considered as if it is the move to resolve existing conflict between Pakistan and India. He said the main cause behind the unending tense between Pakistan and India is a communication gap between the two neighbouring countries (Pakistan and India). Giving example of his recent visits to India, he said there is a concept that the people in India believe the Pakistan government is backing Taliban to target India. But the situation on ground is contradictory. “When we talked about the situation to promote peace and end extremism, we observed that there was nothing but lack of exchange of information,” he said.

Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Head of Social Sciences Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) Karachi said Pakistanis are proud to have been the nuclear power nation "but we see Polio cases are increasing here; hundreds of mothers die annually by preventable diseases; we have schools destroyed and deteriorating literacy rate.” In Pakistan and India, religion tourism is better option to lessen the differences within the people and allow them to visit frequently in both the sides.

Farooq Tariq, Member of SAAPE Core Committee said all the rulers of South Asian states are together in implementation of the agenda of neo-liberalism. They are implementing anti-workers’ policies. But on the contrary SAAPE is struggling to highlight the common issues of people of the region. He said horrible incidents occurred in Pakistan and Bangladesh where hundreds of workers lost their absence of occupational health and safety at factories. He said ’we have to reply to the neo-liberalism agenda at the regional level by strengthening social movements of peasants, workers, and fishermen in the entire country, linking it to the regional level.

Peasant leader Punhal Sario said in Pakistan all influential people are elected to the assemblies. Since they do not represent the common men, they always design policies to safeguard the interests of the ruling elite. He said land grabbing is the major issue in which ruling elite and civil and military bureaucracy is involved.
Ms. Sheema Kirmani, a performing artist and peace activist discussed the role of performance art to promote peace between Pakistan and India. Politics and art are two sides of a coin. She linked the performing art a major source of communication and message delivery on politics to change the mind-set of the people. She also recited a poem of Pablo Neruda, which has been translated by the famous poetess of Pakistan Fahmida Riaz.

Abdul Khaliq Junejo of Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Saeed Baloch, General Secretary Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Nasir Mansoor, Sajjad Zaheer, Nizamuddin Nizmani and others also took part is discussions.

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