Indo-Pak peace pledge reflected at WSF
By Saleem Samad
MUMBAI: The political impact of the recent olive branch offered simultaneously by President General Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Islamabad has been reflected in Mumbai.
Pakistani social justice activists, non-government organisations, workers organisations, womens groups and rights organisations along with their Indian comrades shouted “Pakistan-India zindabad” slogans at the World Social Forum 2004 at Goregaon in a suburb of Mumbai. Activists from both countries held scores of joint seminars, meetings, dances and theatre shows at the noisy site of the WSF.
A Pakistani parliamentary delegation also gathered at the WSF and expressed their concern over the cause of the poor people of the world and vowed to struggle for justice, peace and the development right of the people.
Chaudhry Manzur Ahmed, a legislator from the Pakistan People’s Party, claimed that this was the first time such a large delegation of legislators had come to India. He said the democratic rights of the people were not guaranteed. “We are fighting for democracy and black money is a barrier to good governance,” he said.
Eminent human rights lawyer Zia Ahmed Awan of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid pressed for more stringent protocols and arrangements in South Asian countries to contain the menace of women and children trafficking. The seminar was informed that Pakistan had introduced a law against trafficking that needed political will to strengthen and implement it at all levels to be effective. Mr Awan said that since human trafficking was such a serious cross-border issue in South Asia, more stringent measures were needed to catch pimps and the trafficking rings that make lives for poor women miserable by coercing them into sex trade and forced labour. He called for strategies to deal with these crimes against humanity. Mr Awan appreciated the efforts by the Pakistan government to register and document the foreigners living in the country. He said that under the new Pakistani registration process, all undocumented immigrants could get themselves documented to avoid any problems in the future.
Ms Masuda Hussain from Bangladesh said both the government and NGOs were taking concrete steps to check trafficking of Bangladeshi women by focusing on giving them more economic empowerment. She said that various micro credit schemes and healthcare facilities are being provided to women so that they could come out of poverty and make themselves invulnerable to traffickers. Mahalaxmi Upadhya from the National Women’s Commission Nepal said that human trafficking victims needed support from society and the governments for their rehabilitation and reintegration. She said her organisation was working hard to contain this issue. Around 600 Pakistanis from all walks of life are participating in the WSF. The Pakistan Social Forum, an alliance of NGOs and other civil society groups; Action Aid Pakistan, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid, Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights, Aurat Foundation, Asr and a dozen of other civil society groups are organising panels and participating in others events.
Pakistani pop group Junoon mesmerised thousands of jubilant participants when they performed at the opening ceremony. The Interactive Resource Centre presented street plays on farmers’ and womens’ rights. Action Aid Pakistan organised a peace rally led by its country director, Dr Fouzia Saeed. The participants of the rally marched through every street leading to the WSF venue and chanted pro-peace slogans to mobilise public opinion for peace in South Asia.