India-Pakistan peace march left in the dust
* 22 Indians supposed to arrive not issued visas
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: The 22 Indians supposed to arrive at Wagah today were unable to cross the border at Wagah because they were not granted visas due to ‘security concerns’, said Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.
Pakistani Peace Coalition, an informal alliance of non-government organisations, temporarily halted the peace march which started in New Delhi and is scheduled to end in Multan on May 11.
“Though we received a report from India early yesterday (Tuesday) stating that the Indian activists had been granted visas and would arrive in Lahore accompanied by nine Pakistanis today, by late night we knew that their names had not been cleared by Pakistan,” Ali told Daily Times at Wagah, where he received the nine Pakistanis.
He said that the NGOs were pursuing the matter with the Interior Ministry. “We have been told that the Pakistani High Commission in India is not clearing the names as a security measure. We believe there is no security risk for Indians marching to Multan.”
Ali added the march would be halted in Lahore. “We have requested the nine Pakistanis to wait at least a week before returning home.” The future of the march depends on the arrival of the Indians. He said that a meeting would be held in Multan on April 24 to formulate a strategy for the peace march. “As a last resort, we can ask the Pakistani marchers to walk to Multan and conclude the march in May.”
Arrival of Pakistanis The nine Pakistanis arrived at Wagah on Wednesday afternoon. They were received by dozens of peace activists, who chanted slogans saying the Kashmir issue should be solved with dialogue and not guns. The marchers went to India last week to cross into Pakistan with their Indian counterparts.
The 200-strong turnout at Wagah was much lower than the organisers’ claims. The departure time for journalists to Wagah from the press club was changed twice. During the journey, the organisers’ vehicle was called back, and the press people had to go the rest of the way on their own. Due to this, a dispute arose between the organisers and journalists at the border. The media people criticised the organisers’ attitude after they refused to acknowledge the oversight. Later, they demanded an apology from the pressmen. The main organisers reached the border late. The organisers had also avoided the media people before the arrival.
The Pakistani peace activists who crossed the border condemned the government for not issuing visas to the Indians. They said that the act was a contradiction of the governments’ claims of peace.
Residents of Jalo More and Shalimar Garden arranged a reception in honour of the Pakistani activists.