Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a joint Indo-Pak initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC, every year launches a calendar in India and Pakistan, titled as ‘Calendar for Peace & Love’. This calendar includes selected paintings of students from India and Pakistan and is launched followed by a seminar ‘Sharing of Hopes’. This calendar also includes messages from renowned personalities working on the peace from both the countries. The importance of the calendar is that it is a collection of shared dreams and hopes for friendship which we will be reminded of everyday.

This year’s Indo-Pak Peace Calendar initiative is organized in collaboration with Justice, Aid, and Development (JAD) Foundation, Social Awareness Media and Art Junction (SAMAAJ), South Asian Writers and Artists Network (SAWAN) from Pakistan and Indian Council for Talent Search and Competitions (ICTSC), and Yuvsatta from India.

We had got a tremendous participation in our competition for paintings from youths of both the countries. From India, we received paintings from Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana. From Pakistan, we received paintings from Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Chitral and Karachi. This year, we received messages from Ms. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, Ms. Shaila Kejriwal, Admiral Ram Das, Prof. Chaman Lal and Mr. Manik Samajdar from India. From Pakistan, we got messages from Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Ms. Reema Abbasi, Ms. Sheema Kermani, Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad, Mr. B.M. Kutty, Mr. Karamat Ali and Mr. Aamir Nawaz.

The calendar was launched in Delhi on December 28, 2014. It will also be launched in Chandigarh, Nashik, Panipat, Ajmer and Chennai in India and Lahore in Pakistan.

The launch in Islamabad was organized on January 15, 2015 at Curiosity Junior School G-10/4, Islamabad. The calendar is launched along with a discussion or “Sharing the hopes for a peaceful co-existence”. The speakers included Ms. Marvi Sirmed (Renowned Pakistani Journalist and Activist) and Mr. Kushal Khattak (Activist and former student at JNU, India).

The launch was preceeded by a panel discussion on ‘Sharing of hopes for a Peaceful and friendly co-existence’ that was moderated by Asad Shoaib, team member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.

Ms. Marvi Sirmed started off by appreciating the efforts of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and held that the voices of friendship initiatives grew from the start of the 90’s era. The civil society in both countries tries to restore avenues of peace but given the hostile political history, one action from the states gives all struggles a counter blow. She narrated that the 2008 attacks were a clear setback to the peace process between the two countries. She criticized the establishment’s hurdles in the way of P2P communication and exposure saying that a leader from the political party in power (in Pakistan) has 17 companies in India while the owner of TATA, one of the richest man has companies in Pakistan. The establishment have no issues with it, all hurdles are for common people like us. She emphasized the need to structure peace and friendship initiatives at the levels of primary school teachers, ladies forums, and student unions. Ms. Sirmed appreciated the narrative shift from ‘people being mouth piece of the establishment’ to ‘the same people letting people like her speak knowing her views on two-nation theory’. She also read out the famous lines from Sardar: ‘tum aao gulshan-e-Lahore se chaman bardosh’.

Mr. Khushal Khattak, sharing his experiences of the time spent at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, said that living in India he never faced any kind of discrimination at the societal level. All barriers are formed at the state’s level from monthly police reporting to visa limitations. He explained how the locals went out of their way to make him feel comfortable. He said that no matter how much pressure the civil society creates to nullify stereotypes and expand exposure, states must bring an end to the dualitites that exist on both sides. If Pakistan is fighting to dismantle banned militant outfights who are posing threat to peace and security in Afghanistan, it must also fights BMO’s posing threat to India. He criticized in role of media in buying hate material from the powerful.

Malik Asghar Ali, researcher on ‘Indo-Pak relations and the role of CBMs’ inquired as to why has the congress leadership not been able to pursue the course of friendship with Pakistan as aggressively as Vajpayee?

Ms. Marvi Sirmed responded that Vajpayee carried a historical baggage of the demolition of Babri Masjid and Rath Yatra. To get off that stigma in his last tenure, he embarked upon closer Indopak ties. Vajpayee visited Pakistan’s historical monument Minar-e-Pakistan while Advani paid visit to Jinnah’s tomb. She made point of other complex international games going on, owing to who’s internal, external, local, and global factors Pakistan and India tragically came closer. She held that political parties are too shallow to be ideological; they work for what benefits them in certain frame of time. If today the party in power in Pakistan seeks peace with India, it is just because it satisfies its interests in these times.

Imtiaz ul Haq, a journalist emphasized that the people on both sides of the border are just the same. Until all of us realize this, we will fall prey to nasty games of the politicians.

The Aaghaz-e-Dosti team for Indo-Pak calendar consisted of Aliya Harir (convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti), Asad Shoaib (team member), Saba Khalid (team member), Jamal ud Din (team member), and Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah (team member).

Press release issued by
Aliya Harir & Saba Khalid
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Pakistan

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