The South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and People’s Saarc launched a campaign on “Demilitarization, democratization and social justice” on Tuesday, demanding from all the South Asian states to stop extremism in the region, cut the defence budgets to divert funds for social development and sign a “no-war” pact.
The campaign was launched at the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Centre in Gulshan-e-Maymar. The event was chaired by Dr Jaffar Ahmed, Chairman Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi and attended by political, human rights and peace activists besides trade unionists.
On the occasion, the participants passed a resolution, calling upon all the South Asian states to promote real democracy with the reservation of seats for peasants, rural workers, minorities and social activists in their parliaments. It also called for strengthening local governance system in each South Asian country as well as providing social security to their citizens and the migrant workers without any discrimination.
The other demands included signing the Charter of Democracy by Saarc governments, establishing a South Asian Tribunal of Justice, eradicating terrorism and extremism, increasing the budget allocation for social development every year, and accepting education as a fundamental right of all South Asian children.
“We strongly demand for immediate, strong and sustainable people-to-people contact and encouraging religious tourism across the South Asian states. We strongly condemn the spread of religious fundamentalism in the region and demand to eliminate the hate material from the academic curriculum in all South Asian states,” it said.
The participants encouraged the confidence building measures taken by the South Asian states and demanded for taking more such steps.
“Art and culture is an effective way to establish and strengthen peace and democracy in society hence we need to promote the same to bring solidarity and harmony in the region,” it said.
Dr Netra Prasad Timsina, SAAPE Coordinator hailing from Nepal, formally announced launching the campaign and gave the background about the Peoples Saarc.
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 this important forum.
Dr Jaffar Ahmed, Chairman Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, spoke about the poor education system that depicts hate sentiments in the syllabus, saying: There is a need to change the syllabus to educate the children rightly instead of changing their mind with giving direction to talk against the people believing in other religions”.
Religious fundamentalism was being promoted for political gains and there was a dire need to stay careful to check around, he said and suggested initiating a South Asian level long march of peasants, fishermen, herders and workers.
BM Kutty, Secretary General Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) talked about the threats to peace in the region, saying that the main cause behind the unending tension between Pakistan and India was a communication gap between the two neighbouring countries.
Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Head of Social Sciences SZABIST (Karachi) said that promoting religious tourism between Pakistan and India was a better option to lessen the differences within the people and allow them to visit frequently in both the sides.
Farooq Tariq, Member SAAPE Core Committee, 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 that in Pakistan all influential people were elected to the assemblies since they did not represent the common men and they always formulate the policies to safeguard the interests of the ruling elite.
Sheema Kirmani of Tehrik-e-Niswan said that politics and art were the two sides of a coin, as the performing art constitutes a major source of communication and message delivery on politics to change the mindset of the people.
Zeenia Shaukat, Shujauddin Quresh of PILER Abdul Khaliq Junejo of Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Saeed Baloch, General Secretary Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Nasir Mansoor, Sajjad Zaheer, Nizamuddin Nizmani and others also spoke on the occasion.