Kya Mumbai, Kya KarachiEuropean Union came together despite many differences, so why not a South Asian Union?
Sixty-nine years ago, India and Pakistan decided to part ways. Lines were drawn on land, water and even in the sky. They took different political turns. Their relations saw many ups and downs. There have been several instances of open conflicts. There have been instances where relations almost reached a dead end. But beyond politics, beyond the control of minds, there are hearts which are still full of love and hope.
Following every political clash, there were attempts by the youth and civil societies in both the countries to rekindle the hopes. And each time, they managed to win hearts because they were only bringing out the hidden love and desire for peace, which rests in every heart. An average Indian and Pakistani have the same secret desire to cross the border, at least once. They want to see what people on the other side eat, how they talk, how they look and how they think.
And if what those lucky people who have visited say is to be believed, they will be highly ‘disappointed’ because it is just the same there. We share a common history, a common language (even slangs), a common culture and even a common desire. With a huge sense of pride, the third generation will narrate how their grandparents had crossed the border. The images of the past, the nostalgia are still being invoked after 69 years, after all the political clashes and fluctuating relations. It shows the common desire which is to build strong ties of friendship and brotherhood. India and Pakistan even have the same political, economic and social challenges to fight. So why keep the falsely constructed distance?
The same happened to us a couple of weeks back when I was in Nepal to attend the Religious Youth Service (RYS2016) event. Representatives from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, Russia, Sierra Leone and the United Arab Emirates all gathered to talk about peace. Mayank Kurnani was the only Indian while there were five Pakistanis. The very next day, we travelled to Pokhara where our event was scheduled to be held. When we finally reached Pokhara, I got to know that the two of us would be roommates for the next seven days.
During those seven days, we realised that our language and culture were similar. During the Indo-Pak cricket match on March 19, Tahira (another Pakistani colleague) was supporting India because she wanted Mayank not to feel lonely. Our last night in Pokhara was a cultural night. After the host country Nepal’s presentation, Pakistan’s delegation started with the national anthem and later performed two popular songs which rocked the floor. We started with ‘Laal Mere’ by Rouna Laila and dedicated the song to all of South Asia. Even Bangladeshi delegates were surprised to find out that Pakistanis were the biggest fans of Rouna Laila. Our next performance was ‘Ho-Jamalo’ by Shazia Khushk. We were shocked to know that Indians were also fans of Shazia Khushk. Even Indians and Bangladeshis know how to do the Sindhi Jhomar and Luddi dances.
The next performance was by Mayank from India. He was the only delegate from his country. He started his performance with the Indian national anthem but it was not looking good with only one person singing it on the stage. So the Pakistani delegation decided to join him on the stage as most of us know the Indian national anthem (thanks to Indian movies). After we finished, everyone was surprised and clapped at how Pakistanis were taking care of their Indian friend. None of them was expecting this kind of gesture from us since they were under the impression that all of us were enemies due to the media. After that event, all of us sat down together and had another long discussion on how the youth can interact and know the softer and real side of each other. We came to the conclusion that we have to start a youth campaign in the entire Saarc region.
Our first target will be the youth of India and Pakistan and later we will include all the other nationalities. Our only aim is to know the real and peaceful side of all the nations and start a learning process from each other. Adopting good and positive things can lead all of South Asia towards another level of prosperity. Despite so many differences, the European Union can stay together; so why not a South Asian Union? Why not peace, education and health for all of us? Let the barriers be only political ones because, socially and culturally, there are no barriers. These barriers have been constructed and have to be demolished. Let’s start #AmanKaSafar.
Shahzad is the director of the Concern for Children Trust and a former Minister for Information Technology (Youth Parliament of Pakistan)