LAHORE: Maximum contact urged between two Punjabs

LAHORE, Feb 8: The need for allowing maximum people-to-people contact between the two Punjabs
was stressed for boosting the ongoing Pakistan-India peace process at a Punjab-Punjab consultation
arranged by the South Asian Free Media Association here on Sunday.

Farmers Associates Pakistan chairman and MNA Shah Mahmood Qureshi said a vocal minority had
been jeopardizing the peace process between India and Pakistan in the past, which was started
the Simla Accord in the 70s and the Lahore Declaration in the 90s.

He said that agriculture sector was the best for cooperation between the predominantly rural Punjabs,
both of whom were facing the problem of increasing poverty. Both Punjabs could benefit from each
others' experience for boosting agricultural production.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan said that both Punjabs would benefit greatly
from cooperation but the monopoly business of Pakistan was opposed to it as it would have to compete
the Indian business in case of an open border. He said that people should not be made to suffer for
protecting the interests of a few businessmen.

He said that the governments of India and Pakistan should allow maximum relaxation of visa restric-
tions to facilitate the people-to-people contact between the two countries. He said that the require-
ment of visitors reporting at police stations should also be waived. Universities in both Punjabs
should reserve seats for each others' students.

Abida Hussain said that governments of India and Pakistan were continuing the cold war long after
its end and had been compelled to make efforts for normalization of relations under public pressure.
The restrictions on movement of people between two Punjabs should be lifted as millions of people
who had migrated from the one to the other wanted to visit their old places of residence.

She said that language could play a significant role in bringing the people of two Punjabs closer. The
Indian Punjab had made significant progress in teaching of Punjabi language by making it a medium
of instruction. She said that agriculture had made tremendous progress in the Indian Punjab because
of availability of free water supply.

Dr Salman Shahzad said that opportunities for travel between the two Punjabs would boost tourism
and trade and create new jobs. He said that bilateral trade was in the interest of both India and
Pakistan. A large number of Sikhs would visit their shrines in Pakistan in the event of relaxation of
visa restrictions.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Hamid Khan said that visa restrictions should be
relaxed for the offspring of people who had migrated from one Punjab to the other at the time of
partition. Access roads to Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib should be improved and five-star hotels
built there to facilitate Sikh visitors. He stressed the need for land reforms in Pakistan and provision
of free water and power like India for boosting agricultural production.

Ishaq Khakwani said that cooperation should start in agriculture, health and education sectors. The
Pakistani Punjab could benefit from the advanced agricultural technology of the Indian Punjab. The
high-yield seed varieties and cheap medicines could also be imported from India. Indirect bilateral
trade of six billion rupees through different countries could be converted into direct trade. He
said that group travel between the Punjabs should be allowed to encourage people-to-people contact.

Nadir Ali said that the privileged classes wanted to maintain tension between India and Pakistan in
the name of religion. He said that people in the two Punjabs had suffered the maximum on account
of partition but now wanted to normalize relations.

Source:DAWN.COM, February 09, 2004

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