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Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy


"Of the 167 Pakistani delegates present at the convention from diverse regions and varied professional backgrounds, 142 had crossed the border by rail and road, itself a historic event in the 50th year since Independence and Partition."
The third annual convention of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy was held in Calcutta on December 28-31, 1996. Daya Varma attended the convention on behalf of CERAS. We have supported this important initiative since its inception three years ago when its first convention was held in New Delhi.

More than 300 Pakistanis and Indians met in Calcutta for the Third Convention of the Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy formed in September 1994. Of the 167 Pakistani delegates present at the convention from diverse regions and varied professional backgrounds, 142 had crossed the border by rail and road, itself a historic event in the 50th year since Independence and Partition.

At the four day convention, held between Dec.28-31, 1996, delegates had intensive discussions to develop action-plans on four major themes that had been adopted by the Forum through the Lahore Declaration in Sept. 1994: demilitarization, denuclearization and peace dividends, religious intolerance, Kashmir and governance. They also reviewed their journey through the first fifty years of independence. Postures and policies adopted by the two states have deprived the people of the promise of freedom. Diversion of precious resources to wars and preparation for war, had condemned millions of people in the two countries to poverty and squalor. This has resulted in the denial of people's fundamental rights and basic needs like health, education, housing etc.

On the fourth and final day, the convention endorsed and reiterated the Forum's standpoint contained in the Delhi and Lahore resolutions and unanimously adopted the following

The Calcutta Declaration

  • The most fundamental interest of the people of Pakistan and India, as also of the South Asian Region as a whole, demands that both countries celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence by taking a solemn pledge to devote the second half century of freedom to realizing the shared aspirations of the people for peace, democracy, justice, tolerance, and equal opportunities for all citizens regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, and social status.

  • That in order to realize this objective, the two states must sign, by 14-15th August 1997, a comprehensive treaty providing for the employment of internationally recognized mechanisms of mutual negotiation, mediation and arbitration for conflict resolution that could guarantee durable peace.

  • That the two states must enter into bilateral agreements to ensure the following :

    • Free travel across the border

    • Free exchange of information and publications and reduction of communication and travel costs.

    • Removal of trade barriers and grant of Most Favoured Nation status to each other.

    • That while celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Freedom, the people rejoice in one another's freedom and integrity.

    • That the members of the Forum have a historic responsibility to carry out the action plan adopted at the convention in particular.

Demilitarization, denuclearization and peace dividends

The members of the Forum must use all respective governments to adopt effective confidence building measures to agree not to use military capabilities against each other. To stop intermittent firings across the border. To put an end to proxy wars and to demilitarize Siachin. Both governments must ensure transparency in their defense budgets. The Forum members should redouble their efforts to secure an agreement between the two countries to desist from nuclear preparations and work for regional disarmament and a nuclear weapon free world. A public campaign should be launched to ensure that the resources released by reduction in defense expenditure are devoted exclusively to meeting the peoples basic needs.

The convention calls upon the national committees of the Forum to mobilize all groups and associations concerned with basic freedoms and rights in their respective countries to secure the objective of genuine participtary democracy, to sponsor and undertake comparative studies in decentralization of authority to facilitate meaningful contacts between professionals, especially lawyers, farmers, traders, academics, scientists, physicians women's activists, and media persons for sharing of experiences and to help evolution of common strategies to deal with the effects of global shifts in areas of governance and economy.

Religious Intolerance

The national committees should create national and joint sub committees to combat intolerance and prejudice in the following areas: Education, specifically the teaching of history; media and performing arts; state, Law and politics; literature and culture. Priority should be attached to supporting and replicating project like Communalism Combat's Khoj (removal of prejudice and distortion from history works) cooperation among media persons, exchange of writers and students, evolution of uniform guarantees of human rights in laws and codes, relief to persons detained across borders, rights of migrant labour and promotion of dialogues amongst religious scholars.

Kashmir

The Forum will work toward creating favorable public opinion to make it possible for the two governments and the people of Kashmir to find a solution to this long standing problem. The following recommendations are made:
  1. The PIFPD joint committee on Kashmir will hold regular meetings with Kashmir leaders on both sides of the Line of Control. The understanding obtained from these meetings can be used for recommending future course of action.

  2. The joint committee on Kashmir will attempt to organize a meeting where representatives of Kashmir from both sides of the Line of Control can come together.

  3. Activities will be undertaken which educate people and decision makers about the facts and real issues about Kashmir and the urgency for resolving the conflict. In particular it is recommended that a newsletter should be published by the forum. The Joint committee should also organize meetings with parliamentarians to acquaint them with issues which concern peoples of India and Pakistan.

Gender Justice

Given the lack of gender justice in the legal systems of the two countries, the Forum decided to formulate a Joint Charter of Egalitarian Principles which will be the determining factor in civil, religious and personal laws in both countries. It shall campaign and lobby with the governments and the citizens of the two countries tocommit themselves to this charter.

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