ACHA Peace awards conferred to Pak, Indians activists

KARACHI: The peace activists, poets, writers, journalists and civil society members on Tuesday underlined the need for measures for lasting peace in India and Pakistan and suggested increased people-to-people contacts.

They were speaking at Association for Communal Harmony in Asia ACHA Peace Star Award distribution ceremony, jointly organized by Pakistan Peace Coalition PPC, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research PILER and Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi to confer ACHA Peace Star Award 2013 to Pakistani and Indian peace activists here on Tuesday.

The awards were handed over by to Preetam Rohila and Kundan Rohila. B. M. Kutty of PPC read out the profiles of the award recipients. The Peace Star Award recipients were Ms. Sheema Kirmani Pakistan, Dr. Syed Mazher Hussain India, Mr. Lajja Shankar Herdina India and Mr. Pramod Sharma India.

Speaking on the occasion, Preetam Rohila of ACHA said his organization is working for peace in Asia particularly for South Asia. He said after Babri mosque incident he and his friends decided to establish an organization with main objective of a lasting peace in South Asia where people can live in peace and harmony in a friendly environment.

For awards, he said nominations are invited, the member of Board of Directors decides the name. He said there is no fixed number of recipients and awards are given on merit. ACHA also organizes peace camps both in India and Pakistan. This year total seven such camps would be hold in both the counties.

He said “we have reached to the conclusion that instead of waiting for the governments to take measures for peace we should come forward by ourselves.”

Karamat Ali of PILER said a war pact should be signed among eight countries of South Asia. He underlined the need for proportionate decline in the number of armies. The visa snags for citizens should be removed.

Speaking on the occasion, noted Urdu poet Fahmida Riaz said all extremism is because of permanent enmity between India and Pakistan. Until both the countries do not improve their bilateral relations, the conditions would not improve. First we have to make normal conditions between India and Pakistan. She also recited her poetry.

Speaking on the occasion Lajja Shankar Herdina said secularism is the only solution for the problems in South Asia. He recalled the speech of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the Constitute Assembly and said Jinnah wanted to make Pakistan a secular country. The history would not excuse those who have betrayed the objectives of Quaid-e-Azam. He deplored that negative impression has been created about secularism, which is dangerous. In India also there are certain elements who are working against secularism.

Dr. Mazher Hussain paid rich tributes to late Syed Iqbal Haider and dedicated his award to him. He recalled that after 2008 Mumbai attacks the peace activists of both India and Pakistan had visited four corners of India. “Iqbal Haider and I visited Nagpur, which is the headquarters of RSS. We visited their office and late Haider boldly presented his point of view.”

Ms. Sheema Kirmani said many women of India and Pakistan remained unsung heroines. Columnists Zahida Hina and Muqtada Mansoor also spoke on the occasion.

The ACHA awards are given to individuals and organizations that have performed meritorious work in promotion or pursuit of peace and communal harmony, especially in South Asia or among South Asians.

The past recipients of this award included Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Dr. Ram Puniyani, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi and Ms. Shabnam Hashmi in India; Rev. Dr. Bonniface Mendes, Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, Mr. B. M. Kutty, Mr. Karamat Ali, Ms. Saeeda Diep, Mr. Awais Sheikh, and Mr. Ashfaq Fateh in Pakistan; and Dr. Ingrid Shafer and Oregon Peace Works in USA.

ACHA Awards do not have any financial value. They have been set up to recognize some of the unsung peace and harmony heroes, and those who have performed substantial service to ACHA. Nominees as well as the nominators may be from any part of the world, but preference is given to the nominees who are South Asians and whose work is focused on South Asia and South Asians.

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