Second Pakistan-India Peoples’ Convention on Peace and Democracy,
Lahore, November 10-11, 1995.
With the Lahore Convention the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy completed the first round of its initiative and founded a new approach to people to people dialogue between the two-countries. This was the second part of Delhi Convention held in February, 1995. While the Delhi Convention identified areas of common concern to the two peoples and adopted some basic formulations. The Lahore Convention framed strategies to implement these recommendations. In this Convention the people of both the countries tried to rid themselves of the biases and irrational attitudes which they had been locked in by their ruling hierarchies in the pursuit of their narrow interests.
The initiative to hold a people to people dialogue on the relevant issues concerning both the countries was taken more than three years ago by the concerned citizens of the two countries. Initially there were very few people from the two sides who worked on this idea seriously, but gradually they grew in number.
Two groups from India and Pakistan working on this proposal met in Lahore on September 2, 1994. At Lahore, the participants felt that despite all odds, they should gear up their activities against war mania prevalent in the two countries. The message of the Lahore Meeting was hailed in both the countries especially among human rights activists, labour movement, women rights activists, academics, journalists, lawyers, professionals and other concerned groups.
Following Lahore Meeting, the group again met in Delhi on November 25-26, 1994 and framed their proposals for peace and democracy, tolerance, better governance and other issues concerning the two countries.
The first ever Peoples’ Convention for Peace and Democracy held in Delhi on February 24-25, 1995 was a modest but historical progress towards a better future for the people of the sub-continent. Around two hundred delegates participated from India and Pakistan and consolidated the proposals for peace, demilitarization, denuclearisation, tolerance, better governance and Kashmir.
The Lahore convention was held on 10th and 11th November, 1995, at Holiday Inn, Egerton Road, Lahore. On both days, at the Convention started at 10 a.m. and concluded at around 5 p.m. Cultural programmes were arranged at Ali Auditorium, Ferozepur Road, Lahore.
The Indian delegates numbered 70, while the Pakistani delegation comprised 102 members. The Indian chapter had representation from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu. The Pakistan contingent had delegates from all the four provinces i.e. Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Frontier and Islamabad. The delegates belonged to various walks of life, like politicians, human rights activists, environmentalists, women rights activists, professionals, journalists, social workers, lawyers, trade unionists, theatre artists, scientists, writers etc. There were 46 delegates >from Punjab, 35 from Sindh, 9 from NWFP, 5 from Balochistan and 7 from Islamabad. More than 50 observers from Pakistan also attended the convention.
The Indian guests reached Lahore on the evening of 9th November. They were accorded a warm reception at the airport. Besides the reception committee, many senior members of the Pakistan Forum from all the four provinces were present. Except for a few delegates who stayed with friends, the Indian guests were put up at hotels. The next morning, the 10th of November, the convention began with the registration of the delegates at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m. the inaugural session started. It was chaired by Mr. Nirmal Mukerjee and Mr. I.A. Rehman, and facilitated by Mr. Iftikhar Ul Haq. Mr. I.A. Rehman welcomed the delegates and emphasised the need for holding dialogues regularly, as these dialogues reflected the concern of the millions of people of the two countries. He suggested the establishment of joint committees and asked peace activists to increase their activities in their own countries. Mr. Nirmal Mukerjee hailed the convention as a historical event and stressed that central cause of these dialogues was political. He said that the Delhi Convention was a remarkable achievement in itself. More over it was also a significant event that participants of both sides agreed that Kashmir Issue was not merely a territorial dispute, but also an issue concerning people living on both sides of the line of control.
After tea break, the house was divided into four groups to discuss strategies for four core issues, i.e., Kashmir, Intolerance, War, demilitarisation and denuclearisation, and Governance. The four groups discussed at length ways and means to solve those issues, till 5 p.m. Next day, on 11th November, the convention resumed at 10 a.m. The working groups formulated their suggestions and consolidated them into resolutions.
Before the final session, special group meetings were also arranged. In these meetings delegates from the same areas of interest sat together in nine groups and exchanged views on working strategies to co-ordinate activities in their respective fields. After lunch, the delegates again met in a plenary session. Dr. Mubashir Hasan and Ms. Rati Bartholomew chaired the meeting. The resolutions approved by four working groups were presented before the house. After discussion on some points, the resolutions were unanimously approved. The resolutions of special groups were also put before the house, which approved them with slight modifications, and the convention was declared closed.
The convention was followed by a largely attended press conference, which was addressed by Dr. Mubashir Hasan, Mr. Nirmal Mukerjee, I.A. Rehman, and Mr. Kamla Prasad. In the evening, the second part of the cultural programme was arranged at Ali Auditorium.