After a Pakistani family was denied accommodation at several hotels in Mumbai, the businessman who owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Pakistan has offered a free meal to all visiting Indians as a “goodwill gesture”.
Iqbal Latif, who operates 26 outlets of the international food chain in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, took the step to show how Pakistanis welcome their neighbours while emulating Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings.
“I felt bad when I saw this family had to spend (a) part of (the) night (on a) footpath near a police station and another part at a pavement at the railway station,” Latif told the Dawn newspaper.
“It’s not a big deal, but an effort to invoke the teachings of Gandhiji who preached love and coexistence all his life.”
Last week, five members of a Pakistani family who travelled to Mumbai to pray at the Haji Ali ‘dargah’ spent the night on a pavement after they were denied accommodation by hotels because they did not have certain documents. The incident was widely condemned by rights activists.
Banners put up at Latif’s outlets across Pakistan on Friday said all short-term Indian visitors with a valid visa would be given “a free meal and a donut as a goodwill gesture” to promote peace and understanding. The banners featured the Indian and Pakistani flags.
On the first day of the offer, 17 meals were served to Indians in a Dunkin Donut outlet in the diplomatic enclave of Islamabad. Latif said he had felt “great honour (in hosting our) Indian friends”. No Indians availed the offer at outlets in Lahore and Peshawar.
Since the offer was made, the outlets served more than 2,400 customers and sales increased by 30%, Latif said.
“We’re waiting to treat Indians with a big heart and a big smile,” said Tehmina, who works at an outlet in Lahore.
Latif is elated by the response to the offer and “sees it as vital for promoting love among the people of Pakistan and India”, Dawn reported. He said he was “slightly apprehensive about the reaction in Peshawar to the display of the Indian flag, but visitors and passersby waved at the staff, a sign of approval”.
Recently, threats from the Shiv Sena forced the cancellation of two concerts by ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena activists also blackened the face of former BJP member Sudeendhra Kulkarni in Mumbai for organising an event to launch the new book by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri.
Latif said his pro-peace initiative had not met any interference from Pakistan’s intelligence set-up. “No ISI, no intelligence came to us to ask about the display of the Indian flag,” he said.
“Across the border, there is no hate. We all love India, 1.4 billion people love each other. We are only marginalised by a few hate mongers on both sides. I propose such initiatives on the people-to-people level (to) help make bridges,” he said.