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Fight common evils together: Pak legislators

Pak delegates to World Parliamentary Forum in Mumbai said India and Pak should fight globalisation together.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2004 14:35 IST

In the midst of a season of peace in South Asia, a delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians isin Mumbaiproposing to fight the "common evils" that face India and Pakistan in this day and age.

The evils they talk about are the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and globalisation.

"India and Pakistan face the same troubles today. We need to fight their onslaught together," says Chowdhury Manzoor Ahmed,MNA from the once centre-left Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Ahmed is part of a 20-member delegation here to take part in the World Parliamentary Forum, a gathering parallel to the World Social Forum meet.

Ahmed, whose PPP has 81 members in the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan's parliament, said the parliamentary delegation was the largest from his country to visit India after independence.

While he welcomed the thaw in relations between the two countries, Ahmed was sceptical about President Pervez Musharraf's ability to bring lasting peace to the Indian subcontinent.

"The best solution to strained relations is enhanced people-to-people contact," Ahmed told IANS. "The contact can be at social, academic or trade levels."

However, not all the members of the delegation were critical of Musharraf's peace initiatives.

Said Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MP Muhammad Farooq Sattar: "Musharraf is the best horse to bet on in Pakistan.

"There is substance in the new initiative, and our party completely backs any effort to deliver peace to the people of India and Pakistan."

However, adding a word of caution, he noted: "Before tackling bigger and more contentious problems, the two sides need to understand each other's domestic compulsions."

Sattar felt the president also seemed earnest in his efforts to root out fundamentalism and sectarian violence from Pakistan.

"It's a now or never situation for the (Indian) subcontinent, and more so for Pakistan," Sattar said.

Ahmed, on the other hand, laughed off Musharraf's address to the joint session of the Pakistan parliament where he urged the country to uproot fundamentalism.

"He says that after all he has been a victim of the same fundamentalism," said Ahmed, referring to the two assassination attempts on Musharraf in December.

Ahmed, however, added that Musharraf was acting only after coming under threat from the fundamentalism he and his army had initially bred.

Members of the delegation, which consists of MPs from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-QA) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) besides PPP and MQM, are planning to meet Vajpayee in New Delhi before returning to Pakistan.

"Once there is peace, people of the two countries will realise that the problems facing them are not very different. The issues of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are the same across the boundaries," said Ahmed.

Sattar felt a vast majority of Pakistanis espouse normal relations with India.

"They have realised that without cordial relations with neighbours, you cannot jump on to the train of economy, which we've already missed," said Sattar.

Ahmed suggested that the working class of both the countries should come together to fuel development in the region and usher in harmonious relations.

First Published: Jan 20, 2004 12:04 IST