Posts Tagged ‘ Aman ki Asha ’

Aman ki Asha’s Gift of Life to Six-Year Old Muzaffar

By Lubna J. Naqvi for The News International

He has the cutest smile. One that was nearly wiped out forever by a congenital heart disease that his parents had no means of getting treated in Pakistan.

Muzaffar Ahmed Khan was only three years old he developed a seemingly never-ending severe chest congestion and cold. His father Rozay Khan, a teacher at a private school in Loralai, took the boy to a medical specialist the nearest big city in Quetta, 260 km away – a long road trip by any standards, and more so for a sick child. The trip led to a doctor diagnosing the boy as having a congenital heart condition. The treatment – risky and expensive heart surgery – was way beyond the reach of his father.

The boy lived on with the help of various medications, but without the required surgery, he was not expected to live much longer. The despair and pain of the family, and the discomfort of the sick child, can only be imagined.

It was a news report in the daily Jang of October 2, 2010 that set them on a path they will forever be grateful for. The paper had a report about a nine-year old Pakistani boy Muhammad Sufiyan, who also had a congenital heart problem. The report said that Rotary International and Aman ki Asha had taken Sufiyan to India where he underwent a successful operation at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. Suddenly there was hope.

Rozay Khan contacted the Rotary Club representatives in Quetta, and provided them with Muzaffar’s medical documents. Things began to move. The Rotary officials contacted their counterparts in India and sent them the documents. Within a week the family was asked to make arrangements to travel.

Muzaffar was to be accompanied by his father and uncle Qaisar Khan. The Indian High Commission granted their visas within three days. Aziz Memon (President King Group) former governor of Rotary Club helped expedite the travel and other logistics.

They flew to Mumbai on May 5, 2011, and the next day, to Kolkata. There was some difficulty at the immigration, says Rozay Khan, but Rotary representatives in India helped smooth their way.

On May 7 Muzaffar was admitted to Kolkata’s Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. He underwent a two-and-a-half hour operation on May 11. He was discharged on May 19, with a month’s medication and a directive to avoid lifting heavy items for some time.

The doctors said that Muzaffar should get a medical examination after six months to be on the safe side, but that he was now perfectly healthy. It was like a miracle.

Barely a month later, Muzaffar and his father and uncle visited Aman ki Asha in Karachi on June 4, a day after they returned from India. If one had not been told, there were no signs that this smiling boy had so recently undergone a serious operation. He sat there beaming at us, shyly looking out from underneath long lashes that fringed his mischievous eyes. He would have pranced around the room like any other seven-year old, but was restrained by his father, who held him in his lap throughout the visit. Muzaffar was restless, and probably bored, but seemed to enjoy the attention.

Rozay Khan glowed with happiness at his son’s rapid recovery. A huge weight had been lifted off him, and his wife, who had been worried sick about their son, as his condition didn’t look too good before leaving for India. The first thing he did after Muzaffar’s successful operation was to call his wife over the phone. “It was an emotional time for all of us, but it has passed – all because of Aman ki Asha and Rotary Club.”

Rozay Khan was all praise for India. “I was given so much love and warmth in India that I didn’t even feel I was away from home,” he said.

“The Indians were very hospitable. They treated us just like brothers; they did so much for us that at times we were embarrassed. The hospital staff gave Muzaffar so much love and affection also. It was like we were still in Pakistan. Except for some of the people who didn’t speak Urdu or Hindi in Kolkata, I wouldn’t have known I wasn’t in Pakistan.”

Muzaffar’s uncle added that the Indians were amazed to hear them speaking Urdu – which they thought was Hindi. “They would ask us where we learnt to speak Hindi, and I would laugh and say we were not speaking Hindi we were speaking Urdu.”

He found the Indian people to be very interested in Pakistan. “They asked us so many questions and said they would love to come visit. However they lamented that they knew it would be impossible because of the visa issues. I told them that they should come, and be my family’s guests and see Pakistan.”

“So many people told us to convey their message through the media and Aman ki Asha to Pakistani authorities to ease travel to Pakistan,” said Rozay Khan. “They should do away with the obstacles that travellers have to face if they want to travel from India to Pakistan and vice versa.”

He said that in the nearly two months they spent in India they did not encounter any hostility – only got love and hospitability. “When people got to know that we had come for Muzaffar’s operation they were extra nice, even friendlier, more helpful and hospitable.”

Muzaffar gained health, love and friends across the border. His family wishes that the people of both countries were allowed to interact and visit each other more. They are grateful to Aman ki Asha and Rotary club for helping give Muzaffar a new life.

“We wish,” said Rozay Khan, “that the path of peace continues between the two countries through Aman ki Asha’s efforts. And we pray that we see peace between our two countries so we can visit our new friends again, and have them visit us.”

— Lubna J. Naqvi

Help Muzaffar’s dream come true

When total strangers from India and Pakistan joined hands to help Muzaffar, they did more than help save a life. They sparked off a determination in his family to get a good education for Muzaffar. They want him to be able to enter medical college and become a doctor himself. If anyone would like to contribute and help sponsor Muzaffar’s education to enable him to one day help others, please contact Aman ki Asha – amankiasha@ janggroup.com.pk

Pakistanis, Indians want peace, friendship, says poll

As Reported by SANA (South Asian News Agency)

Despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations, a survey conducted on both sides of the border has revealed.

The survey – conducted by independent research agencies and sponsored by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India on the first anniversary of their joint peace initiative ‘Aman Ki Asha’ – showed that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations.

Although, the process of composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains stalled since the 2008 Mumbai carnage, 72 per cent Pakistanis and 66 per cent Indians hope to see ’sustainable friendly relations’ in their lifetime. Compared with last year, the number of Indians hoping to see peace in their lifetime has surged by 17 per cent.

The optimism at the people’s level appears in a stark contrast to the current bitter official positions. The Indian government accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough against the alleged sponsors of the Mumbai attack, while Islamabad says that New Delhi has been using this incident as a ‘propaganda’ tool to avoid talks on the core issue of Kashmir. Islamabad also blames India for instigating violence in Balochistan.

According to the survey, awareness of the Kashmir problem as being central to the state of relations between the two countries, particularly in India, has increased. The survey results show that 77 per cent Pakistanis and 87 per cent of Indians feel that peace can be achieved by settling the protracted Kashmir dispute.

The scientific survey covered 10 Pakistani cities and 42 villages, covering a cross-section of people from rural and urban areas. Pakistani cities where the survey was carried out were: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Sukkur. In India, the survey was conducted in six cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad (Deccan) and Chennai. Adult population, both male and female, were represented in the survey.

This was the second survey on Pakistan-India relations. The first survey was conducted in December 2009; just before the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign was launched. Survey results show a consistent and marked improvement in perceptions about each other by people in both countries.

The survey showed that the issue of Pakistan-India relations featured in the thoughts of 73 per cent Pakistanis and 68 per cent Indians. The survey results said apart from settling the Kashmir dispute, 80 per cent Pakistanis and 91 per cent Indians think ’stronger relations and better defence’ would also contribute in achieving the goal of peace.

The survey tracked the impact of the Aman Ki Asha campaign in India by asking a similar set of questions to two groups of people – one aware of this peace campaign and the other not aware of it. On all four questions asked – perceiving Pakistan as a high threat to India, as a sponsor of terror, desire for peace and being hopeful for achieving sustainable peace – there was a marked difference in the responses of the two groups. The group that was aware of the Aman Ki Asha initiative had a much better perception of Pakistan.

Around 77 per cent of Pakistanis and 87 per cent Indians consider that international pressure may help in bringing peace, while 71 per cent Pakistanis and 72 per cent Indians pin hopes on greater people-to-people contact to pave the way for friendly relations. Eighty-one per cent Pakistanis and Indians see people-to-people contact as an effective ‘instrument of peace’.

An increase in business has also been tipped as a vehicle of peace by 67 per cent Pakistanis and 69 per cent Indians, the survey said. Among other steps needed to promote peace, 32 per cent Pakistanis pinned hopes on sports, 28 per cent on business, 22 per cent on tourism, 20 per cent on travel for health treatment and 13 per cent each on culture and higher education. The data from the Indian side regarding this questionnaire was not available.

For 51 per cent of Pakistanis, business can help bring peace, while 46 and 45 per cent of respondents said that it can also be done through sports and tourism respectively.

AMAN KI ASHA: The first of its kind peace drive ‘Aman Ki Asha’ was seen by a vast majority as articulating the aspirations of the people. Around 87 per cent Pakistanis and 74 per cent Indians were of the view that this sustained campaign ‘developed tremendous awareness about the Indo-Pak relationship’. Around 85 per cent Pakistanis and 61 per cent Indians said Aman Ki Asha communicated ‘peoples’ desire for peace to their governments, while 80 per cent Pakistanis and 86 per cent Indians said it ‘helped bring the people of the two countries together’.

The Jang Group and The Times of India have held a series of events over the last 12 months that involved a broad section of people, including students, intellectuals, artists, businessmen, doctors, information technology experts and ordinary citizens in an attempt to boost people-to-people ties.

In Pakistan, the recall of the ‘Aman Ki Asha’ campaign has been around an impressive 92 per cent. Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director of the Jang Group, said this media-led civil society movement had made a huge contribution for peace at a time when tensions remained high between the two countries.

“The survey results should lay to rest any misgivings or apprehensions people may have had about the objectives or chances of success of the campaign,” he said. “The survey results show that Aman Ki Asha has brought about a sea change in perceptions in India about Pakistan. Every negative perception has decreased and every positive perception has improved. The Jang Group feels vindicated and is delighted that we have helped put across Pakistan’s point of view through honest dialogue, seminars, people-to-people contacts and cultural events.”

According to the survey, the terror perception in India about Pakistan is down to 42 per cent from 75 a year ago, of bomb threats to 29 per cent from 54 and awareness about the Kashmir dispute rising to 17 per cent from a mere four per cent. Hasan hoped that the Pakistani and Indian governments would continue to facilitate the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign and take advantage of the access to the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries that the Jang Group and the Times of India provided.

A Prayer for Peace

Reported by Ghazi Salahuddin for The News International

We, in Pakistan, have rang out 2010 with a general strike and noisy rallies by religious elements in defence of the blasphemy law. We also rang out the year with a massive increase in petroleum products. And these spiritually and economically debilitating influences were certainly a distraction in our celebration of the biggest night of the year.

Today, on Sunday, the New Year is more than a day old. After spending the last few days of the departed year in taking stock of 2010, we are more inclined to look ahead and wonder what the coming year is going to be like. The general mood, certainly, is depressing. The past year was the year of floods, and Wikileaks, and drone attacks and social as well as political disarray. At the same time, it was also a year of hope – of Aman ki Asha – and of some intimations of how we, as a nation, still possess a conspicuous potential for survival.

In a sense, the attempt that so many ordinary citizens desperately made to celebrate the New Year in a communal spirit of joy was a genuine reflection of the life-force of a society that yearns for peace and happiness. In Karachi, the authorities made a concerted effort to subvert the inherent desire of the people to have a good time, as they always do. Roads leading to the Sea View promenade were blocked and eating places in the area were not allowed to do business.

It is besides the point that the young were still able to put up their show and the New Year was greeted with song and dance. Yes, the more privileged were able to celebrate the occasion in their private premises. But the point here is that public expression of any social or cultural vitality is increasingly being suppressed at the same time that the obscurantist elements are openly able to project their narrow outlook. What makes this dereliction more ominous is the government’s policy of appeasement and, even, surrender when it comes to dealing with the rise of intolerance and prejudice in our society.

It would be instructive to compare the rallies that were taken out in the late afternoon on Friday and the celebrations that were held a few hours later. I had an occasion to see the main procession that was taken out in Karachi and let me confess that it left me in a depressed state of mind. I simply could not identify with that crowd and the slogans it was raising. When I returned home at six, Sydney was greeting the New Year with its spectacular fireworks.

So, where do we, as a nation, belong in this world that is forever changing and embracing new technologies and new ideas? And it is in this context that I would like to return to the inspiration that we may draw from Aman ki Asha, the campaign launched by The Times of India Group and the Jang Group one year ago to promote peace between India and Pakistan.

Since yesterday was the first anniversary of this remarkable initiative, this newspaper has already underlined its main features and the success that it has achieved in the face of the raw winds of suspicion and animosity that have for long been blowing across this region. There was an editorial on this subject and a special edition. It was very encouraging to see the piece especially written for Aman ki Asha by Karen Armstrong, the celebrated religious historian.

Hence, I would not want to replicate the points that have been made. Still, I think that the public opinion poll conducted on the first anniversary of the project deserves to be carefully analysed. Here is a message that should not be overlooked when we interpret the social and political character of our society. It is true that the results of the survey are not at all surprising for those of us who have always believed in the overwhelming imperative of peace in not just our relations with India but also in a domestic context.

Now, the survey that was independently conducted by credible professionals, has certified that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations between the two countries. What is crucial and meaningful here is that there has been a marked increase in the popular support for peace during the year that the largest media groups in India and Pakistan had conducted their varied and well-designed programmes under the umbrella of Aman ki Asha.

At a time when there is so much confusion about the role and the impact of the media, particularly the broadcast media, here is evidence that it can make a positive difference in shaping popular opinion when its message is in harmony with the natural aspirations of the people. This should make us realise that the media also has the power to sabotage the interests of the people when it is allowed to be manipulated by vested interests and when its expression is suppressed through intolerance and mindless chauvinism.

In many ways, the rise of extremism and militancy can be attributed to conflicts that are allowed to fester, distracting the attention and the resources of the nation from attending to the economic, social, and cultural needs of the people. Nothing undermines our national security more than rampant poverty and injustice and other deprivations of our people.

Indeed, the logic for normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan is rooted in the immortal desire of the people of both countries for social justice and for progress. In fact, Aman ki Asha should be seen in a larger context. Our need for peace transcends the otherwise fundamental issue of how our national security policies have remained India-centric.

Take, for instance, the official response to the rise of religious extremism in the country. Even when there is growing awareness that the threats we confront internally are very severe and could even jeopardise the very survival of the nation, the rulers do not seem to have the time or the intellectual ability to rethink and revise their national security formulations.

Meanwhile, of course, the people are ready and eager for what may be described as a paradigm shift. Initiatives like Aman ki Asha are necessary to set the stage for change and promote an environment in which an honorable and durable peace is possible.

When Aman ki Asha was launched one year ago, it affirmed that “peace between Pakistan and India is an idea whose time has come”. It also said that “it is daybreak for the people of the two countries who have languished in the twilight of mutual animosity and distrust for over six decades”. How long would it take for the rulers in the two countries to accept this self-evident truth?

The writer is a staff member. Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail .com

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