MUMBAI: “Pakistanis can feel the pain of the victims of 26/11. We have also gone through similar terror attacks. We have also lost our own people. Our heart reaches out to victims of terror attacks, especially when it comes to our neighbouring nations. Youths in Pakistan strongly condemn these attacks. We value peace as much as any Indian,” said Sitara Jabeen, a Pakistani student who is in Mumbai to promote cross-border dialogue and to change the stereotypical image of women and youth in Pakistan.
Jabeen, a student of National Defence University, was part of a Pakistani delegation of five women from Lahore and Islamabad, most of them students, who were at Mumbai University for a seminar on ‘Breaking down barriers to cross-border dialogue’. The event organised by the university’s sociology department also focussed on discussions on women and youth in India and Pakistan against violent extremism. The Pakistani women were part of the delegation from Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), an organisation working for the welfare of women across borders.
Jabeen’s grandfather was with Mumbai police before the Partition and her family members were excited to know that their daughter got a chance to visit India to promote peace.
Sidra Tariq, another student from Islamabad, who is pursuing her MPhil in international relations, in a talk said, “Pakistanis know a lot about Indian culture through the movies and television channels. However, I believe, Indians are not exposed to enough of Pakistani culture. Pakistani society does not support extremism. There needs to be more such dialogues between both nations, or we will be stuck in our history. We come here with a hope and desire to have peace between the countries.”
Talking about Indian culture, professor Arshi Hashmi, from the National Defence University, who was part of the delegation, said Indian designs in clothing are very popular. “We love watching shows like Indian Idol and Bollywood movies release in Pakistan on the same date as in India,” she added. On a lighter note, Jabeen added that for youth in Pakistan, after Lata Mangeshkar, it is Shreya Ghoshal, who is popular.
Edit Schlaffer, the chairperson of SAVE, who created a platform for terror victims, especially women, who have lost their family members in terror attacks, to come forward and narrate their experiences, said, “We thought of a concept like this after the 26/11 attacks. Two days ago when we met 10 women from families of victims, we realised they have been isolated here. In the US, people meet victims of terror attacks and allow them to share their experiences.”
SAVE is also working on a five-nation study, including Pakistan, to meet women from families of youth who have joined terror outfits. “We are doing this study to understand what forces youth to take such extreme steps. We would be speaking to their mothers who fear that the child is moving in the wrong direction,” said Edit Schlaffer, the chairperson of SAVE.