Artists can play major role in peace process: Pakistani painter

January 23rd, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) Artists’ voices can be both provocative as well as healing and since they represent the people at large they can play a major role in the peace process between India and Pakistan, says Pakistani painter and human rights activist Salima Hashmi.”A dictatorial government will always try and target the artists first because they represent the voice of the people. Therefore, if artists of both the countries stand determined not to let the cultural exchange stop, the peace process will not be hindered,” Hashmi, the daughter of famous Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, told IANS on the sidelines of an event here.

Accompanying a delegation of Pakistani civil society activists, artists, educationists and political party members, who are in the capital on a “peace mission”, Hashmi said that the bond between the two nations was far too deep to be severed.

“Look at the wonderful response that the Pakistani theatre group Ajoka received at the National School of Drama’s festival. Despite all rumours that the artists were not allowed to come here, they came and performed to a packed house.

“Yes, there were travel advisories after the Mumbai attack and people were obviously scared to come, thus cancelling a lot of programmes. But that doesn’t mean that people have stopped coming. This is my second visit to India after the attack,” Hashmi said.

“Pakistani artists are highly respected here and vice versa. One has to understand that our cultural ties are deeply intertwined and artists, through their respective mediums, can play a big role in the peace process.

“No one distinguishes Faiz as a Pakistani poet. When he came to India during his exile and recited his poetry, he was given a standing ovation here. That’s the power of poetry. That’s the power of art,” she added.

Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who headed the delegation here, said that Pakistanis were deeply affected by the Mumbai attack but wanted to reiterate that they too were “fighting the same monster as India”.

“We understand the anger that is simmering here, we also realise that it’s an unskilled government that we are dealing with now. But war is never a solution and we have to congratulate your government for practising restraint,” Jahangir said.

“I can only urge that no matter what happens the people to people contact between the two nations should never be stopped,” she added.

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