(The following article is from the January 1-31, 2009, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 133 Herkimer St., Unit 502, Hamilton, ON, L8P 2H3.)

By Shahzad Nazir Khan  

After the Mumbai terror attacks, the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan risks war between the two nuclear states. In response, the Indo-Pak community of Greater Vancouver decided to hold a peace rally on New Year's Day.

     The purpose of the Jan. 1 rally was to show solidarity between the south Asian communities, and to oppose war hysteria which could devastate a great number of innocent people and their livelihood. The initiative was taken by Gurpreet Singh of Radio India, Dr. Saif, Dr. Sadhu Singh and Shahzad Nazir Khan, south Asian peace activists.

     Over 100 members of the south Asian communities, including women and children, braved the harsh weather for the cause of peace, gathering in front of the Punjabi Market on Scott Road in Surrey. Holding placards highlighting their commitment against war and terrorism, the participants marched along the main road and chanted slogans in favour of peace.

     Later Dr. Saif addressed the gathering and expressed the determination of the participants to prevail upon the governments of India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions and resolve their mutual issues through talks.

     Ruqayya Begum, a renowned caller to local radio talk shows, made a passionate appeal to recognize the conspiracy of the big powers to promote tensions in south Asia just to grind their own axe.

     Nazir Rizvi of the Fraser Valley Peace Council stressed the need to join together the causes of peace in all corners of the world.

     Capt. Suleman Mehtab, president of the Canada Urdu Association, recited a poem depicting his sentiments against hatred among different communities, and appealed to the participants to stand for peace and harmony. He also narrated his experience of visiting India and Pakistan recently as an envoy of peace between the two countries.

     Dr. Hari Sharma of SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy) condemned the forces of hatred that are bent on promoting terrorism and war hysteria.

     Renowned writer Fauzia Rafiq criticized the trends of terrorism, whether among Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus or Christians, as acting against humanity.

     Sadhu Binning, a retired UBC teacher, reiterated that the south Asian communities are together in defeating the trends of hatred and war-mongering.

     Naveed Warraich of the Pakistani-Canadian Cultural Association condemned all acts of terrorism and assured the participants that the Pakistani community will stand together with their counterparts from other countries in addressing their concerns.

     Naseer Pirzada of The Miracle newspaper stressed the need for the media to play a positive role rather than promoting hatred and hysteria.

     Harry Bains (NDP MLA, Surrey-Newton) assured the crowd of his endeavours to promote peace and harmony at all levels among different communities. Rachid Arab, NDP candidate in Surrey North in the recent federal election, called for peace and solidarity among different cultural groups. He also condemned atrocities being committed by Israel in Gaza as state-sponsored terrorism.

     Other speakers included Avtar Gill of the Tarksheel Society and Darshan Sekhon of the Security Professionals Association.

     At the end, Shahzad Nazir Khan referred to the inscription at the Peace Arch between Canada and the US, that the people living on both sides of a border should be treated like "children of the same mother." The participants joined in with chants of "Long live peace", "Down with war hysteria", and "Down with terrorism."