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San Francisco Rally for Peach in South Asia
Ras H. Siddiqui 

6 Jan. 2002 - The event may have been a small beginning. But it got more attention then many other Indian and Pakistani gatherings do in Northern California. And if the multitudes walking past the intersection of Powell and Market streets in San Francisco on Saturday, January 5th 2002 may have noticed, it was a couple of hundred Pakistanis and Indians and their local friends making a very important statement and sending a simple message. That is: “We do not want another war in South Asia. We want peace”.

  A peace rally is one way that Americans of South Asian origins can show their concern for the current buildup of rhetoric and border hostilities between India and Pakistan, two countries that possess nuclear weapons. And frankly, for us here in the United States, it is possibly the only thing that we could do, besides praying for sanity to prevail in a very volatile part of the world.

  America in general is currently busy with the war in Afghanistan. But when I received an email from Khawaja Ashraf, current Vice President of the Pakistani American Congress, (a group that remains politically active in Washington) to attend a meeting last week to hold this rally, like any concerned Pakistani-American, I had to attend. To raise a common India-Pakistan voice for peace at a time when chances of war breaking out in that region appear to be quite high, should be the primary goal of the South Asian “Desi” community here in America and all over the world.

  This family event drew a number of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Muslim and Sikh Americans. The participation from the local Hindu community was disappointing here but one hopes that they will follow the Sikhs and join us at a future rally for the same cause not only here in Northern California but all over the United States. And to do that we also need to tone down the rhetoric and ensure that any event that we do have in future is focused on the goal of peace and what we as a region share in common instead of making it another attempt to project our differences.

  A number of speakers addressed the rally in English, Urdu and Punjabi. Dr. Khawaja Ashraf, Jahangir Hamdani and Asim Mughal briefed the local media on the concerns of the Pakistani-American community. Afzal Jadoon, Naubahar Ali and Attorney Javed Ellahie gave their views and on behalf of the Sikh community Satnam Singh Chahal presented a strong case for pursuing peace. After 2 hours San Francisco Urdu poet Javaid Sayed lead the procession from the Powell and Market Street intersection to the offices of The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper where a resolution “Stop Is Before It Starts” was presented to the newspaper editorial staff. The resolution urged the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to intervene momentarily under Article 99 of the U.N. Charter to prevent this war.

   In conclusion it was heartening to see the involvement of the Sikh community and that of our Pakistan-American women and children at this rally. The PAWPC (Pakistani Americans War Prevention Committee) and the Pakistani American Congress planned and carried out this event, but one must point out its message is universal. Nobody wants a war between countries armed with nuclear weapons. One hopes that the Hindu community will join us next time or will invite us to a peace rally in the near future too.

And finally if people in the governments of India and Pakistan are reading this message (loud and clear), we the people of South Asian descent living in the United States do not want war to be the vehicle to decide the future of Kashmir or any other South Asian problem.       


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