By Asim Hussain, Munawwar Hasan & Adnan Rashid
LAHORE: The torch of the Commonwealth Games 2010, Queen's Baton Relay (QBR), crossed over to the hosts, India, from Pakistan on Friday, amid a colourful and sparkling ceremony at the Wagah border, titled "Peace Through Sports", co-hosted by the peace promoters between the two countries, the two media groups, Jang Group of Newspapers and the Times of India, holding the banner of Aman Ki Asha.
Besides the crossing of the torch, the main feature of the event, also called the Peace Chain, was an exchange of handkerchiefs chain, prepared exclusively by schoolchildren from both countries to promote mutual peace. The Peace Chain comprised white handkerchiefs inscribed with paintings, drawings and peace messages like "Give Peace A Chance, War is Destructive, Live Long Friendship, Hamari Asha, Tumhari Asha, Ham Sub Ki Asha." The chain also had flags of both countries, and cut-outs of heart shapes, flowers and the symbol of peace, the dove.
The schoolchildren formed the chain on both sides of the Queen's Baton Relay route and at the venue of the ceremony. A similar gesture was made by the Indian schoolchildren at a ceremony on the other side of the border. Prominent among the schoolchildren were the students coming from as far as the Saint Peters High School, Toba Tek Singh, and the Convent of Jesus and Mary, besides many local schools, including Sanjan Nagar School, Laurel Bank School, Al-Falah School and others.
The ceremony began by opening the border gates on both sides and allowing the children to set their feet on the zero line to exchange their Peace Chains amid loud thumping and raising of slogans.
The QBR, which was carried through a distance of 10 kilometres by noted athletes including Pakistani Olympians and Commonwealth gold medallists before entering India from Pakistan, reached the zero point on Wagah border at 8:52 am. Shujauddin Malik, a gold medallist in weightlifting, handed it over to Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who was the chief guest at the ceremony. The governor then handed it to Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) President Lt-Gen Syed Arif Hassan, who then passed it to his Indian counterpart, Suresh Kalmadi at 9 am.
Pakistan Baseball Federation President Shaukat Javed was also accompanying the torch. Chief Minister of the Indian Punjab Parkash Singh Badal was also present on the occasion.
The ceremony at the Pakistani side was participated by noted political and sports figures, including cricket legend Zaheer Abbas, Punjab Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, PPP Lahore Women Wing Acting President Faiza Malik, PPP leader Malik Hafeez, officials of the Pakistan Rangers, hundreds of schoolchildren from different cities along with their teachers and parents. Commonwealth gold medallists, government officials and members of civil society were also present to convey a message of peace and goodwill gesture.
The QBR crew and management carrying it across 71 countries also crossed over to India along with it, including Ajay Choutala, a member of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Raj Qadiyan, Avny Lavasa, Louis Rosa and Asokan.
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer crossed over to India with the QBR to take part in the ceremony, being held on the Indian side, on the invitation of Indian Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He remained in India for about 90 minutes during which he also held informal talks with Parkash Singh.
Noted Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was performing in the Indian ceremony, held at Atari and his songs could be easily heard by the participants at the Pakistani ceremony across the border.
Governor Salmaan Taseer told media persons after his return from a short visit to India that he conveyed the message of peace to Indians through Chief Minister Parkash Singh on the behalf of the Pakistani nation. Taseer said Pakistan has played a vital role in restoring peace and good relations with India. "Ice is melting on the mountains and the same will also happen in Islamabad and Delhi." He added: "I think sports and cultural activities can minimise tensions on both sides and people-to-people contact will boost the friendly relations."
After the torch crossed over to India, a colourful musical event was held, courtesy the Jang Group of Newspapers. Prominent singers including Jawwad Ahmad, Najam Shiraz and his 9-year-old daughter, Haya, and Jassi Singh, presented a number of popular national and peace songs to thrill a sizeable crowd largely comprising women and children. Rangers Jawans also performed the famous Luddi dance for half- an-hour to the drum beats. POA President Lt-Gen Arif Hasan told the media the atmosphere created by the Queen's Baton Relay was far more positive than expected and expressed the hope that this gesture would continue in the future.
He said India has allowed a 75-member Pakistani delegation to participate in the Commonwealth Games. Arif hoped the Pakistani sportsmen would perform well at the event. He expressed concerns over cut in the sports budget by the federal government. Zaheer Abbas, the cricket legend of 1970s and 1980s, showered praises on the organisers of the event.
The Baton of XIX Commonwealth Games, which entered India 100 days before the start of the event, will travel through 28 states across India before reaching the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi prior to the opening ceremony on October 3. A message from Queen Elizabeth, which is inside the baton, will be read at the opening ceremony to be attended by the British Crown Prince, Prince Charles. The journey of the QBR began at the Buckingham Palace in London on October 29, 2009 and has so far travelled 170,000 kilometres across 71 countries, held by the former British Empire.
The 12-day sporting extravaganza will be the India's biggest sporting event since the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
The Rangers have made strict security arrangements for the event.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
We and all our students had great fun, the idea of hankies peace chain, made by children was really awesome and distinctive. We wish you all the bes .....more
LAHORE: The Queens' Baton Relay ceremony and the Aman ki Asha Peace Chain Event at Wagah border last Friday, Jun 25th was a success beyond .....more
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw