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The group, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), said in a statement on Monday that peace in South Asia was threatened by longstanding disputes between India and Pakistan, escalating violence in Afghanistan and Kashmir and post-war displacement in Sri Lanka.
The group, which aims to promote peace, democracy and security in the region, held a three-day meeting in New Delhi where the participants reiterated an urgent need for political engagement through dialogues between governments and concerned citizens. Expressing sympathy with the people of Pakistan on the devastation caused by the recent floods, the meeting called upon the governments of South Asia to set up regional systems for disaster management, dispute resolution and post conflict reconciliation. SAHR groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The meeting urged India and Pakistan to resolve their longstanding disputes and end mutual hostility so that South Asia could move towards regional cooperation for management of natural resources, trade and investment and freedom of movement for people of the region. The participants of the meeting, which included senior journalists IA Rehman and Hina Jilani from Pakistan, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Dr Nimalka Fernando from Sri Lanka, Professor Rehman Sobhan, Dr Kamal Hossain, and Motiur Rehman from Bangladesh, Kuldip Nayar, Siddharth Vardarajan from India and Prashant Jha from Nepal, identified terrorism, religious extremism and sectarianism as major threats to peace, democratic development and security in the region.
They asked the regional countries to make sure that counterterrorism measures did not sanction impunity for disappearances and extrajudicial killings by intelligence agencies and security forces, and called for implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and consensus for a constitution in Nepal. The meeting also demanded creation of a regional mechanism for post-conflict reconciliation, formulation of a regional protocol on treatment of prisoners and a regional convention for settlement of the internally displaced in conformity with UN declarations. It called on member states to engage their citizens in discussions on the drafting of a democracy charter and allow representation from citizens’ group at SAARC meetings. Member states were asked to liberalise visa regulations, reduce penalties for people arrested on the borders, or fishermen on high seas and repatriate foreign prisoners. Speeding up of efforts for equal rights for women was also urged.