Cyclists of peace
By Malik Siraj Akbar
QUETTA: “Pakistan is a very attractive country with convivial people but it lacks sincere politicians,” is the gist of observations Shambhu Prasad, 45, and Ganesh Prasad, 35, two Nepali cyclists carrying a message of world peace and harmony, have made so far during their stay in this country.
Having embarked upon a six-month long tour to Europe via Pakistan-Iran-Turkey on 12 December, the two men entered Pakistan from India via Wagha border. As a part of their mission, they have so far traveled to Lahore, Karachi, Gwadar and Quetta. They happily mention that wherever they have been, the local people have welcomed them very warmly.
Both of them say it is the first time they have come to Pakistan. But they have found the country and its people far beyond their pre-conceived expectations. People here have turned out to be very hospitable and forthcoming. “We are deeply touched by the gesture of Pakistani people. On our return, we will coax more of our fellow Nepalis to visit Pakistan,” says one of the cyclists. However, they do not seem to be very pleased with the politicians of this country who have constantly ignored them whenever they requested for a meeting with them so that they could apprise them about the objectives of their cycling mission.
They say the purpose of their trip is to let the politicians know how much an identical cultural heritage the people of South Asia share in common. People living across South Asia desire peace, prosperity and tranquility. “Our people do not want war and conflict. They know this. But we need to inculcate this message in the minds of our politicians. So far, all political leaders have avoided meeting us here in Pakistan. Either they mention the upcoming general elections as their main reason of engagement or demonstrate their lack of interest in people-to-people contacts,” they complain, admitting that leaders’ this indifferent attitude has somewhat disheartened them.
Further, they distastefully remember, when they visited Gwadar, the district Nazim treated them with contempt and somewhat hastily. “He gave us Rs. 500 and asked us to leave immediately,” recalled Ganesh with a poignant smile. However, they got a rousing response by the journalists’ community in Gwadar. The media people in Gwadar provided them shelter and food throughout their stay. “They bid us farewell with lots of gifts. What inspired us the most was that the common man of Pakistan has much more respect for their guests than their politicians,” Shambhu said.
Life wasn’t that bad for both of these self-proclaimed champions of world peace back home in Nepal. Shambhu and Ganesh were both spending a peaceful, though not very comfortable, life in Danchhi Thali town of Katmandu. While Shambhu worked at farms, Ganesh was a student at intermediate level. It was the emergency in their country and the violence that ensued which compelled them to look around, leave their farms and ‘do something’ for the world peace.
“Peace and security is the every fundamental requirement of every human being,” says 45-year old black-white-read-bearded team leader, Shambhu, in a fluent Hindi. “Turn around; you see violence and unrest everywhere in this region, resulting in the murder of innocent people. There is violence in our country (Nepal), India, Pakistan, Sir Lanka and many other countries. The people of all these countries, irrespective of their religions, nationalities and caste, must play their role in stopping these wars,” Shambhu implores.
When the idea of lawlessness troubled both these courageous men, they abandoned their farms and studies and sat on their bicycles to start a journey of peace.
They have formerly been to various countries such as India, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan and UAE to promote the message of peace.
With the Nepali, UN and Pakistani flags raised on their bicycles, the two aspirants of peace say the Pakistani media men have proved to be their best friends. In Quetta, the management of Quetta press club welcomed them by offering free boarding and lodging. What about food? We asked. “No problem. People have been offering us food and tea wherever we have gone so far,” Ganesh replies.
They say their trip has not been absolutely trouble-free. On the one hand they have had to grapple with extremely cold weather in Balochistan; on the other hand, they have been repeatedly harassed by the police and the intelligence officials. “We wander what they expect from us when we are here purely on a mission of peace. While we entirely depend on our hosts to provide us food, some police officials have been constantly harassing us by demanding for money,” said one them. They encountered a rude shock when, according to them, they were kept in police custody by the local Deputy Superintended of Police (DSP) in Gwadar for four hours. The DSP simply demanded money from them in return of their release which they, nonetheless, did not pay. At a point, a candid Ganesh becomes coarsely upfront: “I don’t want to mortify you but this is how we have found the police in your country at a number of places.”
The team will enter Iran via Taftan. The next destinations would be Iran, Turkey and the European countries. “Problems are there but we are determined to complete this message of peace,” pledges a steadfast Shambhu.