A group of terrorists managed to enter Punjab state of India and launch an attack in Pathankot on Saturday, however, a group of students from Karachi in Pakistan will be unable to step on Indian soil and attend the first edition of a three-day conference being organised in the memory of ‘People’s President’ Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in Ludhiana from January 3 to 5.
For them, Kalam has always been their ‘hero’ irrespective of his nationality and with a motive to pay tribute to him these eight students led by Syed Jazib Shamim, 22, from Karachi University had registered for Dr Kalam Model United Nations (MUN) being held in Ludhiana for the first time. But visas were put on hold and were never approved.
The three-day conference will see more than 350 students from Indian schools and colleges discussing and debating on various topics including Kalam’s vision for India 2020, viability of capital punishment in India, threat to national security in wake of Gurdaspur attacks, financial crisis in Iraq and Syria due to ISIS, Indo-Pak joint Cabinet Meeting – tackling border disputes and terrorism through mutual cooperation, improving health status of women in conflict areas, India-China relations, etc.
Srijan Pal Singh, who was the chief advisor to Kalam will also hold a special interaction with students during ‘Kalam Night’ on Sunday and will announce a library to be built in Kalam’s name in a Punjab village.
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Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Pakistan, Shamim, a student of international affairs post graduation course and president of Karachi University MUN Society said, “We really wanted to visit India for the first time. The organizers had sent us an invite and we applied for visas well in time but they were put on hold. Finally, we had no option but to withdraw them. Personalities like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam can never be limited within borders. He is a real hero among students here in Pakistan inspiring millions of us so we earnestly wanted to join the first MUN being held in his memory.”
Shamim said that “Though Pathankot attack has happened today, earlier it was fresh after Dinanagar attack in July in Punjab that his visa was put on hold.”
“It has happened twice and probably the reason was tension at the Indo-Pak borders. First, we applied in August when plan was to visit a conference in Delhi held in October but it was not approved. Then, it was in October again that we applied for visa to attend Kalam conference in Ludhiana but again it met the same fate. It is because of cowardly attacks like today that students who want to promote peace and exchange ideas are not given visa approvals,” said Shamim whose ancestors are from Bihar in India.
While six students from Karachi University had applied for visa to attend Kalam conference, two others were from Iqra University and Sir Syed University in Karachi.
“No reason was given to us that why our passports are being held and visas not getting approved. We just wanted to visit Kalam’s homeland once and participate in conference as delegates. It was first time trip to India for all eight of us and we were too excited. If terrorists cross the borders, then where are students at fault who want to work for peace,” said Ushna Siddiqui and Adnan Akhtar, over phone.
Gauravdeep Singh, secretary general of organizing committee said, “We were equally excited to host Pakistan delegation from Karachi and they had started visa process way back in October but their visas were not approved.”