Spreading hatred between people from India and Pakistan in Canada should not be tolerated, say South Asians
THE presence of journalist Waqar Zaka [see link at end of story] in a delegation from Pakistan that is currently touring Canada to raise big bucks for the construction of a dam in that country is causing widespread resentment and anger in Vancouver where a fundraising dinner has been organized at a Surrey banquet hall on Sunday (March 24)
That is because Zaka in an appeal to Pakistani Canadians badmouthed India, accusing it of sabotaging the dam project. In the appeal that a prominent Pakistani Canadian had posted on his Facebook [The VOICE has a copy of that post], Zaka alleged that the World Bank didn’t finance the dam because of Indian interference. He also said: “We want to show India you tried very hard to stop it but you couldn’t stop the Pakistanis.”
The Pakistani delegation includes retired Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Saqib Nisar, and some other prominent Pakistani members.
“Pakistan is facing a water crisis that would lead to severe water shortage if not addressed immediately,” stated a press release sent by media coordinators Nusrat Hussain and Sabeen Habib to the local media earlier this week.
According to the press release, “‘I am Pakistan’ is a worldwide movement established under the leadership of Ahmed Syed, who is a Canadian businessman of Pakistani origin. Friends of Pakistan Canada Association, Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association and Pakistani Canadian Women’s Society along with many other local media groups are hosting a fundraising dinner at Bombay Banquet Hall in Surrey.”
It also said: “On Sunday night in Montreal, an amount of $700,000 was raised by the local Pakistani community living there. The Pakistani delegation will be in Vancouver on March 24 after visiting Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary.”
Zaka’s message caused anger in the Punjabi community and Surrey’s MediaWaves Radio’s Ashiana Khan held a talk show on the controversy on Thursday in which listeners expressed their resentment that Zaka had attacked India, pointing out that most of the Punjabis here were from India and many Pakistani Canadians had phoned them to help in the fundraiser. They did not want anybody to spread hatred between people from India and Pakistan here.
The talk show led to an exchange of messages on WhatsApp between Jaspal Atwal, a supporter of the radio station, and Zahir Mahil, one of the names listed on the poster promoting the fundraiser. The VOICE has a copy of the exchange. When Mahil claimed that Zaka had nothing to do with the fundraiser, Atwal replied: “You had him on your Facebook and were requesting everyone to view that video, now you [are] saying that he has nothing to do with the fundraising? We love our birth country as much as you love yours, we will not tolerate anyone insulting anyone’s country, person like him should not be allowed in Surrey, I am telling you Indian Community will protest on March 24th in front of [the banquet hall].” Atwal pointed out that the radio station had also criticized a Hindu Mandir when some had made anti-Pakistan statements there during the recent India-Pakistan conflict.
Radio station listeners also wanted to know if receipts would be issued for donations and if the organizers would give people a full account of the donations collected.
On Saturday morning, Atwal was contacted by Surrey RCMP Constable Andy Lot of the General Investigation Unit who told him that someone called Nusrat Hussain had complained that he was threatening them. Jaspal said he had never met or spoken to Hussain and gave the constable a detailed account of what had taken place, showing him the exchange of messages with Mahil on WhatsApp as well as the anti-India message by Zaka. He stressed that such hatred and divisiveness should not occur in Surrey. He also made it clear to the constable that it was his right to demonstrate if he wanted to as long as he did not break any law.
(The person the RCMP named to Atwal later in a Facebook post claimed that he had merely informed the RCMP about the alleged threat after another person had complained to him. He obviously did not verify the facts himself.)