The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kochi keeps out Pak peace envoy
- journalist told not to leave harmony boat

Kochi, Sept. 16: Zainab Shah had boarded the Peace Boat from Japan with the professed objective of spreading the message of peace and harmony across the world.

But when the mini-ship from Tokyo carrying her and 599 other “peace activists” reached Kochi today, Zainab was not allowed to disembark by the port authorities. The reason: Indian port authorities were not convinced about this young lady’s peace activist credentials. Instead, what they saw was the fact that Zainab Shah was a Pakistani and a freelance journalist working out of Lahore.

The pleadings of her fellow travellers on the boat that their only purpose was to spread the message of peace and the assertion that the ship contained journalists from seven crisis-ridden countries, such as India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine and Bosnia, also did not find favour with the port authorities.

“Unless we get clearance from Delhi, the Pakistani cannot disembark,” asserted the port officials. Of course, they did allow peace activists from other countries to get into Kochi and spread their message through speeches and various art forms.

The port authorities pointed out to The Telegraph that they were in no position to take “the risk of letting in the Pakistani girl, particularly in the present context of high rhetorical jousting between the Indian and Pakistani leadership at the United Nations”.

Zainab was not available for comment, though a couple of Indian hosts of the Peace Boat said the young lady and her friends on the ship were “quite upset” at the treatment she got.

According to these hosts, who did not wish to be named, Peace Boat’s track-record and credentials are exemplary. It is a body that has organised as many as 39 trips across the globe spreading the message of world peace and harmony.

The Peace Boat had reached various Indian ports, including Kochi, in the past. The current hosts were not able to confirm whether the ship had Pakistani activists in its earlier trips.

“Perhaps, it is the present politico-military climate on the India-Pakistan border that has created this unsavoury incident,” they rationalised.

Despite the incident, the Peace Boat will stay on in Kochi for one more day, as scheduled. Kochi is the boat’s only stop in India during the present trip.

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