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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pakistan to host anti-nuclear conference on December 8-9, 2007, South Asians Against Nukes

A consultative meeting of civil society, academia and trade union representatives has decided to hold an international anti-nuclear conference on Dec 8-9, 2007, in Pakistan as part of the anti-weapons movement.
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The venue of the conference will be announced later. The conference will have speakers and participants mainly from South Asia but a number of participants from Europe and other parts of the world would also be invited.

The main objective of the conference is to seek an understanding on a "nuclear free South Asia".

This decision was taken in a consultative meeting held here at PILER Centre on Sunday under the aegis of Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC). The meeting was attended by PPC president Dr A.H. Nayyar, B.M. Kutty, M.B. Naqvi, Dr Jaffar Ahmed, Dr Tipu Sultan, Karamat Ali, Rahat Saeed, Ms Sheen Farukh, Aftab Nabi, Mohammad Tahseen, Gafar Malik,
Ramzan Memon and others.

The meeting noted that the recent Indo-US nuclear deal has renewed the arms race between India and Pakistan, two nuclear rivals, which poses a great threat to the entire South Asian region.

It was also noted that the two countries are spending a huge chunk of their budget on arms leaving very little allocation for social development. As a result, a large number of the population in both India and Pakistan is deprived of basic facilities such as clear drinking water, education and sanitation.

The meeting was told that India and Pakistan spent 20 and four billion US dollars respectively on defence expenditures in the year 2005.

The meeting decided that it was high time that civil society organisations take serious note of this 'madness' and resist attempts of further nuclearisation in the region. There is a need to mobilise people against nuclear as well as conventional arms, the meeting resolved.

Dr A.H. Nayyar, president of the PPC, while addressing the conference, gave a briefing about a recently-held conference in Delhi and said that there is very strong anti-arms movement in India, which is opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal. "There is a need to have such an initiative in Pakistan and to build networks with other peace movements in the region," he added.

He said that Pakistan has increased its capacity to prepare up to 40 nuclear weapons a year and huge resources are being diverted to weapons building. "This is nothing but madness," he added.

Karamat Ali, Executive Director PILER and a peace activist said that every second day we read a small news item that Pakistan has tested a new missile which has the capacity to carry nuclear weapons. "This is a very dangerous trend and poses a great threat to the people of Pakistan and the region," he added.

He said both India and Pakistan have gone 'crazy' building nuclear and conventional weapons. Karamat said that India has already announced that it will spent US$10 billion on buying and building conventional arms this year and that amount will go up to US$50 billion in the next five years.

Dr Tipu Sultan, a representative of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and Doctors for Peace and Development, explained the dangers of a possible nuclear blast and said that the threat is un-imaginable. "We don't have the infrastructure to treat victims of smaller incidents leave alone a catastrophe such as a nuclear blast," he added.

The meeting also decided that before holding the conference in December, smaller forums will be held on the topic and the first such forum will take place on Sept 21 in Hyderabad.

The meeting also noted that that there is a lack of awareness among the masses on the subject and people have been given false information, such as notions that nuclear weapons are a form of deterrence. It was decided that an anti-nuclearisation awareness campaign would be launched.

A majority of the participants also suggested consulting political parties on the issue and making anti-nuclearisation an agenda item of civil society during the elections.

The meeting also endorsed the joint resolution passed at the "Indo-US Nuclear Deal Conference" held on August 31 and September 1 in New Delhi.

The resolution said that the India-US deal would aggravate the nuclear arms race in South Asia and in the Asian continent as whole, and would further weaken the already feeble momentum towards regional and global disarmament.

It further said that there are serious misgivings about the deal in other South Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. As a result of the deal, Pakistan is also accelerating its fissile material production efforts.

A seven-member committee was formed for the preparation of the conference to be held in December 2007.


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