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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05NEWDELHI4760
2005-06-22 12:47:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

INDIAN PANCHAYATIS GIVE GLOWING REPORT ON

Tags:   PREL  IN  PK  INDO  PAK 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 004760 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL IN PK INDO PAK
SUBJECT: INDIAN PANCHAYATIS GIVE GLOWING REPORT ON
PA-FUNDED PAKISTAN VISIT

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 004760

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL IN PK INDO PAK
SUBJECT: INDIAN PANCHAYATIS GIVE GLOWING REPORT ON
PA-FUNDED PAKISTAN VISIT


1. The New Delhi-based Institute for Social Sciences (ISS)
on June 16 hosted Pakistani High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan
for the formal release of the trip report detailing the
two-week tour of Pakistan that ISS organized for 33 elected
Indian local government representatives. The delegation of
mayors and panchayatis (village councillors) was drawn from
18 states, was gender-balanced, and included at least one
member each representing Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians,
Dalits, and Scheduled Tribes.


2. This visit, largely funded by a USD 78,695 grant from the
Embassy's Public Affairs Section, reciprocated the July 2004
first-ever tour of India (Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal,
Karnataka, and Kerala) by 27 Pakistani locally-elected
representatives that ISS organized, with Ford Foundation
funding. The focus of both trips was to initiate grassroots,
peer-to-peer cross-border contacts, to combat stereotypes and
misperceptions, and to engage with counterparts on common
problems and share lessons learned in the field of local
governance.

Panchayatis to Pakistan
--------------


3. The Indian delegation crossed into Pakistan via the Wagah
Border on March 14 and visited Lahore, Chakwal, Lala Musa,
Multan, Muzaffargarh, Sargodha, and PM Singh's hometown of
Gah (all in Punjab), as well as Islamabad, Peshawar,
Hyderabad, and Karachi. Program organizer Dr. Ash Narain Roy
told Poloff the greeting they received at each town and
village was warmer and friendlier than the one before. The
delegation met with their counterparts in local government,
as well as with media, human rights organizations, women's
groups, political activists, and civil society. They also
talked with political party leaders, provincial ministers,
and federal cabinet officials.


4. At each stop, the Indian delegation briefed their hosts
on the panchayati raj system, and learned about Pakistan's
2001 Local Government Devolution Plan, according to Dr. Roy.
Indian delegates who grew up in pre-Partition Pakistan, such
as Amritsar's Dr. SS Chhina (born in Sargodha), visited their
birthplaces, where entire villages welcomed them. Other
highlights included celebrating Pakistan Day (March 23) and
Holi (March 24) and holding a joint Indo-Pak peace rally in
Multan, before returning to Delhi via Karachi on March 28.


5. In Lahore, the group met with Pakistani minorities
(Christians and Baha'is) and discussed the common problems
facing religious minority groups in South Asia, underlining
India's avowed status as a secular state. In Islamabad, the
delegation met PM Shaukat Aziz's Adviser on Women's
Development Nelofar Bakhtiar and Daniyal Aziz, Chairman of
the National Reconstruction Board, which is charged with
overseeing the devolution plan.


6. Roy told Poloff that the group was surprised in Peshawar
by the vocal and articulate women local councillors, and by
the showers of rose petals that greeted the group as they
went from one meeting to the next. They also took note of
the large number of women councilors and civil society
activists who met them when they arrived in Jhang late at
night, which surprised the Indians who had heard that Jhang
was "a very conservative place." The Indian and Pakistani
groups also discussed how each country reserves seats for
women elected officials, funding for local government
development projects, reining in corruption and patronage,
and the Indo-Pak peace process.

Well Covered, Abroad and at Home
--------------


7. Pakistani media provided nearly daily coverage of the
group's travels and meetings in the national English and Urdu
language press ("Dawn," "The News," Jang") and on television.
The Urdu press carried more column-inches of coverage
overall than did the English. The Indian press reported the
trip's highlights in national newspapers, though less
thoroughly. The mayors and panchayatis also provided
articles and interviews for their "hometown" newspapers in
English, Hindi, Malayam, Tamil, Bangla, and other regional
languages. The launch of the trip report, which was also
partially PA-funded, was attended by 75 dignitaries,
grass-root politicians, activists, and Delhi-based media.
MULFORD