21-country drive to promote Indo-Pak peace

July 19, 2014 - 6:29:39 am
Star Malik in his car in Doha.  Abdul Basit

DOHA: Travelling over 20,000 miles on the road in 17 countries is no easy task, but Star Malik has done that on his mission to promote peace and friendship between Pakistan and India.

“I started my journey in London on December 12, 2012 at 12:12:12 and the aim is to promote peace and friendship between Pakistan and India,” Malik told a press conference at Swiss-Belhotel Doha yesterday. 

The first leg of journey started in London and covered 13 countries — the UK, Belgium, Poland, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain. 

For 54 days, Malik travelled, interacting with Indian and Pakistani people.

“Every country I go, I meet Indian and Pakistani communities and record their views on Indians and Pakistanis living side by side,” he said.

Qatar is the 17th in his 21-country journey covering more than 65 cities. He is in Doha until Monday as part of the second leg of his Middle East trip in the six GCC states.

On his impression of Qatar, he said, “It’s a very nice experience. It’s my first time in Qatar and it’s a beautiful country. The Indian and Pakistani communities have been very supportive of my journey and they wish me luck.

“Whenever I travel, I focus on three things — talking to Pakistani and Indian people, meeting diplomatic missions and visiting landmarks,” he explained.

In 2007, Malik’s life changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disorder called kerataconus. 

It was during those eight months of his recovery, when he planned his peace road trip.

“Initially, I couldn’t see anything. I withdrew from social and family life, turned off my phone, and imprisoned myself in a room.”

One day while listening to a radio programme, he heard of an Indian woman speaking on India-Pakistan relations.

“She said her parents had met in London and married secretly because one was Pakistani and the other Indian. But when their families found out, the marriage ended in divorce. 

“Her story moved me. It made me realise how many lives are being affected by the chronic tension between both neighbours even after 65 years, and some are irrevocably destroyed. That’s when I decided to do something in my own way.”

Malik, who has a chauffeur company in London, finances his journey so he has to stop after each leg to work. 

After his Middle East stint, he will return to the UK and do a documentary on the Middle East and work for three months before he embarks on the final leg of his trip which will cover Pakistan and India.

“At the end of my journey, I’m going to auction the car and donate the money to charity,” he said.

The Honda CRV Peace Mission car bears miniature flags of the 21 countries Malik intends to traverse. 

The final destination is India, where he plans to hand over one folder containing peace messages from Indians and Pakistanis he is meeting to a celebrity with a request to promote peace in the region. 

A similar set of messages will be handed over to a Pakistani celebrity with a similar request. 

The Peninsula