KOLKATA: At a time when Pakistan is considering to grant India the most favoured nation ( MFN) status as part of a confidence-building measure between the two countries, the organizers of the mega trade fair in Kolkata have allowed two Hindu traders from the neighbouring country to set up a stall in the
pavilion on Pakistan. in the mega trade fair, to foster relations where two Hindu traders from Pakistan are participating.
So, while on a visit to the fair, don’t get surprised to see at the trade fair can be baffled by seeing
the ‘Maharaja’ stall in the Pakistan pavilion that is displaying designer bed sheets. Two traders – Padam Maheswari and Mahesh Maheswari hailing from Umarkot district of Sindh province area in Pakistan – have travelled to Kolkata for the first time. But, in the last couple of days they could not do major business and are now worried over paying the rent for the stall. how to pay the rent for the stall.
The traders, in their mid-40s, said that their forefathers had shifted from Barmer of Rajasthan to Umarkot about 200 years ago, which is also known as the birth place of Mughal King Akbar. Padam said there are about 3000 Maheswaris in Umarkot now, but still they are the minority community and the fear of persecution looms large in their mind. For that they would always want to return home.
The environment in India, according to them, is much more congenial with a “stable government at the Centre”in India. But they hoped that the situation in Pakistan will improve under the new regime of Nawaz Shariff.
“Yes we have temples to perform our pujas, but we always want to come and settle in India. We have also contacted the Marwari community in Rajasthan, because we have relations there. But, it is difficult to start life afresh in a new mannerhere. If we come here, what will happen to our business?” they asked. The duo said that though they have voting rights, there are only 10 minority representatives in the Parliament which means they are left unheard.
Earlier, minority MPs in Pakistan Parliament had raised issues of safe guarding temples and enforced marriages of Hindu girls.
Moreover, the two felt that though they might have relations in India, but it is not easy to get a footing here. “Once we are in India we feel it much safe. But the Indian government has granted us visa only for 15 days. After this trade fair, we have to get back to our home via Wagha border and again we plan to attend the Delhi trade fair after getting a new visa.” Visa rules are strict for Pakistani businessmen as there is an air of suspicion and moreover being Hindu traders they are also subjected to further doubts once they get back home. However, Mahesh felt that they are better than the Hindus of Bangladesh, as they read about recent attacks on temples in Bangaldesh during Diwali and heard about frequent riots.
The two though felt that Kolkata was a nice city, but they lamented that they are yet to get the targeted customers for their products. Even Zafar Khan and Zara Khan who have designer garments are waiting for clients for their high end products. Also the Pakistan’s famous onyx stone seller Md Qasim is also in the fair with a varied range of products carved out of Onyx stone.