A Pakistani businessman, Iqbal Latif, who runs 26 franchises of international food outlet Dunkin’ Donuts in different parts of Pakistan including, Islambad, Lahore, and Peshawar, followed the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi to convey the message of peace and tolerance.
All the food outlets carried banners with an announcement offering free meals to any Indian who is visiting the country on a short-term visa.
This is the banner:
The offer came into effect from Friday last week.
Latif was prompted to start this offer after Pakistani news channels reported that a family of Karchi-based Inayar Ali was denied accommodation in the hotels of the Bhendi Bazaar of Mumbai.
It was reported that the Pakistani family visited 40 hotels, but they were denied accommodation because the family did not possess the required Form C.
“I felt bad when I saw this that family had to spend [a] part of [the] night [on a] footpath near a police station and another part at a pavement at the railway station,” Dawn paper quoting Latif.
“It’s not a big deal, but an effort to invoke the teachings of Gandhi-ji who preached love and coexistence all his life,” Latif told Dawn by phone from London.
There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to his initiative.
According to Latif, they have already served 2,432 people in Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore and everyone loves his food.
From the day this offer started, sales went up by 30 per cent.
On the first day of the offer, 17 meals were served to Indians at a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet in the Diplomatic Enclave of Islamabad.
“This is the place where US State Secretary John Kerry took breakfast last year. But we feel great honour [in hosting our] Indian friends,” said Latif.
Outlets in Lahore and Peshawar are yet to see Indian visitors.
“We’re waiting to treat Indians with a big heart and a big smile,” said Tehmina, who works at the Liberty Market outlet in Lahore. She said that a couple of passers-by glanced at the poster and waved a high five at the staff.
Latif is happy with the response and believes that it is important for promoting love between the two neighbouring countries.
He said that he was slightly apprehensive about the reaction people in Peshawar will have to the display of the Indian flag, but his fears were unfounded.
But he pointed at the wave of hate generated by a section of India’s right-wing political establishment.
“Where is the hate and stone throwing of Shiv Sena? Only a degenerated mind does it. We need to tell Shiv to grow up. Love conquers all,” he added.
Cross border terrorism and other issues are freezing up diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Islamabad quite fast.
On Saturday, the Pakistani media alleged that India’s intelligence agency R&AW could target Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Jamaat ud-Dawa head Hafiz Saeed.
Earlier last week, former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri was the target of threats from hardliner Shiv Sena activists on October 12 in Mumbai ahead his book launch. Sudhindra Kulkarni, the head of Observer Research Foundation behind the launch, was attacked with black ink.
And Shiv Sena threats resulted in the cancellation of the planned performance of Ghazal legend Ghulam Ali in Mumbai on October 8.
Yesterday Shiv Sena’s protesters stormed into the BCCI headquarters forcing cancellation of talks between BCCI chief Shashank Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan in Mumbai.
Latif, however, says his pro-peace and amity initiative has not been met with any interference by any Pakistani intelligence agency. He added that some of his friends in the army even called him to appreciate his gesture.
“We are only marginalised by a few hate mongers on both sides. I propose such initiatives on the people-to-people level [to] help make bridges. Both Pakistan and India are nuclear countries that cannot afford strained relations.”
He urges Indian Indian food chains to put this (offer) on display in India, and see if [their] business goes up or drops.