Salamat International Campus for Advanced Studies (SICAS), visiting Delhi from Lahore won the first ‘India-Pakistan School Debate’ beating home team, La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata, by arguing more successfully ‘why free trade between India and Pakistan is not a good idea’.
According to Indian media reprots, the three students from SICAS — Hassan Qaiser, Azeem Liaquat and Ukasha Farooq – were the only one of four teams that finally made it. However, delays in the visa process threw the schedule out of gear and as teams lost in preliminary rounds, their schools withdrew permission to travel, explained Sofyan Sultan, treasurer and coach of the Debating Society of Pakistan, who accompanied the students.
Sultan said that in Pakistan, students are encouraged to debate, “to question the received narratives.” And they are no small-time back-chatters either, participating and routinely included in the top teams at the World School Debating Championship. La Martiniere Boys won a place in the finals by defeating Vasant Valley School in a round held just before the finals; their triumph was incredibly short-lived.
The Pakistani school team had had a severely trying journey. “Getting visa at times is quite easy and at other times it takes very long,” says Sultan. This group was out of luck. But the crossing of the border at Wagah isn’t something they’ll forget in a hurry. Coming to India by plane is like “flying to any other country” but “Wagah gives the impression of a semi-hostile territory,” he says adding that the entire “drama” at the border is a “little unreal.”
He was also quizzed by intelligence officers on both sides of the border. Initiating a “conversation” between Indian and Pakistani students will help both parties become “familiar to each other’s points-of-view,” feels Sultan.