Pakistan has a long history of hounding the dissenters. The country’s military establishment -and occasionally the civilian one too- has stigmatized, ostracized and persecuted those who differed with whatever was considered the state-sponsored gospel truth at the time. Pashtun and Baloch nationalist leaders like Ghaffar Khan and Ghaus Bux Bizenjo were smeared as traitors and arrested within a year of the country’s independence. Regrettably, even Ms. Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the country’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was not spared by Pakistan’s first military dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan when she opposed him in a presidential election; he denigrated not just her politics and but also her character. Pakistan’s state apparatus and its partisans have continued since to torment, vilify, and even worse, attack and physically eliminate the dissident voices.
This persecution is not random; there is a method to this madness.
On October 28-30, 2016, Pakistanis from around the world gathered in London for the Future of Pakistan Conference hosted by SAATH Forum.
The discussions at this deliberative conference focused on how the pluralist and secular narrative in Pakistan can be strengthened. Can individuals currently spread over many political parties, NGOs and media houses agree to collaborate for greater goals setting aside individual interests and differences? How can we ensure greater support for pluralist ideas in Pakistan given the array of forces opposed to it? Is there a scope for such politics and how can it be mainstreamed especially in Pakistan’s youth? These and many other questions were the topics of the day, and helped shape the Declaration of the attendees, as read by Rashed Rahman.
In the ‘London Declaration for Pakistani Pluralism’, the participants agreed that, “Pakistan faces the risk of global isolation because of widespread obscurantism, official support for extremism and general disregard for human rights”.
The military’s influence in Pakistan’s public life came under fire at a conference here that brought together more than 60 left and liberal thinkers and political activists from the beleaguered country and elsewhere, with some calling for “controlled demolition” of the army’s role.
LONDON: Several prominent liberal intellectuals, human rights and social media activists, and public figures from Pakistan and the Diaspora are gathering in London for a conference on ‘The Future of Pakistan’ to discuss the liberal and progressive way forward for the South Asian country.