October 13 2017
More than one hundred prominent Pakistani intellectuals, human rights and social media activists, and public figures with anti-establishment views have arrived in London, calling for the revival of ‘Quaid-e-Azam’s liberal vision for Pakistan or risk international isolation.’
The conference titled ‘Pakistan- the war forward’ is being organized under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH).
It is the second such meeting co-hosted by US-based columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who has become a major international critic of Pakistan’s state policies, especially on terrorism.
Besides Haqqani and Taqi prominent participants include the conference include Rashed Rehman, Abbas Nasir, Senator Latif Afridi, Arif Jamal, Marvi Sirmed, Beena Sarwar, Farhat Taj, and Atif Tauqeer
Unlike last year, when the conference was dominated by opinions of hard-line Sindhi and Baloch nationalists and MQM-Altaf supporters, this year the agenda and list of participants is more mainstream.
The conference theme is to create a network of Pakistanis in the country and abroad “who reject the idea of permanent war with neighboring countries” and do not accept what liberal Pakistanis consider an extremist orientation.
“Liberal, progressive, nationalist and secular visions of Pakistan need to be reinstated in Pakistan’s political arena if the country is to overcome threats of international isolation,” Haqqani said, while opening the conference. “We must change the narrative that only religious extremists or intolerant bigots represent Pakistani patriotism.”
As delegates registered for the meeting, they recalled several prominent liberal Pakistanis who have been physically eliminated or disappeared. “That is why we are meeting London,” one organizer said.
There was also criticism of the new policy of mainstreaming militant groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Lashkar-e-Taiba , which has been transformed into Milli Muslim League.
According to co-organizer Dr Taqi, “We want to focus on how tolerance can be mainstreamed in Pakistan at a time when Jihadis and those designated international terrorists are being mainstreamed.”
Dr Taqi also expressed concern that even the “facade of democracy in Pakistan” was being eroded and “invisible hands are expanding their role.”
The three-day conference will continue on Saturday and Sunday.