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South Asians Against Terrorism & For Human Rights

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Dissent is patriotic: Pakistani liberals say in unison

Marvi Sirmed, The Daily Times

October 15, 2017

More than a hundred prominent liberal, progressive and nationalist intellectuals and public figures from Pakistan expressed grave concern over the widening repression of critical, dissenting voices to the state’s narrative, resulting in shrinking space for liberal, secular, progressive ideas and pluralism. They resolved that Pakistan needed a new national narrative based on the consent of its people rather than on religious hatred, militarism and militancy.

The participants of a conference concluded that there were constant threats to democracy and to nationalists in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA in addition to the systematic victimisation of NGOs, human rights defenders and dissenting groups and individuals. It was noted with concern that major political parties were demonstrating an inability to prioritise protection of human rights and social justice. Coupled with this was highlighted the issue of increasing threat of Pakistan’s global isolation as a consequence of the continuation and expansion of proxy wars in South Asian region.

The conference rejected the idea of unchecked and blind policy of ‘mainstreaming’ the militants and terrorists and termed it a “particularly dangerous development and a threat to the democratic polity”. Alongside, the challenging of the democratic mandate of the elected government by un-elected institutions of state was identified as a “serious source of apprehension”.

The participants unanimously emphasised that the federating units must be given not only maximum political autonomy but also control over their natural resources, in order to establish true democracy in Pakistan. The forum demanded that the provinces should activate the provincial finance commissions, allocate maximum resources to the local governments and the local governments should be given 25 percent of the royalty and the profits of natural resources exploited from their respective areas. It was announced in the concluding session that the South Asians against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH) forum would set up two secretariats, one in Pakistan and the other abroad for the diaspora, to help wrestle the idea and identity of Pakistan away from the “obscurantist forces”. Moreover, before the next year’s conference, a similar gathering would be organised in Pakistan in order to involve more like-minded people from within the country in the debate.

Talking to Daily Times, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US and convenor of SAATH forum, said that like last year, the gathering had to be arranged away from Pakistan this year too because of the threats to the security of free thinkers in the country. “I wish from the core of my heart that every Pakistani were safe and secure in Pakistan irrespective of their views, ideologies, ethnicity, religion and sect,” he added.

Dr Taqi, Pakistani-American columnist and the co-convenor of the conference, said while talking to Daily Times that there were multiple ways to the same destination. “I firmly believe in the axiom that ‘My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right’; dissent is patriotic.”

Moot kicks off with vows to make Pakistan a progressive, secular country

The Daily Times

October 14, 2017

A liberal, progressive, nationalist and secular vision is needed for Pakistan to overcome threats of international isolation, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States said on Friday.

He was speaking at the opening day of a three-day moot organised by the South Asians against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH) Forum in London.

SAATH is a network of liberal, progressive, and left leaning Pakistanis based across the globe and the Forum is the second in a series of annual events started in 2016.

“We must now change the narrative that only religious extremists or intolerant bigots represent Pakistani patriotism,” Haqqani said.

“We consider our Armed forces as our own, but we also want our Armed forces to consider us as their own as well,” he said.

Haqqani criticised the tendency of dismissing critical voices and said, “No Pakistani wants to break or damage the country, but there may be some who may not agree with the preeminent narrative on how state institutions are to function and how they need to behave with their own people as well as with the rest of the world.”

These opinions should not be equated with treason or collision with the state, he added.

Referring to recent development and economic rankings of the country, he highlighted that Pakistan stood among the poor performers. “The best form of patriotism is to have a desire to change these rankings for the better,” he said. Haqqani also stressed the need for involvement of Baloch, Pakhtun, Sindhi, and Siraiki nationalists in the mainstream discourse. He said such efforts would promote feelings of inclusiveness among these communities.

Inaugurating the conference, veteran journalist Rashid Rehman said that a strong liberal and secular front was needed to fight the menace of extremist ideologies in Pakistan. He proposed that a conference secretariat should be established in Pakistan, besides an international secretariat that would help ensure that Pakistani diaspora in different countries could remain involved in the debate about the future of the country.

As delegates registered for the meeting, they recalled with concern that several prominent liberal Pakistanis had been physically eliminated or forcibly made to disappear in the recent past. “This state of affairs is why we are meeting here in London,” said an organiser.

Participants also criticised the policy proposal on mainstreaming of militant groups like Jamaatud Dawa and Lashkar-i-Taiba, which has announced a political front Milli Muslim League.

Co-organiser Dr Taqi said the focus of the gathering was to find ways for mainstreaming tolerance instead. “The threat of Pakistan being declared a state sponsor of terrorism was real and required a 360-degree change in policies, not gimmicks,” he said, “the facade of democracy in Pakistan is being eroded and invisible hands are expanding their role.”

During the three-day event, the participants will discuss the way forward for the liberal forces in Pakistan to provide an alternative narrative on Pakistan’s state and society.

Among the prominent participants of the conference are Wajid Shamsul Hassan, former Pakistani High Commissioner to UK; Prof Amin Mughal, leading Pakistani professor and intellectual based out of London; Dr Sarfaraz Khan, a professor at the Area Studies Centre in Peshawar; Aimal Khattak, a peace activist and son of late Ajmal Khattak; Abdul Hameed Bhashani, a Kashmiri barrister based out of Canada; Farhat Taj,a professor of social sciences based out of Norway; Beena Sarwar, a senior Pakistani journalist; Lakhu Lakhani, a senior leader of the World Sindhi Congress; Pakistani journalists Mehreen Zehra Malik and Taha Siddiqui; and rights activists Mohsin Dawar, Mazhar Arif, and Fahim Baloch.

Pakistan Liberals Meet for Second Conference in London

ANI

October 13, 2017

A conference attended by several prominent Pakistani intellectuals, human rights and social media activists, and public figures with anti-establishment views began in London on Friday with calls for end to Pakistani support for terrorism.

The conference titled ‘Pakistan- the war forward is the second such event organized under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH).

It is co-hosted by US-based columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who has emerged as a major international critic of Pakistan’s state policies especially on terrorism.

Haqqani told the opening session that Pakistanis had to save their country from the threat of being declared a state sponsor of terrorism as a result of misguided policies of past 25 years.

“It is better if reform-minded Pakistanis call for course correction than sanctions being imposed by global powers.” he said.

Participants said they preferred to meet in London, which has a history of hosting people threatened in their countries because they did not want to join the ranks of those disappeared or jailed by ISI.

Besides Haqqani and Taqi prominent participants of the conference include former editors Rashed Rehman and Abbas Nasir, Senator Latif Afridi, author Arif Jamal, poet Atif Tauqeer, social activist Marvi Sirmed, and ‘Aman ki asha’ advocate Beena Sarwar.

Some delegates represented Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, and Muhajir nationalist groups considered anti-national by Pakistan’s military establishment.

This year, 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 told the opening session.

“We must change the narrative that only religious extremists or intolerant bigots represent Pakistani patriotism.”

He also said that “something is deeply wrong when a state tries to shut down people asking for reform while hosting underworld criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and terrorists like Siraj Haqqani and Hafiz Saeed.”

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 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 expressed concern that even the “facade of democracy in Pakistan” was being eroded and “invisible hands are expanding their role.”

Way forward for Pakistan sans war discussed in London

Geo TV

October, 13, 2017

Dozens of prominent Pakistani figures “who reject the idea of permanent war with neighbouring countries” and do not accept what liberal Pakistanis consider an extremist orientation came together for the conference titled ‘Pakistan- the way forward’.

The conference was the second such organised under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH). It was hosted by columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

“Liberal, progressive, nationalist and secular visions of the country need to be reinstated in Pakistan’s political arena if the country is to overcome the current local and international threats,” Haqqani, one of the hosts, told Geo News. “We must change the narrative that only religious extremists or intolerant bigots represent Pakistani patriotism. Pakistan belongs to various schools of thought, various ideologies and diverse opinions that’s its real beauty.”

He maintained Pakistan faced critical challenges and needed a 360-degree change in policies — rather than gimmicks — and an alternative suggesting the way forward.

Besides Haqqani and Taqi prominent participants included Rashed Rehman, Abbas Nasir, Senator Latif Afridi, Arif Jamal, Marvi Sirmed, Beena Sarwar, Atif Tauqeer, Farhat Taj and several leading journalists.

Last year, the conference was marred by opinions of hard-line nationalists and supporters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London’s leader Altaf Hussain. However, this time, the agenda and list of participants was more mainstream, organisers said.

They added that the conference was themed with the purpose of creating a network of Pakistanis in the country and abroad who reject the idea of permanent war with neighbouring countries.

While sharing their opinions, some experts said the conference should also explore and highlight issues of human rights and extremism in other parts of South Asia as the forum’s primary focus is the entire South Asian region.

Call for Reviving Liberal Pakistan at London Conference

The Nation

Salman Masood,

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.

Pakistan: The Way Forward 2017 Conference

More than one hundred prominent Pakistani intellectuals, human rights and social media activists, and public figures with anti-establishment views met  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’ was organized under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH).

It was 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.

 

Future of Pakistan Depends on How it Deals With Identity, Image and Dissent

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.

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Dreams and Nightmares

A London conference calls for a more pluralistic and tolerant Pakistan

SAATH Forum London Conference 2016

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Pakistan risks isolation by supporting terror: activists

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”.

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Pakistani liberals flay military’s role at London meet

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.

COAS Gen Raheel Sharif

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