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.
The conference is the first of its kind. It has been organised under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH) and co-hosted by US-based columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who teaches at an American university now and regularly writes for American papers.
Prominent participants of the conference include Haqqani, Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khattak, columnist and author Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, ANP’s Bushra Gohar, journalist and activist Rashed Rehman, Marvi Sirmed, Beena Sarwar and many leading journalists.
Invitations to the conference said: “For the last several years liberal, progressive and secular visions of Pakistan have been in retreat. Those who share an idea of Pakistan that is different from what the Islamist political forces envision have been under attack from the establishment as well as from religious extremists.”
The organisers lamented that several prominent liberal Pakistanis had been physically eliminated while many others had chosen to keep a low profile because of danger to their lives. “Mainstream political parties have been fighting for their own survival and to prevent replacement of the patronage based democratic political system with direct military intervention,” SAATH argued.
“This makes them indifferent or less engaged with ideals of pluralism, human rights, gender equality, the rights of multiple ethnic and religious groups, and fundamental, legal and constitutional changes required to achieve such values.”
Dr Taqi told The News: “The Future of Pakistan Conference hopes to address questions such as how Pakistan might reform from inside instead of being pressured further by the rest of the world and even face the threat of being declared a state sponsor of terrorism. We plan to discuss how we might strengthen the pluralist and secular narrative in Pakistan and gain more space for a perspective that has been pushed aside consistently since the Zia era.”
By Murtaza Ali Shah for The News