LAHORE: A rain-hit day did little damage to the first day of the Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest held at the Alhamra Arts Council as people from all over the city gathered to hear from and engage with academics, politicians, writers and other panelists participating in the event.
Hosted by the Information Technology University’s (ITU) Centre for Governance and Policy, the event was opened by Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, and had among its panelists Punjab Senior Minister Aleem Khan, former senator Afsaryab Khattak, Foreign Ministers Khurshid Kasuri and Hina Rabbani Khar and other speakers, including Najam Sethi, Jugnu Mohsin, and Moeed Yusuf.
A number of important talks were held on subjects such as “The future of Democracy in Pakistan”, “Self-determination: Kashmir and Beyond”, “US-Pak Relations: The Mirage of Expectation”, “Activism or Restraint: The Way Forward for the Judiciary”, “Democracy from Grassroots” and “Indian Elections and the Possibility of Peace in South Asia” among others.
The talks were marked by the interactive Q&A sessions that were held at the end of each one.
US-PAK RELATIONS: THE MIRAGE OF EXPECTATIONS:
During the talk featuring former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Moeed Yusuf and moderated by Ejaz Haider, the panelists spoke candidly to the crowd as they discussed the growing tensions that Pakistan finds itself in with regards to its relationship with the US.
The former foreign minister was of the opinion that Pakistan as a country has always chosen to be a client state rather than a strategic partner with bigger powers. She said that while Pakistan’s most important relations should be with its neighbours, it maintained delusions of grandeur.
“Complete strategic partnership with countries seas away is delusional. The state we are in, CIA or RAW hasn’t done this to us, we do this to ourselves,” she said. “You are the country that wants to have strategic interests bigger than its size. You are not god’s gift to the world. Fix yourself first. A beggar state should not expect a lot of respect.”
She went on to say that people had started to forget what their roles were. “We are the only country where the military spokesperson has a view on the economy and the chief justice is building a dam while his cases are pending.”
Meanwhile, Moeed Yusuf was of the opinion that there is no longer a Pak-US relationship. “The two have been discussing nothing but Afghanistan in Washington,” he said.
“Pakistan’s dependence on the US is a function of internal weakness, not US imposition. Afghanistan is a US-Pakistan child, and we have got to own up to it.”
FOG – A JOURNEY FROM LONDON TO LAHORE:
The panel discussion featuring environmental lawyer Abul Raffay Alam and Dr Christine Cortone compared the issue of air pollution in London and how that can be used to implement change in Lahore.
Dr Cortone was of the opinion that London has a similar story to Lahore – one of vested interests – and that the issue could be defeated if Lahore took lessons from London and passed appropriate legislation.
Raffay Alam concurred with Dr Cortone, saying that it is not just Lahore’s problem or Pakistan’s problem, but a transboundary regional problem. He said the crisis required a response such as the one shown to the Dengue epidemic.