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‘Dialogue among different segments of society way forward for Pakistan’

January 27, 2019

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PML-N Senator Pervez Rasheed  speaks during the national dialogue on Saturday. Afrasiab Khattak, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Nafisa Shah are also seen. — Online
PML-N Senator Pervez Rasheed speaks during the national dialogue on Saturday. Afrasiab Khattak, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Nafisa Shah are also seen. — Online

ISLAMABAD: The only way forward for Pakistan is to hold dialogue among different segments of society, including civil and military. Moreover, the government and opposition should talk to each other to get out of the problems they often blame on each other.

These thoughts came in a daylong dialogue ‘Pakistan 2019’ organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) at a local hotel on Saturday. Experts in different fields, serving and former parliamentarians, political leaders, former military officials and religious scholars participated in the dialogue.

On the issue of national security, former senator Farhatullah Babar called for a dialogue between civilian and military leaderships so that the two present their cases and then move forward.

PIPS Director Mohammad Amir Rana said the issue seemed to be more about struggle over resources between the two players.

Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said religious slogans were used in the run-up to the country by the mob not the elite.

Experts say govt and opposition should also talk to each other to resolve problems

Karachi University (KU)’s Dr Jaffar Ahmed said the country was founded as a result of separatist ideals rather than any religious one. After the country was formed, the discourse shifted to political Islam, which was used by successive governments and bureaucracy to further their end.

Former senator Afrasiab Khattak argued that enforced uniformity was problematic. Such top-down approach has failed in the past and will do in the future, he said.

Former Balochistan chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch said the religious construction of Pakistani nationalism was not creating cohesion, the brunt of which is borne by smaller ethnicities. He said as Pakistanis we want preservation of our languages, cultures and resources.

About parliamentary supremacy, several former and serving parliamentarians wondered if parliament is really supreme, saying there always are constraining forces.

Farhatullah Babar said it was incorrect to blame parliament for not doing its job, adding many questions of parliament were unanswered on the grounds of being “sensitive and secretive.”

PML-N’s Senator Pervez Rasheed argued that political parties are fighting for their own survival. They have to bear cases which are implanted on them, leading to a situation in which parliament takes the backseat.

Retired Lt Gen Amjad Shoaib wondered who stops parliament from taking up matters of public interest. He asked why the parliament did not discuss economic issues.

He contested the view that the country is becoming a security state, saying there is no controlled environment.

Former Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) MNA Hafiz Hussain Ahmed said political parties are also responsible for weakening the parliament.

PPP’s Nafisa Shah agreed, saying parliament has often not been treated seriously by its members. She called for making it more transparent and accessible to the citizens.

On foreign policy, scholar Moeed Yusuf said while we continue to indulge in debates about facts, the world around is changing. He said 10 years down the road, India-Pakistan power differential will be equal to that of India and Sri Lanka. He said Pakistan’s foreign policy centres around India. It is reflected in all its relations with all its neighbours.

“Virtually, every single decision we made has been driven around India,” he said.

Journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai said insecurities emanating from India essentially tailored our policy around India.

Former foreign minister Inamul Haq said India appears to be more obsessed with Pakistan than Pakistan is with India. After all, while Pakistan is an issue in India’s domestic politics, in Pakistan, India is not, he said.

Former Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general retired Maj Gen Athar Abbas said one has to be prepared for challenges.

“When Indian national security adviser talks about covert operations,” this is a challenge to be confronted, he added.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2019