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LAHORE: The foundations of the much-touted ‘Arab Spring’ were laid in the 1980s and 1990s when the Arab states failed to deliver on social front and meet their subjects’ needs.

This was stated by Eugene Rogan, the author of The Arabs: A History, at a Lahore Literary Festival session on ‘Our Neighbours to the West’ here on Sunday.

Sahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, an Iranian-American researcher and UN consultant on conflict resolution was the other panelist, while senior journalist Khaled Ahmed was the moderator.

The multiplication of population coupled with economic failures of these states led to their financial crises and consequently poor allocations for social sector, while in the 1950s and 1960s the Arab world had been seeing a record development of which they were proud of, said Mr Rogan.

He said the people wanted freedom for electing their rulers and from fears (of state violence) and demand social justice, while the states were also now afraid of the masses (movement).

Replying to a question about the issues being faced by the education sector in the Arab world, he said though Arabic language was a unifying factor there were divisions in the region on cultural and linguistic grounds.

He said the people in the Arab world recognised the need to reform their educational systems, not only to equip their younger generations with the skills required to go along with the rest of the world, but also to devise a school system that could save what remained of cultural and linguistic Arab pluralism. “And it will be interesting to see how they negotiate that.”

Ms Tadjbakhsh said though Iran had had some good universities the problem being faced there was of ban on mobility as the students could not go abroad for further studies and research because of certain restrictions.

She said the youth in Iran made an attempt to win freedoms and the world saw there a mini revolution during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2009.

Speaking about the sectarian divides among the Muslims, she said though the Sunni school of thought made 30 percent of the total Iranian population, ironically the sect had not even a single mosque in the capital Tehran.

Answering a query by Mr Ahmed, she said unfortunately Iran and Pakistan didn’t want to know each other though they enjoyed good relations before the Cold War era came to an end. After US sanctions India got closer to Iran than Pakistan because New Delhi traded with Tehran notwithstanding the sanctions unlike Islamabad, which shied away from the business for fear of American backlash.

She said Tehran had four possibilities these days to influence – ideologically, culturally, politically and economically – in the wake of continued sanctions.

DOXIADES’ EKISTICS: Greek architect Constantinos Doxiades based his city development philosophy on five elements – nature, human beings, society (people’s interaction with trends, group attitude and social customs), shells (all buildings and structures) and network.

This was stated by Harvard Professor Spiro Pollalis at a session on Doxiades’ Ekistics in Pakistan: from 1960s to today.

Mr Doxiades was the designer of Islamabad city and Korangi township.

Pollalis said Mr Doxiades Ekistics design and science comprised principles extracted from economics, sociology, technical disciplines, political science & administration, and cultural disciplines and the architect saw cities as living organisms.

He said except a couple of sectors Ekistics rules are being followed in most of Islamabad, while these were totally negated in Korangi even during the life of Doxiades.

He said the architect had used computer to identify and preserve topography of Islamabad and ensured sustainability of the environment.

Responding to a question, he said the gaps between low and high income areas in Islamabad’s master plan were bridged by placing 125-yard residences next to 250-yard ones, instead of 2000- yard houses to preempt a social shock.

He told a questioner that Islamabad had basically been designed for private car owners and pedestrians with some routes for plying public transport – buses. However, introducing the Metro buses there was an expensive project (which should have been avoided).

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2019