Scholars for rethinking Pakistan’s concept to ‘overcome oppressive trends’

Updated November 18, 2019

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Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Kartarpur Corridor opening. — Naveed Siddiqui/File
Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Kartarpur Corridor opening. — Naveed Siddiqui/File

LAHORE: Eminent scholars at a session of the Faiz Festival at Alhamra on Sunday stressed the need to rethink the concept of Pakistan to overcome, what they called, the current oppressive trends in the country and giving a voice to the people from all its regions.

The session was based on the book “Rethinking Pakistan: A 21st Century Perspective.”

Pakistan People’s Party MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said nationalism in the “Naya Pakistan” was bordering fascism, restricting the rights and freedoms.

She said there was a “civil-military imbalance” in the country at present. She said there also existed disconnect among political parties and between political parties and the civil society. This, she said, was dangerous and there was a need to eliminate this disconnect. “We need to go to the people and find new recruits for the national politics,” she suggested.

Ms Shah termed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Kartarpur Corridor as something like shared-negotiated sovereignty, and said it needed to be fully assessed. It should be asked as to why Khokrapar border with India was not opened and why Pak-Afghan trade was closed, she said.

Historian Dr Tahir Kamran said there was a need to assess whether Pakistan was a national or political state and if there was any alternate to the concept of nation state. The current suffocation was the outcome of the national state concept, he said.

He said Deobandi and Barelvi schools of thought were modern concepts. Sufi thought in the sub-continent remained peaceful till the culmination of Muslim political sovereignty in India. Militancy invaded this school of thought in the 18th century when its followers fought against Sikhs in Multan and Jhang, he said. Barelvis remained active in the 1953 and they launched 194 movements, he added.

He said at present religious circles in Pakistan were not getting themselves adjusted to the nation and political state ideology.

Academic Dr Tariq Rehman said it was hard to counter those who refute the fact that Pakistan was a radical Islamist country because they too were “scholarly people”.

Publisher Bilal Zahoor said he started his work after finding a lack of independently written books in Pakistan. There was a need to find out and convey to people truth which is normally compromised.

Revolutionary Journalism

Speaking at another session, anchor Munizae Jehangir complained of restrictions on the media, saying it could not even show the three-time prime minister of the country. She said that she interviewed Nawaz Sharif but it could not be broadcast. Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s rally too was disallowed to be shown to people, she regretted.

She said even the content on social media was being censored. Parallel media had been established which was negatively impacting the industry. Businessmen established their media houses and their main objective appeared to be securing their business, she said.

Ms Jehangir said 50 per cent of media revenue would come from the government during Nawaz Sharif’s last government. This stream had now been blocked, forcing closure of many media houses, she added.

She nevertheless praised journalists who were reporting reality while risking their lives in troubled areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Over 200 such journalists lost their lives in the line of their duty of finding and disseminating truth, she said, adding, “We should acknowledge their services.”

She said journalists who stood firm in their commitment to tell truth to the people were punished and harassed. Media houses which refused to bow down were also punished. The challenge to the media was in fact a challenge to the nation, she said.

Journalists Khawar Naeem Hashmi lamented that very concept of journalism was being replaced with self-serving journalism in Pakistan. Media owners and journalists learnt to serve their own interests after the Zia era, he said. There should also be a mechanism of accountability of journalists who erased the concept of ideological journalism in Pakistan, he suggested.

Journalist and academic Farooq Suleria said journalism in the beginning was revolutionary in the West. It was later controlled with oppressive tactics and by the market forces. Journalism in Pakistan in its earlier days, like The Pakistan Times, Imroze, and Lail-o-Nihar, was revolutionary but was marginalised through oppressive measures.

He said social media initially was out of government control, but it too was now being brought under “their” control.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019