LAHORE: A two-day Afkar-i-Taza ThinkFest will be held on Jan 11 and 12 at Alhmara.

The event will begin with a keynote speech by former UK high commissioner to Pakistan Sir Mark Lyall Grant, who is now the UK national security adviser. A panel will follow the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East and what impact it will have on Pakistan. Pakistan’s former ambassador to Iran Asif Durrani, former UN special representative to Iraq Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, scholar Barnett Rubin and former Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Waheed Arshad will speak on the panel, mediated by Mosharraf Zaidi.

The first day will also feature panels on local government with the former Indian minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, Adviser to the PM Shehzad Arbab and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal. Senator Sherry Rahman and former minister Javed Jabbar with Ahmed Bilal Mehboob will then tackle the issue of whether parliament is still relevant in Pakistan in an age of presidential ordinances. Views of the Pakistan Air Force will also feature in the discussions with an air chief marshal and two air commodores in conversation. Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar is expected to sit with Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin and journalist Najam Sethi to discuss the post-withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan.

Another panel with members of the Task Force headed by Dr Ishrat Hussain will present and discuss its agenda of changes to the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan.

There will also be discussions on media, one of them organised by the Chevening Journalism programme focusing on ‘Fake News,’ featuring journalists Mansoor Ali Khan, Fahd Hussain, Owais Tohid and Maria Memon. The role and future of universities will be discussed featuring former chancellor of Berkeley Prof Nicholas Dirks, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, Kinnaird College Principal Dr Rukhsana David and LUMS School of Education Dean Dr Tahir Andrabi, and moderated by Senator Musadik Malik.

The first day will also feature a series of book launches with the life of freedom fighter of Lahore, Freda Bedi, who later became a Buddhist nun. She will be discussed by author Andrew Whitehead and Muniza Hashmi.

Professor Farhat Haq will also launch her book on Sharia and the State in Pakistan. Prof Kim Wagner will discuss the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919. A book on Prince Dara Shikoh by Prof Supriya Gandhi will be launched. The second day will begin with keynote speech by 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Sir Venki Ramakrishnan.

The next panel will discuss Hindutva with Prof Janaki Bakhle from Berkeley and Dr Ali Raza as penaliists.

Afrasiab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar and Hamid Khan will discuss democracy in political parties, while Pakistani economy will form the basis of a discussion between former finance ministers Hafiz Pasha, Miftah Ismail and others, at another panel.

Education emergency in Pakistan will be discussed by Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Baela Jamil and Mosharraf Zaidi. Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry will follow soon with Senator Musadik Malik and Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar to discuss Pakistan’s standing in the next 10 years.

The future of liberal democracy in the world will be the focus of a panel featuring Mani Shankar Aiyer, Bruno Macaes, a former Portuguese Minister, and Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy, while another session with Dr Maceas, with former Pakistan ambassador to China Masood Khalid and journalist Khurram Hussain will discuss the present and future trajectory of the Chinese One Belt, One Road project.

India’s populist revolution will be discussed by Wall Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume, in conversation with Prof Janaki Bakhle and Najam Sethi. The newly-appointed minister for the National Security division, Dr Moeed Yusuf, in conversation with Ejaz Haider will discuss issues related to National Security. ‘Rule of law’ in Pakistan will be discussed by lawyers Salman Akram Raja, Babar Sattar, Amber Dar and Reema Omar.

Day two will also feature a number of book launches. The very interesting tale of the camel merchant of Philadelphia, focusing on the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will be unravelled by author Sarbpreet Singh in conversation with FS Aijazudin. Dr Simon Fuchs will also launch his book on Shia Islam in Pakistan and the Middle East, with Dr Shandana Mohmand will launch her book on ‘Crafty Oligarchs, Savvy Voters: Democracy under Inequality in Rural Pakistan’.

Debut novel of Jamil Jan Kochai, ’99 Nights in Logar’, will also be launched by the author in conversation with Mina Malik-Hussain. Timeri Murari will also launch his book on the famed Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal. Finally, Pallavi Raghavan will launch her book on the moments of India and Pakistan cooperation in the first decade after independence.

The ThinkFest will also feature exhibition ‘Unveiling Punjab’.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020