London: Several prominent liberal, progressive and nationalist intellectuals, human rights and public figures from Pakistan gathered in London for a conference on ‘The Future of Pakistan’ where they expressed grave concern on Islamabad’s militarization of state and its inability to prioritize protection of human rights and social justice.
The event was organized under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), co-hosted by US-based columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.
The gathering had to be arranged away from Pakistan because of the threats to the security of free thinkers in the country.
Participants expressed grave concern on Pakistan’s current trajectory, militarization of state and society, shrinking space for liberal ideas and pluralism, constant threats to democracy and threats to NGOs, human rights defenders and individuals, as well as the inability of major political parties to prioritize protection of human rights and social justice.
The forum also demanded that the local governments should be given 25 per cent of the royalty and the profits of natural resources exploited from their respective areas.
The conference also concluded that Pakistan faces the risk of global isolation because of widespread obscurantism, growing intolerance, lack of rule of law, along with official support for extremism and general disregard for human rights.
The Pakistani state, regrettably, expresses a continued willingness to engage with religious extremists and terrorists, and sometimes even talks of formally inducting Jihadi terrorist groups into the state’s paramilitary structure but remains hostile to liberal, progressive and nationalist groupings within Pakistan, the participants in the forum observed.
Further conclusions that the forum arrived upon were:
. It is time for Pakistan’s rich and powerful to own up and take responsibility for failed policies instead of promoting conspiracy theories through management of mass media.
• Only a pluralist Pakistan at peace with itself and its neighbors, fully respectful of human rights of all including religious minorities would be able to gain international respect, have a positive global and local image and avoid further descent into chaos.
• Questioning state policies is a legitimate right of all Pakistanis.
The forum recognised that one of the reasons Pakistan’s democracy has remained tenuous is that while the center has denied rights to the provinces, the provinces have failed in the devolution of power to the local governments, which is why the forum has demanded that the provinces should activate the Provincial Finance Commissions and allocate maximum resources to the local governments. (ANI)