Lahore: Punjab University Department of History and Pakistan Study Centre, on Monday, kicked off its 2-day international conference on “Pakistan: Challenges to Democracy, Governance and National Unity” at Dr Pervaiz Hasan Environmental Law Centre.
Punjab University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran inaugurated the event while international scholars from the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Turkey attended the moot besides scholar from the leading academic institutions of Pakistan, PU’s faculty members and students.
Addressing the inaugural session, Vice-Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran urged the leaders to develop consensus on allocating at least four percent of GDP to education and termed lack of education as root-cause to all the problems faced by the country.
He said that the policies of the United States were not controlled by the people but by a highly powerful cabal of rich families. He stated that these families have divided mankind through repeated deceptions. He said that history bore the fact that these families had funded the Bolshevik Revolution and Hitler simultaneously.
He said all the conflicts of the world were prompted by US and allied agencies in service of their corporate masters. He said that four major banks of the United States are owned by these families and four major companies own all the wealth and resources of America. Dr Mujahid Kamran said Federal Reserve Bank was formed to give power to rich families to print money and give it to the government as debt and take interest.
He said that he had faith in American people and only Americans could pull the world out of crises. He said the US policy was not the policy of American people. He stated that when Americans would get rid of these bankers, they would become the nation which would unite the world. He said that these bankers had set up academic establishment which didn’t let any publication against them as they were also funding social sciences projects.
The Vice-Chancellor said surprisingly, there were 4058 counter terrorism institutions in the US which were basically functioning contrary to their title and National Security Agency is intercepting 1.7 billion communications. He hoped that the moot would suggest measures for the betterment of Pakistan.
Prof Dr Qalb-i-Abid, in his welcome address, said that in some recent foreign studies, a bleak picture of Pakistan’s future is painted. He said that these negative observations should not offend us and proper thinking, planning, policy formulation and its implementation is need of the hour.
He said a major concern of the country was to manage foreign relations especially with US and India. He said China had always been a source of strength and relief. He said luckily, Pakistani media was deeply involved in redefining as to what should be the appropriate role of establishment as well important institutions in Pakistan.
He said the credit went to the media that it was creating a culture of accountability in the society. He thanked Vice-Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran for extending all-out cooperation in organizing such a landmark international conference.
Prof Dr Stephen D. McDowell, Director of School of Communication, Florida State University, examined the relationship – symbiotic of ambivalent – between media and individual frames. He highlighted politico-judicial crisis in Pakistan since 2007 and said media frames had influenced public opinion and consequently got affected by the individual frames in shaping and packaging of the media content.
He said in political communication, media frames were used to influence public opinion in a direction deemed desirable by the communicator. He concluded his paper by raising questions for professional practice, media ethics, media governance and media’s contribution to the building and maintenance of democratic institutions.
Prof Dr Jean-Luc Racine, a senior research fellow from France, said that beyond strong ideological stands, socio-economic dynamics are at play as well as identity affiliations. He said that more than anything else, the deficit of good governance was probably one of the key factors behind the present challenges the nation had to address.
Prof Dr Ihsan Yilmaz, Associate Professor, Faith University, Istanbul, Turkey, said that Pakistan’s lack of penetration to society coupled with the inconsistent and unstable legal system has been a source of unofficial legal pluralism in the country. He said considerable variation in the enforcement and interpretation of the Islamic laws by the courts had only intensifies the pluralism.
However, he said, flexibility and pluralism of Islamic law could be used for democratization and good governance, in almost total contradiction to the essentialized stereotypical portrayal of Islamic law. He said that the analysis of Pakistani Islamic law suggested once again that there was no pure, neatly-defined Islamic law but that was not necessarily bad.
He said that as the Pakistani case showed, Ulema, intellectuals, opinion leaders and judges could debate Islamic law in the public sphere and agree to define, interpret and apply it in a human-rights-friendly fashion despite the pressure of politics.
Prof Dr Michel Boivin of Centre for South Asian Studies, Paris, focused on how French scholars analyzed the challenges to democracy, governance and national unity in Pakistan. He said that French scholars paid attention to the newly discovered Indus Civilization.
He said French archaeologists began to make excavations soon after the birth of Pakistan. He said despite a few studies devoted to literature, it was nevertheless not before the 1996 seizure of Kabul by the Talibans that academia shaped Pakistan as an academic issue.
Prof Dr Vyacheslav Y. Belokrenitsky of Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, said that one of the major problems which Pakistan had to address was her agricultural environment, the inefficiency of water use and the capricious power of water, resulting in devastating floods, and also the decaying of the irrigation and drainage systems on which the major crops heavily depended and rapidly growing deforestation which contributed to the soil erosion.
He said the juxtaposition of the two inter-related phenomena makes it difficult to solve the problems of mass poverty, especially in the rural areas, of gainful employment and of increasing the social weight of the middle class. He said the weakness of the middle class was one of the principal causes of fragile democracy and of the comparative inefficacy of governance.
Prof Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raees of Lahore University of Management Sciences said that silent social revolution was taking place in Pakistan. He said the military-centric approach to the understanding of Pakistan’s democratic dilemma, evades one central question about the past failures of democratic transitions of the country: how democratic are the elites that got elected and had replaced the military regimes.
He said that democratic regimes legitimized the role and rule of the dominant elites largely rooted in the tribal, caste and feudal social structures. He said Pakistan’s third democratic transition remained as divorced from democracy as had been hybrid regimes of the past and answer for that lied in the social bases of elites, party and electoral system and weakened governing capacity of the state.
He said old-fashioned elite networks dominate the mainstream political party system, electoral contests, parliament and the political executive. He contested the notion that bad democracy was better than no democracy for the reason that both the hybrid regimes and pseudo democratic governments in Pakistan have had mixed characters of authoritarianism and democracy.
Prof Dr Tatiana I. Oranskaia of Germany, Prof Dr Salim Cevik of Sweden, Prof Dr Necdet Rosun of Turkey, Prof Dr Sharif al Mujahid of Karachi, Prof: Dr Vladimir I. Sotnikov of Moscow, Prof Dr Huma Naz Siddiqui Baqai of IBA Karachi, Prof Dr Nazir Hussain of QIA Islamabad and Mr Amjad Abbas Magsi of Punjab University also presented their papers and shared their views on the topic with several references. Scholars from around the world will deliver their lectures on the second day (today).
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