As we have seen recently, Kabul was taken over by the Taliban, Ashraf Ghani has got entry in UAE on humanitarian grounds. Pakistani intelligentsia is fearing the Talibanization of Pakistan, at least the newly merged districts (former FATA) and a large (if not all) parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The irony of the matter is that at the same moment there’s jubilation over the so-called victory of Taliban in many quarters in Pakistan. Most of these have never been directly faced with the horrors of violent extremism.
The need of the hour is to make efforts to avoid bloodshed and a civil war in the already war weary country. The first step is to accept the reality despite the reservations. If the Taliban get control of the government, which seems obvious, we must make sure they are not isolated. Isolation of the regime will close the doors of negotiations, direly needed to help Afghanistan remain stable without any further loss of lives and spiraling into chaos.
It is high time to decide for a strategy. We can’t afford confrontation. We must see them as a group of new leadership in Afghanistan. Most of them are young men, predominantly Pashtuns, having very strong ties in the Arab world and Pakistan. Their agenda doesn’t include human rights and women empowerment, to say the least.
But are they ready to talk? Yes! They need a window to the world. A window that gives them a perspective of the real and humane world. Afghan youth, especially Pashtuns, have looked up to Pakistan. They have a love-hate relationship with Pakistani Pashtuns. They do consider our problems as shared ethnic hardships.
What can we offer to the region?
The rise of populist leadership around the globe is alarming. Pakistani government is one of the many populist governments around the globe. But the 5th biggest nation on earth, with immediate borders with Afghanistan, and a country with rising intolerance in almost all sphere of life is alarmingly dangerous.
As the UN has already pointed out the role of HEI in CVE (Counter Violent Extremism), it is important we move forward with our role in reforming HEI as a social obligation to the society and the world.
The UN has also identified critical dialogue, at least the knowledge of the tools of critical dialogue, to be a cure to violence and radicalization.
All this is being seen within the context of the UNSC decisions regarding empowerment and inclusion of women and youth in the decision-making processes of nation building and policy making.
A workshop on understanding the present authoritarian tendencies within the government and society, their implications for the further of the country as well as the neighboring region (Afghanistan being at the top of priority table) and the global community are important baseline considerations.
This brings us to the related questions of rise of fascism as a necessary outcome of such populist, authoritarian contexts.
We need to keep the world in mind even if we talk a country in the globalized world we live in.
Freedom of expression and thought, right to information and services (Article 19 of UNDHR, and 19, 19 A of the Pakistani constitution), safety of life and honor of each and every individual, irrespective of class, creed, color, or any distinction, are the basic themes for the conference.
Media, journalism, social media, Internet are close allies of assurances of freedom and democracy. The use or abuse is one side of the coin. Control and regulations are the other.
When we talk about ethics or the lack thereof, we should be vigilant about regulations and control. The relationship between intelligentsia, espousing the positive morality, and the government structure, having the responsibility of having the negative one is not an easy one to manage.
Regulations are designed to avoid chaos or an unwarranted explosion of ideas that might be too much for a society to deal with at a given point of time. Governments are supposed to perform this function in service of public good. Hence, the term negative morality.
The intelligentsia, journalists, educators, artists, public figures, and many others, are the guardians of positive morality. They keep on testing the limits of cultural taboos. They ask questions, criticize actions, keep the society alive and ready for a process of transformation.
We need to deliberate if there is a balance among these two forces.
The present shows there isn’t. The negative morality has become so dominant and oppressive that a voice of dissent might be signing one’s own death warrant.
How can we get out of this quagmire?
What are the lessons we need to learn?
What are the limits of this balance?
How can we ensure that the youth understand these fine points?
How can we ensure the creation of critical but safe spaces on campuses as well as the larger society?
How can we best use the digital technologies for the best?
What are the rules of conversation in the newly found world of New Media?
These and many more questions are the discussion points of the conference.