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August 8, 2019

Solution to our problems is more democracy: Bilawal


August 8, 2019

Islamabad : There is a need to educate Pakistani citizens that the solution to our problems and challenges from economy to terrorism is more democracy and more fundamental rights, said Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday.

“As we have made gains against terrorism, Pakistan should transition from a security state to a rights-based state. It is sad that human rights defenders are losing in the minds of many citizens, who privilege security over rights,” he told a session at the Ideas Conclave 2019, organised by the Jinnah Institute at a hotel here.

The session on ‘Constitution, Security and Citizenship in Pakistan’, the PPP leader said Pakistan and its citizens should understand that there was no security without fundamental rights.

“We should defend individual rights besides combating non-state actors and terrorists,” he said.

Bilawal Bhutto said the people of Kashmir won’t compromise their rights in any case, while the people of Pakistan won’t give up on the dream of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Lawyer Hina Jilani said the people were not happy with politicians but their hope lied only in more democracy and more democracy. “The democratic process should go on,” she said.

The lawyer said the rule of law was something the people had always stood by. “Today the people need to reclaim the state,” she said.

Hina Jilani said Pakistan resistance movements had always existed in Pakistan. She said the right to defend human rights was an unalienable right in its own stead.

“Many of us have suffered the penalty of dissent. Resistance will always be like water, which finds its way around. This is not a lesson that we have learned,” she said.

Earlier, the two-day event began with a session on ‘Thin Red Line: Pakistan’s Economic Trajectory’ with former foreign and defence minister and PML-N MNA Khurram Dastagir Khan, former investment minister Haroon Sharif, political economist S. Akbar Zaidi and former Punjab finance minister and PML-N MNA Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha as panelists.

Khurram Dastagir said policymakers rarely had the luxury of addressing economic problems serially. He said exports, budget and monetary policy all had to be dealt with in tandem. The lawmaker said wars cost money.

“The Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad operations against militancy weren’t fought for free. These legacies have fed our political economy,” he said.

Dr Aisha Ghaus said the country faced structural deficits, which should be fixed but over the last 70 years, various governments didn’t wake up to the challenge.

She asked the government to undo increase in interest rates and devaluation of the rupee, not to use the exchange rate to curtail imports, and stop killing the informal economy. The legislator said high-interest rates were detrimental to the economy. Dr Aisha Ghaus said non-development expenditure had increased by 40 per cent. She asked the government not to cut development expenditure.

Dr Akbar Zaidi the country was at a critical turning point, which would define how it would look for the next decade.

He regretted that the country’s inflation rate was the highest in 10 years, while the gross domestic product was the lowest in nine years. “The economy will shape the future of Pakistan more than any other aspect of government,” he said. The economist warned that inflation would go up to 14 per cent in four months.

He said there was no alternative economic model with the International Monetary Fund. “Pakistan now has a three years IMF programme that tells us line by line what will happen and when. We are in an economic straitjacket. We need the IMF the whole time,” he said.

Dr Akbar Zaidi asked the government to develop better economic relations with neighbours for development.

Another session was held on ‘Breaking Bad: Women and Modernity’ with rights activist Farzana Bari, feminist researcher Afiya Zia and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid as panelists.

Farzana Bari said there was a continuum between modernity and traditionalism that women in Pakistan navigated.

Sharmeen Chinoy said a silent revolution among women was happening in rural and urban Pakistan. She said though women were more aware of their rights, social structures continued to block the enforcement of pro-women laws.

The filmmaker said men had a huge role to play in promoting and helping the cause of feminism but they needed to demonstrate a history of commitment to change first.

Afiya Zia regretted a lack of women economists in Pakistan. She said all Pakistani research work was focused on violence on women with very little work on women in agriculture and labour or on policies, which looked at how to empower and mainstream women.

The next session was on ‘Language, Literature and Resistance’ with poets Kishwar Naheed and Iftikhar Arif and playwright Noorul Huda Shah as panelists.

Kishwar Naheed highlighted the history of Kashmir as a topic of literature and language and said resistance was the heart of literature.

Iftikhar Arif explained how legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote on all major catastrophes that afflicted Pakistan after independence from the turmoil in Karachi to the imposition of martial law to the separation of East Pakistan. He said the movement of tassawuf (Islamic mysticism) was the resistance philosophy against dogma.

The poet regretted that literature was limited to academia as only writers and academics read it those days.

Noorul Huda Shah said in Sindh, sufi poets had a tradition of resistance.

She said in Ayub Khan’s time, Rasoul Palijo and others organised a yearly festival at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in Bhit Shah, which gave a lot to Sindh and the country.

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