LAHORE            -             The first day of Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest featured thought provoking lectures from renowned personalities from Pakistan and abroad, panel discussions on important topics, reviews of books, exhibitions and musical performances at Al-Hamra on Saturday. The high profile event will conclude on Sunday (today).

Mosharraf Zaidi moderated discussion of panel comprising Pakistan’s former ambassador to Iran Asif Durrani, Ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, Scholar Barnett Rubin and former Chief of

General Staff, Lt Gen (retd) Waheed Arshad.

Dr Ishrat Husain presented agenda of changes to the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan.

Chevening Journalism program arranged a discussion on Fake News.

Senator Musadik Malik hosted 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 in panel discussion on role and future of universities.

Speaking at a session on “PakAf: After the Withdrawal” along with Barnett Rubin from New York University, Former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that Afghanistan deserves sovereignty to be respected after anticipated US withdrawal. Najam Sethi moderated the session.

“Afghanistan must also act as sovereign nation and take responsibility of its people living as refugees in Pakistan”, Ms Khar said, adding, Pakistan was facing challenges of economy and security on eastern and western borders, therefore unable to bear the burden of 3.5 million refugees from Afghanistan. “Had Pakistan’s economy been good, it could have kept feeding the refugees from Afghanistan,” she said, adding, Pakistan has own set of challenges to deal with, and can’t take the burden of Afghan refugees. “Even prosperous economies like US were not ready to take refugees from Mexico,” she added. She said that India’s subversive activities from Afghan side were no secret, but National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and ministers were publicly making outrageous statements against Pakistan. “Under current circumstances, Pakistan has no reason to doubt Indian hostile intentions towards Pakistan,” she added.

Speaking at a session on “Is Liberal Democracy Dead?” along with former Portuguese Minister Bruno Macaes, Former Indian Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said that his country needed to act carefully or it could end up in a dark alley. Pervez Hoodbhoy moderated the session.

Mani Shankar said that Hindutva in India was just like a concept of Christianity in the West but it hasn’t been accepted by Indians. He said that Hindutva has only been emerged just 90 years ago and suddenly captured India in 2014. “It could go worse in India, but the people of India led by the students and women are resisting it and that’s where lies the hope for a better India,” he said. He urged India not to emulate Pakistan’s example of creating a state based on religion, and must preserve its secular identity. “What India must learn from Pakistan is the smooth way of transfer of power from one democratic government to another in the last three general elections,” he added.

“Women protesters reading out the preamble of Indian constitution in Shaheen Bagh Delhi 24/7 for the last three weeks sent out a message loud and clear that democracy matters. When people are enlightened and resisting like this, the state has to correct itself even if it doesn’t want to,” he said. He said that this battle would continue as the protesting women, students and children hold the candle of hope for the future generations.

“Things get worse before they get better,” said Bruno Macaes, while responding to a question on whether liberal democracy is dead or not. He said that global warming and artificial intelligence were more powerful phenomena than any superpower in the world. “Yes, things will get worse, for now,” he said.