Pakistani Liberals Speak up for a Progressive, Secular Pakistan

London, October 13, 2017: More than a hundred liberal, progressive and left leaning Pakistanis got together in London from around the world in a three days moot. This is the second conference hosted by South Asians against Terrorism & for Human Rights (Saath Forum) headed by Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the USA. The first one was organised in October 2016.

While inaugurating the conference, Rashid Rehman, senior Pakistani journalist and intellectual, said that a strong liberal, secular front was needed to fight the menace of extremist ideologies in Pakistan. He proposed to establish a conference Secretariat in Pakistan, in addition to an international Secretariat that would ensure that Pakistani diaspora in different countries remains involved in this important debate about the future of Pakistan.

Husain Haqqani while giving his welcome address said that neither the organisers of the conference nor the participants have any intention to start a fight with country’s armed forces. “We consider our armed forces as our own, but we also want our armed forces to consider us their own”, he added. 

He said that no one wanted to break or damage Pakistan, but there might be some people who might not agree with the preeminent narrative of how the state of Pakistan needed to be, or how it needed to behave with its own people and with the rest of the world. This, he said, should not be equated with treason or collision with the state.

Husain Haqqani went on to quote recent development and economic rankings on which Pakistan stands at the lowest. He said that having a desire to change these things towards the better is the best form of patriotism.

He also advocated involving Baloch, Pakhtun, Sindhi and Siraiki nationalists in mainstream discourse in order for them to have a feeling of inclusiveness rather than of being neglected.

The conference shall discuss in next three days, the way forward for the Liberal forces in Pakistan in order to provide an alternative narrative on Pakistan’s state and society.

Among the prominent participants of the conference are Wajid Shamsul Hassan, former Pakistani High Commissioner to UK; Prof Amin Mughal, leading Pakistani professor and intellectual based out of London; Dr. Sarfaraz Khan, Professor Area Studies Center Peshawar; Aimal Khattak, peace activist and son of late Ajmal Khattak; Mohsin Dawar, Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Kashmiri Barrister based out of Canada; Farhat Taj, author & Professor of social sciences based out of Norway; Beena Sarwar, senior Pakistani journalist; Lakhu Lakhani, senior leader of World Sindhi Congress; Mazhar Arif, intellectual and human rights defender; Fahim Baloch, Baloch activists and human rights defender; and Pakistani journalists Mehreen Zehra Malik and Taha Siddiqui.