Pakistan Studies Programme, Academy of International Studies (AIS), Jamia Millia Islamia organized a two-day “International Seminar on Pakistan’s Governance Challenges” that began at the Academy’s Ho Chi Minh Conference Hall on Thursday 21 March 2013. Prof. Shri Prakash, Officiating Director of AIS welcomed the guests.
The inaugural session was chaired by Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung, and the keynote address was delivered by Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.
He began by expressing his pleasure for the fact that for the first time, Pakistan will have “a democratically elected government completing its term.” He said that democracy ensured that “whereas conflicts will always be there, but they will be resolved peacefully.”
As free and fair elections are important, he hoped that a majority will come that way after the elections and “the Opposition will understand its responsibility.”
He called the existence of a fair and independent media as another “important part of democracy.” He also foresaw some important roles for the media in coming days; future prospects of democracy was one of them, he said.
He said that there was no denying the fact that military exercised great power in Pakistan but they had started to think differently now. He suggested to confine the military “to the rules of the games of democracy” as military rule was “not worthy.”
He said that the basis of democracy is weakened whenever the “military takes over.” He described the present situation as “the chance for Pakistan to make or break.”
The Professor said that there were more reasons to believe that even experimenting with democracy provided a “stable form of government.”
Dr. G.M. Shah of the Academy raised the issue of Kashmir and said that Kashmir was “as much an issue of land as it is of the people” therefore any confidence building measures would require that “the geographical claims of the two states remain frozen.”
It was argued that certain problems will continue. Did Partition, with thousands of deaths, solve the Hindu-Muslim problem, a participant questioned.
There should be recognition of borders of Pakistan by the international community in order for the country to “feel secure,” said Prof. Ishtiaq. He said that the Line of Control should become international border and even the Duran Line needs to be recognized as the international border.
On the issue of religious extremism and radicalization, he said that political Islam had been the “gift of so-called Afghanistan jihad” and jihad and radicalization came in the 1980s. He felt that the Pakistanis were not faring well with the extremist terrorism.
He said that Pakistan was an alienated country where people called it the “epicenter of terrorism.”
China, despite being a good friend, would not want Pakistan to continue with its extremist image. Whatever reasons for such conditions but no country wanted a negative image, felt some of the participants.
Prof. Ishtiaq said that it was easy to create an extremist culture but “difficult to bring it under control.” He found that both India and Pakistan needed to maintain better ties. The very fact that both are capable of inflicting irreparable damage is dangerous, he said.
There is need to contain both military and religion from which Pakistan cannot escape. He said the military had taken some steps the debate about the latter still revolved because it had civilian contestants.
Indians have a very strange way of looking at Pakistan. We doubt anything having military but nothing can happen in Pakistan without military being there. He said the problem of Islam was a myth and they had got Pakistan by using Islam in a “very crude manner.”
He said one could always refer to Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech of 11 August 1947 to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in which Jinnah talked about his vision of Pakistan as a state where one’s religion will remain a private affair. But having created a certain mindset, Jinnah was not able to see Pakistan as a good state.
Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed, who is also an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, concluded that states founded on religion are ipso-facto “discrimination-pro.”
Session one was on challenges to democracy and it was chaired by Prof. Partha Ghosh, senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.
Prof. Parth GHosh said that the strength or beauty of real democracy is seen by “how it deals with its minorities.” He said that any democracy which fails to deal with that, was not a democracy. Hindus in Pakistan may not be subjected to “electoral violence” because their number is not significant but the theoretical underpinnings of it is very crucial.
Prof. Philip K. Oldenberg of the University of Columbia, New York, presented a paper on “Loyal, Semi-loyal, and Disloyal Opposition, and the Future of Democracy in Pakistan.”
Moeed Yusuf, Advisor, US Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. presented his paper on “Democratic Consolidation, Contestation and Governance: Recent Developments in Pakistan.”
He said that it was not for the first time that Pakistan was going to complete an elected government terms as it had done so earlier as well.
With the help of some data, he proved that the country was moving towards a new equilibrium. In the quartet of establishment, judiciary, executive and media, he found media the smallest one but moving in the right direction.
In terms of governance, he called the present government even worse than where Musharraf had left it, but in terms of procedure, they have done well. He said that Pakistan now was on the curve where it is deciding what kind of local government they want.
Yusuf discussed about both internal and external dimensions and felt that Pakistan was too important to fail, but it was also too important to be allowed to succeed. He suggested to provide more positive global narrative about Pakistan.
He maintained that Pakistan needed uninterrupted electoral process for 2-3 cycles and continued politicization of the non-political class, especially the youth. Moving for procedural democracy was the better way for Pakistan and there needs a “grand elite bargain” on key issues of national priorities. He was very optimistic about Pakistan never having a problem of “human capacity” but the need to better utilizing it.
Session two dealt with Military and Politics. The session chaired by Prof. Philip K. Oldenberg had two papers. Rana Banerji, Visiting Professor, Pakistan Studies Programme, AIS spoke in detail about “Pakistan Army: Doctrinal Moorings and Introspection on Changes.”
Dr. Smruti Pattanaik, Fellow of the Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis (IDSA) offered a paper on “Trends in Civil-Military Relations and its impact on Consolidation of Democracy.”
The last session on “Ideological and Sectarian Challenges” was chaired by Rana Banerji of the AIS. Dr. Ashok K. Behuria, and IDSA Fellow and Alok Bansal, Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Delhi presented papers on the Challenge of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Increasing Sectarian Violence in Pakistan respectively.
Dr. Ajay Darshan Behera and Dr. Mathew Joseph of AIS, Syed Savail Hussain from Pakistan, and teachers and students of Jamia, and other institutions in Delhi participated in the seminar.