It was an honor for me to invited by 7th Sense Philosophical club formed by Agha Khan University Hospital doctors. The discussion was quite extensive but centered around four main questions:
Can Muslim world extricate itself from endless wars?
Can Pakistan emerge from its political, social and economic crisis?
What will be the role played by middle and upper classes in the reform of Pakistan?
What will be the reform platform?
On the question of low-intensity wars the discussion centered around the relations between West and Muslim world with their different outlooks of the world. It was explored whether a new agreement can be reached with the West that is based on mutual respect, shared values, concern for humanity and shared prosperity. My position in the discussion was that West has still not given up its colonial mindset and tries to retain its control through various means including continued divisions through redrawing of the map and proxy rulers. I proposed to them to initiate dialogue with think tanks in Europe and the USA to explore this further.
There was pessimism about the current state of affairs in the country especially the failure of various state institutions, rising income gap, vanishing middle class and inability to politicians to lead. Majority were of the view that all political parties have failed including PTI and middle class does not have the capacity to lead the change. Most of them were of the opinion that a new political party should be formed. All agreed that despite its shortcomings the democratic enterprise should continue.
My position was that civic society is weak and has failed to form various platforms to exert pressure for not just reforms but also set the agenda. Middle Class instead of uplifting saviors Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Imran Khan that later abandoned them should focus more on developing political institutions. Instead of abandoning PTI and allowing Imran Khan to have his way, Middle Class should demand that their voices should be heard and accommodated in running the party. Creating new parties is like reinventing the wheels.
The option of a new party is now too frequently mentioned in my meetings with intellectuals and technocrats. I am not suggesting it is an altogether bad idea, but it should not be the choice at first instance of the departure of a party from its ideology. This is exactly what majority of the middle class did when Bhutto and Imran Khan disappointed them. Instead of leaving a better option in my view is to stand up and fight back.
It is encouraging that intellectuals of the country are forming philosophical and intellectual clubs to explore these important questions. I have been in touch with some of them and hope that more such clubs will be formed in each district of the country. This is the only way to guide the civic society and enable it to build capacity for informed action.
By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi