Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest draws renowned participants

LAHORE: Speakers at Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest, a seminar with national and international participation, said religion was being used by some with vested interests for their own benefits and gains.

Speaking on the occasion, Tawakkol Karman Yemini, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said dictatorships hinder the way of peaceful change.

“In the Muslim world, there is no bigger terrorist than a dictator as they always block the means of peaceful change and create misunderstandings about Islam,” she said. “There is a need to demonstrate the true spirit of Islam, a nonviolent and peaceful religion, through tolerance, rule of law and love,” she remarked.

Tawakkol, presently settled in Turkey, expressed these views during her keynote address on Saturday on the first day of the second edition of Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest held under the auspices of Information Technology University (ITU) in collaboration with the Federal Higher Education Commission (HEC), Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) and other private sector organisations.

Tawakkol Karman, during her address to a gathering of academia, literature, media, thinkers, students from various universities and colleges said, “We choose rule of law, freedom and democracy to end terrorism as there is no choice between terrorism and dictatorship. Religion has been a tool in the hands of monarchies”.

ITU Vice Chancellor Dr Umar Saif, in his opening remarks highlighted the role of democracy for a country. “We must question where we are going and what we can do in our personal capacity to put our country on the path of democracy for establishing an enlightened and progressive society through profound, deep and delicate exercise to contribute to narrative and counter narrative. Thinkers and intellectuals should determine and articulate during the discourse to set the goals for the country.”

The two-day event aims to highlight history, culture and the current global political debate. The first day hosted several sessions, including youth participation in politics, the future of the Middle East, US-China rivalry media and entrepreneurship, the rise of right wing politics among other topics. In one session on the use of technology for improving governance, Hassan Khawar, Salman Ansari and Ishrat Hussain, the former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, participated as panelist. They opined that bureaucrats knew policy matters but had no knowledge of technology.

The Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest, in its two day, will host 20 international speakers, 60 national speakers and 30 academic institutions that would speak on topics ranging from the fate of Muslims in Britain to Rohingya crisis, the situation in the Middle East, the history of Afghanistan, women and violence in South Asian history, US-China relations, extremism in universities, the partition of 1947, and even the upcoming 2018 elections in Pakistan.

Along with panel discussions, there is also installation art and exhibit on the partition of 1947 and screening of awarding-wining documentaries.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi will be the keynote speaker on the second and the concluding day of the conference where 112 speakers, among them 25 from around the globe and representatives of 35 universities from all the four provinces and delegations from six universities, will deliberate on promoting new thinking. In order to ensure maximum participation by youth and people from all walks of life, the entry on both days is free.

Earlier, a Qawali night was hosted at the newly restored Wazir Khan mosque. The Qawali night was held with Ghazal legends Rizwan and Mauzam. The guests were transported in a rickshaw to the Wazir Khan mosque Chowk Courtyard for the Qawali night.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2018.