Society in India and Pakistan, Introductory Session
Based on the procedings of the seminar "The
Role Of Civil Society in Pakistan and India:
Peace, Conflict Resolution, Democracy" by Jang Group of Newspapers
(Pakistan) & Friedrich/Naumann Foundation (Germany), September
12-13, 1997 at Pearl Continental Hotel, Karachi.
Text edited by Khurram Ali Shafique and Farida Z.
Ghazi Salahuddin (Jang Group of Newspapers)
Quotes from the
Change is the crux of the matter
for individuals and for communities.
We are holding this seminar against the
backdrop of the celebrations of the fifty years of our independence.
But this observance has not been very joyous. In fact, the
sense of sorrow over what we have made of our freedom
both in India and in Pakistan is directly associated
with the main concern of this seminar because of the poor
state of civil society in the two countries.
These deprivations, ladies and gentlemen,
underline the state of our civil society and it is a challenge
for all of us to break out of this bondage.
If there is any hope it is in the success
of small communities in helping themselves. The strategies
adopted by our rulers for economic development have not been
able to foster any social growth.
All of us, I am sure, look forward to a
very gratifying discussion on issues which have a bearing
not only on our two countries but the entire region.
Ghazi Salahuddin, from the Jang Group of Newspapers
thanked the participants, especially those who had taken the
trouble of travelling from India in spite of the tension the acquisition
of visas had created for them.
Ten participants from India were invited for this
seminar, out of which three were not able to make it, "but
that left us with a lucky number."
Introducing the seminar Mr Salahuddin mentioned that
it was being hosted by the Jang Group of Newspapers and Friedrich
Naumann Foundation in the backdrop of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
He suggested that South Asia seems to be uniquely
afflicted with a strange madness with which "we will have to
ultimately contend to be able to behave, in a collective sense,
like sensible and rational people." Referring to a recent report
on human development in South Asia, compiled by The Human Development
Centre in Islamabad, he pointed out the sad but not surprising fact
that the South Asia is now the most deprived region of the world,
having wrested this distinction from the Sub-Saharan Africa. South
Asia contains 22 % of the worlds population but it produces
only 1.3 % of the worlds income. All available indicators
seem to be pointing out towards this region as the poorest, the
most illiterate, the most malnourished and the least gender-sensitive
Mr Salahuddin also suggested that the role of NGOs
has become more crucial since the apparent total collapse of the
public sector in this region and the failure of the governments
"to carry the torch of development to the people who are down-trodden
and dispossessed." The assignment of injecting a process of
change "is increasingly becoming the burden of what is described
as the organised sector of the civil society: the non-governmental
He pointed out that, at least in view of the Pakistani
experience, our civil society has reached a stage where the established
structures of authority cannot be sustained without an immediate
and enormous development in human resources. Mentioning the fact
that journalism in this region first developed in relation with
the movement for independence, he suggested that it can play a major
role under the present circumstances where the top-down approaches
have failed. "We should now realise the importance of what
is called "public journalism" (also "civic journalism"
or "public service journalism" or "community-assisted
reporting") that has emerged in the more developed countries
partly in response to declining circulations. The idea is that a
newspaper should play a role not unlike that of a community organiser.
There is also the idea of "development journalism" to
highlight the positive aspects of change and to cover the development
Among the issues introduced by him as possible foci
for the discussions during the seminar was the possibility for change.
"Can this change be brought about by what we know as participatory
development?" He hoped that this seminar, among other things,
will make an attempt to answer this question.
Dr. Rene Klaff of Friedrich/Naumann Foundation
Quotes from the
In Pakistan the Friedrich/ Naumann Foundation
is working since 1987 in the fields of human development,
civil rights and environment protection.
There are many definitions of what civil
society is supposed to mean. But generally the term refers
to the realm of volunteer workers, networks and associations
which are clearly distinct from the state. These include NGOs
dealing with various issueslike environment, women,
human rights; it includes non-profit self-help associations,
independent research associations and institutions, and so
The democratic liberal civil society is
the context within which the individual can develop and realise
his or her aims.
Whereas liberals do not have blueprint
agenda for every economic and social problem, what they have
to offer are solutions based on tolerance, non-violence, on
the concept of individual freedom and responsibility.
We hope that through this workshop it would
be possible to get a clear understanding of the commonalties
and differences of the structure of the civil societies in
this major part of the sub-continent.
Dr. Rene Klaff of Friedrich/Naumann Foundation introduced
his organisation as a non-governmental body dedicated to the promotion
of liberal values throughout the world. The Foundation was founded
in 1958 by the first post-war German President Theodor Heuss and
named after the liberal German politician Friedrich Naumann, who
died in 1919.
At present the Foundation maintains projects in 70
countries of the world. In South Asia it supports projects of citizen
initiatives, applied research and policy relevance in the fields
of human rights and civic education, environment protection, economic
liberalisation and regional economic co-operation.
While pointing out that "there has been an increasing
awareness in South Asia of the need to develop a stronger civil
society over the recent years" he stated that the institutions
of the civil society "provide services and views that represent
alternatives to those provided by the governments and the state
Civil non-profit organisations are established basically
with the aim of being agents to change through their involvement
with the people. The existence of a mature civil society today is
seen as a pre-requisition for the realisation of individual freedom,
democratic institutions and peaceful conflict resolution. "The
concept of civil society implies the refusal of monopolies
be it the monopoly of a single official autocratic opinion; be it
the monopoly of a certain way of living; be it a monopoly of the
market forces. Rather it demands independent, open-minded and active
In Dr. Klaffs opinion, these factors point both
to the potentials as well as the enemies of the civil society.
The governments of South Asia have failed to fulfil
their promises regarding the lives and development of the people.
Judging from the coercive and authoritarian policies adopted by
the governments in the region and the atmosphere of regional conflict
developed due to unwillingness on part of the state authorities
to resolve conflict peacefully, the hope now rests with the civil
The potential enemies of the civil society are the
traditional elite who consider it as a threat to their own existence.
Hence, "the challenge that is evident for us is to overcome
the fears of creating more democratic space, and to disband the
notion of diversity as dangerous." Dr. Klaff suggested this
liberal agenda as possible guidelines to be followed during the
The concept behind the seminar, as highlighted by
him, was the necessity for analysing the role of the civil society
with a comparative approach. "And what is more challenging
in this part of the world than to compare the Pakistani and Indian
sides? Both countries are linked through geography, history and
personal and cultural bonds in many cases family bonds. And
yet they often seem so far away from one another because of the
political developments of the last half-century." A comparative
approach, therefore, is more likely to enable us to identify prospects
for the further development of democracy in the two countries, "but
also to get a clearer picture of where the dangerous force for the
swinging back of the pendulum may eventually lie."
Dr Klaff also suggested the possibility of a follow-up
of this seminar a few months later in India with the co-operation
of some Indian newspaper group an idea that he said was proposed
by Ghazi Salahuddin and endorsed by the Foundation.
Source: The Role Of Civil Society in Pakistan
Peace, Conflict Resolution, Democracy: Procedings of the seminar
by Jang Group of Newspapers (Pakistan) & Friedrich/Naumann
Edited by Khurram Ali Shafique and Farida Z. Hemani
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