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2 Civil society and political/institutional change

I. A. Rehman | Nitai Mehta | Sadiqa Salahuddin | Sri Ram Khanna | Akhtar Hameed Khan | DISCUSSION

Session 2 CONTENTSOverlapping is not an issue in a country like Pakistan – if a woman is educated twice, so what? – Sadiqa Salahuddin

Q. Now there are some groups in this country who in their own interests forget what they have been telling the people for the past fifty years. For instance, if I am an industrialist and I can get cheap raw material from India I will swallow my own ideology and carry out the trade.

Mr. Khorakiwala (India): On these NGOs for peace: after the incident of the Babri Mosque we set up one such NGO in Bombay and the purpose was to promote peace in the neighbourhoods. This NGO has been working for the last four years now.

Could there be a data bank of NGOs so that work is not overlapped?

Could NGOs play a role in checking the way government funds are spent?

Sadiqa Salahuddin: Some efforts are being made in the way of building a data bank of the NGOs, but I feel that overlapping of efforts is not an issue in a country like Pakistan where the magnitude of misery is very big – if a woman is educated twice, so then what?

There are NGOs that are looking into the privatisation of the public facilities such as water supply and they are taking various type of actions. As far as health and education is concerned NGOs can only carry out experiments, document them and share them. But the ultimate responsibility of providing health and education to all will have to be shouldered by the government.

Q. A question for Dr. Khanna: looking into five years from today do you think this work of yours [consumer groups movement] could gain ground? Could you get the politicians to hear to you?

Mr. Khatib Ahmed

Dr. Khanna: I was a political activist once and when I quitted that I was committed to one objective: you can bring change from outside the political parties. And when I look at the consumer movements in the other countries I am convinced that we, in India, can address the issues and bring change in the domains that have been addressed by the political leaders in the past.

But at the same time we see this movement as an attempt to grab social space and a bargaining position to influence the agendas of all political parties – irrespective to their colours and stands. So, five years from now (I have a feeling) that we will be having a afar more sophisticated dialogue with the political parties.

Q: When Pakistan came into being – or even before – there was a lot of voluntarism, which we called social work and not NGO. My question is: how much voluntarism do you still expect from the citizens, or do you have to make your work entirely professional and career oriented?

Begum Mumtaz Rashidi

Dr. Khanna: My group was started by volunteers but we have learnt that while volunteers can start a programme it can only be sustained through professionals: a few full-time workers can bring out a lot more output than a lot of people working on a programme as volunteers. Still, the guiding role has to be played by the volunteers who have a vision and commitment.

Q: There is so much disparity between the rich and the poor in India and Pakistan. Yet the governments of the two countries have been blaming each other for everything, and doing little to eradicate poverty. As the saying goes: Kashmir nay humein aur hum nay Kashmir ko mil ker tabah ker diya…

Dr. Khanna: I feel the same way but I didn’t know we are so similar.

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