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
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
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 area.
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 organisations."
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 activities.
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.