The tradition of dialogue in Punjab be revived to counter extremism

Provincial Dialogue Forum – 4

The diversity of Punjab should be nurtured by providing enabling platforms where people share their multitude of thoughts, in the shape of a dialogue. As of now, the culture of dialogue is lacking. It should be revived. Punjab’s own history and culture is replete with platforms like baithak that promoted dialogue.

These thoughts came in the fourth provincial dialogue forum on Punjab, held in Lahore, on 20 July 2017. Noted scholars, academics, policy makers, civil society members as well as representative of community-based organizations from southern Punjab attended the forum, deliberating on safe charity in Punjab.

The group underscored the need for holding dialogue to counter violent extremism in Punjab. These days, it was shared, people do not much talk to each other. They come with pre-conceived assumption about each other.

The group shared that Punjab’s rich tradition of discussing diverse thoughts had dissipated with time. There was a time, not so long ago, when cultural festivals were held where people of all thoughts would sit together. These festivals or platforms got dissipated with urbanization, social media, extremism, among other things.

One of the natures of dialogue greatly felt is of faith-based. Taking part in the discussion, Peter Jacob of Social Justice, said that the term faith-based has evolved from Muslim-Christian dialogue. He recounted several institutions which have effectively played role in bridging gaps between Muslim and Christians. He shared inter-faith dialogues are often meant to resolve differences and find common grounds, from which to move forward. These should be explored further in the context of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Raghib Naeemi, administrator of Jamia Naeemi, stressed upon the need for intra-faith dialogue, that is, among Muslims. He said the wave of sectarianism since 1980s have reduced spaces for discussion, but several platforms can be explored. On the government front, he said the existing platforms mostly get into action after some unwanted incident occurs or, at the most, during the Ashura. Maulana Naeemi said because of efforts by non-governmental platforms different faith-based leaders are able to meet each other. He even called for exploring within these sects.

Participants included religious scholars, serving and former policy makers especially police officers, civil society representatives working on safe charity. Participants included Husain Naqi, former joint director, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Zahid Hasan, Punjabi scholar and writer; Shahid Mehmood Nadeem, director, Ajoka Theatre; Peter Jacob, Centre for Social Justice; Maulana Raghib Naeemi, administrator, Jamia-e-Naeemia; Amjad Tufail, short story writer, and Muhammad Amir Rana, PIPS director. Representatives of community-based organizations from southern Punjab also attended the discussion.

Earlier, starting off the discussion, PIPS’s senior project manager Ismail Khan argued that, according to an extensive national-level dialogue conducted by PIPS, it was concluded that tapping diversity is must to secure the country and that the country needs to hold multi-level dialogue to counter extremism, tapping viewpoints of different socio-political force. Yet, it was reminded, the basic guiding document of those dialogues should be the Constitution of Pakistan.

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