Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest for 2020 is shaping up to be a jam-packed series of events, planned for January 11 and 12, 2020 at the Alhmara Centre in Lahore. It will start on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 11am and end on January 12, 2020 at 7pm, after over fifty panels featuring over a hundred speakers. All of this is free and open to the public.
The event begins on January 11, with a keynote speech by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, once the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, and lately the UK National Security Advisor on ‘International Governance and the Future of the Nation State.’ In the current global climate, there can be no other more topical issue. Fast on the heels of the keynote a powerful panel will discuss the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East and its implication for Pakistan. Pakistan’s former ambassador to Iran, Asif Durrani, the former UN Special Representative to Iraq Ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, scholar Barnett Rubin, and the former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Waheed Arshad (Retd.), will speak on the panel with Mosharraf Zaidi.
The first day will also feature panels on local government with the former Indian Union Minister, Mani Shakar Aiyer, the Advisor to the PM on Establishment Shehzad Arbab, and the former Mayor of Karachi, Syed Mustafa Kamal. Senator Sherry Rahman and former Senator and Minister Javed Jabbar with Ahmed Bilal Mehboob will then tackle the issue of whether parliament is still relevant in Pakistan, in an age of presidential ordinances. The Pakistan Air force, especially post Balakot, will also feature on the programme with an Air Chief Marshal and two Air Commodores in conversation.
Former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with sit with Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin and Najam Sethi in the afternoon of January 11, 2020 to discuss the post-withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan. Another panel with members of the Task Force headed by Dr Ishrat Husain will present and discuss its agenda of changes to the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan.
Day one will also feature two discussions on the media, with one organised by the Chevening Journalism programme focusing on ‘Fake News,’ and the other featuring veteran journalists Mansoor Ali Khan, Fahd Hussain, Owais Tohid and Maria Memon. The role and future of universities will be the critical issue discussed by a high powered panel featuring the former Chancellor of Berkeley, Professor Nicholas Dirks, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, Kinnaird College Principal Dr Rukhsana David, LUMS School of Education Dean Dr Tahir Andrabi, and moderated by Senator Musadik Malik.
The first day will also feature a series of book launches with the life of Freda Bedi – who was a freedom fighter in Lahore, and then later became a Buddhist nun – being described by author Andrew Whitehead in conversation with Moneeza Hashmi. Professor Farhat Haq will also launch her book on Sharia and the State in Pakistan, which includes a very informative comparative study of other Muslim countries, and Professor Kim Wagner will discuss the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 in vivid detail in conversation with Ammar Ali Jan. A highlight of the day will certainly be the launch of the book on Prince Dara Shukoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan who was supposed to succeed his father. Professor Supriya Gandhi’s meticulously researched book will bring the life of Prince Dara to people in Lahore again, where he lived for a long time.
A highlight of day 1 will be a scintillating concert by Ali Sethi at the Alhamra which is free and open to the public on a first come first served basis. Ali Sethi will also feature some new songs and music at the concert.
Day two of the ThinkFest will begin with a keynote by the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and the President of the Royal Society, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan. Sir Venki will speak on his path breaking research on the genome. The next panel will unravel the history and development of Hindutva with Professor Janaki Bakhle from Berkeley and Dr Ali Raza. Internal democracy in political parties, or in fact the lack thereof, will be the focus on a panel with Afrasiab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar, and Hamid Khan. The ever-tottering Pakistani economy will form the basis of discussion between former finance ministers, Hafiz Pasha, Miftah Ismail and others, at another panel. Attention will also be given to the education emergency in Pakistan with Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Baela Jamil and Mosharraf Zaidi. Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry, will then follow soon with Senator Musadik Malik, and Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar to discuss where Pakistan is headed in the next ten years.
The future of liberal democracy in the world will be the focus of a panel featuring Mani Shankar Aiyer, Bruno Macaes, a former Portuguese Minister, and Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy, while another session with Dr Maceas, with former Pakistan Ambassador to China Masood Khalid and journalist Khurram Hussain will discuss the present and future trajectory of the Chinese One Belt, One Road project.
India’s populist revolution, which is fast changing the nature of the country itself, will be discussed by Wall Street Journal columnist, Sadanand Dhume, in conversation with Professor Janaki Bakhle and Najam Sethi. The newly appointed minister for the National Security division, Dr Moeed Yusuf in conversation with Ejaz Haider, will then discuss issues related to National Security. Furthermore, focusing on what the ‘rule of law’ means in Pakistan distinguished lawyers Salman Akram Raja, Babar Sattar, Amber Darr and Reema Omar will be in conversation on this important issue.
Day two will also feature a number of book launches. The very interesting tale of the camel merchant of Philadelphia, focusing on the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will be unravelled by author Sarbpreet Singh in conversation with F.S. Aijazudin. Dr Simon Fuchs will also launch his book on Shia Islam in Pakistan and the Middle East, with Dr Shandana Mohmand will launch her book on ‘Crafty Oligarchs, Savvy Voters: Democracy under Inequality in Rural Pakistan.’ The excellent debut novel of Jamil Jan Kochai, ’99 Nights in Logar’ will also be launched by the author in conversation with Mina Malik-Hussain. About an Afghan boy who is looking for his lost dog, this fascinating story has been shortlisted for the DSC Prize in South Asian Literature. Timeri Murari will also launch his book on the famed Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal for whom Shah Jahan built the majestic Taj Mahal. Finally, Pallavi Raghavan will launch her book on the moments of India and Pakistan cooperation in the first decade after independence.
The ThinkFest will also feature an exhibition curated by Destinations Pakistan. “Unveiling Punjab,” will be an immersive exhibition to highlight the potential for cultural heritage tourism via visual displays, special videos and live art and crafts experiences. To complement this exhibit, several panels with leading scholars and practitioners will discuss topics like the environment and tourism, religious tourism and heritage tourism.