Gilani seeks literati’s advice on extremism, intolerance

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Monday acknowledging the positive contribution of literati towards a tolerant society, assured drawing up of national strategy, based on their suggestions, to cope with internal and external challenges.

Addressing a gathering of intellectuals, writers and poets at the launch of his new initiative – “PM in dialogue with nation” here at PM Secretariat, Gilani said there was an urgent need to develop and pursue a vision that addresses the needs of changing times. Under the dialogue, the Prime Minister will hold four interactive sessions with writers, artistes, vice chancellors of universities and media.

The suggestions would be incorporated into the address of the prime minister to the nation on Pakistan Day.The participants urged the national leadership to standup to the challenges facing the nation and take bold decisions. The writers and intellectuals from all over the country spoke on the necessity of developing a national curriculum that inculcates amongst the young minds a love for the country and a spirit of nationalism.The national writers spoke on role of media, which they said was now centered on “tickers” and “anchors” and stressed that it needs to take up its responsible role of building a society and creating hope. They also called for formulating a foreign policy based on national aspirations, without accepting any foreign pressures.

Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan desires good ties with all countries without accepting the hegemony of any, on basis of mutual respect and interests. He recalled his meetings with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and President Hamid Karzai and said these led to improvement of bilateral ties.Gilani said it owed to his interaction with the Indian Prime Minister, that following the recent bombings at Mumbai, there was no repeat of the blame-game of 2008 and the Indian government acted “maturely” and admitted its intelligence failure.He said Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto presented the 1973 Constitution when fissures were developing amongst the provinces and termed it an honour for his government to restore it to its original shape.

He said had the provincial autonomy been given earlier, Pakistan would still have been united. He said the Pakistan Peoples Party would protect the constitution and the country at all costs, whether it was in power or not.Prime Minister Gilani acknowledged the role of President Asif Ali Zardari for handing over his powers to the parliament in an unprecedented manner and corrected a historical wrong.Gilani said his government had always accorded respect to the State institutions and restored the judiciary. He dismissed any clash of the institutions and said these were passing through an evolutionary phase, with some teething problems.Prime Minister Gilani responding to the issue of high prices of everyday items spoke of the several challenges the country was facing, including the global recession.

He said Pakistan was paying a high price in the war against extremism and terrorism and spoke of the rehabilitation cost of the 2.9 million Internally Displaced Persons within a short period of 90 days. He said 35,000 people have sacrificed their lives, while a heavy cost have been incurred due to infrastructural damages.Similarly the country again had to undergo a loss of US 10 billion dollars due to the heavy floods of last summers.The Prime Minister assured the writers that the government, with the help of provincial governments, would take strict action against the hoarders and crackdown against those causing artificial shortage of food items.He agreed with the intellectuals that the media must watch national interests and create hope. He noted the positive suggestion of creating Literacy Centers across the country, supporting regional languages and literature, encouraging arts, dramas and films, so as to bring more positivity and tolerance in the society.

Gilani shared his concerns with the writers about the situation in Karachi and said the issue should not be politicised and peace be brought to the economic hub.The Prime Minister in his opening remarks said the suggestions could help the government in coping with social problems particularly extremism.He said extremism was damaging positive thinking among the people as they were touching the level of ‘no-tolerance’ towards others’ views. He said the eventual result was disruption of peace and calmness in society with increase of rigidity in views.He said the dialogue was meant to seek ways to develop an atmosphere of tranquility in the society and promote a sense of accepting each others’ views with patience.

He said writers and poets being the builders of social norms could play a positive role because a nation’s culture roots in its literature.He said a poet can create their verses based on love for motherland while a writer has the power to highlight through his pen the issues of justice, truth, friendship and love.He asked the intellectuals to promote the government’s reconciliation policy and contribute positively for the country.The Prime Minister mentioned that the creation of Pakistan was rooted with the dream of Allama Iqbal – the national poet and intellectual.He said Pakistan Peoples Party has always patronaged literati and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, also the writer of many book, encouraged others of reading and writing.Gilani acknowledged the services of country’s poets and writers in fighting against dictatorship for long. May it be Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib or Ahmed Faraz, the role of their pens cannot be forgotten against dictatorship era.

He also lauded the role of Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi who he said played a great role in materializing the initiative.Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the unprecedented dialogue was taking place at the same venue where the government takes major policy decisions and it shows the significance of the new initiative.She termed the writers and intellectuals as social scientists and engineers and said it was aimed at strengthening the society that today stands divided on ethnic, religious and linguistic lines.She hoped the interaction would help bridge the communication gap by incorporating their suggestions into the national policy.The Information Minister said her ministry was also considering a policy of specialized excellence awards for writers and intellectuals, while work was also underway for reviving the Youth Centers.

She said, on their recommendation work on online linkage of libraries was also being reviewed. She said the Directorate of Films and Publications would also closely interact with the writers and intellectuals and help them preserve their work.Around 30 writers and intellectuals were invited from across the country. Those who spoke included Intizar Hussain, Prof.  Fateh Mohammad Malik, Dr Mohammad Ali Siddique, Mustansar Ali Tarar, Dr Ajmal Niazi, Ms Zahida Hina, Amjad Islam Amjad, Agha Nasir, Prof Inyatullah Faizi, Prof Marhab Qasmi, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Raees Fatima, Mansha Yad, Dr Azam Azam, Shahbnam Shakeel and Prof Uzma Saleem.Due to paucity of time a few writers could not speak. Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi said another session could be held to seek suggestions from the remaining guests.

The writers while expressing dismay over the overall decay in society stressed revival of literary organisations at the grassroots level. They also stressed character building and ethics to the young students.The intellectuals expressed concern over the foreign influences and the need to counter these firmly by adhering to a national policy. They stressed identifying the internal faults and for taking long term corrective measures.They pointed to the low rate of 2 per cent of students at the university level and urged an increase, besides a focus on learning sciences and addition of new subjects. They stressed that the curriculum should encourage nationalistic tendencies and be uniform across the country.

The writers urged the national media to build the society by helping remove fissures and strict adherence to professionalism and ethics.They also suggested the urgent need of addressing the problems of common man and provision of items of everyday use at affordable rates. Violence in Karachi figured high during the dialogue amidst calls for measures to restore peace so that the economic activity is not affected.Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi, who pioneered the idea of the dialogue said it was for the first time that the Cabinet Meeting Room was being used to formulate a national strategy, by seeking advise of the literati of the country.She said their suggestions would go a long way in helping the nation face the challenges. – APP