Issues related to identity and role of non-state actors worldwide were deliberated at length at a session, titled Contemporary Great Games, on the opening day of the Lahore Literary Festival on Saturday.
Journalist Ahmed Rashid moderated the session.
“Central Asia is redefining itself and so is the Middle East,” former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said.
She pointed to the entry of another stakeholder, particularly in the Middle East – the non-state actors.
Steve Coll, twice-recipient of Pulitzer Prize, appeared optimistic about Pakistani ‘identity’. “Pakistani nationalism has become strong after going through crisis,” he said. “It has now become unbreakable,” said Coll, the Columbia Journalism School dean. Addressing the issue of identity with reference to Pakistan, he said it was not about the absence of an identity but a struggle among many.
Recalling the collapse of the Soviet Union, former Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva said Central Asian states were attractive for global powers because of their natural as well as human resources.
She said Central Asian states were still trying to build their global ties. Matters related to security and balance of interests were of great concern to them. She said.
Taking Khar’s view of non-state actors further, Otunbayeva said they were very strong and mobile. She also talked about the issue of identity for Central Asia. “If after 70 years of statehood, you are having a discourse on your identity, I can only hope we can handle this better.”
Pakistani-Swedish author Qaisar Mahmood connected the identity complexities at an individual level to those at a broader level. “Europe is in a state of trauma because its self-image has been hurt,” he said. Citing terrorist attacks in Paris, he said these were carried out by people born and raised there. “The lack of connectivity and the struggle for finding a place within a society creates a trauma at an individual level.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2016.
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