ISLAMABAD: In a rare criticism of Saudi Arabia, a federal minister on Tuesday blamed the oil-rich kingdom’s alleged nexus with the United States for instability in the Muslim world, particularly in Pakistan.
Riaz Hussain Pirzada, the minister for inter-provincial coordination in Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet, argued that the nexus of Saudi money and American influence has ruined Pakistan.
“The Muslim world has also been damaged by the influx of Saudi money and we need to take ownership of our faith,” Pirzada said while addressing the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Idea Conclave’ organised by the Jinnah Institute. The minister pointed out that the time had come to stop the influx of Saudi money into Pakistan.
The varied discussion touched upon the impact of conflict on the political landscape, as well as its influence on civil-military relations, with the panelists debating policy points, including the current petrol crisis in the country.
In her opening remarks, Jinnah Institute President Sherry Rehman expressed concerns over the increasing ‘recoil from democracy’ evidenced in younger Pakistanis and stressed the need for empowering the youth to have a relationship with the state.
She also noted the growing capacity of civil society to articulate messages for change, although she cautioned that civil society was a partner for democracy, not its prime agent.
About 21th Constitutional Amendment, Sherry said generally speaking it was a collective failure of all political parties but it was done in the wake of unanimously approved recommendations of an all parties’ conference.
“Military courts were undesirable yet unavoidable,” said MQM MNA Dr Farooq Sattar. While Shafqat Mehmood of PTI said that we must build institutions as well as regulatory bodies as they were crucial for sustaining democracy.
The second session titled ‘Unbuckling Pakistani economy’s straitjacket’ featured several architects of Pakistan’s economic infrastructure.
“Graph of armed services compared to civil services has gone up since independence,” said Former SBP governor Ishrat Hussain, adding that “revamp the structure of civil services or the gap is going to widen.”
Hussain said that there must be delegation of powers as if every single decision would remain in the hands of chief executives we will not have quick responses.
Former finance minister Dr Salman Shah outlined the need for a grand economic vision, arguing that Pakistan’s size and stature should be looking to join the G20 by 2050.
Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastagir Khan said that reform was painful and required sacrifices, adding that “reforms are like taking the bone away from the dog”.
The final session titled ‘New Media: Disrupting the Status Quo and Creating Noise’ was moderated by a number of experts including journalist, rights activist and lawyer.
Shahzad Ahmed from Bytes For All spoke on how fear and censorship had been introduced as models of governance in the cyberspace, and noted that attempting to block the internet was utterly futile.
Rights activist Jibran Nasir deplored the fact that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned several Facebook pages and websites meant for propagation of liberal or secular viewpoint, which according to state authorities were against the ideology of Pakistan.
Yasser Latif, who was the counsel in the case against the ban on YouTube, said that the PTA had no law allowing it to ban websites, and revealed that the government had enacted a secret agreement with Facebook to monitor free speech online.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2015.