ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference said that civil society has a key role to play in consolidating democratic gains while further proposing steps to make electoral system more accessible to the common man.
They were speaking at a conference titled “Pakistan: democratic and economic challenges post-2015”, organised by the Jinnah Institute here on Thursday.
The conference, attend by politicians, policy experts, civil society members and industry experts, was divided into two sessions — one on electoral reforms and democratic buy-in, and the other on inclusive economic growth and regional trade.
Jinnah Institute President Sherry Rehman, who chaired the first session, titled “Electoral Reforms and Sustaining Pakistan’s Democratic Buy-In”, said civil society has a key role to play in consolidating democratic gains. Centre for Civic Education head Zafarullah Khan noted that this was the first time in Pakistan’s history that electoral reforms were being considered with due seriousness and vigour.
Khan proposed that measures should be taken to make the electoral system more accessible to the common man.
While commenting on the Judicial Commission’s report, columnist Zahid Hussain said that while allegations of pre-poll rigging have been rejected, irregularities in the post-election process had been emphasised by the commission. The second session titled “Regional Trade: Pakistan’s Comparative Advantage?” was moderated by Jinnah Institute Director Hassan Akbar with panellists NUST Business School Dean Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan and General (retd) Talat Masood.
Dr Khan spoke of the benefits accrued through an economic bloc, noting that SAARC could only be a successful economic bloc through cooperation between Pakistan and India. He recommended granting China full membership to SAARC would take the economic bloc’s trade volume from $20 billion to $100b.
Gen Masood spoke on the theme of cooperation between India and Pakistan, saying that while expecting a resolution to Kashmir was unrealistic, it was fair to expect sanity from both sides regarding trade and commerce.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.