NUPSA Conference, a reflection
By: Barrister Amjad Malik
I attended yet another London ‘young leaders conference’ organised by (NUPSA) National Union of Pakistani Students and Alumni and listened to Pakistani students & ‘guest actors’ from abroad. We all gathered over the weekend from 9-11 March 12 at the Goodenough College (London).
Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham graciously hosted the opening ceremony with his warm welcome at House of Lords and Pakistan High Commission hosted a meal at his prestigious office in the eve on the 9th of March, a day which is remembered for initiation of lawyers struggle for rule of law in Pakistan. Participants included a young lawyer and a former LSE student Kashmala Tariq now a diver, member of Parliament, senior lawyer Dr Kahlid Ranjha a former Minister of Musharraf Raj, and a stalwart anchor cum ambassador for free media and civil rights Najam Sethi a man who is known for his ‘chirya’ (spy bird). It was a week end conference and one Media outlet on the final day (11th) hosted a televised debate on ‘whether Pakistan is heading towards a right direction’. Seven committees deliberated on Foreign Policy, Media, Economy, law and order., education and law reforms in an around 20 hours marathon over the week end. There was plus and minuses but brain drain remained the focal point whether new politicians have contributed to end the red tape to rid Pakistan from the established hold of cheema’s chattha’s and Ranjha’s (metaphorically speaking the feudal mind set). Audience thought that the mission was not accomplished (not yet) , Sethi was optimistic that it is possible if youth rise and shine with clear direction and demands to reform, but Kashmala remained defensive in front of hostile audience. High Commission half heartedly supported the conference but withdrawal symptoms were quite obvious hence technical difficulties, lack of respect of time and way wired arrangements were incidental and understandable.
I headed legal committee which was tasked to ponder NRO, constitutional immunity , Memogate, Blasphemy law, and above all missing persons. I was fortunate to have a team of thinking minds who agreed that the Judgement on NRO was a good sign for Pakistan and Govt must follow the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but having said that they favoured to have a robust and reliable system headed by a superior court judge and a strict law on corruption to ensure across the board accountability. Funnily, they also proposed that in order to address the genuine grouse of political victimisation a Tribunal is set up to filter those pending cases for over 10 years within 12 months. Students considered the Contents of the alleged confidential memo serious and showed confidence that Supreme Court has powers to do complete justice and desired that whether ‘Memo’ was written or not requires an independent probe, but favoured to retain the constitutional immunity provisions as enshrined in Article 248 of the 1973 Constitution, but asserted that the electoral process of the election of the President of Pakistan must be meaningful and thorough and that no one is above the law and President may be impeached for wrong doing under the Article 47 of the Constitution. They were of the view that even if the numbers are not conductive, an action to impeach may initiate a greater debate fatal than the ouster. I was quite amused that legal eagles wanted to retain the blasphemy law as a deterrent, so that an emotional mob may not dictate the legal recourse If no law, or legal forum is available, however, in order to address the concerns of West and minorities the Procedural guarantees were suggested with which a case is filed. It also suggested that OIC and the West must consider setting up a forum to adjudicate such matters to avoid the clash of civilization as one man’s unnatural death is the death of the whole of humanity. Finally, Hot topic in the conference was that of those missing ultra wires. Students expressed its deep anguish over the issue of missing person(s) and observed that no one must remain ‘missing’ ultra constitutionally, and demanded that both Govt’s (the federal and the provincial) must take effective steps immediately to ensure the speedy recovery of those missing persons, and they must be either charged, produced and/or set free if no charges with compensation and medical treatment (not death). Legal Committee condemned terrorism in any shape or form and all acts of terrorism and/or subversion and Questioned whether existing criminal justice system is apt to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence those involved in heinous crimes such as terrorism, and suicidal missions in Pakistan and noted the acquittal for lack of evidence of many accused involved in either bombing, daylight murder(s), and/or Attacks at security personnel & is of the opinion that there is a dire need of setting up a specialist court which adjudicates cases of citizens and or foreign nationals arrested which involves allegations of international terrorism, national security threat(s) and or espionage where those cases may not be tried in ordinary sessions courts and buck was shoved towards parliament to take the lead role rather than beating about the bush. It proposed that, “the Parliament and stake holders must jointly find a solution with collective wisdom which is compliant of the constitutional guarantees, upholds law and in order to protect the public and national security of Pakistan from increasing violence and terrorism”, sounded saner to me.
Other committees were opting for PEMRA reforms, talks with Taliban, and greater Islamic inference in Foreign Policy but I could see dissent where students were in favour of interest based policy rather than ‘religion’ alone. They were voicing for a policy designed to cater the national needs to avoid loneliness in international world by acknowledging China’s role. Educational reforms, Central Drug Regulation Authority, and anti dengue campaign to deter, detect and catch at earlier stages and political settlement in Baluchistan were also proposed considering it a key to return to unity calling separatist to the drawing board. Unified education policy where minimum syllabus and policy is settled and training of teachers was also considered vital. Trade not aid, and review of blasphemy law and finding those ‘missing’ was what younger minds critical to the current situation posed as a question to the older generation(s) on the other side of the spectrum who were failing to end status quo.
I must say, the passion and ideas were fresh and the absence of Pak Society boys was greatly missed. It is about time that serious efforts are undertaken to unite both societies both of whom have great potential, capacity and will to serve the student cause and Pakistan. The ventures like this may give double dividend, if organised in complete harmony and unanimity rather than tit for tat exchange. I attended both, ‘ Oxford conference’ as well as ‘NUPSA’, and enjoyed both and I am positive that this de-radicalisation process must continue to encourage original thinking, nourishing fresh ideas, and supporting our youth who is fighting the red tape and ‘mafias’ all around. May God bless them.
Barrister Amjad Malik, is a chair of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK) and participated as an expert and chaired Legal Committee at the Young Leaders conference 2012 hosted by NUPSA at Goodenough college (London) –
12 March 2012