Adil Najam at T2F
It had been a long day of meetings and phone calls and putting together of documentation for my upcoming trip to Lahore and Islamabad. When the clock ticked 6:40 pm, I suddenly remembered that I had wanted to be at T2F to listen to Adil Najam of Pakistaniat speak at 7 pm. It was raining. The traffic was pretty bad. Should I or shouldn’t I make a dash for it? I packed up my stuff, headed for the car but it wasn’t until I actually had to make a decision to either turn right or left, that I took the right turn and headed for T2F.
I was 10 minutes late (which isn’t like me at all) but was told that he had just started. I caused a wee bit of a stir (much to my utter embarrassment) as I settled in to listen to the great man speak :). There were some familiar faces in the audience – Zak, Nuzhat, Jamash, Sabizak, Riaz, Mimi, Sabeen, Saira, some others – young and old. Surprisingly missing were people like Teeth Maestro, Inspirex and Rabia Garib (who says she forgot – IMAGINE THAT!)
As I listened to Adil Najam and watched him present animatedly, with total conviction, I was glad I had made the effort.
Dr. Adil Najam holds the Frederick S. Pardee Chair in Global Public Policy at Boston University. He also serves as the Director of the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and a Professor of International Relations and of Geography and Environment. He served as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.
Prof. Najam has also taught at MIT, University of Massachusetts and at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts Univeristy. He has written over 100 scholarly papers, serves on the editorial boards of many scholarly journals and has several books to his credit including Pakistanis in America: Portrait of a Giving Community; Envisioning a Sustainable Development Agenda for Trade and Environment and Civic Entrepreneurship.
He is a past winner of MIT’s Goodwin Medal for Effective Teaching, the Fletcher School Paddock Teaching Award, and the Stein Rokan Award of the International Political Science Association, the ARNOVA Emerging Scholar Award, and the Pakistan Television Medal for Outstanding Achievement. He is a frequent commentator on global policy issues in the international media and is the founder of the blog Pakistaniat.com.
A lucid speaker, Dr. Najam spoke eloquently about his perception of what the world had become – a place where poverty prevailed, where violence had seeped into everyday language and behaviour, where the word democracy meant different things to different people both in the East and in the West.
Why, he asked, was it assumed that if a person was not educated, he was not capable of making a decision regarding whom he wanted to vote in as a leader and what exactly he expected the leader or the party in power to do for him? Another question he asked was: “Was the world ready to accept the verdict of a democracy even if that verdict meant that a ruler they did not approve of, would come into power? Legitimate questions.
He also spoke about religion and how it had been used and abused by various groups to achieve their own objectives. It was those who were silent amongst us, who didn’t get up and speak against fundamentalism perpetrated in the name of various religions, violence of all sorts initiated by different governments, who were equally to blame for the situation the world found itself in today, he said.
Then of course he turned to Pakistan and its burgeoning democracy and he insisted that if we were to become a functioning democracy we needed to be patient and let the civilian government serve out their term (no matter how bad or ineffective we may think they were) so that they could be accountable for the positive or negative change they had brought about.
One of the things that I didn’t quite agree with was his contention that we got the leaders we deserved and that part of the reason consecutive governments had been so corrupt and ineffective was because they knew that they had only a few months/years in power – and so they tried to make as much for themselves as possible. If they knew they had 5 years, would they be less likely to be corrupt? I don’t think so.
He said Pakistanis are, on the one hand, in denial about what is wrong with this country and the things that need to be done to fix it. On the other hand, they tend to be too hard on themselves – for example he thinks we have a very vibrant civil society that has continued to evolve and it is something we should be proud of. There are decisions that we can influence by being vocal, by writing to our government and our parliaments, by using the new media to garner support – basically to have our voices heard.
Dr. Najam also spoke about how he started pakistaniat.com with 3 other individuals whom he has never met, and how it evolved from an online presence into area for discourse with an impressive number of visitors – pakistanis and non-pakistanis alike.
The Q&A was quite intense – all in all an interesting evening that raised a lot of questions and perhaps answered some.
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