LAHORE: The organizers of the Asma Jahangir Conference regretted the alleged state’s highhandedness after it blocked the three-time elected former PM’s speech at the AJCONF2021 closing ceremony on Nov 21.
It emerged on Saturday, when conference organizers via its media handlers claimed that the internet provider was restrained from providing the organizers with internet services for the conferences two hours before the closing and Mr. Sharif’s speech was supposed to start.
Nawaz Sharif in his speech paid glowing tributes to the struggle of Asma Jahangir.
Asma Jahangir Conference was in the headlines on the second day as well, after Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary refused to appear in the session arguing a convict and declared absconder Mr Nawaz Sharif was also going to talk at the closing session of the conference.
This led to a barrage of criticism from another federal minister Mirza Shehzad Akbar who also criticized the Asma Jahangir Conference for inviting former prime minister and PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif.
Later SCBA President Ahsan Bhoon, talking to Geo News rejected the criticism by federal ministers and said Mr Chaudhary made the issue out of nothing.
On the first day, former SCBA President Ali Ahmed Kurd’s furious speech stole the show and SCP CJ Gulzar Ahmed and IHC CJ Athar Minalla responded to the allegations levelled by Mr Kurd. SCP CJ rejected allegations and said he did not take any dictation for issuing any verdict. The IHC CJ said the judiciary must do work to overcome the past mistakes.
This included cutting off of cellular internet services two hours before the closing session, in the vicinity of the Avari Hotel Lahore.
The organizers of Asma Jahangir Conference 21 which includes the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, and the AGHS, strongly condemned this act and consider it an onslaught on the freedom of expression. These steps can never deter our resolve to give voice to the marginalized communities.
After the video call was cut off, the organizers arranged for a telephonic address, during which Nawaz sharif condemned the present government for censoring freedom of speech and expression and said that everyone must struggle for democracy together and come to a consensus on political rights and to chalk out a way forward to implement it.
“In the past, the judiciary did not legitimize martial law, and given a dictator the right to make changes to the constitution in Pakistan, those who follow the constitution are traitors. There needs to be a consensus on a national narrative. Following the constitution is the only solution. For this purpose journalists and civil society activists must play their role for the sake of democracy and the rule of law. They must unify on one platform, a national jirga, which will give shape to a national movement so that we can move forward as it is already too late.”
Munizae Jahangir, journalist and organizer of the conference, said, “We believe in freedom of expression that is why this non-partisan platform is open to everyone and we condemn the muzzling of the closing session where Mian Nawaz Sharif was going to make an address.”
In the sessions today:
In a panel discussion on Forced conversions, participants said that the bill should not have been blocked while the CII chairman said that these instances were limited to Sindh and Punjab.
In a discussion on inequality on income and wealth, it was mentioned that there was unequal distribution of wealth which led to a larger gap, and COVID 19 was one of the factors which led to excessive distortion.
Another discussion on anti-rape legislation, it was said that prosecution agencies and criminal justsice system, there were several lacunae and lack of training. The Anti rape act, 30,000 cases were registered but not a single one was investigated under this act.
In accountability or victimization, panelists said those who called others corrupt were themselves never investigated. NAB laws excluded military officials needed to be exact.
Impact of extremism on minoties led to panelists discussing the discrimination of religious minorities, they resolved that there needs to be one Pakistan for all and all citizens must be treated according to Jinnah’s vision.
In Shrinking Civil Space, which was especially dedicated to Kamran Arif, the panelists decide that throughout South Asia civil society was being attacked and not free.
In session extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and forced disappearances, judicial reform was needed and the criminal justice must be made stronger. The suo moto power of judges means they should be held accountable as well. There should be checks and balances. Prison reform is needed.
Denying Refuge, impact of closing border to afghans: The right to seek asylum is a life saving right and it was resolved and foreign representatives expressed concern over increasing rhetoric about forcibly returning refugees.
Mainstreaming gender equality in judiciary, there is a need to lay down rules in the judiciary bar and legislature to increase space for women. Some speakers suggested establishment of a standing committee on diversity and inclusion.
In the session of Woes of smaller provinces, panelists said that they were discriminated against by the elite in Punjab who often allied with the military and which resulted in an increase in militancy. They said the guarantees by constitution given to the smaller provinces were not being implemented. Manzoor Pashteen specified security related issues faced by the people in KP.
In Macro-economic indicators it was highlighted that national security and economy are intertwined, and it is important how much wealth is being distributed.
In the session of Students rights, all participants were from peripheral areas, they demanded that they wanted student unions, missing and abducted students be immediately freed and Ali Wazir be freed and on November 26th they will have a students march in Lahore.
Journalist Hamid Mir also urged people to participate in the march in video posted on the students’ Twitter account.