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KARACHI: Habib University hosted its first Twitter space discussion, pioneering an insightful series of conversations titled ‘Pakistan’s Political Crisis: Through the Lens of the Humanities’ for people to build a better-informed understanding of the crisis the country has found itself in.

The session was titled, ‘Pakistan’s Political Crisis,’ and was a prelude to the series that will take place every Saturday.

These conversations between journalists, policymakers, researchers and academics alike seek to discuss and analyze Pakistan’s political turmoil in the light of the humanities subjects - literature, religion, history, and philosophy.

The session featured Dr. Nauman Naqvi, Associate Professor of the department of Comparative Humanities at Habib University, Dr Aqdas Afzal, Assistant Professor at the department of Social Development and Policy at Habib University as hosts. Umair Javed, Assistant Professor at LUMS, Niloufer Siddiqui, Assistant Professor at Albany-SUNY, Mosharraf Zaidi, founder and CEO of Tabadlab, Mubashir Zaidi, journalist, and Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Associate Professor at Quaid e Azam University joined as speakers.

“Our world is engulfed in novel forms of political crises that are complex and multilayered. These multidimensional forms of crisis are now crystallizing in Pakistan as well, and therefore we want to look at it from the perspective of the humanities,” said Dr. Naqvi.

“Can we think of Pakistan’s politics like a marketplace where people buy what they like, and vote who they like? Whenever a new challenge presents itself to the system, the system goes into a state of flux – is this flux the crisis?” asked Dr. Afzal.

Mosharraf Zaidi identified three elements of this political crisis: the first is technology that has democratized discourse. This has both positive and negative effects, but the negative impact is more considerable in the cumulative and certainly more urgent when history, evidence, and research are involved. The second element he identified is the deprivation of rights in a country where danger lurks at every corner. This demands that we step back and think more deeply about the concept of deprivation instead of picking sides to it. He went on to say that this deprivation is not just economic but fuels a certain kind of adaptation and adoption of technology which we should be weary of. The third element is the elite’s incompetence which should be questioned from time to time. “Pakistan’s elite is among the most incompetent on the planet,” he said.

These three elements are fuelling the political crisis in Pakistan and will keep increasing soon, he remarked.

Niloufer Siddiqui addressed why we should care about polarization and what lessons can we glean for Pakistan in the study of this critical juncture. She spoke about a research study that found that voters in polarized societies are willing to trade off democratic principles in their electoral decisions and let undemocratic behaviour slide – we are seeing this happening in Pakistan today, such as in the case of supporting former Prime Minister’s Imran Khan’s dissolution of the National Assembly. Therefore, it is true that polarization has negative downstream effects on democracy and can aid in democratic erosion.

Siddiqui also noted positive aspects to this polarization in the form of strong party-voter linkages that are crucial to the functioning of democracy.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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