Center For Peace And Secular Studies




Dates: 23/24 August 2008

The Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) organized a two day Political School on the pressing issues of our society. The purpose of the school was to provide a thorough academic grounding to student and youth activists, answer the various questions they have regarding our current predicament and discuss a vision for a peaceful future. The school concentrated on the strategic and structural roots of our current problems while being informed by the contemporary issues of inflation, oil & food prices, bomb blasts, religiosity and religious extremism and the wobbly democratic setup.

The Political School consisted of the following three sessions:

1. The Crises of the Pakistani State: A discussion on the structure of the Pakistani State with two political scientists, Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha and Dr. Saeed Shafqat. What they perceive to be the reasons behind the lack of a democratic polity, lack of the writ of the state in Pukhtoonkhwa and vast sections of the rural countryside. What are the reasons for the utter inefficiency and corruption within state apparatus? Who really takes decisions in Pakistan? What is meant by Establishment and what is its source of power? What & why is there the extent of American involvement?

Reading Material

Listen to the discussion:
Download audio recording of the session from the IPSS server (WAV format)

2. Envisioning An Equitable Economic Structure: A discussion on the economic structure of Pakistan with Mr. Shahid Kardar, Former Finance Minister, Punjab and Mr. Sulaiman Ghani, career civil servant and former Chief Economist of Pukhtoonkhwa. Some of the questions considered during the session:

  • What are the reasons for the vast inequality in our society?
  • How can inflation be controlled?
  • Why aren’t we self sufficient in food even with the largest contiguous canal network in the world?
  • How can employment be provided to the rapidly increasing population?
  • Should our economic direction be towards globalization & free trade or towards self-sufficiency?
  • In a world with oil at $200 a barrel, what should be our economic strategy?

Reading Material

Listen to the discussion:
Download audio recording of the session from the IPSS server (WAV format)

3. Understanding & Countering Religious Extremism: A discussion with two scholars informed by religious and secular discourses, Mr. Asif Iftikhar, Director Research at Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and Mr. Wajahat Masood, former Director of the Democratic Commission for Human Development. This session explored the roots of religious extremism in our socio-political structures as well as our current religious discourse and the influence of the religious establishment. Some questions that were considered:

  • What is the history of religious extremism in Islamic history?
  • Is religion itself a problem or is there a progressive religious interpretation?
  • What is the relationship between religiosity and religion?
  • What is the link between religion and power?
  • Can a state be religious (Islamic)?
  • What differentiates an Islamic state from a Secular state?
  • And what is the difference between politics of morality & morality in politics?

Reading Material

Listen to the discussion:
Download audio recording of the first part of the session from the IPSS server (WAV format)Download audio recording of the second part of the session from the IPSS server (WAV format)