The Center for Governance and Policy at Information Technology University organized a three-day conference Akbar-e-Taza to promote public discourse in Pakistan. The name of the conference Afkar-e-Taza (new thoughts) comes from the Poet Laureate Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s poem Takhliq (Creation).
The event was designed along the lines of a literary festival and combined with the rigor and thoroughness of an academic conference. It opened the floor for active discussion between scholars and the wider public. The conference began on Friday, April 1 and concluded on Sunday, April 3.
The conference consisted of 44 discussion panels, including an Urdu Mushaira and an opening address by the Adviser to the Chief Minister Azmi Haq and ITU’s Registrar and Acting Vice Chancellor Zaheer Sarwar. The conference featured politicians, journalists, scholars from prestigious universities and leading academics from many countries around the world.
Dr. Yaqoob Bangesh, one of the organizers of the event said, “This event aims to become the incubator of fresh thoughts in Pakistan so that not only does the country develop but we too personally gain from such interactions. The idea was to provide space to academics to interact with each other and with the public.” The speakers at the conference discussed a myriad of topics including current affairs, academics, regional politics, culture and art.
One of the opening day sessions included a discussion on The Judiciary in the Modern World. The experts in the panel included Sir William Blackburne, Retired Judge in the High Court of England and Wales, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Judge in the Lahore High Court, and Mr. Feisal Naqvi, Lawyer and Columnist. Guest speakers from the National Assembly of Pakistan, judges from the Lahore High Court and independent scholars took the discussion forward in another session titled Law and Culture: The Case of Honour Killing.
Senator Sherry Rehman along with scholars from JNU and Sri Lanka addressed the question of whether SAARC has a future. Dr. Ishrat Husain, former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Yasir Pirzada, Civil Servant and Columnist, and Hussain Nadim, University of Sydney discussed the challenges of civil service reform in the country.
There were also sessions on the two Punjab’s of India and Pakistan, Bacha Khan’s thought and legacy, and the state of Higher Education in Pakistan. Academics and scholars also discussed the money, monuments and the majesty of the Mughal Empire, history and future of the Silk Road and harnessing the language of Sufism in Pakistan.
The conference featured 93 guest speakers over the course of three days. Other prominent speakers included Ambassador Aziz Ahmed Khan, Charles Allen, Najam Sethi, Prof. Atta-ur-Rehman, Ejaz Haider and Prof. Peter Frankopan from the University of Oxford.
The conference took place in the Alhamra Cultural Complex in Gaddafi stadium and was widely attended. The aim of the conference was that public discourse is promoted in Pakistan and scholars are able to share their research with the wider public. The conference succeeded in achieving its goals as Afkar-e-Taza—new thoughts were created, nurtured and realized.