Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society where people from different ethnic groups, religions, and sectarian affiliations had been living in harmony and relative peace for hundreds of years. The constitution of Pakistan guarantees the freedom of expression, religious belief, and promotion of cultural heritage of different social groups to its citizens. In spite of this, Pakistani society and polity has experienced ethnic and religious strife from the country’s inception and this has taken a turn for the worse at the beginning of the 21st Century. Part of the ongoing ethnic and religious tensions in Pakistan can be attributed to the communal and ethnic divides generated by the long and bitter experience of colonial rule. However, due to lack of clarity in our nation-building project, these divisions and tensions were further exacerbated in the postcolonial period so much so that these tensions now threaten to pull apart the very fabric of our society. The imposition of authoritarian rule, de facto use of a unitary style of government, and promotion of religious and sectarian extremism by the ruling elites are some of the factors that have contributed this situation. Unfortunately, civil society in Pakistan has been historically too weak to hold back the combined forces of authoritarianism and religious extremism.
This collaborative Town Hall and Teach-In event by Jinnah Institute (Islamabad) and the Interdisciplinary Development Research and Action Center (IDRAC) at Habib University (Karachi) aims to recuperate the vision of a multi-ethnic and multi-faith Pakistan by questioning the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of ethnic discrimination and religious intolerance in Pakistan and arriving at an alternate vision for our society. Jinnah Institute seeks to promote knowledge-based policymaking for strengthening democratic institutions and building public stakes in human and national security discourse.
IDRAC Center at Habib University fosters thoughtful research and action on key development challenges facing Pakistan and the larger South Asia region. This public event will involve the engagement of young people, especially university students, from all walks in a productive dialogue over minority rights and religious and ethnic diversity with a distinguished panel of journalists, academics, political activists, human rights advocates, and filmmakers.