Once again, this year I was in Oxford to take part in the Pakistan Future Leaders’ Conference (PFLC 2013) organized by Oxford University Pakistan Society. It was my third trip to my favorite city in England for the same purpose. Just like past, this year’s trip was full of heated debates, networking with some new and some old people, exchange of ideas, and inhaling the chilled air of oxford that had flying snowflakes in it.
The Friday afternoon started with the guided tour of the Oxford city and the tour ended at the Oxford Town Hall where opening ceremony took place. Presence of Malala Yusufzai’s father was another feature of the ceremony and it was somehow better than the eighteen and a half pages long speech by Deputy High Commissioner.
Attaullah Esakhelvi added music to the evening with his famous tunes, and thank God he left after his performance. As the substance rolled out after him in the name of music was insolence to the word music itself. And an artist like Mr. Esakhelvi could not assimilate that.
On the Saturday morning, the official committee sessions began in the different colleges and halls spread in the city. There were various committees to discuss issue like, education, health, finance, environment, legal affair, interior affairs, and foreign affairs. I was part of Interior Affairs Committee and when I reached St. Peters College where our committee was sitting I was an hour late but we Pakistanis kept our USP alive, as the session was not started by then. There were so many participants interested in the committee that we had to borrow chairs from the other room to facilitate all the participants.
The topic of discussion for interior affairs committee were election 2013, sectarian violence, issue of Baluchistan, FATA, and PATA. Interestingly the session started with none of them as a certain section of the committee was interested to discuss the ‘system’ first. That was a debate kept going round and round without reaching any solution or conclusion, and that certain section had only one solution for every issue the word starts with a “K” and ends with a “T”.
During the conference, I was away from the TV and Pakistani political talk shows but I did not miss its flavor. The reason was the art of discussion we have developed, we discuss the issues by thumping others’ opinion, debate is nothing more than verbal combat. I lived some live examples of such debates where a tiny aspect became the reason of long endless and aimless ‘debate’.
This year Imran Khan and Aitzaz Ahsan were the keynote speakers. On Saturday evening, Oxford Union Debate Chamber was completely packed to listen to Imran Khan’s Speech on “Leadership”. The speech carried many points that he has used many times in the past, so was the case with the question asked in the Q&A session. However, presence of his two sons in the hall was a surprise. The same event was used for the launch of PKI (Pakistan Knowledge initiative) a brain child of Oxford based PHD candidate Adnan Rafiq to have a practical role in the progress of Pakistan other than the debates and organizing the PFLC every year (I Will write about PKI in detail later).
The Sunday afternoon chamber hall was giving a completely different picture, half of the hall was empty during Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan’s keynote speech. Where the audience was bit kind towards Mr. Khan while asking question, the attitude towards Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan was rather harsh and cold. His credentials and contributions were judged on the scale of his political affiliation.
This was my third year to such conference but this year Oxford University Pakistan Society successfully arranged a platform of debate and they done good job at their end. However, I am not impressed this time as the element of quality in debate and argument was missing. It was more of a showdown of different agendas of different participants. Like our television talk shows and daily life, the aspect of tolerance and agreement to disagree was missing there too. The motto of conference was “Unity In Diversity” but we are so much obsessed with our own and sacred diversity that we like to remain ‘individuals’. During the time when hope in future is getting slimmer with everyday and hurling me to cynicism this experience was another push. The illusionistic self-esteem, shallow pride, and state of denial are the few hurdles that we collectively have to cross. Alternatively, the concept of unity will limit its presence in the form of words only.
If I have to summaries my well spent weekend in few words I will say that our sense of preferences is going through a very bad stage (as always). We need to fix it before it is too late, difference of opinion is a good thing but the motive should be constructive and in line to seek unity. We are keen towards putting forward our views without listening to others with aim of making opponent bite the dust.