Safma regional moot from tomorrow
LAHORE: The South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) is holding its eighth regional conference in Amritsar, India, and Lahore from Jan 5 to 9.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif and Indian Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal are scheduled to speak at different sessions of the conference.
The conference’s theme this year is ‘A South Asian Vision and Union’ that reflected many of ideals that Safma had worked towards over the last 12 years since it was formed, including peace building, regional cooperation, pluralism, and respect for human rights, said Safma Secretary-General Imtiaz Alam at a news conference on Thursday.
He said the conference particularly aimed at underscoring the importance of opening up people’s minds to the possibilities of a South Asian fraternity – a bloc of independent nation-states with open borders bound together by mutually beneficial trade and the common aims of human development.
He said the conference would be inaugurated in Amritsar on Jan 6 with Badal as the guest of honour and Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid as the chief guest.
Safma India President Vinod Kumar Sharma, Pakistani journalist Khaled Ahmed and Imtiaz Alam would speak on topics regarding South Asian vision of peace and the concept of open borders and open minds.
The second session would focus on the media’s role in peace and cooperation, and bring together a panel of leading journalists and media theorists. The panel would be moderated by the well-known Indian freelance journalist Jyoti Malhotra, and include Dr Muhammad Waseem of Lums, Vinod Kumar Sharma, Aunohita Mojumdar and Safma Sri Lanka President Lakshman Gunasekera. Bertrand Pecquerie, chief executive officer of the Global Editors Network, would deliver the keynote address.
The panel of the conference’s third session would include noted analysts on terrorism and conflict. It would be moderated by Suhasini Haider, senior editor at India’s CNN-IBN.
The theme would be ‘Terrorism, Extremism, and Inter-intra-state Conflict’ and would be introduced by Dr Sanjoy Hazarika, director of the Centre for Northeast Studies at Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi. The panel would also include Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi; Dr Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka; and Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka.
The participants would then cross the Attari-Wagah border on Jan 7 to attend the second part of the conference on Jan 8 and 9. The fourth session would study the idea of a South Asian vision for an economic union. The panel, moderated by noted journalist Najam Sethi, would comprise several distinguished economists from the region, including Dr Akmal Hussain, professor of economics at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore; Dr Nisha Taneja of the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER); Dr Ijaz Nabi, country director of the International Growth Centre, Pakistan; and Dr Nephil Matangi Maskay, director at the Nepal Rastra Bank. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would be the chief guest.
Theme of the fifth session would be “Human Rights, Minorities, and Women in South Asia’, which would be moderated by M Ziauddin. The session’s panel would consist of Ravi Nair, executive director of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Delhi; noted Lahore-based lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir; Dr Rita Manchanda, research director of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights; and Dr Farzana Haniffa, senior lecturer at the University of Colombo. Norwegian Ambassador to Pakistan Cecilie Landsverk would be the chief guest.
The sixth session would critically assess Safma’s achievements over the last 12 years, including objectives, projects and entities it had evolved, and the areas in which it needed to build further capacity.
Safma Pakistan President Nusrat Javeed would present the draft conference declaration. The session’s panel of honourable guests would comprise Norwegian Ambassador to Afghanistan Nils Haugstveit, Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal Alf Arne Ramslien, and Leif Holger Larsen, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The seventh session would focus on media, peace, and cooperation in South Asia and provide a summary of the final conference declaration, drawing on the recommendations presented during each session. Prime Minister Ashraf would address the session as the chief guest.
The conference would end on Jan 9 with a plenary session at which Imtiaz Alam would present a report on the organisation and the proposed amendments to the it Memorandum of Association. It would be followed by the election of Safma’s office-bearers. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira would deliver the keynote address.