LAHORE       -         The two-day Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest will begin on January 11 in Lahore at Al-Hamra.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the former UK High Commissioner to Pakistan and ex-UK National Security Advisor on International Governance and the Future of the Nation State will be the key note speaker.

In the current global climate, there can be no other more topical issue. Fast on the heels of the keynote a powerful panel will discuss the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East and its implication for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to Iran, Asif Durrani, the former UN Special Representative to Iraq Ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, scholar Barnett Rubin, and the former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Waheed Arshad (Retired) will also speak on the panel with Mosharraf Zaidi.

The first day will feature panels on local government with the former Indian Union Minister, Mani Shakar Aiyer, the Advisor to the PM on Establishment Shehzad Arbab, and the former Mayor of Karachi Syed Mustafa Kamal.

Senator Sherry Rahman and former Senator and Minister Javed Jabbar with Ahmed Bilal Mehboob will then tackle the issue of whether parliament is still relevant in Pakistan, in an age of presidential ordinances. The Pakistan Air force, especially post Balakot, will also feature on the programme with an Air Chief Marshal and two Air Commodore’s in conversation.

Former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will sit with Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin and Najam Sethi in the afternoon to discuss the post-withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan. Another panel with members of the Task Force headed by Dr Ishrat Husain will present and discuss its agenda of changes to the bureaucratic structure of Pakistan.

The first day will also feature two discussions on the media, with one organised by the Chevening Journalism programme focusing on ‘Fake News,’ and the other featuring veteran journalists Mansoor Ali Khan, Fahd Hussain, Owais Tohid and Maria Memon. The role and future of universities will be the critical issue discussed by a high powered panel featuring the former Chancellor of Berkeley, Professor Nicholas Dirks, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, Kinnaird College Principal Dr Rukhsana David, LUMS School of Education Dean Dr Tahir Andrabi, and moderated by Senator Musadik Malik.

The first day will also feature a series of book launches with the life of Freda Bedi, who was a freedom fighter in Lahore, and then later became a Buddhist nun, being described by author Andrew Whitehead in conversation with Moneeza Hashmi. Professor Farhat Haq will also launch her book on Sharia and the State in Pakistan, which includes a very informative comparative study of other Muslim countries, and Professor Kim Wagner will discuss the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 in vivid detail in conversation with Ammar Ali Jan. A highlight of the day will certainly be the launch of the book on Prince Dara Shukoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan who was supposed to succeed his father. Professor Supriya Gandhi’s meticulously researched book will bring the life of Prince Dara to people in Lahore again, where he lived for a long time.

The second day of the ThinkFest will begin with a keynote by the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and the President of the Royal Society, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan.

The ThinkFest will also feature an exhibition curated by Destinations Pakistan. “Unveiling Punjab,” will be an immersive exhibition to highlight the potential for cultural heritage tourism via visual displays, special videos and live art and crafts experiences. The event involving more than 50 panels featuring over a hundred speakers will end on January 12.