Young Researchers’ Convention Redefining Pakistan’s Perspective on National Interest


Wednesday, February 21 2024 | 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Address: Roomy Signature Hotel, Islamabad Pakistan


Dr. Huma Baqai

Dr. Huma Baqai is the Rector of the Millennium Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship, Karachi. She has previously served as an Associate Professor of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts and was also the former Associate Dean of the faculty of Business Administration at IBA Karachi. She is a scholar, reviewer, author, and co-editor of two books titled Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations: Pitfalls and Way Forward in 2021 and Making Sense of Post-COVID-19 Politics in 2020.

Ambassador Zamir Akram

Currently Advisor Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Ambassador Zamir Akram retired in 2015 as Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Currently, he is also Chair-Rapporteur of the UN’s Working Group on the Right to Development. His 37-year career includes assignments in the Soviet Union, India, the US and the UN. At Headquarters, he covered Afghanistan, South Asia, and Nuclear Issues and served as Additional Foreign Secretary in the PM’s Secretariat. Ambassador Akram holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Dr. Ahmed Waqas Waheed

Dr. Ahmed Waqas Waheed is the Executive Director of Research on Advancement and Development of Social Sciences (ROADS) Initiative. He has a Masters in International Relations from the University of Sussex, UK and a PhD in Political Science from Queen Mary University of London, UK. He has published widely, including two books: The Wrong Ally: Pakistan’s State Sovereignty under US Dependence and Constructing Pakistan through Knowledge Production in International Relations and Area Studies. He has also delivered academic and policy-oriented lectures and seminars at national and international forums.

Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi

Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi currently serves as an Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University. He works on Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict, International Relations, and Conflict Resolution focusing on South Asia and the Middle East. He also served as a Research Fellow at the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. He is the author of several books including Introducing International Relations: Concepts, Theories and Practices and The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan: The Baloch, Sindhi and Mohajir Ethnic Movements.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh is a climate change specialist, focusing on low-carbon and resilient development, international climate finance, and just transition for an equitable world. Currently, he serves as the Climate Change Senior Advisor at the World Bank. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit and private sector organisations. He is a member of the Pakistan Climate Change Council, chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Mr. Sheikh has served on several national commissions and international committees. He was the Founding Director & CEO of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD), Pakistan and the Asia Director of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).

The Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) hosted the 3rd edition of the Young Researchers’ Convention (YRC) on “Redefining Pakistan’s Perspective on National Interest” on 21 February 2024 at Roomy Signature Hotel, Islamabad. Over 40 young and mid-career researchers, experts, and practitioners from various think tanks, universities, and the development sector were invited. CSCR hosts YRC annually to gather insights and formulate inputs on issues relevant to Pakistan’s socio-political, economic and security landscape.

The convention was inaugurated by Mr Talha Ibrahim, Director Academics at CSCR. He underscored the critical need to redefine Pakistan’s perspective on national interest, considering domestic political and electoral uncertainties owing to interference of non-democratic institutions and external challenges due to the changing geopolitical profile of Asia. He also highlighted the complexity and subjectivity associated with defining national interest. Mr Ibrahim stated that the third edition of the convention delves into colonial legacies, interfaith issues, regionalism, climate change, and global governance failures and urged the panellists to engage in spirited discussion and learn from each other’s knowledge to collectively contribute to defining Pakistan’s national interest.

Keynote speaker Dr Huma Baqai, the Rector of the Millennium Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship (MITE) Karachi, highlighted the imperative to redefine national security, stressing the importance of integrating economic development, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability into this new paradigm. She pointed out that Pakistan’s shifting perception from geopolitics to geo-economics presents opportunities and challenges, including a disgruntled population and security threats. Dr Baqai stressed the importance of engaging youth, who represent 64% of Pakistan’s population and giving them ownership of national interest. She highlighted the employment crisis among graduates and the need for investment in education and youth and called for a reimagining of Pakistan’s future.

Following that, the distinguished experts Dr Ahmad Waqas Waheed, Ambassador Zamir Akram, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh and Dr Farhan Hanif Siddiqui contributed their insights in the first plenary session. Dr Ahmad Waqas Waheed, Executive Director at Research on Advancement and Development of Social Sciences (ROADS) Initiative, spoke on decolonial narratives in Pakistan. He stated that the mere removal of the colonial administration from the sub-continent does not signify decolonisation. He stressed the need for decolonised mechanisms, particularly in education, citing the systematic devaluation of indigenous education during colonial rule, which eroded native thought processes. Dr Waheed advocated for Pakistan’s education system to reflect its ethos and restore indigenous knowledge. He highlighted the absence of colonial history in mainstream discourse and urged re-evaluating national interests beyond mere security concerns, calling for revising existing discourses.

Ambassador Zamir Akram (Retd), in his presentation on Pakistan’s Regional Significance in the Nexus of Multilateralism, highlighted Pakistan’s complex geopolitical challenges. He pointed out that the unstable situation in Afghanistan has long hindered connectivity with Central Asia. Additionally, he mentioned that contentious issues with India and the confrontation between China and the United States (US) layered with Indo-US strategic cooperation are real checks for Pakistan. Ambassador Akram stressed the importance of Pakistan aligning closely with major powers, particularly China, while recognising the need for a constructive relationship with the United States. He concluded by underlying the imperative for Pakistan to focus on internal stability, fostering national consensus, and implementing necessary economic reforms.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, Senior Advisor Climate Change at the World Bank, challenged the notion that Pakistan is the most vulnerable country to climate change, suggesting that vulnerability cannot be accurately quantified. Instead, he proposed that Pakistan is among the least prepared nations for changing weather patterns due to its large population, diverse ecosystem, and frequent climate-related disasters. Mr Tauqeer advocated for a proactive approach, emphasising the need for long-term resilience-building efforts, sustainable infrastructure development, and inclusive decision-making processes that prioritise the needs of vulnerable populations. He stressed the importance of local-level adaptation strategies and incorporating climate justice principles into policymaking. Mr Tauqeer highlighted the urgent need to address vulnerabilities and enhance resilience through evidence-based policies and strategic planning.

Dr Farhan Hanif Siddiqi, Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University contended that global governance is no longer solely the realm of states, with non-state actors like international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transnational entities exerting significant influence. Despite geopolitical tensions, cooperation persists, exemplified by the substantial bilateral trade between the US and China, amounting to $700 billion. He identified fault lines across economic, ecological, political, and geopolitical spheres. Economic disparities between the Global North and South are exacerbated by biased resource distribution favouring the developed nations. Ecologically, failure to address fossil fuel usage in the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the weak Paris Agreement pose grave risks, especially for the resource-scarce Global South. Politically, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) power dynamics and veto usage impede conflict resolution, exemplified by the US’s veto on Gaza ceasefire resolutions. Geopolitical tensions between China and the US, aggravated by development initiatives like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the US’s Build Back Better World (B3W), complicate international relations. Despite these challenges, the emergence of a post-Western, multiplex world order offers hope, with regional powers gaining prominence and social awareness of environmental and human security on the rise.

Following the remarks by the experts, the discussion session of four working committees commenced. The panellists of the working committee on “Decolonising Narratives and Navigating Religious Realities in Pakistan,” which was jointly convened with the ROADS initiative, discussed how Pakistan’s governance systems were established by British colonisers, inherently built to keep the public in check. They discussed the socio-political structure, who benefits from the status quo, and how it reflects Pakistan’s colonial history. They considered the political system exploitative; it benefits the elites who accumulate all the wealth and don’t use it for development purposes. The participants also talked about granting equal rights to minority communities and making society more inclusive. They called for legislative reforms to protect minorities. The discussion also touched on how different education systems promote different ideologies, leading to stark differences in the point of view on key national interest issues and the creation of discursive barriers.

The working committee on “Pakistan’s Regional Significance in the Nexus of Multilateralism,” jointly convened with the Faculty of Aerospace and Strategic Studies (FASS) Air University, deliberated on four central questions. They noted that while regional geopolitics may influence internal economic reforms, internal motivations and resource indigenisation are the primary determinants. Regarding the challenge between the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the BRI, it was discussed that the SCO lacks a veto mechanism, preventing conflicts of interest. At the same time, the BRI is a relatively recent initiative compared to the SCO, which focuses on economic benefits for member countries. Addressing global power dynamics and supply chain disruptions, panellists suggested that Pakistan proactively engage with other countries to diversify its distribution networks by proposing trade engagement with more countries, thereby mitigating trade disruptions. Discussing the prospective inclusion of Pakistan in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS), the committee has encouraged Pakistan’s inclination towards a global south alliance, fostering regionalism and cooperation while addressing common issues the global south faces. This approach is a pathway to bolster confidence in regionalism and cooperation within Pakistan.

The working committee on “Strengthening Climate Justice and Inclusivity in Pakistan” provided diverse insights and emphasised effective climate communication and grassroots movements to address climate issues at the local level. Understanding and acting on climate change from a localised point of view and empowering local leaders to take action were essential steps. The necessity of educating communities in indigenous languages and fostering collaboration in climate efforts was underscored. The role of community leaders and media in disseminating climate knowledge and prioritising climate change action was stressed. Importance was placed on local governance and climate-sensitive infrastructure development, particularly in vulnerable regions. Policies to facilitate climate action were deemed essential, addressing challenges faced by community activism and recognising the private sector’s growing consciousness of environmental impacts. Overall, the importance of community engagement, effective communication, and policy implementation in achieving Pakistan’s climate goals was emphasised.

The working committee on “Exploring Faultlines in Global Governance” shed light on important questions. It argued that the current Western-led international system had discrepancies, which was vividly revealed in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The role of social media was applauded in exposing the Western media’s partiality and misrepresentation of facts. The committee believed that globalisation has given rise to a non-western power such as China, which opposes the US’s domination of the global system. It agreed that China was not a revisionist power that despised interference in the state’s internal matters and only supported the sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The committee foresaw the emergence of regional blocs because of the waning trust in the international system. In this growing uncertainty, Pakistan was urged to follow its interests and build relationships accordingly with China and the US. It supported the current Geneva Conventions rather than arguing for the necessity for a new one. The committee recommended that the enforcement mechanism, inclusivity, consideration of non-western models, and institutional integrity be considered.

The panellists agreed on the need to decolonise narratives and governance structure in Pakistan, acknowledging the exploitative nature of the current system. They advocated for legislative reforms to protect minority rights. Additionally, they emphasised Pakistan’s regional role in multilateral frameworks, highlighting the importance of proactive engagement and diversification of distribution networks to mitigate trade disruptions. Also, they stressed effective communication, grassroots movements and local policy implementation to achieve Pakistan’s climate goals. Finally, they called for a more inclusive and balanced international system, recognising the rise of non-Western power and advocated re-evaluating enforcement mechanisms and institutional integrity within existing frameworks.

The concluding session was also attended by senior observers from various embassies, policy institutions, and governmental and non-governmental organisations.


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