A panel discussion at Karachi University

Karachi:A panel discussion at Applied Economics Research Centre (AERC), University of Karachi (KU) reached the consensus that social and economic changes are taking place in Pakistan and it was the responsibility of the citizens to turn these changes into positive ones for the benefit of the country.

The consensus was reached at the panel discussion on “Interpreting Social and Economic Change in Pakistan,” organised on Wednesday by the AERC at its auditorium.

Urban planner and intellectual Arif Hasan talked about the ‘six changes’ that had crept in the society. Those changes according to him include major changes in gender and family structure, changing nature of low-income segments of society, growth of the culture of associations to protect and advance the cause of various professions, changing nature of migration, employment and related issues and the repercussions of these changes.

Dr Ijaz Nabi, an economist and Dean School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), said that the changes, positive or negative, depend on the nature of jobs. One could not be unhappy if getting most of the luxuries he desires. In his opinion it is difficult to measure poverty as various paradigms could be involved in measuring it.

Dr Nabi termed the building of canal system in Punjab and other provinces in the British India as one of the most important developments that ever took place in the region. The other was the industrial activity in Karachi after independence; green revolution and overseas migration were other tools for the economic progress in Pakistan. Unfortunately these developments could not be sustained for a greater period of time, he added.

Feminist scholar and commentator on social issues, Afiya S. Zia, talked about the social and political identities in context of modernity that, according to her, are both negative and positive as they bring freedom and inequality together. Human factors in the social changes are unpredictable as education and prosperity do not necessarily bring positive changes. She cited the example of Indian state of Gujarat that has an educated and a prosperous populace but yet they were very active in the killing of Muslims.

Zia regarded the change in media as very positive and praised the shifting of the media from government to private sector. She said that the British changed the culture of villages and towns, hill stations were developed and a romantic notion was attached with the villages. They (villages) were considered pure and indigenous, salubrious climate and were inhabited by warm-hearted. Now this erroneous notion has changed completely.

AERC Director Dr Nuzhat Ahmad informed the audience that many social scientists and economists of varying persuasion had recently been talking about how society and the economy in Pakistan have undergone change over the last two decades or so. It was her desire to start some debate on the state of change in the country in the social and economic arena and this programme was the pilot one for many other such programmes, she said. The News Karachi Editor Talat Aslam was the fourth panelist.THE NEWS