Associated Press Service
ISLAMABAD: February 24, 2018- Progressives should come together on ‘seven points’ that collective represent the ideals for which Asma Jehangir dedicated her life to counter the establishment and the growing dominance of the conservative right-wing in the public sphere. This was the outcome of a gathering of political workers, intellectuals, students, trade unionists and ordinary citizens to commemorate Asma Jahangir at the National Press Club organised by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) on Sunday.
The organisers of the event further agreed to generate a consensus over the ‘seven points’a and call for “Progressive Unity” across Pakistan so that disparate groupings on the progressive Left of the political spectrum come together on a minimum agenda. That seven points are the separation of religion and the state, a fairer distribution of wealth and resources, genuine multi-national federalism, gender equality, democracy and the right to expression and association, a non-aligned foreign policy and ecologically sustainable development.
Speaking at the event, AWP leaders Aasim Sajjad and Ismat Shahjehan said that it only makes sense for a tribute to Asma Jahangir’s legacy be in action and not just words. “To truly honour Asma, it is not enough to just remember her lifelong struggle in words, but we must commit to continuing her struggle in practice towards creating the democratic and progressive society that she fought for,” they said. “We must overcome whatever differences exist between us to work together and push back against the onslaught of neoliberalism and militant conservatism that has been patronised by the establishment over several decades,” the AWP leaders added.
Speaking on behalf of both the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and HRCP, Nasreen Azhar highlighted that Asma Jahangir was active on countless different issues, from violence against women, to enforced disappearances, to violations of labour rights and her work encompassed all regions of Pakistan. “In what better way can we pay tribute to Asma than by seeking to take forward her own achievements and turn it into a wider movement?”, she asked. “So many of us have been working separately in our own fields for the cause of democracy and social justice, however the time has come for all progressives to come together and demonstrate our combined strength.”
While addressing the gathering Afrasiab Khattak, Amber Shamsi and Farhatullah Babar concurred: “Over the years, centre of political discourse in Pakistan has shifted so far to the right, that Left appears almost non-existent. However the reality is that decades of repression against progressives and our internal divisions have led to our voice being diminished. This needs to change.”
A number of poets and musicians performed in honor of Asma Jehangir at the event and a recorded collage of video clips was also shown on the occasion. The event closed with an announcement that efforts to build ‘Progressive Unity’ will be pursued aggressively in the coming weeks, starting with the HRCP’s own commemoration of Asma Jehangir on 5th March.