LAHORE: The first-ever All-Virtual LLF 2021 took place from February 18 to 21st featuring some of the best writers, authors, historians and journalists from Pakistan and around the world.
Former ambassador to the US and UK Dr Maleeha Lodhi said Pakistan has already made its strategic choice and that is China, therefore it will not side with any US ‘China Containment Policy’.
Dr Maleeha Lodhi said this at the book launching session of Fareed Zakria’s book ‘Ten lessons for the post-pandemic world’. In an highly absorbing book launching session participated by the author of the book who is also CNN’s renowned host and moderated by Razi Ahmed proved to be a highly learning experience for the Pakistanis, specifically the public sector.
“I am sure that President Joe Biden will give a mature response to China as a competitor but not as an adversary. She further added that what Pakistan seeks is a stable relation which is actually beneficial to the two countries. She concluded that Biden administrations review of the relations between the two countries will also determine the nature of the future ties. “If the US continues to support the peace process between the US and the Taliban, which has made progress, then we can see a very strong basis of cooperation between the two countries.
Razi Ahmed, the founder & chief organiser of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), asked Fareed Zakria that with all this hurly burly world of the post-pandemic times, where do you see in terms of our lives, work patterns and the functioning of the state?
While answering this very significant and most pertinent question by Razi Ahmed, Fareed Zakria, who is a household name with strong grip on politics and economy has been hosting the renowned CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a columnist for Newsweek, thanked Razi Ahmed and added that he wished he could be in Lahore physically, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world for attending this grand happening.
Fareed said this may be the most significant global event of our lifetime. He said the most recent big events like 9/11 and the world financial crisis had an impact on certain countries. Pakistan had a great impact of 9/11. However, this pandemic, in some way or the other has affected the lives of every human being on the planet. And it’s going to be longer than what people think.
He pointed out that making vaccine for COVID-19 in nine months was a miracle and it’s going to be a herculean task to provide it to the people though a systematic health system. He added that vaccinating the people is an unprecedented experience and it’s not the length but the breath of the experience is going to be unusual. With regard to the changes in the post-pandemic world, the fundamental shift is the ‘acceleration’ which he has mentioned in his book.
Explaining the ‘acceleration’, Fareed said we have moved into ‘digitalised economy’ much faster than otherwise anticipated. He added that in the pre-pandemic world, physical presence was essential at work, business and other activities of life, but now we have this virtual alternative, so result will be hybrid.
To a question by Razi Ahmed about Dis-functionalities in the USA & UK, they were not able to timely address this pandemic issue? Fareed replied that America is great in the realm of its private sector, but its government has been burdened by an anti-status mentality which outside the Pentagon kept the government under constraint, delimited, under-funded, demeaned, and that anti-status mentality has gained tremendous energy in the last 40 years. The problem is that you have not built a capacity to quickly and elaborately and speedily fulfill certain public functions. He also touched the immigration issue and said in European countries they have tried to address this issue on humanitarian grounds. He further added that there is tension in Europe with regard to integrating the immigrants in their system, but the American system does it much better since Americans are more socially integrated.
To a question about a call made for a new social contract in FT which is known as the bastion for the New Liberal Order, Dr Maleeha Lodhi replied that she would first deliberate on the issue that why certain countries have addressed the pandemic issue better than others. She said it’s not the type of political system that has enabled some states to manage the pandemic well, but it’s the competent and effective state that Fareed also focuses on. I find it fascinating in his book the discussion on governance. In the South Asian countries there are no democracies in the classic sense of the word. But what they do have is two or three crucial elements which are ‘competent state, a trust in government and thirdly a national resilience.
Replying to the question that where does the markets go from here in the post-pandemic scenario, Fareed replied that governments are going to be much more involved in doing something very simple which is providing cash to the people.
Maleeha Lodhi said the paradox of the present era is the growing multi-polarity but we have seen in recent decades an undermining of multilateralism. She pointed out that people are defying the multilaterals by promoting unilateralism which included Trump and Modi’s examples in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K).
To another question by the moderator, Fareed said President Biden is going to be very ambitious and he is not going to make the same mistakes as Obama. He said Biden will take big steps regarding inflation in the United States.
He said there is healthy competition and the US will invest in various public-oriented projects. On the question of an open-based international system with a special focus on the United States and China in the emerging post-pandemic world, Fareed said he agreed with Dr Maleeha Lodhi on this count that we need to find zones for competition and ways to compete within this larger system. And this will be a win-win situation for the US and China eventually. He maintained a rules-based liberal international order can survive if there is a very intense geo-strategic competition between the two largest players in the game.
He added that as China rises, it causes a great anxiety in its neighbouring countries like Japan etc. He concluded his discussion by saying “we do not change in good times but we change in the times of crisis”.
At the end of this wonderful session, Razi posed a question to Dr Maleeha Lodhi that how to bolster the cooperation between Pakistan and the new US administration, the seasoned and senior diplomat replied that China-US relations are going to have a big impact on where Pak-American relations are going to go.
In the last minutes of the virtual session, Fareed Zakria said the pandemic has also given us an opportunity to look into our priorities as well.
The other highly informative and absorbing sessions on the last day of this much-awaited and the most prestigious event in the literary world of the sub-continent included, ‘The Survivor’ president of the Bank of Punjab and sole survivor of the PK-8303 PIA plane crash Zafar Masud in conversation with former CNN correspondent Saima Mohsin, Hinglaj: homage to recovered heritage narratives of identity and change at an ancient temple in Pakistan introduction by HE Bernhard Schlagheck, ambassador of Germany to Pakistan, German anthropologist Jürgen Schaflechner in conversation with development economist Sikander Bizenjo. British columnist, screenwriter and author Nikesh Shukla, whose most recent work is Brown Baby, and Huma Qureshi, winner of the 2020 Harper’s Bazaar short story prize for ‘The Jam Maker’ and author of “How we met”, with moderator Amna Rizvan Ali. The Past is another country introduction by HE Marc Baréty, ambassador of France to Pakistan, ‘Samarkand’ author Amin Maalouf in conversation with Ahmed Rashid.