Why Did Pakistan Just Shut Down a Peace Conference?

An International Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Karachi this weekend was cancelled at the last minute. All the visas for guests were cancelled with just days to go, with the government citing security concerns, according to the organizers of the three-day conference.

Clarion Project’s Dialogue Coordinator Elliot Friedland was meant to be among those attending. The conference was titled Why the World Needs Pakistan and was to be held in honor of the late Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984), one of the most celebrated 20th century poets in the Urdu language.

It was billed as “the largest conference of its kind to ever take place in Pakistan” and would have featured politicians, literary figures, academics and activists from around the world “to spread the light of peace through literature of Faiz.”

The conference schedule included discussions of important issues about how to spread the message of peace both in Pakistan and internationally. The organization behind the conference, Bazm e-Afkar, is a literary organization which “strives to promote peace in the world specifically Pakistan through literature and folk wisdom while rising above the differences of language, class, and religion.”

Ensuring that such a conference took place should have been a top priority for the Pakistani security services, beset as they are with a serious image problem that negatively impacts the tremendous potential the country has for tourism and trade.

Instead of focusing on silencing so-called “blasphemers” on social media, the government could have simply provided extra security to make sure that the conference went ahead.

The conference could have opened up many much needed conversations about how to bring global peace in the era of extremism.

Instead, the Pakistani military forced it to be postponed. One wonders what their true reasons for doing so are.

Screenshot from the Bazm e-Afkar website, which has now removed all content about the conference.