Speakers at a book launch discussed the challenges faced by the existing social contract in Pakistan and debated whether a fresh contract can is the even required. They noted that the challenges to social contract can be addressed by bringing people at center of attention.
They were speaking at the launch of the “Reconstructing the Social Contract” (Imrrani Muhaiday Ki Tashkeel-e-Nau”, written by Dr. Khalil Ahmed, a political theorist. The launch was organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think.
One of these come from the grievances come different sections of the society. A.H. Nayyar, educationist, noted with curiosity that the book repeatedly points that different sections of the society have been calling for revising social contract in the country. Grievances have come from ethnic groups to religious minorities, all demanding more rights.
Several participants equated the contract with the constitution. Zafarullah Khan, constitutional expert, said the debate on shaping a robust social contract in the country is old. Surely, several attempts have been made to shape consensus document among citizens or their representatives, the most notable of them being the 1973 constitution and later, the eighteenth constitutional amendment.
Yet, these debates occur, that is how to whether to revise social contract, as the constitutional progress of the country hits snags.
Dr. Khalid Masud noted that militants have often decried the social contract and constitution of the country. They want new contract too. What explains so, he asked.
For many, it appeared the constitution remains the main social contract. Khursheed Nadeem noted that while corruption is considered big crime, violation of constitution is not considered so. Such attitudinal approaches should change, he hinted.
Meanwhile, author Dr. Khalil Ahmad that social contract can be considered as being beyond constitution, reflecting will of the society.
He lamented that much of our debates on politics center on what the state is up to. It tends to look at the relation between the state and society, and its fallout. The challenges to social contract come from this approach. The author argued society is quite a larger sphere wherein role of the state is limited; however, in Pakistan the state has taken over.
He called for moving the debate in that direction too, approaching the basic contours of social contract.