It has happened. Karachi has already hosted WSF( World Social Forum ) 2006 and the event has turned out to be an immense success. The six day WSF in Karachi came to a closing after a flurry of activity involving hundreds of conferences, discussions, workshops, rallies and a number of cultural activities.
As many of us had hoped and anticipated, WSF turned out to be an effective assembling point to facilitate dialogue on some of the most important issues of humanitarian concern, especially in the context of the developing nations. Here one witnessed not only the activities of the NGO s which have been contributing in the development sector but also various resistance movements such as headed by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum(PFF), the Baloch separatist movement, Peopleâ€™s Rights Movement (PRM) and the International Socialist Resistance.
There was an almost absolute freedom of expression in the forum and nothing was taboo. Issues that are generally smothered and suppressed by the print and electronic media for various reasons were brought to the average manâ€™s notice.
The plenary session of the forum had a number of important speakers, Tariq Ali being one of them. The focus of his speech was the flagrant and shameless injustice of the Bush administration and how the world has had to succumb to it. He also mentioned however that the hue and cry, the amount of physical damage done to places and people as well as the solidarity that the Muslim countries exhibited as a result of the cartoon controversy, had the same been done when America was shamelessly attacking Iraq , then perhaps things might have been a little different- better.
Throughout the forum, various references were made regarding the October 8 earthquake . Films were screened, theatrical activities were carried out centering on issues of bonded labour, human trafficking, domestic violence against women, surviving victims of the earthquake, disaster management and various other themes. One could continually hear local activists voicing anti- imperialism, anti-war, pro-socialism, anti- World Bank slogans in the rallies once in a while, in the sweltering hot Karachi afternoons, occasionally lead by folk singers, musicians and dancers in their traditional attires.
Important leftwing icons were also present. British member of Parliament from the Labour Party Mr Jeremy Corbyn spoke on â€˜war and nuclear disarmamentâ€™. Jose Miguel Hernandez of the Workers Trade Union of Cuba was also present with the other 3 members of the Cuban delegation. Jamal Juma, Director of the â€˜Stop the Wallâ€™ coalition and Yasin Malik, the Kashmir Liberation Front leader also came to speak. Nirmala Deshpande, an Indian MP and a peace activist, also spoke at the plenary. Asma Jehangir also came to speak but the exceedingly political and oratorical vibes that she emitted during her speech were a source of collective disappointment for so many of the listeners. One of the women attending said that Asma did not sound like a human rights activist at all and that instead she sounded like a politician, one of the Bhuttoâ€™s to be precise.
I happened to volunteer before the event. A fellow volunteer on the second day of the WSF claimed that it is important for Pakistan to become a federation; that all provinces should be autonomous enough. He thought that in the given situation things werenâ€™t going to work out in any other way for Pakistan.
The eventual message of WSF 2006 was love and a sense of respect for people all over the world. Peace, democracy, equality, justice and love are the tenets of this event which has been happening in different parts of the world for the past few years. It may take time to actually replace the existing exploitative mechanism of a free market economy or do away with the bullies of the world and their coercive democratization of states, yet WSF is at least a beginning, a step forward toward some sort of recognition.
Quite a lot of people leveled criticism against it and called the event various names, â€˜a management failureâ€™ for one. Perhaps they were expecting something five starrish. On the other hand, Azra Shehrbano of CNBC Pakistan called the whole affair â€˜a true socialist gatheringâ€™, appreciating every bit of the matter.