This year the institute organized a 12th residential course on “economic freedom and the basis of an enterprising and peaceful society” under a special Covid-19 theme of “survival is the first freedom, role of the state and market” from 2nd to 6th September 2020. The institute opened the application in June (the process was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak by two months), a huge number of applicants approached the institute from different parts of the country to attend the course. This year the unique feature of the applicants was the diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, and religion.
The workshop offered a mix of learning, fun, innovativeness, and leadership development opportunities to participants. The five days’ workshop started on 2nd September. Participants traveled from the different parts of the country to the scenic valley of Khanaspur Ayubia, a famous summer spot of the country. This year the institute enrolled forty participants also keeping gender balance. It was very difficult for the organizers to finalize participants due to the huge number of highly qualified applicants, we enrolled ten more participants from the last year.
The workshop introduced the participants with the fundamentals of a free, responsible, and peaceful society. There is a confusion among the Pakistani youth regarding how to resolve economic and political issues for the betterment of the society. This workshop attempts to answer this important question. The topics covered the following topics:
The current economic problems of Pakistan and their causes, such as Inflation, unemployment, poverty, bases of freedom, philosophy of rights; the concept of natural and inalienable rights, fundamental rights in Pakistan, economic and political freedom, the definition of economic freedom; elements of economic freedom; implications of economic freedom, how economic freedom relates to political freedom? The nature of the relationship; can one survive without the other? Can economic freedom ensure political freedom? How the relationship between economic and political Freedom fares in Pakistan? How economic freedom is related to democracy. These topics have also been documented in a manual that includes writings of well-known economists, political scientists, and liberty champions.
The course is now a popular annual youth conference in Pakistan with a few lucky get a chance to shortlist and enroll in the course. Until now around 380 young Pakistanis graduated the course. These alumni work in different organizations and promote the mission of the institute. Interestingly, this year a major chunk of the participants was recommended by the alumni of previous courses. It indicates that the program alumni still feel an association with the institute and commitment to our work. One of the participants Mr. Sulaiman Yousafzai who was a member and office holder of a leftist political party and institute’s alumni developed an organization with the name of “National Influencers” for the promotion of limited government and economic freedom, which the institute considers a win in the battle of ideas.
The participants appreciated the institute’s resolve to continue a course for consecutive 12 years, there is no such an example of a course organized for such a long period in the country. The event was a five days course. This year the participants included lawyers, journalists, undergraduate students, entrepreneurs, political activists, and human rights defenders. Dr. Khalil Ahmad Founder Alternate Solutions Institute, Ali Salman Executive Director PRIME, and Dr. Raza Ullah President ASI were the resource persons. Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, social scientist, Qamar Naseem human rights activist, Sana Ahmad Program Manager Blue Veins, Dr. Fayaz Ali Shah, Dr. Shahid Jan Kakakhel institute’s members, and Shahid Mehmood economist and columnist attended the course as guest speakers.
The participants reached in the evening on 2nd September, networking session was conducted to introduce participants with each other.
On the following day, the first day of the training started on 3rd September, Dr. Raza welcomed participants, informed them about a brief history of the institute’s mission, the goal of the residential course. Dr. Khalil asked the participants to introduce themselves and inform about their life goals and achievements. This opened a discussion, which helped the participants to identify the real achievements and its role in state and society. Dr. Raza asked the participants to indicate the most pressing issues of the country. This activity resulted in a long list of the issues, the participants divulged many popular myths about society and economy, for instance, the government’s role in business. It helped the resource persons to answer and clarify the popular misunderstanding about the economy and state affairs. The resource persons elaborated the role of economic freedom in the success of the world economic power and less free countries backwardness. The discussion resulted in a common consensus that government economic policies and high centralization in policy making result in poverty and less favorable environment for entrepreneurship. These assertions also invited an opposite view from participants who advocated government’s role in economic activities, for instance, state owned enterprises. Dr. Khalil introduced the participants about the philosophy of rights and the distinction between negative and positive rights. The participants were introduced with the writings of different authors. Mr. Usman, a young lecturer in Balochistan University contested the idea of economic freedom and the inability of government and mistrust of the general public. Many such questions were raised by different participants. Dr. Khalil explained to the participants that rule of law is the real domain of the state which is pivotal in protection of life and property of its citizens. The first day of the course was concluded at 5 pm. The participant’s diversity helped in the generation of questions, discussion and its possible solutions. For instance, one of the lawyer participants stressed the need of more laws to ameliorate the lives of citizens which Dr. Khalil contradicted and referred the work of Bastiat The Law. A participant argued that many regulations would slow down economic activities. Ali Salman narrated the story of economic and political freedom in Pakistan during last seventy years.
The second day of the course was started with the main focus on Pakistan economy and role of economic freedom. The participants were introduced with different national and international reports, for instance, the Doing Business Report, Fraser report on economic freedom, etc. the participants were also introduced with the institute’s report on the state of the rule of law in Pakistan 2019. They were explained how economic freedom helped world economies to rise from an average economy to a well thriving economic power. Besides, different countries’ levels of economic freedom and state of the property rights determine economic prosperity in terms of GDP, per capita income and other economic indicators. The participants were informed how economic freedom help in the establishment of an enterprising economy. The participants were introduced with the Lawrence Reed seven principles of sound policymaking and the thoughts and work of Hayek, Milton Friedman, Anthony Fisher, Bastiat, and classicist Adam Smith. At the end of the session, the participants were asked about their feedback and learning during the course. All of the participants were quite motivated and understood the role of economic freedom and liberty in their lives. The best participant award was received by Asia Akbar for her active participation. Later in the evening, certificates and shields were distributed among the participants. In the evening two guest lectures were organized. Mr. Qamar Naseem is a transgender and women rights activist, he narrated how social freedom of transgender community have been restricted due by certain social taboos. Participants took a keen interest in the discussion and asked questions about the legal and social rights of the transgender community in Pakistan. The second guest speaker was Mr. Shahid Mehmood, a well-known economic correspondent, a columnist in Pakistan leading English daily The News. He stated the ground realities of economy in Pakistan and the huge losses incurred to the national economy due to the state-owned enterprises.
The last day of the course was for recreation and excursion to the nearby hilltops. A British era pipeline track is the major tourist attraction in the area which connects two mountainous valleys though a five km track. The participants hiked and enjoyed the full day traveling in the area. At night, a barbecue was arranged for the participant, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the participants. Cultural night was organized and a special theatre drama was played by Zalmi Theatre. A participant from a rural Sindh Province Ms. Khusboo Dahri informed the participants about her Sindhi culture and debunked myths about its history.
On the next day, the participants left for their destination with high spirits.
Two of the participants shared their following feedback about the residential course.
Comments of Khushboo Dahri; participant of 12th residential course at Khanaspur and medical student from Shahdadpur Sanghar Rural Sindh
I feel privileged after attending the 12th Residential Course at Khanaspur by Alternate Solution Institute and it was truly a platform of alternate solutions to the existing economic and social problems.
I would really appreciate Dr. Khalil, founder of ASI for such a great initiative and then Dr. Raza Ullah, who continued it so well and is maintaining it exceptionally well.
But the thing I admired the most was the learning environment they have created for the participants.
It wasn’t like a classroom lecture but an open discussion between resource persons and the participants.
It would not be an exaggeration if I say I learned from here that how the state is functioning and how it actually should, in economic terms.
Economics was completely new to me but the resource persons elaborated the basics so well, without exhausting us with jargon as many economists do.
But, now each one of us is familiar with the basic understanding of the free market and individual rights and what should be the role of the state in it.
Furthermore, I was honored to meet some great people like Sir Qamar Naseem who is working for transgender rights, his work was really inspiring.
Along with the sessions, we had fun too but in a very sophisticated and sober manner. We also witnessed the cultural and religious diversity of Pakistan, the actual beauty of it.
This workshop is personally close to my heart as I got a chance to speak for the very 1st time as a speaker on the history of Sindh and it’s heritage. I’d thank Sir Raza Ullah for constant support and motivation because I was very nervous but I was humbled with so much appreciation, I can’t thank enough for.
Everything was organized beautifully but there is always room for improvement as nothing is absolute and perfect.
But overall it was a healthy experience with so much learning.
Thank you team ALTERNATE SOLUTION INSTITUTE for organizing this workshop and letting me come in.
I would thank each of you for being so kind, generous, and humble. Keep improving, keep questioning things because until there is no question, there is no way to improve and ultimate change.
Comments of Tayyeba Zulfiqar, participant of 12th residential course at Khanaspur and lecturer at Department of English Bahria University Islamabad
I had the honor of attending the 12th Residential Alternate Solution Program and it was, undoubtedly, the best workshop, I have ever attended so far.
“You learn best when you’re having fun” – This was made sure by Dr. Khalil, the founder of ASI, to organize the workshop, in the midst of the natural beauty of Khanaspur.
Dr. Raza planned an outstanding workshop that touched every part of being a responsible citizen, in the form of lecture sessions, a fun cultural night, and a friendly hike.
We learned about the role of state and society in nation-building and how the economy affects countries. Focused group discussions and table talks opened our minds to a larger perspective than just the ”What is the government doing for us?”
I met some amazing people from all provinces of Pakistan and we also got a chance to present our heritage on the” Cultural Night.”
In 5 days, I became 40 friends richer, met some amazing scholarly mentors, like Dr. Fayaz and Dr. Shahid Jan.
Our Coordinator Mr. Adnan Sohail, made sure that everyone was comfortable throughout the trip and planned a trip to remember! He went out of his comfort zone to make sure everyone was safe and secure.
Thank you Alternate Solution Institute for giving me a lifetime of experience.
Everyone must strive to be a part of this formidable workshop.