Pathways to Change: Pakistan Policy Symposium | Wilson Center
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Pathways to Change: Pakistan Policy Symposium

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

Pakistan has enjoyed a series of recent achievements in economic, political, and foreign affairs. Yet it continues to suffer from major challenges that threaten to squander the progress of recent years.  What can Pakistan do to capitalize on its opportunities and address its challenges? This symposium, jointly organized by the Wilson Center and Indus, sought to answer this question and others with an emphasis on identifying practical, innovative, and actionable policy solutions. 

The Wilson Center and Indus would like to recognize the Houston Karachi Sister City Association, the American Pakistan Public Affairs Committee, Eye for Art, and the Middle East Institute for their sponsorship. Their contributions and collaborative spirit are much appreciated.


Selected Quotes


Henry S. Ensher

“We see new opportunities for Pakistan in our bilateral relationship. A new civilian government is in place. Pakistan’s national election has brought to power a new leader who has long focused on the conflict in Afghanistan… The new government has the opportunity to be our partner in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and prosperity and security to Pakistan.”
“In those happy occasions when I talk to Pakistanis, there are two criticisms of U.S. policy I hear frequently: First is that our bilateral relationship is too Afghanistan-centric. The second is disagreement with our use of pressure to try to induce a shift from Pakistan on the first point. The reality is that we’ve been engaged in conflict in Afghanistan for 17 years… As long as that continues, it will continue to color and take center stage in the bilateral relationship.” 
“Pakistan has expressed support in public and private for the goal of ending the conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement. To realize this shared objective, we need a peace process that creates a political dialogue. With the appointment of our new special representative and with recent developments, we are perhaps closer to real negotiations than we have been in some time... It was quite clear in previous incarnations that we were managing the war; there is now an opportunity to end it.”


Dr. Ishrat Husain

“Water, which is irrigation water, which is the backbone of Pakistan’s agriculture, is becoming scarce. So, the first [question] is, how do we increase the productivity of water per acre of land and use water conservation techniques in order to have the productivity of the present land areas meet the future demands for food, fibers, and feed [for livestock]?” 
“We have created too many obstacles for our private sector to do legitimate business… I consider this a country which is overregulated, but also very little regulated. So you have spurious drugs, you have adulterated food, you have environmental and occupational hazards which should be controlled, but at the same time, you have the factory inspector who can come and shut down the factory and the export orders are completely not met.” 
“Sixty percent of our loans are to the multilateral agencies: IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank. So, those who allege that our problem arises because of the loans from China do not look at the facts. They are very much taken by their own prior views.”




October 17

9:00am-9:30am: Registration

9:30am-9:45am: Welcoming Remarks

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center

Shezad Habib, Senior Adviser, Indus

9:45am-10:30am: Opening Address

Henry S. Ensher, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia

Moderator: Shezad Habib, Senior Adviser, Indus

10:45am-12:45pm: U.S.-Pakistan Relations

How can the U.S. and Pakistan arrive at a realistic and workable relationship? What should the contours of U.S.-Pakistan cooperation look like, realistically speaking, given what we know about the nature of the relationship today and the dynamics of broader South Asia? Can the two sides move beyond current tension points and still find ways to partner? If so, what should that type of partnership look like? Can the United States look at Pakistan through any lens other than Afghanistan?

Spotlight Speaker: Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council

Hasan Askari-Rizvi, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Punjab University, Lahore
Salman Bashir, Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary
Laurel Miller, Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation and Former Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
David Sedney, Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia

Moderator: Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center

12:45pm-1:45pm: Lunch

1:45pm-3:45pm: Afghanistan

How if at all can Kabul, Islamabad, and Washington cooperate to achieve an endgame that works for all parties? What are the expectations that each country has of the others? What can Pakistan and Afghanistan realistically do to address each other’s concerns and allow for better cooperation—and is there a middle ground? What role should the US play in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations? Can the three countries partner in efforts to launch—and see through—a peace process in Afghanistan? Finally, what type of endgame(s) does each country want to have—and how realistic are these endgames?

Spotlight Speaker: Madina Qasimi, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Afghanistan

Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad
Robin Raphel, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia
Omar Samad, Analyst and Former Afghan Official

Moderator: Siniša Vuković, Assistant Professor, Conflict Management Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

4:00pm-6:00pm: Women and Entrepreneurship

What is the future of the startup and innovation economy in Pakistan, and how can it help strengthen job growth and the status of women? What can be done to foster more women’s entrepreneurship in Pakistan’s formal economy?

Spotlight Speaker: Andleeb Abbas, Member of the National Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

Sumera Abbasi, Manager, WECREATE Pakistan
Yasmin Hyder, President, Pakistan Women Entrepreneurs Network for Trade (WE-NET)
Rudaba Nasir, Employment Specialist, Gender Secretariat, International Finance Corporation
Naeem Zamindar, Former Chair of Pakistan’s Board of Investment

Moderator: Barbara Langley, Director, Center for Women’s Empowerment, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)

6:00pm-7:00pm: Reception

Welcoming Remarks: Athar Javaid, President, Indus

Light refreshments, music by Haroon Aslam (tabla) and Harsh Khinchi (sitar), and art by Ramez Qamar (Eye for Art)

October 18

9:00am-9:30am: Registration

9:30am-9:40am: Welcoming Remarks

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center

Shezad Habib, Senior Adviser, Indus

9:40am-10:30am: Opening Address

Dr. Ishrat Husain, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Government of Pakistan

Moderator: William B. Milam, Senior Scholar, Wilson Center 

10:45am-12:45pm: Economic Futures

What are the most effective steps that Pakistan can take to address its economic challenges, both in the immediate and long term, and how practical are such steps in the current political environment? Do the initial economic policies put in place by the new Pakistani government represent steps in the right direction? How if at all can Pakistan leverage opportunities—presented by a large working-age population, the emergence of several new growth industries, and an improved security situation, among other things—in order to strengthen economic growth? What role should development assistance play in Pakistan’s economy? How should Pakistan approach the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? Should Pakistan go back to the IMF? And is there any hope for a normalized India-Pakistan trade relationship?

Spotlight Speaker: Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Development Economist and Former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan
Khurram Husain, Business Editor, Dawn newspaper, and Former Wilson Center Pakistan scholar
Nadia Naviwala, Global Fellow, Wilson Center
James Schwemlein, Consultant, The World Bank, and Former U.S. Diplomat

Moderator: Amber Jamil, Communication and Outreach Director, Indus

12:45pm-1:45pm: Lunch

1:45pm-3:15pm: The Diaspora

This panel will focus broadly on how Pakistani-Americans can help strengthen the Pakistani economy. The emphasis will be on diaspora-led social and traditional entrepreneurship and investment.  What are the current opportunities and challenges presented by the business climate in Pakistan? How can the intellectual and financial capital of diaspora members help foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem with the necessary mentorship, capital, and management experience? 

Courtenay Dunn, Deputy Director, Office of Pakistan Affairs, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Naveed Sherwani, CEO, SiFive
Amra Tareen, Head of Innovation, Bed Bath & Beyond
Naeem Zamindar, Former Chair of Pakistan’s Board of Investment

Moderator: Shezad Habib, Senior Adviser, Indus

3:30pm-5:15pm: State, Society, and Extremism

How can Pakistani society and the state make real and lasting progress tackling radicalization and extremism? What steps need to be taken, and how feasible are they, given current political dynamics? What types of incentive structures are needed for state authorities to have the political will to move forward on this issue in lasting ways? What is the role of the Pakistani military in all this? Is it part of the problem, part of the solution, or both? Finally, what does the emergence of new hardline parties in the political sphere portend for security and radicalization/extremism prospects? Is it a good or bad thing to bring these hardliners into the political mainstream?

Spotlight SpeakerJaved Jabbar, Former Senator and Federal Minister, Government of Pakistan

Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad
Raza Rumi, Director, Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College, and Visiting Faculty, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs
Dr. Niloufer Siddiqui, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Albany-State University of New York

Moderator: Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center

5:15pm-5:30pm: Closing Remarks

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Program, and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center