The turn of the year, every year, is considered important, for individuals, countries, societies and even the world. At this point, time becomes the essential unit of analysis. As the sun sets on 2017, the preceding twelve months must show the way for the next.
This year, we at The News on Sunday want to look at the Pakistan of 2017 but not just through a backward glance. There has been no dearth of momentous events, gory and pleasant, with significant activism around them. However, we want to cull out those issues that may have emerged or were relevant in 2017 but are likely to stay significant for 2018.
We have picked five issues to see what kind of activism was done around them, and whether the country’s politics is ready to take them as its own issues. These are blasphemy, women’s empowerment, missing persons or enforced disappearances, activism of bench and bar, and student politics.
Of course, there were other important developments like protests by farmers, young doctors, visually impaired and transgenders. With a thriving social media, there were successful boycotts against fruit price hike and labour laws’ violations in the textile sector. Environment, too, was on everybody’s mind, with a lot of noise created around clean drinking water, smog and construction of Orange Line in Lahore. The brands launched politically correct, cause-related campaigns, said to be flowing from corporate social responsibility and good values.
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However, in the five issues that TNS considers most important for today’s Special Report, there is an attempt to stay clear of incidents and focus on the broader understanding that they offer. In the discussion on blasphemy though, Mashal Khan’s case was crucial. “The cutting short of a promising life” as I.A. Rehman writes, has a lesson for the country — the urgency to defeat the conspiracy of silence.