Bloomsbury Pakistan is a non-profit organisation. It promotes progressive and liberal values in Pakistan by creating an organic link between production of debates in Bloomsbury’s home in London and its dissemination into the public sphere of Pakistan. Additionally, it has been influencing British perspectives on Pakistan since it was founded by a group of academics working on Pakistan at Oxford in 2001. The organisation moved to Bloomsbury, London in 2006.
Bloomsbury Pakistan regularly convenes to discuss academic research on Pakistan, organises public lectures, and also publishes book reviews and discussion reports. These debates are disseminated into the public sphere through the mainstream and the social media. Today, it represents one of the largest networks of intelligentsia working on Pakistan, including academics, writers, editors, journalists and activists. It has also been serving as the research resource centre on Pakistan.
In 2001, a group of Pakistani postgraduate scholars, specialising in the social sciences, launched the Oxford University Pakistan Discussion Forum. The Forum quickly became a focal point for important debates on South Asian politics, especially in the aftermath of 9/11 and the US invasion of Afghanistan. In subsequent years, the number of Pakistani scholars in the forum rose. By 2006, the forum’s activities had almost entirely relocated to London notably at SOAS and other colleges of the University of London. The forum began playing an important role in the movement for restoration of democracy in Pakistan with SOAS emerging as a hub for connecting members of Pakistan’s progressive intelligentsia. Since then, it has contributed to creating awareness for human rights and civil liberties in Pakistan and came to be known as Pakistan’s Bloomsbury.
The PhD scholars who went back to Pakistani universities as faculty members allowed Bloomsbury to form helpful associations with those universities. The visiting scholars and other visiting intelligentsia brought fresh ideas from Pakistan. Bloomsbury has served an informal hub for UK-based PhD scholars and academics from Pakistan, while also facilitating research by non-Pakistani academics working on Pakistan at different British universities. In addition to academics from all areas of social sciences and humanities, Bloomsbury has hosted Pakistani newspaper editors, analysts, fiction and non-fiction writers, which has broadened the base for academic discourse.
A strong progressive ideology and academic rigour have been the distinctive features of Bloomsbury, as evinced by the content and quality of seminars and informal meetings it has convened and the distinguished reputations enjoyed by those participating. Since 2001 Bloomsbury had grown organically to such an extent that a formal structure was required to productively channel the energies of individuals associated with it. Therefore, it was decided to formalise the structure allowing it to contribute to the development of a progressive society in Pakistan, through public discourse and producing publications in areas and subjects where it has already pronounced influentially.