On 15th September, 2017, a day-long seminar and speech contest was arranged by the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services in connection with International Democracy Day, 2017 and as a part of celebrations of Pakistan@ 70 years as well as the 20th anniversary commemoration of the United Nations Declaration of Democracy adopted in September, 1997-98. The event was attended by Honorable members of the Parliament along with over 110 faculty members and students from seven universities of Islamabad. The Seminar started with the recitation from the verses of Holy Quran followed by welcome remarks from Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director Research and IT at PIPS.
He narrated how Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah led 38 years of democratic struggle to create the largest muslim state through support of innocent unarmed civilian population of the sub-continent that still remains the basis of a strong Pakistan 70 years after independence. He emphasized that the resilient, democratic and law-abiding Pakistani nation always declared a no confidence against all unconstitutional military dictators. The proud Pakistanis who are the real owners of the country always protected their democratic will by supporting Constitutionalism to reiterate the mission of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to build a welfare state that delivers equal opportunity of emancipation to all citizens, with special emphasis to safeguard and prosper non-Muslims. Mr Zaka also read the principles of the UN declaration for International Democracy. The first half of the event included addresses from two honorable members of the National Assembly and Senate respectively, followed by the second half in which a speech competition was held between students of different universities.
Mr Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor, Research officer, moderated the first session. T Honorable Ms. Naeema Kishwar Khan, Member National Assembly of Pakistan talked on the “Role of Youth in a Democracy as agents of tolerance, dialogue and peace.” She highlighted the fact democracy is not only a mean to achieve the right of vote but it also gives us financial freedom and freedom to live freely in the society. According to her, “a weak democracy is better than robust dictatorship.” She gave the example of Prophet Muhammad (saw) who always preferred to take decisions in consultations with his companions and respected the democratic opinions in the society. She emphazised that institutions should respect the sanctity of vote in the country that remains the basis of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a pluralistic parliamentary democracy where authority lies with government elected by the people. She was of the opinion that contrary to the people’s will for a democratic order, from Gen Ayub who betrayed the popular support enjoyed by Mohtarma Fatimah Jinnah to the illegitimate regimes and last absconder Gen retd Pervez Musharaf, Pakistani society was polarized on ethnic, religious and linguistic lines. She said democracy promotes tolerance, peace and forgiveness while dictatorships always fuel differences and triggers hate and divide in the society, which is unacceptable in any form. She expressed the hope that Pakistani youth are aware of the mission of their forefather and besides media propaganda the young minds have always been the source of support for peace and dialogue in the society that is possible objectively only in democratic regime based on vote of the masses.
This was followed by another inspiring address by Honorable Senator, Mr. Taj Haider who spoke on “Democratic traditions in Pakistan: challenges and achievements.” He narrated the historical background of the struggle for democracy in Pakistan emphasizing the fact that our founder gave us the vision of welfare state; a nation where democracy shall be practiced, where there will be no discrimination on the lines of faith or creed, a nation where states maximum resources would be spent on reducing poverty and illiteracy. Lastly, he gave a message to the students about discipline and urged them to divide their time positively, work hard and have faith in our destiny.
The enlightening addresses by honorable Parliamentarians were followed by a speech contest among students from different universities including Air University, Islamabad; Bahria University, Islamabad; National Defence University, Islamabad; Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad; Riphah International University, and Management Development Institute, Islamabad. The topic given to the students for debate was “Democracy as a source of Human Rights and promotion of Tolerance and Peace.” Two contestants participated from every university, one spoke in Urdu and second in English. The panel of three judges– Ms Samer Awais Director Training, PIPS, as the chief judge was assisted by Mr Khalid Mahmood, Consultant, and Mr Haider Abbas, Addl. Dir (Finance), to decide the best speeches. A student band from Bahria University sang melodious national songs in loud applause of the participants. All the contestants made thought-provoking speeches and gave their varying views on democracy in Pakistan. National Defence University, Islamabad, won the first two individual positions whereas, third and consolation prize was won by students of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Thus the champion’s trophy was won by the National Defence University. The announcement of results was followed by prizes and certificate distribution. Mr. Zaka also presented the PIPS shield as a memento to honorable guests and judges. Ms Tehseen Khalid, Senior Research Officer, PIPS, conducted the concluding session. Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director Research and IT presented the vote of thanks to the Guests of Honour, Members of Jury and all the participating universities for making the event a rousing success. The wholesome democracy day function concluded with slogans of Long Live Democracy and Pakistan Zindabad!!!