Sadiq presided over the celebration of International Youth Day at PIPS auditorium highlighting the need for youth engagement in Pakistan vis a vis social, civic and political fields and especially involvement with Parliament and Members of Parliament so that youth voice is heard and participates for national good. Executive Director PIPS Mr Mahmood Salim Mahmood welcomed the guests. Minister for Inter Provincial Harmony and Youth Affairs Mian Riaz Pirzada acknowledged the initiative of Young Parliamentarians Forum YPF in organizing the befitting conference participated by MNAs, MPAs and youth ministers from four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, 300 youth from colleges, schools and universities as well as members of civil society and diplomatic corps.
UNDP and Islamabad College for Arts and Sciences as well as Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services partnered to support the YPF initiative led by MNA Ms Shaza Fatimah Khawaja, Secretary General, YPF as part of their efforts to engage with Pakistani youth and bring them in dialogue to draw a national plan of action for youth participation and emancipation in the national life. In addition to plenary session three thematic sessions were held on Social engagement, civic engagement and role of youth in promotion of tolerance in the society. In each panel Members of Parliament, experts and youth took part.
On day one, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, MNAs Ms Shaza Fatimah Khawaja, Ms Romina Khurshid Alam and the UNDP Resident Director had an interactive session with youth and media moderated by PIPS Director Research and IT Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka. The conference saw tremendous feedback on tweeter and feedback throughout the two days in which youth from all over Pakistan and the world took part through comments and questions. Volunteer of Jawan Pakistan Mr Muhammad also prepared a documentary on the conference theme to promote youth engagement in country’s civic day to day life.
Honourable Speaker informed the audience that Parliament has an elaborate programme to promote youth engagement. He shared the success stories of Young parliamentarians experts (internship) programme with partnership of National Assembly, Senate, PIPS and IP3 EU project that has now seen three batches and almost 90 young girls and boys undertaking one year internships at the Parliament working for committees. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also appreciated the role of Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services PIPS in supporting his vision of introducing Parliamentary Studies as a discipline in universities, Nine universities have commenced the discipline of parliamentary studies all over Pakistan as elective courses and certificate course. They are also planning to start degree programmes which will promote democratic values in the country.
The thematic session on Tolerance at the International Youth Day was moderated by Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director Research and IT, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), and the panelists included MNAs Mr Ali Muhammad Khan (PTI), Mr Muhammad Khan Daha (PML N), Mr Saleem Butt, Minister for Youth Affairs, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Ms Salma Butt, Youth Expert, from BARGAD Network. Mr Zaka commenced the absorbing session by defining the concept of TOLERANCE in a packed seminar room attended by 57 students, members of civil society, academia as well as media-men. He defined tolerance as an attitude where WE AGREE TO DISAGREE and tolerance is humans’ ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with. Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of world’s culture, our forms of expression and ways of being human, It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference, its not only moral duty but political and legal obligation. It is virtue that makes peace possible, replaces culture of war to culture of peace
Mr Ali Muhammad Khan, MNA, was of the view that intolerance starts when logic and facts are overlooked and not taken into account. He expressed his hope that Pakistani society should revive the spirit of Taif and the Pact of Medina as envisaged and reflected by the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon Him) in which “respect,” to others beliefs, culture and traditions remained foremost. Mr Ali Muhammad Khan, MNA, praised the patience and tolerance of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as well as Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in facing their adversaries with exemplary tolerance.
Mr Muhammad Khan Daha, MNA, endorsed that religious extremism must be condemned and as a society there must be religious freedom for all. He also emphasized that people to people exchange among politicians, students and civil society promot an open global culture of tolerance that teaches forgiveness to others. He was of the view that politics teaches public representatives humility and courage to accept our wrongs. Mr Daha lauded the efforts of Young Parliamentarians Forum YPF in encouraging the culture of tolerance and friendship among Pakistani youth.
Mr Saleem Butt, MLA and Minister for Youth Affairs, AJK, also termed that lack of knowledge is the reason for prevalent intolerance among various facets of society. He gave the idea of enhanced dialogue among federating units as well as AJK and Gilgit Baltistan on all topics of national importance to create tolerance for each-others point of views. He said there is need for regulation of media so that it must usher tolerance rather than creating division in society.
Ms Salma Butt highlighted that division in education standards and lack of vision has been source of intolerance for eachother. She said Pakistan needs standardized syllabi not uniform/same one. The point was endorsed unanimously by the students who questioned the motives behind starting multiple streams of education at schools-level. She also believed that media should not indulge in vague debate that destroys consensus and creates intolerance while the media persons present endorsed the same expecially with regard to electronic and news channels.
The audience keenly participated in the discussion, Ms Farah Naz, a seasoned parliamentary reporter said the lack of acceptance of others religion, “biradri,” sect is also a key reason of intolerance. We need to jointly make endeavours such as this youth day conference to promote humanity where all of us must focus of values of co existence and promoting humanity so that all barriers of sect, feudalism, authoritarianism and religion do not divide us. A student Ms Feruzah Anwer said governments especially dictatorial regimes made curriculum as means of propaganda rather than focusing tolerance as the goal of syllabi. Mr Zaka endorsed that purpose of education should be promotion of tolerance vis a vis diversity in society and point of views. Ms Feruza, Mr Shehryar Lodhi, Mr Riffat Ahmed and Mr Mahmud ul Asad also emphasized need for research-based education system and merit-based appointments in all government departments as well as private sector. They also stressed that rule of law and Constitutionalism is must to promote human rights and tolerance and there is need for youth to stay connected to political representatives through writing to them and participating in political activities.
Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka summed up the recommendations as under:
i. Youth must engage with Members of Parliament.
ii. Visits and dialogue across provinces must be encouraged.
iii. Media should regulate itself to promote tolerance and it should stop sending vague messages of division.
iv. Parliamentary democracy and rule of law and Constitution needs to be strengthened by MPs, Youth, academia, media and public at large.
v. Curriculum at schools must be standardized at schools vi. Research-based learning should be there at all levels.
vii. Tolerance and respect for diversity among society vis a vis sects, race, color, creed and religion should be focused so that every member of Pakistani society respects, accepts and appreciates the diversity.
viii. Sensitization of need for Tolerance and legislations promoting tolerance will help society make it an attitude.
ix. Citizens must first focus on our ability and contribution before asking for rights
x. Indigenous messages of tolerance, respect and love as manifested in Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and the mystics and Sufis from Karachi to Khyber must be revived, promoted and followed to re establish Pakistani society in a happy, humble, humane, hopeful and harmonized society.
Mr Zaka concluded the session with a vote of thanks for all and the Young Parliamentarians Forum for steering the wonderful initiative supported by UNDP.
In concluding plenary on day two, the recommendations were presented and Ms Shaza Fatimah Khawaja, Secretary General YPF and Media Coordinator Ms Romina Khurshid Alam, MNA, thanked and applauded PIPS team led by Executive Director Mr Mehmood Salim Mahmood, Mr Zaka and Mr Shai Mazar Baloch, ICAS and Mr Meeran Khan, Jawan Pakistan, IT wizard and volunteer Muhammad. Shields were presented to young students who participated in thematic session with best questions and points. Souvenirs were also given to Executive Director PIPS and representatives of UNDP, ICAS, Jawan Pakistan and other volunteers for their great teamwork in making the conference a great success.