The Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) hosted a delegation of over 50 participants including Hon. MPs, 30 peace activists from various higher educational institutions in Sindh, South Punjab and Islamabad as well as 20 members of civil society and PIPS Faculty at its Main Campus to attend session on Parliament, Constitution & Peace Building on Thursday, 03 February 2022. Led by the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF), National Assembly of Pakistan, in collaboration with Signify, the visit came as part of the National Young Peace Activist Exposure program scheduled from 03-04 February 2022, which included the visit of the Parliament House among other activities. The delegates belonging to Karachi, Bahawalpur, Multan, Hyderabad, and Jamshoro also included some of the members of Pakistan’s minority community. They represented University of Karachi, Bahauddin Zakria University, Islamic University of Bahawalpur, Sindh University, SZABIST, AIOU, and NUST. The proceedings commenced with the Sacred Name of Allah the Almighty and Naat e Rasool e Maqbool (SAW) by Ms Wardah; Panelists for the session held at PIPS included:
Hon. Romina Khursheed Alam, MNA/Vice President YPF Board: She apprised the audience about the YPF and its mandate. She stated that YPF is MPs’ owned and led forum. It is unlike other young parliamentary forums. Minimum age for its membership is 45 years as per the definition of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). YPF is a forum that operates above the party politics and endeavors to influence youth policies for their betterment. The Board of the Young Parliamentarians’ Forum consists of six (6) members three belonging to treasury (President, General Secretary, and Media Coordinator), and three from opposition (Vice President, Joint Secretary, and Treasurer). YPF has taken up various subject matters over the course past several years pertaining to youth. She emphasized the importance of determination for peace activism and stated that being peace activist is indeed difficult. She said that “Peace is a pearl you have to discover.” She highlighted the existing gap between citizens and parliament, and advised the youth to be patient and tolerant towards each other. She laid great emphasis upon learning the ideology espoused by the founding fathers of Pakistan Qauaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. She encouraged the young peace activists to carry out dedicated research on the peace activism of these visionary leaders and underscored the role PIPS can play in this regard.
Hon. Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar (MNA/Treasurer YPF Board): She began with a brief introduction of her constituency Daska. She appraised the audience about the urban rural divide in Daska and stated that it is 75% rural and 25% urban, therefore it was a daunting task to contest election from there and reaching out to common citizens. As member YPF Board in capacity as Treasurer, she briefly shed light on the role and mandate of this vital parliamentary forum which includes 142 MPs across all parliamentary parties. The need for such a forum is all the more important given the fact that 64% of Pakistan comprises of youth. She also touched upon her ideas with regard to peace activism. She stressed upon the need to stay positive and think positive. Rather than criticizing others, one should focus upon the contributions of self towards the society. We have to defend our religion, our country wherever we go. She encouraged the youth to stay in our beloved country and fight for its well-being. She emphasized the need to work in unison for peace and development of Pakistan, leaving aside all differences based on gender, religion, caste, creed etc. She laid special emphasis on acceptance of others, and condemned in strong words the recent Sialkot incident. She ended her talk by expressing optimism about the future leadership which will emerge from the present youth.
Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research) PIPS: As member of founding team of PIPS, Mr Zaka began with a brief introduction of the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), which was established in 2008. He informed the audience that the Institute, which works under the guidance of a Parliamentary Cross-Party Board of Governors, is mandated to perform research, legislation, capacity-building and outreach services for Hon Members of Parliament (MPs). Currently, the Hon Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan Mr Asad Qaiser is the President of PIPS. Each year the Institute prepares a work plan that is then approved by the BoG. Over the years, the Institute has carried out more than 1300 research papers on imperative themes and topics for Hon Members of Parliament keeping a non-partisan approach. He stated that we are proud servants of Parliament and PIPS is today a recognized international seat of parliamentary learning that has hosted over 400 knowledge sharing workshops/courses, published 65 books and oriented more than 10,000 youth countrywide on Working of Parliament. On a Question he replied that with regard to the legislative function of the Institute he said that the idea comes from the Members of Parliament which is then given the shape of legislative instrument by technical experts at the Institute. He also shed light on the capacity-building role of PIPS and said that PIPS is like a university for Honorable Members of Parliament across the country and the region that has also hosted more than seven international parliamentary moots on key issues of international importance. The Institute also runs an active Parliamentary Studies program which has enabled the introduction of parliamentary studies courses in 20 universities across Pakistan.
He encouraged the youth to stay connected with the Institute. He elaborated the peace framework of Pakistan in terms of the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Citing example of the exalted conduct of the founding father of Pakistan during the debate of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan upon the resolution to give him the title of Quaid-e-Azam, he advised the youth that when there is a conflict of interest you should remain neutral, and allow others to decide. He also stressed upon the idea of “We agree to disagree” stating that this is the spirit of democracy Quaid-i-Azam had envisioned.
Responding to his query about the “The Pakistan you cherish” the young peace activists enumerated: Education & civilization; Accountability & acceptance; Effective laws; Peace and equality; Rule of law, justice; Religious harmony; and Unity as well as military training for youth. He defined peace in two different ways internal peace and external. Internal peace is achieved when a person’s heart is pure and free from hatred towards others. External peace is about satisfaction of human needs like hunger as well as rights like health and education which the state has promised through the social contract. He stated that the values of good ambassadors of peace include – empathy, respect, appreciation of diversity, passion, trust, and hope. He ended his talk with the words of founding father of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah which he uttered on November 15, 1942 during the All India Muslim Students Conference held in Jalandhar: “I insist you to strive. Work, work and only work for satisfaction with patience, humbleness and serve thy nation”.
Mr. Imran Khan (Senior Program Manager, USIP): Deliberating upon the topic “Youth and Peace-building,” he began with a brief introduction of United States Institute of Peace (USIP), where he has currently been working as Senior Program Manager. The Institute is based in Washington DC and work to mitigate violent conflict around the world, e.g. racism, police brutality etc. USIP was established in 1984, it works at global level and also advises the US Congress upon various policy matters. He emphasized his identity as a Pakistani in order to deliberate upon the role of youth. He stated that youth is disempowered and faces many challenges such as employment and discrimination based on gender, race, social status, and education etc. Quoting recent reports on youth, he shared that 94 out of 100 youth in Pakistan do not have access to library. Youth development pattern across Pakistan is uneven. Youth is at great disadvantage and faces social alienation along with marginalization. However, the positive side of the picture is the fact that youth is politically and technologically engaged. Which dealing with youth we have to keep in mind the context in which the youth operates. He laid special emphasis on research for ensuring peace and development for youth.
Mr. Muhammad Awais Omer (Research Associate, SDPI): He represented the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) which is the leading think tank in Pakistan. He began with a brief introduction of the SDPI. It was established in 1992 on the recommendation of the National Conservation Strategy (NCS). The Institute focuses upon conflict and community resilience among other areas. Since 2016, it has been working on issues such as violent extremism and climate change. The Institute emphasizes research based approach. SDPI has engaged various universities in Punjab and Sindh. No less than 29 research papers have been produced, among these some have already been published in reputable periodicals and others will be published in due course of time. SDPI also provides grants to academia for research purposes. The Institute also works with the private sector, no less than 40 organizations are on board. The Institute has focused upon Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The studies carried out under this program have evaluated the CSR practices of the private sector organizations as to how funds have been directed towards peace-building activities. He also highlighted the establishment of peace-building societies in various universities as well as the recent publications of the Institute on topics of great significance.
Questions and Answers Session: The young peace activists engaged with seasoned panelists during the questions and answers session asking questions like the idea of negative and positive peace, as well as the ways to get engaged with the YPF.
Concluding: Director Admin. PIPS, Syed Waqar Abbas Shah, Secretary YPF, while presenting the vote of thanks, termed it a fruitful session and expressed the hope that students from other universities will also be engaged in such sessions at such vital forums. Ms. Komal, representing team Signify, elaborated the plan for day two of the exposure visit. The daylong session was moderated by Mr. Zain Baloch, team lead Signify for the exposure visit. At the end of the session, Ms. Anisa Dar, Project Manager Signify, expressed her gratitude for the successful conclusion of day one of the exposure visit. She thanked the participants for attending the session.