National Youth Retreat, 2018

  • Publication Date: Tue, May 29, 2018

    April 19-22, 2018: Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) in collaboration with Young Parliamentary Forum (YPF), National assembly of Pakistan organized a four-day Interprovincial National Youth Retreat in Nathiagali. Participants included youth from all over Pakistan i.e., four provinces, Azad Jammu& Kashmir, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory. The Retreat was organized with the mission to highlight the significance of parliamentary democratic system in Pakistan; to discover as to why it was necessary to have Democracy in the ; and how to engage youth to strengthen the democratic institutions of our beloved homeland Pakistan. A diverse panel comprising of Honorable Parliamentarians, Members of the civil society, Media persons, experts and renowned academicians moderated the sessions of the Retreat.

    Day 1: The inaugural session at PIPS, Islamabad Campus, was presided over by former Chairman Senate Honorable Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, who highlighted the role of youth and student unions in strengthening the democratic culture in the country. He stressed that trichotomy of powers as envisaged in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 was essential to uphold and respect rule of law and further emphasized that Parliament of Pakistan as a sovereign Institution should take lead in all national concerns and debates in the country. The session concluded with an interactive discussion, whereby youth asked burning questions about the state of affairs in Pakistan and participants departed for Nathiagali. The evening session that took place at Nathiagali focused on the Problems with Democracy in Pakistan. Mr. Rehman Azhar moderated a mock TV talk show which was presided over by a panel comprising of Mr. Zafarullah Khan Executive Director PIPS, Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed, Ms. Marvi Sirmed and Mr. Sohail Choudhry. Worthy panelists opined about the state of Democracy in Pakistan and answered the questions raised by the audience that mainly focused on the future of democracy, need for youth’s engagement in the democratic process, to uphold rule of law and the importance of student unions in the democratization process in the country.

    Day 2: First session of the day was about “Building Blocks of a Federal Parliamentary Democracy”, chaired by Honorable Senator Farhatullah Babar ®, who spoke about the importance of Federalism and impediments in its way. He highlighted how the eighteenth constitutional amendment had paved the way for a greater provincial autonomy. He shared his thoughts that the Senate of Pakistan had emerged as the house of federation as it had equal representation from each province of the country. It was followed by a thematic session on the topic “Is parliament relevant for functioning federalism and a participatory democracy?” moderated by Mr. Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director PIPS, Hon. MNA Ms. Saman Sultana Jaffery, Hon. Senator Agha Shahzaib khan Durrani and renowned academician Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed were amongst the panel members, who highlighted the importance of public participation and inclusiveness in any functioning democracy and shared their insight in the role of youth in strengthening the democratic dispensation in any democratic country. To throw light on the historic fusion of Arts and Literature against dictatorial regimes, a session on “The Resistance Movement through Arts & Literature” was arranged. Mr. Zafarullah khan highlighted the role of and contributions made by writers and poets in Pakistan in resisting the oppressive non-democratic regimes; Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmad discussed the  international resistance movement initiated by  academicians and civil rights activists; Renowned artist Ms. Sania Saeed explained to the audience the importance of Arts, folk lore and literature in a democratic society and how they could be utilized as a resistance movement during an oppressive or dictatorial regime. Syed Shamoon Hashmi spoke about the importance of culture and its role in spreading tolerance in the society and stressed that the current education system needed interventions as students were going far away from literature and art due to business and job orientation. He lamented that the art of writing a novel, drama, fiction or any piece of literature was depleting day by day and emphasized on the need to create awareness about literature for a politically aware and engaged society.The day ended with a session on “The Role of Language in Arts, Media and the Society”, moderated by renowned artist Mr. Adeel Hashmi who spoke about  the role of national language in posturing national development and further shared his insights into how national language could play its role in Arts, Media and the Society in building a robust and pro-active society.

    Day 3 started with an awareness session on “Why is ideology missing in Pakistani politics?” Honorable Senator Mr. Afrasiab Khattak® spoke about the importance of ideology and called for a debate on developing a holistic manifesto keeping in view the opinions and concerns of the concerned stake holders in the society. The session was followed by a briefing on Electoral process by Ms. Nighat Siddique, Additional Director General Election Commission of Pakistan who highlighted the role that Election Commission was playing during and after the elections process. She briefed the audience about the Elections Act 2017 as well, and explained the process of voters’ registration and grievance handling at length. In order to highlight how legislation could bring a change in the lives of marginalized segments of the society, next session had Honorable Senator Rubina Rauf Khalid as key note speaker, who shared her experience on Transgender Bill and the need to support such initiatives. What followed was an extremely moving session that focused on “Understanding the Psyche of Violence”, moderated by renowned artist Ms. Sania Saeed.  The panelists comprised of Lala Iqbal (father of late Mashal Khan), Akif Azeem (survivor of APS attack) and Ms. Mussarat Misbah (Head of Dupilex Smile Again Foundation) who told heart wrenching personal experiences and observations on the lack of tolerance in the society.  Lala Iqbal and Akif Azeem shared their painful experiences of losing their loved ones due to intolerance and the need for Society to rise against the menace of extremism. Ms. Mussarat Misbah shared the agonies of acid burn victims with the audience and need to introspect and modify collective behaviors in our society.

    At the end of day 3, two general debate sessions were organized to encourage active participation of youth around the topics:

    • Is Parliament relevant for a functioning Federalism & a participatory Democracy?
    • The Need for a Code of Ethics for Social Media?

    The participants were divided into two political parties and were given the task to prepare a dream manifesto for the forthcoming elections. The participants keenly participated in this mock activity and came up with comprehensive manifestos for their respective political parties.

    The retreat concluded with a Cultural Night to celebrate Pakistan’s unique cultural diversity. The Interprovincial National Youth Retreat, 2018 provided an opportunity to the Youth of Pakistan to develop an understanding about Pakistan’s emerging democratic culture and in  inculcating the knowledge about the political system and electoral politics of the country.