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“Conference makes a youthful demand for peace”
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“Conference makes a youthful demand for peace”

Faheem Bin TariqDebate about Pakistan and extremism rarely involves the country’s large youth population. But Faheem Bin Tariq, a Correspondent from Karachi, Pakistan, writes about a conference where youth made it clear that peace is the goal.

Pakistan, one of the most populous countries in the world, has been in the global limelight since terrorist attacks of the September 11, 2001.

There has been plenty of debate and policy analyses on the country’s concerns linked to extremism and terrorism. Yet young people, who are supposed to ultimately determine whether Pakistan stabilizes as a moderate country or presents itself as a ticking time bomb in near future, are rarely involved in decision making.

For people like Mr. Shahzad Khan, Executive Director Channan Development Association, that is a constant source of worry. He believes that no other agent of change is more relevant in this regard than the country’s bloated youth cohort. It led him to invite and finance over 600 young people from across Pakistan to National Youth Peace Festival 2013, held in Lahore (Pakistan) from September 26th -28th, 2013 with generous support of UNDEF and USAID. The theme of the youth festival was “One Nation, One Agenda”.

During the three days event, young people representing diverse cultures, varying ethnicities, different religions and all socio-economic backgrounds gathered in Lahore, interacted with each other and discussed their everyday issues.

The forum provided them an opportunity to talk, understand each other, share their beliefs and most importantly celebrate these differences. All the participants expressed great patriotic spirit throughout the event and took pride in advocating a culture of peaceful co-existence and pluralistic discourse in Pakistan.

Today over 110 million of the 180-odd million Pakistanis are under the age of 29. Of them, over 50 million are young people in age bracket of 15-29. The forum empowered representatives of this youngest cohort to compile recommendations during the course of the residential peace festival. These youth leaders not only put forth their collective recommendations in front of invited parliamentarians, policy analysts and civil society leaders but also emphasized the need to implement these solutions as soon as possible.

Some of the most important recommendations from the forum included:

1-         The participants appreciated the first ever democratic transition of government in Pakistan after the May 11th, 2013 General Elections and urged establishment to endorse “Democracy” as the only “Solution” to issues Pakistan is facing at all levels.

2-         The participants demanded that instead of investing for development of nuclear technology, Government should focus on the education sector. Further they commended Government to believe in the power of ‘Pen’ and to ensure the implementation of fundamental “Right to Education for all”

3-         Participants emphasized Government to ensure safety and security of its citizens particularly all minorities so every citizen can enjoy equality and justice in Pakistan. Participants stood up silently in solidarity with the church bomb blast and condemned this barbarous act. On Sunday, September 22nd, 2013, over 75 people of Christian community, which is a minority in Pakistan, lost their precious lives in a suicide bomb attack on a church located in Peshawar city of Pakistan.

4-         The Government of Pakistan should take concrete steps to ensure the meaningful participation of young people, particularly those from terrorism-affected areas, in National Youth Policy and National Peace Policy.

5-         Youth should be given representation in the parliament. A recommendation on decreasing the age to contest for parliament to 18 years from 25 years was also proposed by one of the participants. For local body elections, it was proposed that for every Union Council in Pakistan one seat should be reserved for young people under the age of 25.

The National Youth Peace Festival ended with a hope that Government will play its role in implementing these recommendations, as desired by the young people representing all of Pakistan. The festival ended with cultural night celebrating diversity and differences.

photo: Faheem Bin Tariq

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About me: I am a youth activist and leadership facilitator who believes in the power in youth. With a mission to empower youth, I have impacted lives of at least two million young people across Pakistan. I am currently pursuing a Bachelors degree with dual majors in Architecture and Planning.

I was the British Council’s Global Changemaker (2012-13) and served as UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador (2011-12).

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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