Islamabad, June 26: Youth Parliament provides an ideal forum to learn and accept that there exist different prisms, ethnicities, language and cultures in Pakistan. It is a tremendous privilege to represent fellow citizens and this privilege should not be maligned.
These views were shared by Speakers at the launching ceremony of PILDAT’s 6th Youth Parliament Pakistan (YPP) 2014. The 60 young selected candidates from across the country were welcomed by Honourable Engr. Khurrum Dastgir Khan, MNA, Federal Minister of Commerce, H.E. Mr.Jesper Moller Sorensen, Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan, Mr. Faisal Karim Kundi, Patron Youth Parliament Pakistan and former Deputy Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr. Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, Former Deputy Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan, Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, MNA, Mr. Murad Saeed, MNA, among others. As a model Parliament for young people, the Youth Parliament Pakistan is patterned after the National Assembly of Pakistan. The Government of Denmark has through its development assistance been supporting PILDAT’s Youth Parliament Program since 2010 with the aim to promote democracy in Pakistan, especially among the youth.
Speaking on the occasion, Honourable Engr. Khurrum Dastgir Khan, MNA, Federal Minister of Commerce, thankedthe consistent support of the illustrious Standing Committee of Youth Parliament in making successful what he termed as the “tremendous endeavor of the Youth Parliament Pakistan.” He especially thanked the Danish Ambassador the support and contribution of the Danish Government for the Youth Parliament initiative. Mr. Khan said that illiteracy on democracy is lacking worse than general illiteracy and PILDAT, through the Youth Parliament, as with other initiatives, is contributing to removing this illiteracy. Democracy is an understanding with the citizens to take them along towards greater public good. He said that the first lesson that he learnt in Parliament was that there exist other perspectives and prisms on Pakistan other than those coming from Punjab. He hoped that this lesson will be learnt by MYPs as well that there exist different prisms of looking at this country that we call home. The mere tolerance of other ethnicities, language and cultures is not democracy but accepting these as legitimate is the first lesson of democracy. He said that in democracy and governance, taking everyone along is the first challenge. He said that Parliament, at its foundation is a contest of ideas. It is a tremendous privilege to represent fellow citizens and to sit at a table where decisions are made. This privilege should not be maligned. He also said that in public service, good intentions alone are not sufficient. A consistent effort is required both in reforms and in taking people along. He also said that fruits of democracy never automatically fall in your lap; democracy requires sustained and tireless effort. He also quoted Amartya Sen by saying that it is incorrect to think that a country does not deem to be fit for democracy, it has to be made fit through democracy. Pakistan’s present and future prosperity is tied to the sustainability of representative democracy.
Addressing the young leaders,Danish Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Jesper Moller Sorensen said that the YPP aimed to provide the young members with numerous opportunities to understand, to engage in and also to question the process of democracy. Ambassador Sorensen stated that “Democracy starts when we learn to listen to others and give space to opinions which may differ from ours. And this is more important than ever, as the global economy is connecting us more than ever.”
In his remarks, Ambassador Sorensentalked about the youth as the driver of change. “The future is always somewhat uncertain – but what is certain to me is that it will be the young people of Pakistan who determine what the future will be”, he said. He also encouraged the young parliamentarians to get the most out of the program to the benefit of their country. “I am strongly convinced that you cannot talk about democracy or civil empowerment without engaging the youth. This program is therefore a great opportunity for you to learn about civic responsibility, team work, tolerance and respect for other people’s opinion.”
Mr. Faisal Karim Kundi, Patron of Youth Parliament Pakistan and former Deputy Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, thanked the Danish Embassy for providing support to continue an important initiative such as Youth Parliament aimed at Pakistani youth’s leadership skills. Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, MNA, said welcomed the PILDAT initiative of Youth Parliament and said that the young members must make the most of this experience as such an opportunity was not available to MNAs like her before entering politics. She advised youth that youth must strive to achieve integrity in public life. She also said that Parliament and politics though are much maligned terms in Pakistan, these are the best mediums for public service. Mr. Murad Saeed, MNA, congratulated the young members on their selection and advised them to use the opportunity of learning and leadership skills to the fullest.
Ms. Malika Bukhari, Advocate, appreciated PILDAT’s contribution towards Pakistani youth’s development and advised young members to focus on the critical review of both existing policies and legislation in order to improve the lives of the citizens. Welcoming the Honourable Guests and members of Youth Parliament Pakistan, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT, said that PILDAT has completed 5 cycles of YPPs in 7 Years, adding that initiating an idea is the most important test of the success of an idea.
The 6th Youth Parliament marks a new phase in the life of the institution. A record 2000 Expressions of Interest were received for this batch. The steady rise indicates increasing interest and trust from the Youth of Pakistan in the Youth Parliament Pakistan. He said that in this batch, there is a further strengthening of the six Standing Committees is envisioned. These Committees will examine 12 key policy areas of the Federal Government over one year term and will come up with substantive policy recommendations representing the youth perspective on such diverse subjects as Foreign Policy, National Security, Education, Economy, Constitutional and Legal Reforms. These recommendations will then be shared with the Government, the Parliamentary Committees and eventually the media. Mr. Mehboobsaidthat Pakistan needs to strengthen its democratic institutions and inculcate democratic culture in the society. We need to discourage extremist tendencies and lack of tolerance for others’ beliefs and views and strengthen the rule of law. Through initiatives such as the Youth Parliament, we hope that open and informed debate in the YPP on issues facing the society will promote the cause of democracy in Pakistan. The 6th Youth Parliament Pakistan (2014) will have an enhanced role as the Youth Standing Committee will be focused on reviewing critical policy issues and be tasked with developing cogent policy alternatives for the Parliament and the Government of Pakistan.
A total of 2081 Expressions of Interest, a record high compared to the previous 5 batches, were received for the 6th Youth Parliament Pakistan (2014). 93% of the applicants were male while 7% were female. Geographically, most of the EOIs received were from Punjab (49%), the rest of the distribution is as follows: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 20%, Sindh: 14%, Balochistan: 7%, Azad Jammu and Kashmir: 4%, Federally Administered Tribal Areas: 3%, GilgitBaltistan: 2% and Islamabad Capital Territory: 1%. The total membership of Youth Parliament is 60. There are 16 female (27%) and 44 male (73%) members of the 6th Youth Parliament Pakistan (2014). The Blue Party commands a majority with 78% of the seats, whilst the Green Party holds 22% of the seats. 28 seats are allocated to the Punjab province, 13 to Sindh, 7 to Khyber Pakhtinkhwa, 4 to Balochistan and 2 each to Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and GilgitBaltistan (GB).
Only those young Pakistanis who were between the ages of 18-29 years on January 01, 2014 were eligible to apply for membership of the Youth Parliament Pakistan. The average age for a member of the 6th Youth Parliament is 22 years and 3 months. The merit based selection process for the 6th Youth Parliament has been led by an independent Steering Committee. The 6th Youth Parliament Pakistan is supported by the Danish International Development Agency, Government of Denmark.