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Experts urge for engaging youth to avert May 9-like violence

Islamabad — Experts at a consultation called for engaging youth at the level of political parties and the parliament to avert May 9-like incidents of vandalism and arson attacks on civil and military installations.

They expressed their apprehensions that problems of youth of Pakistan were not on the radar of political parties, academia and media – a reason that they are tending towards violence in extreme frustration. Some speakers also proposed a revival of student unions across the country to engage youth.

Lawmakers, academics, journalists, rights activists, government officials, civil society representatives, and students participated in the consultation on “Promoting Narratives of Diversity, Inclusion, and Peace among Youth.”

The event, held here at a local hotel, was organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based research and advocacy think tank. The purpose of the consultation, which had three sessions on different themes, was to know how youth can build cultural awareness and develop understanding of the dynamics of multiculturalism.

The discussion was held on finding strategies to incorporate religious, and ethnic diversity into the present education system to improve youths’ social skills to interact in a multicultural setting. The discussants also deliberated how religious, and ethnic prejudices could be curbed among youth.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Farhatullah Babar condemned May 9 incidents of violence and added that there was need to find the root cause of the problem. He added that such incidents were “manifestation of a clash between expectations and realities” of youth of Pakistan. “We have to engage, and empower the youth,” he said, adding that there was no engagement of youth at the national landscape including at the level of the parliament and political parties. “Parliament and political parties should establish a linkage with youth.”

Former senator and seasoned politician Babar further said that national, and all provincial assemblies, and Senate should introduce “a public hour” like forum to encourage youth, especially students, to present their problems there. They should be made part of the legislation-making processes and all other activities of parliament, he also said. “Then they would have an ownership of the political process.”

Babar also advised that revival of student unions would be another way to engage youth.

Director Research at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Professor Dr Fakhr-ul-Islam viewed that diversity could be brought in a multicultural society. “The problem in Pakistan is that any ethnic group has certain biases or myths against other ethnic groups,” he said. He further said that these misunderstandings need to be rectified.

For this purpose, the initiative should be taken from the curriculum in which every child should be taught about different ethnicities, Islam said. He also argued for introducing cultural exchanges among students.

Educationist and columnist Dr Naazir Mahmood called for decreasing ever-increasing religiosity in the present education system of the country. He deplored that their educational system was itself a reason for increasing intolerance among students.

Political worker and writer Aasim Sajjad Akhtar highlighted that there was no youth policy in the country. “We have no meaningful long-term economic vision for youth, which is indispensable to give them a better life.”

Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences at Muslim Youth University Dr Muhammad Munir underlined the need to create awareness about multiculturalism among youth. He gave the idea of establishing cultural centers at the level of universities, saying this was the way to change minds of students

Justice Dr Khalid Masood, member of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court, opined that “relativity” could promote diversity, and multiculturalism. He said that youth were never included in any policy-making process for them. He added that such an attitude should be changed.

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, member at the Planning Commission of Pakistan, also stressed for revival of student unions to engage the youth, “There are both ideological, and structural issues in Pakistan when it comes to problems of youth.”

Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology Dr Qibla Ayaz in his concluding remarks said that dialogue among youth should be held to promote diversity, and tolerance among them and the same should continue.