Islamabad, 11 Jan 2023: The Peace and Education Foundation (PEF) in collaboration with the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), organized a one-day conference on Engaging Youth for an Inclusive and Democratic Pakistan today in Islamabad. The purpose of the conference was to recognize the efforts of alumni youth representing diverse religious groups (engaged under PEF’s democracy program) by highlighting their contribution to an inclusive and democratic society which is essential to sustain such efforts in the future.
Nadeem Riaz (President – IRS), in his opening remarks, gave an overview of the challenges youth are facing in Pakistan especially the challenge to integrate them in the democratic system in Pakistan. Azhar Hussain (President PEF) stressed the need to engage youth in building inclusive communities.
PEF also organized a panel discussion to move forward with an academic discourse on ‘Youth Integration in Democratic Process – Prospects and Way Forward’ with experts from relevant fields and institutions including Zafarullah Khan (Former Director, of Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services), Ms. Shaheera Jalil Albasit, (Youth Activist leading Youth Election Quota Campaign in Pakistan) Dr. Shams-ur-Rehman (Chairman, Interfaith Studies Department, Allama Iqbal Open University) and Dr. Nadeem Abbass (Religious scholar and faculty member, NUML university).
Zafar Ullah Khan regretted that students’ unions remained banned for such a long time that the young minds are completely depoliticized, and they do not know how to participate in the political process. Ms. Shaheera also shared details about her efforts to get a bill enacted that would bind political parties to have youth representation in the parliament and cabinets. Dr. Junaid Ahmed, the guest of honor, emphasized that the ban on union councils needs to be lifted, and youth needs a clear direction to move forward.
Dr. Qibla Ayaz (Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology) emphasized that youth must be prepared to carry the democratic legacy. He further expressed that our society often systematically suppresses their potential and talent by not valuing their opinion. Diverse youth groups from religiopolitical parties and universities also joined the event. Civil society and government representatives also attended the conference and appreciated PEF’s efforts in engaging youth for an inclusive and democratic Pakistan.