By Arif Qureshi
Islamabad: Center for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR) in collaboration with the British Council organized a seminar on the topic of “Our Youth Our Future” at a local hotel in Islamabad on Friday. There was consensus among the speakers and participants that after consultation with all the political forces and stakeholders, AJK government should lift the ban and restore the students union in Azad Kashmir. Leaders urged the youth to adopt private sectors too for their future as it is impossible for government to provide jobs and settle all the educated youth of AJK in government sectors. Political leaders promised to accommodate young people in the upcoming local body’s election which will be held in coming July. It was said by many that there is a hard need to address the miseries of uneducated youth of AJK as they deserved our special attention.
Ershad Mahmud, Executive Director, CPDR initiated the proceedings of the seminar and introduced the guest speakers and participants about the aims and objects of the gathering. The seminar was addressed by Speaker AJK Assembly, Shah Ghulam Qadir, Shazia Khawar, Director Society – South Asia for British Council, Mr. Latif Akbar from PPP AJK, Mr. Abdul Rashid Turabi, Ameer Jamat-e-Islami, Ch. Muhammad Saeed, Youth Minister of AJK, Muslim Conference Head, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, Ershad Mahmud, Executive Director, CPDR. Earlier Dr. Waqas Ali, Director Programs, CPDR briefed the audience about the history and future Initiatives of CPDR in details.
Shah Ghulam Qadir, Speaker AJK Assembly appreciated all suggestions given by the young participants as well as the guest speakers and emphasized that the Government has already taken good care of public service commission and jobs in the education department. He asked for unflattering support from youth in carrying out the necessary policy reforms and announced the making of a youth task force as per the directions of Prime Minister which will help legislate and draft the youth policy.
Shazia Khawar, Director Society – South Asia in the British Council once again reiterated British Council’s commitment to the cause of young people in the region. She spoke about transforming the society through engagement with youth and providing future leaders spaces to make their voices heard as a vital pre-requisite to a vibrant democracy in the region.
Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, the President of Muslim Conference had some divergent views on performance of incumbent government but he assured full support for the making and promulgation of youth policy provided the youth representatives are selected in a transparent way. Ch. Muhammad Saeed, Minister for Sports, Culture & Youth Affairs applauded the efforts of civil society and political parties in engaging in advocacy and dialogue to build consensus on this issue. He reaffirmed his party’s support for participation of youth in politics and reassured that his party will provide maximum opportunity to youth in upcoming local bodies’ elections.
Mr. Latif Akbar, Peoples Party AJK leader spoke briefly about the measures necessary to incorporate less privileged sections of youth in making and implementing of youth policy. He reaffirmed his support for popular demands of youth ranging from 25% quota in local bodies elections to full functioning of student unions at all levels in colleges and universities. Abdul Rashid Turabi, Ameer Jamat-e-Islami AJK while addressing on the occasion shared the details of Jammat Islami institutions working for the welfare of poor students in AJK and pledged his full support to the elected Government for the formulation of youth policy.
Ershad Mahmud, Executive Director, CPDR said that such initiatives and active civil society engagement form the basis of true and participatory democracy to which the organization is fully committed. However, to create a facilitating environment in which the young people, as partners and leaders, are placed at the center of development; a comprehensive youth policy is the key. At the end of seminar Dr Zulfiqar Abbasi President CPDR thanked all participants and guest speakers for their timely arrival and participation. He focused on necessity of structured debate and disciplined dialogue, hailed efforts of the organizers for creating such avenues of international standard.