Politics this Youth Day
By Alhan Fakhr
Promoting civic spirit
There are NGOs that are harnessing the spirit of volunteerism among youth to address
genuine community needs
By Jehanzeb Shoaib
walks amongst us, he is not an alien; he is one of us, he lives within all
of us and yet we never envisage ourselves to be him,” said an intern of
Akhuwat, a microfinance institution, at a ceremony held to mark the end of
the three week internship programme recently. “Never did I imagine
myself to be the person who would be willing to sacrifice time and effort
for something other than serving my own selfish objectives. I had always
had that fire inside me, always had a better person inside me screaming to
get out and I always had a volunteer inside me waiting to be unleashed.
All I needed was motivation, inspiration and a platform which Akhuwat
provided me with.”
interest-free loans to the poor with the vision of a poverty-free society
built on the principles of compassion and equity.
The Akhuwat Internship
Programme has been designed to harness the spirit of volunteerism among
the youth of Pakistan by giving them an opportunity to work for the poor.
This programme is a journey which takes the interns through the streets of
Lahore but as much as it is a physical journey, it is also an inward
journey for the interns who are compelled to explore their own values,
priorities and goals in life. Through lectures, discussions, dialogues,
field visits, community projects and interaction with the borrowers they
get to learn a lot.
“It was actually a
priceless satisfaction attained after we helped the ‘parlour wali
aunty’ to help clean her house and prepare tea for her,” said an
enthusiastic intern, Hamza Ahmed. “All of you have only heard how the
poor people live without the basic essentials of life like food, water and
shelter….but we have seen it with our eyes. I have all the comforts of
life, yet, these people are happier than me even though they are living in
such dire conditions. Truly, I have lost the essence of happiness and an
inspiration has made me realise it,” Zair Zahid, a student of Lahore
Grammar School Johar Town, shared his comments.
Acknowledging the impact
that today’s youth will have on the future, many such organisations are
taking growing interest in the development of the current generation of
young people. The recognition that youth can have enormous impact, both
positive and negative, on the health of a society, they are moving youth
development from the periphery to the mainstream in the spheres of policy
making. Two other organisations which are affiliated with Akhuwat; Rabtt
and Next Generation Pakistan, were present at the closing ceremony.
Rabtt is a voluntary
youth organisation that aims to promote independent and critical thinking
through educational camps, bringing together students and mentors from
different classes of society in an environment of judgment and control,
introducing new fields of knowledge and broadening the future
possibilities for students.
This summer, Rabtt
organised two camps, one in the Government Pilot School and the other in
Youhannabad, which lasted for about three weeks each. In the camp subjects
such as Public Speaking, World History, Drama, Arts, Dance were taught
along with the usual Math, English and Science. Particular attention is
given to the design of the curriculum and the methodology of teaching
which sets this particular organisation apart from others.
The concept of Rabtt,
which literally means connection in Urdu, aimed to develop a strong
connection between elite and the underprivileged. This camp was successful
in achieving this as Zainab Amjad, who taught Dramatics at camp gives a
testimonial. “At the risk of sounding a little philosophical, I have
felt through this experience that the poorest of people have the purest of
love. The way they (students) would hug and bring things and listen to me,
it was amazing.”
“We have enabled the
students to question. Their inquisitive minds will search for answers but
they will be able to interpret easily and respond effectively. They have
now developed an understanding of the world around them. As they would not
be alien to complex notions such as capitalism versus communism and
dictatorship versus democracy etc,” said Daniyal Ahmed, the Assistant
organisation is Next Generation Pakistan (NGP) that targets the youth
because it believes that the youth is in the best position to change
Pakistan. Raza Goraya, one of the executive members of the organisation
shares, “We target the elite, so we give them an opportunity to get out
of the bubble and interact with the poor so they have a sense of
realisation that they are privileged which will automatically generate
philanthropy and inculcate a feeling of ambassadors of change within
They have a great list
of achievements, as they are working since 2010. They have been
fundraising through campaigns and concerts and donating in different
forms, from constructing houses in Kot Addu to distributing wheat in
Mughalpura. This summer they had an internship program for the youth in
which sixty five volunteers taught at school of technical sciences, Gohawa.
The organisation is
planning to have a National Youth Summit on the 30th of August 2012, where
all the youth NGOs will be invited and there they aim to form a
secretariat, which will ensure that all these philanthropic organisations
work collectively since they all share the same aims and goals. This is an
interesting aspect which will allow different organisations to join hands
and work toward a progressive Pakistan.
Akhuwat are nestling the youth’s civic spirit whereas Rabtt and Next
Generation Pakistan are chanelising it in the right direction. In the
status quo, what is needed is a mechanism to tap into and capitalise on
the inherent civic spirit that the young people of Pakistan and their
communities feel by raising awareness about how young people can be
engaged since the advantages for both the stakeholders the young people
themselves and their community, are large. It is clear that despite lack
of government support there are a number of NGOs and informal associations
in the voluntary sector that are capitalising on this civic spirit and
engaging young people in order to address genuine community needs like
Akhuwat, Rabtt and NGP. Today, which is the International Youth Day we
need to celebrate the civic spirit that lies within our youth.
always breathes an air of creativity into the otherwise pedestrian
political scene. No wonder, election time in Pakistan is never boring.
History suggests that every election has something new in store and, more
often than not, political contenders target one specific demographic of
Pakistan’s diverse population.
Presidential Election of 1965 aimed at garnering the support of
Pakistan’s ruling elite. The 1970 election threw light on the plight of
the common man as Bhutto’s slogans of ‘Roti, Kapra and Makaan’
echoed throughout the country while Benazir Bhutto’s 1988 campaign
widely centered around democratic principles after years of martial law.
So how are this year’s
election campaigns unique?
This time around all
parties from the PTI to the PML-N, from PPP up to the PML-Q, have their
head gripped around the youth. The question remains, do the measures taken
by these parties benefit the youth in any way?
But before this question is answered, it’s necessary to take into
account the lessons from the past. Did Benazir Bhutto’s government
suddenly empower women?
Did Ayub Khan’s forced
modernisation measures suddenly modernise Pakistanis? Did Bhutto’s
slogans of roti, kapra and makan rid the common man of the feudal system
that prevails throughout Pakistan despite the fact that he at least
acknowledged the importance of the poor?
Sadly, the answer to all
these questions lies in the negative. Pakistan’s 65 year history is
spotted with innumerable examples of unfulfilled promises, so, how is it
likely that the promises made to the youth will be kept?
Probably the answer to
this question lies in the fact that 40 million out of the 84.3 million
eligible members are part of the youth.
So what is it that these
parties are doing for the youth?
Let’s start with the
PML-N. Earlier this year we saw the much criticised laptop campaign during
which over a hundred thousand laptops were distributed to the youth
throughout Punjab. On top of that the worthy chief minister also announced
a further hundred thousand laptops that are meant to be distributed to the
youth. The chief minister’s attempts to appease his potential voters do
not end here. This summer, Mr. Sharif inaugurated the Punjab Youth
Festival which rewards a youth’s spectacular idea with a huge sum of
three hundred and fifty thousand.
Tehreek-e-Insaaf under the ‘visionary’ Imran Khan on the contrary has
a different take on empowering the youth. Mr. Khan’s slogans remind me
of Bhutto’s slogans only that the common man has conveniently been
replaced by the youth. “Only the youth can effect change in this
country,” says an emotionally charged Imran in each and every rally.
Funnily enough, Mr. Khan
and his words have clearly had an impact on the youth where most of the
urban youth it seems believes in giving him a chance.
However, the Pakistan
People’s Party seems to have a different spin on empowering the youth.
The Pakistan People’s Party has presented the young Bilawal as the face
of this so- called evolving party which claims to actually give the youth
a chance to become part of politics as opposed to just playing the role of
While, all of these
initiatives may give the youth the importance of being the primary
stakeholder in our political process, they don’t seem to change the
abysmal state of affairs of a Pakistani youth’s everyday life.
I know this won’t come
as much of a surprise, but the youth needs more. Probably equitable
education, health and job opportunities wouldn’t be too bad to start
with. If not that, then a few public wifi hotspots across the city which
can very well assist the use of technology by the youth won’t even be
that bad an idea.
Or if the government is
feeling particularly generous, student discounts on public transport like
those offered in India won’t be that bad an idea either.
Only time can tell if
these parties, once re-elected into office, can effect change or not and
draft policies that actually aid these 43 million effectors of change.
Until then, all I can do
is wish you a Happy Youth Day.
* Exhibition of
Calligraphy at Ejaz Galleries. Ten artists from Lahore and Karachi are
exhibiting their works. The artists are: Shahid Rana, Bin Quallander, M.A.
Bukhari, Noureen Akhtar, Jamshed Qaiser, Aamir Kamal, Arif Khan, Asad
Faruki, Mashkoor Raza, Tariq Javid.
* Exhibition: Hidden
Agenda by Ayesha Siddiqui at Koel Gallery opening on Aug 11 from 5-8pm.
The exhibition will remain open till Aug 31.
* Palestine Film
Festival: ‘Palestine Blues’ today at Café Bol at 8:15 pm. The film
examines the grassroots resistance movement that has sprung up against
* Lecture on Ethics of
Disagreement on Wednesdays till August 15 at Hast-o-Neest Centre for
Traditional Art and Culture. Timings: 3:00-4:00pm.
* Farsi, Arabic and
Calligraphy lessons at the Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art and
Culture for the month of Ramazan till August 18. Short courses are also
* Open Mic at The
Knowledge Factory on Friday, Aug 24 at 8:00 pm.