Islamabad, May 3: UNDP Pakistan and PILDAT organised a Youth Dialogue with Political Parties on Inclusion of Youth Issues in Political Manifestos for 2018 Elections in which representatives of ten major political parties of Pakistan engaged with youth representatives in a robust discussion on how political parties could shape their 2018 election manifestos to reflect youth’s priorities and aspirations.
The dialogue brought together 10 key political parties whose representatives engaged with the youth representatives. The senior parliamentarians and political leaders from 10 key political parties who joined the dialogue, included Ms. Sadia Sharif, Central Information Secretary (Women) PML-N; Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Secretary General PPP; Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, MNA PTI; Maulana Abdul Wasay, MPA, Leader of the Opposition in Balochistan Assembly and Ms. Shahida Akhtar Ali, MNA, JUI-F; Mr. Farid Paracha, Deputy Ameer JI, Senator Usman Kakar, PMAP, Mr. Rizwan Mumtaz Ali, Media Advisor PML-Q, Ms. Shagufta Malik, former MPA and Provincial Joint Secretary ANP, and Dr. Ishaque Baloch, Senior Vice President National Party.
Whereas youth speakers included Mr. Waleed Bizenjo, Former Member Youth Parliament and Former Youth Prime Minister; former Advisor to Chief Minister Balochistan; Advocate Saad Mohammad Chaudhry, Head of Youth Wing, Pakistan Workers Federation; activist of the Trade Union movement; Mr. Daniyal Hassan, Former Member Youth Parliament Pakistan; Ms. Sadia Sadullaj Khan, IT Entrepreneur; Mr. Basil Nabi Malik, Advocate; Former Member Youth Parliament; former Youth Prime Minister; Ms. Mehrunisa Malik, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Saaf Suthra Sheher; Mr. Shaheer Niazi, Scientist whose work has appeared in the prestigious Royal Society Open Science journal; part of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018, Mr. Ejaz Abbasi and Mr. Muhammad Mustafa, former members of Youth Parliament Pakistan.
In his welcome address, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT, said that youth constitute 31% of Pakistan’s more than 207 million population, while approximately 46% of the country’s total electorate today comprises youth. “Effective political and civic participation by youth is a pre-requisite for successful peaceful and sustainable democracy and effectiveness of sound democratic institutions in Pakistan,” he said. “As parties prepare their 2018 election manifestoes, it is important that they place a special focus on the issues facing youth of the country.”
In his opening remarks, UNDP Country Director, Mr. Ignacio Artaza, said that “Pakistan currently has the largest generation of young people ever recorded in its history. This dialogue is taking place at an important juncture in Pakistan’s history, as the nation prepares for its third consecutive general election this year. Our recently launched Pakistan National Human Development Report finds that investments in the youth of the country are amongst the best investments that can be made in Pakistan’s future. The three most important investments that can be made to empower youth are Quality Education; Gainful Employment; and Meaningful Engagement. Therefore, it is UNDP’s unequivocal belief that investment in youth can bring a transformative shift in the socio-political and economic development trajectory of Pakistan.”
Youth representatives identified issues of revival of students’ unions, lack of quality of education homelessness and sexual exploitation of children, lack of availability of clean drinking water across Pakistan, madaaris to introduce standard curriculum alongside religious education, requirement of development focus on peri-urban and rural youth, career counselling services in educational institutions, counter-terrorism, entrepreneurship opportunities as well as investments in scientific education, business and investment. Youth representatives also emphasised that youth bulge should not just be addressed in the sense of economic dividend but also as a democratic dividend which requires that parties promote, strengthen and defend the fundamental right of citizens to right to information and media.
Party representatives appreciated the candid review and input by youth representatives on their respective 2013 manifesto pledges and underscored the need for youth to hold the parties to account on the implementation of their manifesto pledges using their right to vote in the upcoming General Election. Each party agreed that youth holds the key to the future of democratic governance in Pakistan and therefore investments in human and youth development, education and vocational training and facilitation for entrepreneurship and employment must be made in their respective upcoming manifestoes for 2018 General Election. Party representatives, however, cautioned that the issues of youth can not be delinked from the national scenario of reducing fiscal space for human development. Among the participating political parties, 3 parties, namely the PPP, JI and PML-Q, unveiled specific commitments for youth in their upcoming 2018 Election Manifestoes.
The one-day consultative policy dialogue was part of the UNDP Pakistan’s national Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) being implemented in Pakistan. The lynchpin of UNDP’s youth-led development approach in Pakistan is to create platforms for meaningful interactions between young people and key policy actors such as government, parliament, media, academia, and civil society with the aim of promoting inclusion of their voices in the policymaking processes.