August 26-27: In the early morning session on August 27, 2022, the 17th Youth Parliament Pakistan Members met to explore the recent trends of youth voter turnout in Pakistan & India at various levels of election (national, state, local). Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT in a highly engaging panel discussion enlightened the youth about the significance of casting their votes and learning from India in increasing the youth voter turnout. He shared some key statistics showcasing the low youth voter turnout for the time period 1988-2018 in Pakistan. It was observed through his findings, that in Pakistan the youth voter turnout could only be increased by 2 percent rising from 35 percent in 1988 to 37 percent in 2018, whereas in India, the youth voter turnout rose by 9 percent from 60 percent in 1988 to 69 percent in 2018.
Mr. Mehboob appreciated the rising passion found among the Pakistani youth about politics and elections, but also identified the lack of depth in their political knowledge and awareness as key challenges. Young parliamentarians expressed their deep concern regarding rigging in elections due to which youth did not see value in casting their votes. To this, Mr. Mehboob encouraged the youth to realize their potential, become a pressure group, strive to improve the governance structure and read daily newspapers to stay informed of the political developments.
Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India (ECI), as the second panel member, shared his experience of interacting with youth as a part of the civil service in India and understanding their issues. He said that India, despite being a country of the youngsters has witnessed an increased percentage of indifferent young voters over the decades. To meet this challenge of low youth electoral participation, he shared the innovative initiatives taken by ECI under his leadership in 2011, such as conceptualizing and celebrating the National Voters’ Day on January 25, 2011.
Dr. Quraishi remarked that ECI adopted a few other creative entertainment ideas and launched the ‘Voter Education Division’ to host various socio-cultural and voting awareness programmes with the youth. He further added that in India, the exercise of mock parliaments at school level has proved to be helpful in familiarizing the students with the electoral and political process of the country along with active student unions. He emphasized the importance of student unions in the civic education of the youth of India.
While addressing the questions of the young parliamentarians of 17th YPP, Dr. Quraishi emphasized the need of targeted interventions in order to raise young voters turn out even in Pakistan and also stressed on how ECI resolved the initial technology and transparency issues raised by political parties about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and used them to further enhance the inclusivity of youth and women in the electoral process of India. Dr. S.Y. Quraishi appreciated the role of PILDAT in engaging youth in parliamentary, electoral and political subjects and urged the Pakistani youth to cast their votes.
Later in the afternoon, Mr. Musadaq Zulqarnain, Chairman Interloop Holdings (Pvt.) Limited spoke in an interactive session on Long Term Economic Viability of Pakistan in which he emphasized that Pakistan needs to become self-sustainable in the long run by controlling our import inflow. The rise in country’s current account deficit has also been problematic for Pakistan and to address this, we have to take loans from international institutions. According to him, our market is consumption-based and the foreign direct investment (FDI) we encourage is usually not export based. Therefore, Pakistan should promote the export based FDIs to overcome deficit crisis such as the IT and health sectors FDI. Mr. Zulqarnain indicated a need in Pakistan to train young doctors, nurses, chefs and IT professionals. While addressing the questions of the young parliamentarians, Mr. Zulqarnain said that digitalization is the future of the world and Pakistan should pave a way towards digital economy. He highlighted the recent role played by digital data of COVID-19 vaccination which allowed the government to provide vaccine doses to the maximum number of people. He encouraged the youth to pursue freelancing and contribute towards strengthening freelance market in order to help Pakistan explore digital solutions and generate revenue.
Before the close of the second sitting of the Third virtual session, Mr. Muhammad Awais Arshad, NA-105 Faisalabad-V, Chairperson Youth Standing Committee on Political System, presented their proposed amendments to a Members’ Bill on Revival of Student Unions in Pakistan which was first proposed in the Second Virtual session of the 17th YPP. The Member’s Bill was aimed at reviving student unions in the country by reproducing and implementing the Sindh Student Unions Act, 2022 in various federating units and territories administered by Pakistan. The young parliamentarians then discussed and debated the amendments. The Bill was once again referred back to the Committee on Political System for further revision.
Previously on August 26, 2022, eminent educationist & modern scholar, Dr. Allama Javed Ahmad Ghamidi addressed the Third Virtual Session of the 17th Youth Parliament Pakistan on My vision of Pakistan. He enlightened the young parliamentarians about the challenges faced by the country and that it is important for them to stay dedicated to Pakistan and contribute to its development using their skills and talent. He shared his profound vision for the country in which he expressed that if we opt for promoting a nation state, then there will be no discrimination against minorities and the principles of equality and equity will prevail. Allama Ghamidi urged the young parliamentarians to overcome the colonial mindset and instead celebrate their own identities, language, culture and history. Afterwards, Allama Ghamidi addressed various questions of MYPs in an interactive question & answer session, shedding light on how their contribution can shape the future of Pakistan and improve its overall standing in the world.
The Youth Parliament of Pakistan is a project of PILDAT and has been running for the past 17 years. The 17th YPP is supported by the Jang/Geo Group, Bank of Punjab, Interloop Limited, Islamabad Serena Hotel, FES Pakistan, University of Lahore and Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi.