Youth Conference seeks end to role of political parties on campuses

LAHORE: Speakers at the Youth Peace Conference 2017 on Friday stressed the need to end the role of political parties on campuses.

Concluding a technical session on a new foundation for student politics, the speakers and participants unanimously demanded that the mainstream political parties should sign a charter vowing to stay away away from campuses. This will pave the way for a new student politics that is pro-peace, student-centered, women-friendly and focused on creating an environment to enhance competencies and skills of students and nurture their personalities through debates, drama, music, quiz and other positive co-curricular and social activities, they said.

The two-day youth conference was organised by Bargad at the Government College University (GCU) Lahore in collaboration with the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), Population Association of Pakistan (PAP), Oxfam and Right Here Right Now. Punjab Minister for Youth Affairs Jahangir Khanzada chaired the first technical session of the conference attended by 400 students from different districts of the country including Multan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, DI khan and Peshawar.

Youth from district Layyah launched a “Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign” at the conference for mitigating climate change in Pakistan.

The session on student politics was addressed by PHEC Chairman Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin, Bargad Chairman Dr Kaiser Bangali, journalist Aamir Riaz, former Punjab University Head of Philosophy Department Prof Dr Sajid Ali, GCU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah, youth development consultant Iqbal Haider Butt, IBA Karachi Director Public Affairs and Communication Dr Huma Baqai.

Most of the panellists recommended there must be well-defined eligibility criteria for candidates wishing to be part of student unions.

GCU Vice Chancellor Prof Hassan Shah said that given the extremism and violence widespread in the society, the question of student unions and politics needed to be approached very cautiously, as this may expose students to armed extremist groups. A separate session on climate change was addressed by Western Sydney University, Australia, Director Academic Programs Dr Awais Piracha, Individual Land Program Manager Farhan Khalid, Agriculture University Peshawar student Kashif Islam and Syed Ali Hussain, a student from Layyah.

The speakers said that Pakistan was world’s 12th most vulnerable country. They said glaciers in the Himalayas were receding faster than in any other part of the world. If the present rate continued, the glaciers were likely to disappear by the year 2035. They said per capita water availability in Pakistan was very low at 1,756 m 3 /year/person as compared to the global average of more than 7000 m 3 /year/person.

During the session, results from a survey with 150 Union Council officials of Lahore were also shared regarding awareness about climate change. Almost half of the respondents of the survey (53 percent) were found unaware of the phenomenon. And almost half of those who claimed to be aware knew nothing beyond the phrase climate change.

It was recommended that awareness raising campaigns, especially among the youth, should be started in the country. The speakers also highlighted that the local government setup needed to be strengthened to implement National Climate Change Policy. Water resources are very sensitive to the impacts of climate change, so water resources adaptation measures should be incorporated in planning and development policies of government.

Published in Daily Times, December 23rd 2017.