YPP: Hands on political education

Published in Education-Zine, The News

By Samir Anwar Butt

In Pakistan, politics is often closely associated with corruption and fraud. Philosophy claims that politics is the ideal social organisation, but Pakistan stands nowhere near that definition. Over the years, we have failed to develop the maturity needed to push the country on the right track. Hence, the need to develop a proper political culture gave birth to the Youth Parliament of Pakistan (YPP).

Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) took the initiative of forming the country’s first youth parliament. After a successful tenure of the first youth parliament in 2007-2008, PILDAT recently announced the YPP 2008-2009. On the September 17, 2008, Federal Minister for Information, Sherry Rehman inaugurated the new YPP. On this occasion, S M Zafar, who is the chairman of the steering committee of YPP, said that this project will produce the leaders of tomorrow.

The YPP was selected through an extensive process from all over the country. The seats have been divided on the basis of population as is done by the National Assembly of Pakistan. Islamabad, FATA and AJK each have two seats, while the Northern Areas have one seat. The breakup for the four provinces is 29 for Punjab, 13 for Sindh, 7 for NWFP and 5 for Baluchistan. There are 2 seats for overseas Pakistanis.

Representation from such diverse areas has turned the YPP into a colourful experience. I was particularly impressed by the MYPs from FATA who successfully managed to give due attention to an oft-ignored part of Pakistan. All these young men and women have such rich cultures and values, yet they all feel for each other as Pakistanis. This parliament will give each of the participants, different perspectives on all national issues. Understanding the issues of FATA, without the people of FATA, may not have been an effective strategy. Overall the concept of YPP is extremely practical and effective since it gives the participants hands on experience and helps them understand politics. This is exactly what the first session of the YPP held at a hotel in Islamabad did. It helped the participants realise why politics in Pakistan is so complicated and ugly.

The YPP is a two-party system with the Blue Party as the liberals and the Green Party as the traditional. As part of the Blue Party, which also happened to be the majority party, I experienced the true essence of politics. This could be declared as a success on part of PILDAT, of course. Out of the 39 liberals, well over 10 MYPs contested the Prime Minister’s election. I was one of the three top finalists for the Prime Minister’s position, but my journey stopped there. This was expected, since I was not able to lobby as extensively as my fellow contenders, who are both extremely capable gentlemen. Of the two, Ahmed Baber of Punjab emerged as the Leader of the House. On being selected, Baber decided to list me into his cabinet as the Youth Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, a rather popular Ministry. On this occasion, rumors spread that I was involved in a deal with Baber – a disturbing comment I must say. The Pakistani touch, though, was yet to come. At the end of the first day of the election, a vote of no-confidence against the new PM was already being proposed by some, even though it hardly applied in those circumstances.

A burning Blue Party meeting followed. Apart from the Prime Minister, the six-member cabinet and a few others, there was an intensive blame game which consisted of all sorts of personal and not-so-personal attacks. At that point, it seemed that the government was not bonded properly and it would hardly last for the five day session that was in place. This is when ‘reconciliation’, Pakistan’s beloved solution, was proposed. New promises were made, assurances were given and transparency was promised. Like Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Youth Prime Minister got a unanimous vote of confidence.

Now that the government is in place, the true potential rises. All these young people with tremendous profiles and burning desires to make things happen want to make their presence felt. Fifteen of these MYPs will be selected by the steering committee for a study tour of the British Parliament. Who wants to miss such an opportunity? Hence, all the more reason for a good performance. The session included discussions on the revival of student unions, burning of women in Baluchistan, integrity issues with the US, subsidising travel fare for students and the Marriott bomb blast. This is indeed the boot camp for the future leaders of Pakistan.

The Blue Party is guided in the right direction by Donya Aziz, an MNA, while the Green Party is advised by Khurram Dastgir, also an MNA. With such capable people telling the youth parliamentarians about the rules of the game, no wonder the experience is so amazing. S M Zafar also made an appearance and spent a considerable time with us, enlightening us with his knowledge. Interaction with such personalities is what gives the YPP its strength. Keeping in line with the tradition of providing participants with in-depth knowledge about politics, the first session speaker was Wazir Jogezai, who served as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Following the true format of the NA was not easy for the youth parliamentarians; too often a Point of Order would be raised for the oddest reason but then again this is learning politics in the true sense.

Very soon, the youth parliament will meet for the second session. With the YPP government in place and the rules laid down, hopefully, it would turn out to be twice as productive as before. With the extensive media coverage, good proposals by the YPP will certainly find their way to the actual parliament. Pakistan is in need of an active and aware youth. PILDAT realises this, and so should everyone else.


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