By Zahid Masood
One early morning away from hustle and bustles of the capital, of the county, a group of young minds left for enlightenment and comprehension of democracy in the tranquil hills of Nathiagali in the wake of celebrating International Democracy Day. A three days conference had been arranged by SDPD (Strengthening Democracy through Parliamentary Developments) starting on 18th of September with the theme “Dialogue and Inclusiveness Central to Democracy”.
Each one of us is the product of our individual experiences, the environment and the available outfits of news, views, information and analysis chisel our temperaments. Likewise, I had my own perception about democracy whose canvas was confined to politics which in reality was not the case. The very first interactive session of conference dawned on me that
“Democracy is not politician or parliament business but its people’ business; people regardless of criteria”.
I have had this privilege of attending other national youth conferences but this one transcended my expectations. This conference provided a distinct quadrant by virtue of which traits like tolerance, acceptance, plurality and inclusiveness stem henceforth curbing social menaces like radicalization and extremism within the crests of a society.
As the conference progressed, in addition to covering other associated phenomena, three basic questions “What, Why and How” central to democracy were addressed by the keynote speakers like, Senator Raza Rabbani and other adherents. This session had proved to be an eye opening for us in a manner that we went through the process of discarding the facade perception about democracy, ultimately learning the true meaning of democratic values and its effects on our daily lives. It is the name of tolerance, pluralism, respect for minorities and the ability to listen to your opponent views with intentions of understanding his/her position.
I observed a great paradigm shift among the attendees towards politics and politicians as Mian Iftikhar Hussain spoke on what it means to be a politician in Pakistan. The heart wrenching story of his only son martyrdom left everyone tear eyed which the price was paid by Mian Iftikhar for fostering peace through dialogue.
The point that a society cannot be flat since it is heterogeneous was highly upheld in this conference and stress was given on accepting diversity. It was mindful of the organizers to project diversity by selecting the youth ranging from Gilgat Baltistan through Karachi which also included minorities.
Before the event as the attendees were on a way to Nathiagali, I observed heated arguments among my fellows on ethnic and geographical background issues and one could feel provincial parochialism, unrest and huge communication gap impeding them from walking in one another shoes. As the conference ended, I witnessed a display of harmony, selflessness and nationalism among the same fellows. Change is not defined in words but through achievements. Coexistence observed among the participants who aimed to work in coherence to serve a national cause was the conference achievement.
Besides a great learning offered by the speaker; I ascertained from the participants but one name among them leads the rest. Qiyanoos, a young tribal who would work in daytime subsequent by nocturnal studies , managed to clinch 2nd position in SSC Board exams. He taught me curiosity knows no boundaries and hard work is dispensable of wherewithal.
This conference embodied a vision in me which will surface in form of initiating nurseries for democracy backed by the likeminded youth across the country.