The fate of the country is unknown. People are wondering if indeed the elections 2013 will be held as promised. With the current spate of violence across Pakistan, many have decided not to vote at all.
Keeping this view in mind, as well as the growing tensions in the country, the Center for Civic Education Pakistan held a week long course earlier this month to educate 22 young leaders from all over the country.
I too was a part of this course that revolved around elections 2013, focusing on the ‘right to be governed democratically’. The course, led by Mr Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director Centre for Civic Education, discussed the many fundamental rights a citizen has in a country and the extent to which he is aware of them.
Held in Islamabad, the workshop began on 11th April 2013 and commenced with asking all participants to introduce their partners to the group. This exercise acquainted me with a number of different and incredible people I otherwise could have never met in one room alone.
I came across an incredibly brave lady from Turbat, Balochistan. Working as a social worker, she battled grave dangers everyday to help people of her community. Living is a city where even the basic human right – the right to live, is denied, she carries on trying to make a difference.
I met this young woman from Muzafargarh, Punjab who was doing her Bachelor’s in Nursing, the first girl in her family to do so.
All in all, I got to be introduced to people who had actually done something with their lives, helped in some way to make a difference to the people around them and truly deserved being a part of the workshop. I on the other hand was there for God knows what reason.
While the course took us through different issues plaguing our society, it also taught us the basic fundamental rights a person has in his country, the history behind these rights, and how countries are answerable to a human rights council via the Universal Periodic Review. A country has to submit a report of all social, economic and political rights given to its people.
This particular class chaired by Mr. Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani talked about Pakistan in general and the two reviews already conducted in the country. The talk also extended to the changes these reviews have brought and those which will be visible in the coming decade or so.
The workshop wasn’t all learning. Interactive sessions with group work also asked members to discuss the role youth in the upcoming elections, the culture of fundamental rights in their particular community and dealt with the grounds on which the youth plans to vote.
For me the workshop was an eye-opener. Not only did I learn in detail about the constitution of Pakistan, I through healthy debates with fellow participants managed to gauge their mindset.
The best part about this workshop was the way it integrated people from all four provinces of Pakistan and brought them together. I learnt how people live in the different provinces even interior Sindh. They hopefully learnt that people from Karachi aren’t all dead.
According to a participant from Haripur, currently a student of Peshawar University, Sehrish Mehmood: “It was the most appropriate time to train (us) about the importance of constitution, as our constitutional history is taking new turns. It is important for us to understand it. And CCE (Center for Civic Education)just provided us with the platform to learn and know about it. This course gave me an insight into the importance of democracy and how important a constitution is for a strong state.”
Ifrah Faiz, a pilot from Peshawar said: “It was a great experience and a great learning platform where friends from all provinces shared their thoughts, views (over the) prevailing situation in their areas. I strongly believe that we (will) spread the knowledge gained (to) benefit the citizens of our country in our own capacities. As change always starts from our ownselves and then our efforts, will and endeavour take it further to the society. And we must remember that every individual effort counts so don’t forget to vote for election 2013.”
Sheraz Ali from Nowshera stated: “It (the course) was informative and interesting, but depends how we (will) put into practice (the lessons learnt) to fill the gap in.
For Swaleha Malik, the course was ‘a platform where you can voice your opinion.”
An amalgamation of all four provinces, the workshop aimed at lessening the differences between us all. Yet personally I witnessed the opposite. Conversations at lunch started with ‘who are you?’ The right answer being ‘Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pathan’. Me, I just sat there awkwardly saying meekly ‘I am a Pakistani’ because 1) I was born here, 2) I do not belong to any ethnicity and 3) I really do not care about the background of a person before talking to them.
Above all the workshop might have only been for days, it certainly changed me, for the better.