Young people for politics

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Aug 31, 2013.

Islamabad – Young Pakistanis willing to enter active the political arena should engage in ideology-based politics and work with commitment and honesty.

This was the advice Senator Raza Rabbani had for a group of 30 young aspiring politicians who have started a five-day residential training at Mehergarh, a centre for learning that work s with young leaders, in the federal capital.

The training is designed to help the future leaders understand the skills they might need to survive and succeed in active politics.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the training, Chief Guest Rabbani, of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the training initiative was commendable given that politics and politicians have historically been “demonized” in Pakistan, an act which he blamed on the civil-military bureaucracy.

But he said the participants must take part in practical politics to really understand its complexities.

“There is a difference between theory and practice,” Rabbani said. “As long as you do not struggle as a political worker, you would not be able to understand the ups and downs of politics.”

He said he had four basic tips for the young politicians: struggle with honesty and commitment and base your politics on ideology.

“The lack of leadership you see today is because most politicians did not go through a process of ideological training,” Rabbani said. “They do not understand the value of democracy.”

He told the participants that democracy is the only solution for the survival of the federation in Pakistan.

The participants include people from different ethnicities and religions from all areas of Pakistan, said Dr Fouzia Saeed, the chairperson of Mehergarh’s Board of Governors and a gender expert.

Saeed said the idea was to help those young Pakistanis who want to join active politics but may not know how to pursue this goal.

“The way to bring about actual change is political,” she said. “So we decided to provide people who want to join mainstream politics an opportunity where they can be groomed in a proper way and where they can learn the ground realities of politics.”

Saeed said over the five-day training, the participants will be taught by politicians, election campaign managers, Election Commission of Pakistan officials as well as representatives from nongovernmental organizations working on political and election-related issues.

Some of the training participants have political affiliations with various mainstream and small political parties, others have run as independent candidates for local or provincial governments and still some others were unaffiliated.

But, during a brief introductions session at the ceremony, most of the young men and women showed a desire to contest upcoming local government elections from their respective constituencies.

Shahmeer Baloch, 24, from Turbat, Balochistan, said he is not discouraged by Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt political system because he believes the solution to the country’s problems must come from the talented youth.

“No angel is going to descend from the heavens to solve our crises,” Baloch, who is currently a graduate student of International Relations at the National University of Modern Languages, said. “These are our problems and we must solve them ourselves.”

Just like Baloch, other participants appeared to be not only politically ambitious but also enthusiastic and excited about learning skills they can utilize for building political careers.

Nusrat Begum, from Lower Dir, who is affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but contested the NA-34 elections as an independent, said she wants to work for women rights in her area.

“Women can do more and better work than men and I got into politics because I want to help women get their basic rights,” Nusrat said.

Radha Bheel, a social worker and aspiring political leader from Mirpur Khas, Sindh, said she was hoping the training would help her understand Pakistan’s system of governance better. Bheel said she expected to learn strategies she can use to mobilize people in her area when she runs for the local government elections in Sindh.

The training will be conducted at the Mehergarh training centre in Mera Bhagwal on the outskirts of Islamabad.

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