MUZAFFARABAD, Dec 19: The Kashmir Youth Parliament would be launched by the end of February next year, under the official patronage of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government, an AJK minister said here on Wednesday.
Mohammad Saleem Butt, minister for sports, culture and youth affairs, told Dawn that there were two youth parliaments in Pakistan constituted by a non-government organisation (NGO) but the one being installed in AJK was different, as it would enjoy official patronage.
He said that those interested in becoming a member would have to fill a form, available at all the branches of National Bank of Pakistan and the AJK Bank and send the application to the sports ministry, by January 31.
“We intend to enroll more than 30,000 youths,” the minister said, adding, the applicants would be short-listed and interviewed by a panel of professionals, appointed by his ministry, for selection of 61 members of the Youth Parliament.
He said that 30 boys and 10 girls would be inducted from 10 AJK districts, 4 boys and 1 girl from the four provinces of Pakistan, 2 boys and 1 girl from Gilgit-Baltistan, 4 boys and 2 girls from UK, 2 boys from Europe, USA and Gulf and 1 boy from Canada.
On Tuesday, a mega consultation session was organised by Mr Butt's ministry in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Bargad, an NGO, working for youth development.
Participants, mostly students of various educational institutions, were divided in six groups and asked to give recommendations on empowerment of youth and peace building in conflict areas. Sahiha Shaheen, executive director of Bargad, told Dawn that her organisation had previously conducted 15 consultative sessions in different areas of AJK with youngsters, aged between 18 and 29.
The youths were categorised on the basis of their age group, educational and professional backgrounds and every category was taken on board, she said.
She said that even the Kashmiri youths living in foreign countries, mainly in the UK, were also consulted through Skype and other mediums for their inputs in this regard.“The purpose is to build a sense of ownership among the younger lot vis-à-vis the youth policy of the region,” she added.
In AJK, launching the Kashmir Youth Parliament was in addition to the formulation of the youth policy, she said.
Sadaf Jamshad, a university student from Rawalakot, told Dawn that the initiative would provide an opportunity to the youth to voice their concerns regarding the issues of the younger generation.
Zara Shafique, a 2nd year student from Muzaffarabad, also appreciated the initiative but said: “It should be in harmony with our social values and customs.”