ISLAMABAD: Politicians from the governing and opposition parties on Thursday said Aasia Bibi’s acquittal in a blasphemy case was a milestone in Pakistan’s history, as was the absence of any prominent protests against the decision.
At the ‘Dialogue between Youth and Parliamentarians on Democratic and Peaceful Governance and Sustainable Development in Pakistan’ organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) and the United Nations Development Programme, speakers also said the time had come to look into where they had made mistakes.
Parliamentary Secretary for Planning MNA Kanwal Shauzab from the PTI said at the event that the absence of protests was due to improved management and social media monitoring.
Dialogue held on youth, parliamentarians and governance
“Everyone knows what happened three months back [when Aasia Bibi was first acquitted by the Supreme Court]. But after that, monitoring of social media was increased and hate speech was topped. Immediate action was taken against those who were inciting people,” she said.
Ms Shauzab said society had been radicalised and become polarised, so it would take time to eradicate the issue completely.
“However I suggest that people should not forward provocative messages on social media and also discourage such messaging. As Aasia has been acquitted, we should look into where we went wrong,” she added.
While discussing provocative remarks against other countries in the educational curriculum, she said these countries were previously considered enemies but such things would improve following decisions such as that to open the Kartarpur Corridor.
MNA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz from the PML-N said it was a milestone for Pakistan that Aasia Bibi was acquitted.
MNA Kishwer Zahra from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement told participants that she moved two bills, one against extremism and one to upgrade volunteer units such as the girls guide, but they were not passed.
“I suggest the ulema should be pushed to play a role to bring peace in society, and their speeches should also be checked,” she said.
The ban on student unions should be lifted so the youth can be involved in political activities, Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam-Fazl MNA Shahida Akhtar Ali added.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said the war against terrorism has affected all of society and there is frustration among the youth.
However, he said, development would boost society and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will create economic opportunity.
Mr Qaiser said there are 96 young parliamentarians whom he will connect with the youth.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Usman Dar said that although the youth is a devolved subject, he will play his role for their economic empowerment.
“Unfortunately during the last 71 years, especially in the last 10 years, policies were not made for the youth. We are not only making efforts to increase job opportunities but the curriculum would also be changed as the current curriculum does not match market requirements,” he said.
He added that “we are considering allocating seats for the youth in parliament”.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmed from the Jamaat-i-Islami said that although the youth is a major asset to the country, CPEC and other projects are discussed more often than the youth. However, he praised the proposal for a youth quota in parliament, but said “it should be ensured that youngsters from political families are not nominated to those seats”.
Opening the dialogue, Pildat President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said Pildat and the UNDEP have joined hands to encourage youth engagement with political parties in government and opposition.
He also praised the UNDP Human Development Report: Unleashing the Potential of a Young Pakistan, which identified education, employment and engagement as the key requirements of Pakistani’s youth population.
UNDP Pakistan resident representative Ignacio Artaza said: “Youth are the drivers of economic, social, cultural, institutional and political change. As such, their voices must be listened to.”
UN Resident Coordinator Pakistan Neil Buhne said: “So much of Pakistan’s development is dependent on the youth of the country. There is a need for systematic youth-centric solutions to development challenges.”
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2019