Ahmed Nawaz
Ahmed Nawaz

LONDON: A young man who survived the deadly 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar has been elected president of the Oxford Union debating society – becoming the second Pakistani after former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to hold this prestigious position.

In a message on his Twitter account, 21-year-old Ahmed Nawaz said that during his tenure, he looked “forward to having world leaders debate the most pressing issues, empowering young people through this platform & upholding freedom of speech.”

Mr Nawaz earned a place at Oxford University in 2020, studying philosophy and theology at Lady Margaret Hall – the same college attended by Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.

His election was hailed in Pakistan, with both Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi paying tribute to the young man.

“Great honour & inspiring journey fuelled by determination & sheer will power. Ahmad Nawaz… has set an example worthy of emulation by our youth. Pakistan is proud of you,” the prime minister tweeted on Monday.

In his own message, President Alvi emphasised that: “Our biggest hope are youth of Pakistan.”

Recalling that Ahmed had “lost his brother Harris in the heinous Peshawar massacre”, he went on to say: “We must register that despite all setbacks Pakistan will keep on shining & rising.”

Talking to Dawn, Mr Nawaz’s father, Muhammad Nawaz Khan said it was a massive honour that his son was representing Pakistan at a prestigious platform. “Ahmed is here, that means Pakistan is here.”

He said that since the Oxford Union has a historic role –speakers and global leaders are routinely invited here from the world over – “Ahmed hopes that the Pakistani leadership, including Shehbaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari should come and have candid conversations” about the country’s policies.

Mr Khan said that people in the UK had questions and reservations about Pakistan’s policies, so his son wants to enlighten them. “Ahmed can’t give policy statements, but he can invite leaders to speak about key issues, such as Pakistan’s role with the Afghan Taliban.”

According to his father, Mr Nawaz hopes to work with youth leaders and invite activists such as Greta Thunberg to speak at the union. “He’s also written to Justin Trudeau and hopes to invite the UN secretary general as well.”

Talking about the election, Mr Khan said his son had worked very hard, adding that “When I saw him last night, he was under immense stress as the competition was tough.”

“On election day as voting wrapped up, the result came close to midnight after recounts. He called me in tears, and I feared the worst, but he was victorious.”

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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