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International Youth Day, Grooming youth for a greener Pakistan

Students mark International Youth Day
Islamabad, Aug 13, 2008: A large group of schoolchildren gathered along a section of Khayaban-e-Iqbal on Tuesday and walked, marking the International Youth Day.

The Youth Advocacy Network (YAN), an initiative of World Population Fund (WPF) and Capital Development Authority (CDA), organized the event under the theme of 'Grooming youth for a greener Pakistan'.

Speaking on the occasion, Mazhar Hussain, Member Environment CDA, and SSP Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) Zubair Hashmi, stressed the need for making the town even greener.

"Plant a tree wherever you find space outside your home, in the green belts or elsewhere," Hussain told the cheering students while Hashmi pointed out that Islamabad as the entire country needed to be made more green. "In this light the youth can play a positive role," he said.

Last week the CDA launched its 'Clean and Green Islamabad' campaign under which millions of trees are to be planted with particular attention to be paid to landscaping. It would also involve creating awareness of environmental issues.

The International Youth Day that presents an opportunity to recognize the potential of youth and highlight their achievements was celebrated globally with this year's theme being "Youth and climate change time for action."

The participants of the walk held placards calling for involvement of youth in social development and decision-making process and implementation of youth policy.

The walk was delayed because of early morning rain and participation was not as strong as anticipated by the organizers. However, the students made their presence felt through their cheering and plantation of saplings along the road.

Pakistan has the largest group of youth (ages 10-24) in its history with nearly 54.2 million individuals that constitute almost 34 percent of the country's population. Experts point out that by 2025, the strength of this age group would increase to 64.8 million.

Officials said that the broader aim of the tree plantation done by students was that the schools would be looking after them in the future, encouraging social responsibility.

Marium Jamal, Communications Office of WPF, said that youth could play an effective role in any development issues for they were considered the agents for change and the future of the country.

She said WPF was actively involved in celebrating this day because of two reasons. First, to advocate for implementation of the youth policy along with laying emphasis on the role of effective youth participation in the policy development process.

The second reason, the official said was to create awareness on pollution factors that affect the social development process affecting all segments of the society, particularly youth.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs is still stuck with finalising the first-ever Youth Policy in order to present it before the Cabinet Division for approval a third time.

Despite the ministry's continuous efforts, the policy has for some reason failed to get the importance it deserves from the decision-makers. No minister has been able to advocate it in the Parliament adequately. Daily Times

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Students want unions but not politics on campus
Islamabad: A big majority of students approve the PPP-led coalition government's decision to lift the ban on student unions but not the return of politics to campuses because of bitter past memories on that count, according to a nationwide survey.

Conducted by a Gujranwala based national youth forum, Bargad, and released here on Tuesday on the occasion of the International Youth Day, the national scientific survey on Student Politics 2008 has been conducted in all 23 nationwide public universities with 909 respondents.

Seventy per cent of the respondents welcomed the lifting of the ban on student union imposed by the then dictator, Gen Ziaul Haq, in 1984. But, a majority of the students (61.2 pc) are not in favour of student politics. Almost half of the respondents said students should not take part in national politics and political movements individually. But, over 42 pc, however, are in favour of politics on campus. While, the encouraging thing is that about one-fifth of female students are ready to participate in political movements in individual capacity too.

Almost 63pc of the students have no knowledge of earlier structure or working of campus politics and student unions. About 16 pc think positively about the student politics before the ban, while 13 pc view it in a negative way.

"We can easily see that the prejudice against student politics is highly uninformed and has been taken for granted."

The study states that student politics played a vital role in the 1960s in the democratic struggle against the military dictatorship of Gen Ayub Khan. But, the one who followed him (Gen Zia) banned the student unions and purged the campuses of politics. Over the years, student politics and student unions have been disparaged and accused of engaging in violence and thus causing the decline of the educational standards in Pakistan.

But, violence on campus was not the norm during the heydays of student union activism up to the 1970s. Armed and organised violence on campus first emerged in 1980s, when the country was under the occupation of an unconstitutional and illegitimate regime that was engaged in gun-running for a super power as part of an unholy tripartite alliance comprising the US, Pakistan military and religious organisations. Militarisation of politics was part of the agenda of the then ruling clique during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Campuses and student politics were actually victims of power politics being played out at the national and international level.

More than half of the respondents support politics should be confined to campus. But, over 41 pc report that such restriction is unreal. An overwhelming majority comprising over 72pc respondents opposed the affiliation of student organisations with political parties, while only about 22pc favoured it. Majority of the respondents did not want political parties to have student wings, as only 28 pc supported the idea.

Nearly half of students are skeptical about similar political loyalties of teachers and students in a certain campus and say that it would not have positive effect on the educational institutions. But, one-thirds thinks rather the other way over the issue. More than two-third respondents see it important that the university administration imposes a strict code of conduct on student organisations to ensure that there is no violence in campus. Nearly two-third respondents are in favour of banning those student organisations which promote sectarian, religious, gender, caste or racial discrimination by their literature and action. A vast majority (over 70pc) stands for open access to information regarding student union and university funds. The respondents also favoured representative women quota in the university unions. The survey has recommended the higher education commission to integrate its recommendations in the mid term development framework.

Iqbal Haider Butt, who authored the survey, said in the foreword that if student politics was responsible for decline in educational standards, the quality of education should have shown some improvement after student unions were banned. On the contrary, academic standards continued to deteriorate. Perhaps the responsibility lies in the fact that education is not a priority for the state and that student unions cannot be made scapegoat for the state's failure.

Vice chancellors from a number of universities and politicians and Parliamentarians attended the consultative meeting on women leadership in campuses during which the survey report was launched. Dawn

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