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February 4, 2019

‘Strategic steps needed to enhance political participation in youth activism’


February 4, 2019

Discussing the unique sets of possibilities and opportunities in activism that can be teased out in the Pakistani context, speakers at an Adab Festival Pakistan session on Sunday said that some tactical and strategic steps are needed to enhance political participation.

The session ‘Ushering in a New Era of Youth Activism: Hope or Despair?’ was moderated by lawyer Palvasha Shahab. Activist Jibran Nasir, Quaid-i-Azam University lecturer Alia Amirali and constitutional lawyer Faisal Siddiqi were the speakers.

Nasir said that because of the non-representation of the general public in the parliament, a vacuum gas been created that is causing hindrances in getting social justice. He stressed on the revival of student unions in educational institutions. He said that in union politics, students from various classes, ethnicities and political backgrounds sit together, leaving vested interests of their groups behind and making alliances on minimum similar goals. “This diversity, especially at government educational institutions, is very important for youth activism.”

Referring to the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Karachi, Nasir said traders who were affected by it are divided along many lines: some are big traders, some small shopkeepers and others hawkers. “We need some common grounds among various groups to raise movements.”

Replying to a question on the crackdown against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), he said that it is needed in order to learn lessons about religious groups spreading hatred on the subject of blasphemy.

“Think beyond the TLP’s narrow-minded politics, and study its working style academically, politically and socially. The group successfully organised at ground level by visiting every province of the country to inspire Barelvi youth and weaken traditional Barelvi political parties, Gaddi Nasheens and madrasas.”

Because of it all, the TLP became a stakeholder in Pakistan’s politics and emerged as the fifth largest group that bagged most of the votes in last year’s general elections, he added.

‘Adopt tactical steps’

Siddiqi said that it is needed to avoid crying on the excesses and instead adopt some tactical and strategic steps to promote political activism. “There are many examples of structured and unstructured forms of resistance in the country, and in some cases these are in individual forms and in others, in collective forms.”

He also said that there should be three priorities in it: fight against militant clergy, make efforts to reduce military-dominated politics and increase the representation of the people in every forum.

‘Join larger parties’

Alia said she is not against individualism or individual political activism, but it is needed to join larger political parties. “I believe that individual activism is a process of depoliticisation and promotes anti-politics politics in the country. In political parties there is no individualism and one has to listen to everyone’s views.” She said she supports judicial activism to some extent, but it is needed to know who makes regressive laws and various censorship laws that are used to suppress people’s movements.

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