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Ink Magazine’s Jan-March issue interviews me in detail regarding PYA:

1) What lead to the formation of Pakistan Youth Alliance in 2007?

Pakistan Youth Alliance was my dream. I dreamt to matter, I dreamt to give a platform to 62 % population of Pakistan i.e the youth. I yearned to “live the change” I wanted to see around me. The melting point was emergency proclamation during Musharraf’s government when everything went black and we were forced to be ignorant, by barring media. This tyranny by that regime became a blessing in disguise for the likes of me as the ignorant youth in me became this activist who wanted to play a part in our future.

2) What is the aim and ideology of your organization?

We aim to unite the youth of Pakistan, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, caste, race or language, on an unbiased platform through which they could contribute in nation building processes in their limited capabilities. We wish to create political and social awareness amongst the youth of Pakistan. We want to provide a platform to the youth through which, they can raise their voices against injustice, exploitation and other social ills of our society.We also, engage youth in constructive and healthy activities through which their positive energies are synergized. We enlighten the youth to feel responsible for this country and prepare them for future leadership tasks. Protest against any stance taken by any authority to destabilize Pakistan or hurt the national integrity. We through many medoums spread the message of enlightenment, hope, responsibility and patriotism to masses through unconventional but effective mediums like music, poetry, prose and art. We aspire to create a spark in the youth of our nation by a variety of inspirational events like conferences, seminars, panel discussions, art exhibition, concerts, debates and peaceful protests. Moreover, we indulge youth in social welfare activities through fund-raising for those affected by national disasters, war or political instabilities. We try our best to bridge gaps between youth studying in different universities\colleges and bringing them together to form a collaborative force.By infesting trust and leadership skills to youth, we refine the positive attributes of youth and prepare them for challenging tasks ahead when they enter the system.

3) PYA desires to provide an unbiased platform to the youth of Pakistan, from where their voices can be conducted to the masses. What are you doing to ensure that unbiased decisions are carried out?

We have recently completed 150 events worldwide, every initiative was voluntarily implemented. To ensure every initiative is unanimously endorsed by the public, we through our Central Executive Body, which has representation from throughout Pakistan and Pakistanis living abroad, ask for prior approval. This body through 2/3rd majority gives a green signal. Almost every initiative was well received by the public and in the media. We rallied for democracy, human rights, we saluted brave martyrs and showed solidarity with victims of terrorism. We practically helped disabled, displaced and victims of disasters. We through our “Art For Change” campaigns made aspiring artistes use their artform as a tool to reform mindsets.

4) PYA has come out to help Pakistan during disasters for the past three years that is The Baluchistan Earthquake in 2008, Military action in Swat, Flood in Abbottabad Lake and most recently the recent floods in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. What has been your most successful campaign so far?

The most successful campaign so far has been the ‘flood relief campaign’. We from nothing, raised over 45 Million PKR (donated items not included) and managed 36 deliveries till date (from Aug 03 to 09 Dec, 2010). We managed to practically help 44000 families and were the first ones to reach many far off & inaccessible areas battling through raging waters, snakes, stampedes and security issues. This extra ordindary bravery from our passionate volunteers was acknowledged at UN Headquarters at New York City.

5) Your campaign for the flood affectees has been a huge one. Can you describe how PYA has been carrying out this campaign?

We started from 70 Rs. We dont get any direct or indirect funds from anyone. We raise funds through streets and planned fundraisers on our own. Our previous experience with natural disasters helped us carry flood relief campaign with utmost efficiency. Salutations to the hundreds of volunteers, who under our guidance have now become experienced relief workers. This is what we always dreamt of in 2007. We aspired to create sparks that would eventually make the jungle catch fire. When we started, only one or two non-politically aligned youth civil society groups existed, but since then a cluster of civil society groups have sprung up. If Pakistan will change, it will be through these youngsters.

6) What is next on the agenda for PYA in the year 2011?

We are in middle of flood relief campaign which is now focused towards rehabilitation and renovation of schools, libraries and hospitals. These floods have taken us back several years and constant effort is required to completely rehabilitate the 20 million affected. Also, educational project for juveniles (children in jails) will be started from Lahore which will be cloned else-where after successful implementation. Our short-term objectives vary as the situation of Pakistan varies every fortnight. We have in the past, been very pro-active (started working for many causes, which were-to become big disasters like Swat IDP, floods etc) so lets hope the same trend continues.

7) What message would you like to give to the youth of Pakistan?

I would like to urge the youth to stand up and speak whenever they believe their country is taken hostage by a noisy minority. We need to take our country back from them and stop being a silent majority. We need to build Pakistan before eyeing on other lands and succumbing to war-hysteria created by a particular segment of our society. We need to revive and re-own the very ideology for which Pakistan was created.  Moreover, we need to turn our words into actions. Nothing would reiterate my message louder than Martin Luther King saying: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people,”

 

 

 


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The Internationally renowned Alliance for Youth Movements interviewed me concerning youth activism & flood relief work:

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) is one of a cluster of civil society groups that emerged on Facebook during 2007’s emergency rule. The organization focuses on strengthening Pakistani civil society, ensuring that young people—a demographic that the alliance sees as largely indifferent to social or political causes—are its biggest contingent.

Since emergency rule ended, PYA’s presence on Facebook has grown into three separate groups with over 5,000-plus members and a fanpage with 7,000 members. “Facebook is a gift from God,” PYA’s chairperson, Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, told me. The social network serves as the cornerstone of the group’s efforts—they use it for everything from recruiting, communicating with members, fund-raising, and outsourcing expertise. They also have a nearly 20,000-strong email list and an SMS list with between 10,000 and 12,000 numbers.

When this summer’s heavy monsoon season turned into the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history, all these resources were diverted to flood relief. Since July, PYA has been delivering the basic goods and services that flood victims initially hoped to see come from the government. As one anonymous organizer told Foreign Policy: “A few of us thought that if no one is willing to help our own people—not the world community, not our own government—then it’s our job.”

How has its foray into relief efforts impacted the PYA as a civil society organization? Will they be able to redirect attention generated by the disaster back into their pro-democracy efforts? I caught up with Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi this week.

AYM: What type of support do you most need right now?

PYA: In disasters as big as this one all support and funding seems like less than it is. We need volunteers, we need relief workers, and we need donors. We need doctors, paramedics, and street activists along with digital activists.

AYM: To what degree is the flooding disproportionately affecting some Pakistanis over others?

PYA: This being the biggest disaster in the history of Pakistan, it is affecting both rural and urban settlements to the core. But rural populations surpass the country’s urban population, and their sources of earning (i.e., crops and cattle) have been completely destroyed.

Even if the flood recedes, what will people go back to? Nothing is left. This flood has broken the backbone of people with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Not only their life earnings but the source of these earnings have been washed away.

AYM: How are you using social media in your relief efforts? Which tools are most useful?

PYA: We started PYA in 2007 as a Facebook group; since then, a mere Facebook group became the biggest and the most potent youth movement of Pakistan. What was initially digital activism has been transformed into street activism. We’ve helped over 25,000 families in need.

Most of the fund-raising, propagation, and messaging is done through Facebook and Twitter. According to my personal estimate, more than 60 percent of 17 million PKR (approximately 200K USD) we have raised to date has been because of Facebook.

Mobiles, Blackberries, iPhones—all aid not only activism but relief work. As live feedback is sent to donors they get to see where and how their money is helping people. It helps us, as workers on ground, to communicate in inaccessible areas.

AYM: Could you talk about some of the long-term consequences of the flooding as you see them?

PYA: Pakistan will be back to where it was before the flood in around a decade.

The political consequences are already evident, for example how some political forces are using it as tool to get political advantages. Local politicians and landlords use relief aid to get more voters. Extremist organizations use flood relief work to recruit more people.

But not all of the consequences have been negative. From Pakistan’s flood, I see Pakistan’s young generation emerging. I see amazing passion and patriotism in youth all over the country shrugging off their apathy and reaching out to their fellow countrymen in need. This is the future, right here.

AYM: Can you relay the attention PYA has received for its flood relief work into your democracy activism?

PYA: We work on short-term objectives and long-term goals. We work from initiative to initiative basis—and yes, we do social development along with sociopolitical activism. Right now, the immediate crisis is flood relief. But our hope is that our goals for a democratic Pakistan will resonate with new members.

We can’t force issues; many young people are just interested in rebellious street protests and many are just into social development. But overall, as the organization grows [we hope to] gather more respect and attention among an increased membership, which will make us matter more when lobbying for democracy.

And our membership has grown magnificently. Since July 2010 there have been approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new registrations on our site, 2,000 new people on our SMS list, and 3,000 to 4,000 in Facebook groups and fanpages.

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The Facebook Revolution

The Pakistan Youth Alliance’s (PYA) logo is striking. Placed on the right-hand side of their Facebook page as the display picture, it features a young man yelling, his face painted a patriotic green and white. It’s supposed to exhibit the anger and frustration the youth of Pakistan feel. This is exactly the kind of emotion that the PYA wants to channel into a potent force for the betterment of society.

While it is certainly true that only a small percentage of the country’s youth has access to Facebook, this small percentage seems ready to make a change. For example, after the March 3 attacks on the Sri-Lankan cricket team, the PYA organised a walk and vigil in Islamabad to show solidarity with the victims of the attack. Crowds of people gathered in the streets with candles and placards expressing their sentiments for the innocent and defenseless who are often the real victims of terror. In Karachi, PYA organised a seminar on Swat, entitled, “Swat, heaven on earth or haven for extremism?” which was held at the National Law University on April 26. More recently, they organised a massive fund-raising effort for the rehabilitation of the IDPs

Many youth-based organisations are organised through Facebook, the PYA was created in the aftermath of the Emergency Rule of 2007. Founder Syed Ali Abbas envisioned it as a socio-political awareness campaign that was meant to awaken the youth of Pakistan from their apathy. “Our focus was to create street activists rather than sit-at-home activists,” Abbas explains. Street activists, it would seem, is indeed what they have created. The PYA has organised dozens of events across the country, be it a peace rally after an air space violation by India in Islamabad, or a car and bike rally participation in Lahore for the restoration of an independent judiciary.

Their methodology was simple: use Facebook to recruit and coordinate members, and thus spread their message quickly and effectively. Today, they have a decentralised structure in which area heads are nominated from within their particular domains and each must seek approval from a central executive body. With approximately 2,700 members, the red tape is not unwarranted.

It comes as no surprise that the ever-evolving Facebook has taken Pakistan by storm. Today, there are 714,600 people over the age of 18 who have registered Facebook accounts. Fourteen thousand of them are in college, mostly between the ages of 18 and 25. While most use Facebook as a way to display their photographs, inform their friends about their lives, and to stalk people’s daily activities, the web phenomenon has become part of a greater internet revolution – one that uses organisations such as the PYA to instigate activism.

“We have to revive and redefine patriotism to get actual output from it,” Abbas explains. “We keep debating on what the system should be, but trust me, it’s the people running it who’re wrong. No angels will descend from heavens to take Pakistan out of this chaos in which we are presently.”

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First of all please tell us what is the AIM OF PYA?

PYA is basically a platform for the youth of Pakistan in its broader form, The most neutral, the most common, the most transparent platform that has a space and place for every pakistani in or out the country. the basic purpose of PYA is to provide a neutral platform to every pakistani whether they are seculars, religious minded or belong to different religions. It is a political platform but completely non affiliated with any of the NGOs or political parties, however the people from different political or ideological backgrounds are most welcome to join until they follow the agenda of PYA which is a completely nation-oriented agenda. 

2. What is your take on the students getting involved in the Politics? Don’t you think that involvement of the students in the politics could affect their career.

Before I answer the question, first of all we have to understand what exactly the word ‘politics’ stands for? According to dictionary it means ‘ public life and affairs’. Another meaning is ‘art and science of Govt’. So one way or other politics is what a person deals with all his life. PYA’s take of getting students involved into politics is just to give them a neutral and balanced platform as they are already involved into politics as dictionary declares the meaning of the politics. As far as career comes, Politics itself does not demand any such thing that destroys the career, its the means one gets involved into by. So PYA understands the meaning of the politics and gives a platform where one can be able to play his/her role in a balanced way.

3. You wrote in your prefatorial that PYA AIMS TO CREATE AWARENESS AMONGST THE YOUTH OF PAKISTAN. My question is that awareness of what?

PYA aims to create awareness. Awareness of the values, awareness of the politics, awareness of one’s basic rights. Unfortunately we as a nation are not being taught what are our rights and duties to other. We are not even aware what our laws are, what our constitution says, what is our history and what is the history of the other countries that are now known as a developed countries. PYA intends to start educational circles where we can be able to learn more about ourselves, our duties to our country cause we are the future of our country now.

4. Furthermore you wrote that PYA DESIRES TO………..THAT THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD, ENERGIES CHANNELIZED AND EMOTIONS FOCUSED ON THE NOBLE GOAL OF MAKING THE IDEOLOGY OF PAKISTAN A TANGIBLE REALITY FOR EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL. Well there are a lot of opinions about the ideology of Pakistan. Aitzaz Ahsan says that Quaid-e-Azam wanted Pakistan to be a secular state and Dr. Israr Ahmed says that Allama Iqbal gave the idea of State, which will only be governed through Islam. So whose opinion does PYA follow?

PYA ia very neutral organization so the term secular and religion does not really matter to PYA as long as it makes sure the focus would not be disturbed. PYA focuses on to basic human rights for all, equality and justice to all either Muslims or belong to other religions.

5. IT STRIVES TO BUILD UP THE CHARACTER OF OUR FUTURE GENERATION THROUGH EDUCATIONAL POLICY? How? I mean what is your policy and how will sell it to the youth?

The educational policy is included in PYA’s agenda and that is to strengthen and stabilize the educational system by providing one standard curriculum for all in one medium. It also includes a teachers training programme that would help implementing the values to our education.

6. PYA WORKS IN AN UNPRECEDENTED MANNER, WITH MANY NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LIAISONS? What is the role of an international liaison and how will it effect the activities in Pakistan?

PYA is a global forum and it is working with a collaboration of Pakistani overseas. It has its chapters not only within Pakistan but in UK, US, Toronto, Geneva aswel. It would affect the activities in Pakistan in a way that whenever there is some common cause, we all stand beside and united.

7. How do you see the future of Pakistan?

Future is always hope and so are we. We are striving our best to get united, and to learn to respect, trust and tolerate others. This is what that is in our hands and we are hopeful.

8. Your Message to the youth of Pakistan?

Since you are the youth, the future, the power. Its your duty to put your energies an efforts to a cause that is to make ourselves a better human being, our country, the best country and to make sure that our lives not to be wasted.

. First of all please tell us what is the AIM OF PYA?

PYA is basically a platform for the youth of Pakistan in its broader form, The most neutral, the most common, the most transparent platform that has a space and place for every pakistani in or out the country. the basic purpose of PYA is to provide a neutral platform to every pakistani whether they are seculars, religious minded or belong to different religions. It is a political platform but completely non affiliated with any of the NGOs or political parties, however the people from different political or ideological backgrounds are most welcome to join until they follow the agenda of PYA which is a completely nation-oriented agenda. 

2. What is your take on the students getting involved in the Politics? Don’t you think that involvement of the students in the politics could affect their career.

Before I answer the question, first of all we have to understand what exactly the word ‘politics’ stands for? According to dictionary it means ‘ public life and affairs’. Another meaning is ‘art and science of Govt’. So one way or other politics is what a person deals with all his life. PYA’s take of getting students involved into politics is just to give them a neutral and balanced platform as they are already involved into politics as dictionary declares the meaning of the politics. As far as career comes, Politics itself does not demand any such thing that destroys the career, its the means one gets involved into by. So PYA understands the meaning of the politics and gives a platform where one can be able to play his/her role in a balanced way.

 

 

3. You wrote in your prefatorial that PYA AIMS TO CREATE AWARENESS AMONGST THE YOUTH OF PAKISTAN. My question is that awareness of what?

PYA aims to create awareness. Awareness of the values, awareness of the politics, awareness of one’s basic rights. Unfortunately we as a nation are not being taught what are our rights and duties to other. We are not even aware what our laws are, what our constitution says, what is our history and what is the history of the other countries that are now known as a developed countries. PYA intends to start educational circles where we can be able to learn more about ourselves, our duties to our country cause we are the future of our country now.

4. Furthermore you wrote that PYA DESIRES TO………..THAT THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD, ENERGIES CHANNELIZED AND EMOTIONS FOCUSED ON THE NOBLE GOAL OF MAKING THE IDEOLOGY OF PAKISTAN A TANGIBLE REALITY FOR EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL. Well there are a lot of opinions about the ideology of Pakistan. Aitzaz Ahsan says that Quaid-e-Azam wanted Pakistan to be a secular state and Dr. Israr Ahmed says that Allama Iqbal gave the idea of State, which will only be governed through Islam. So whose opinion does PYA follow?

PYA ia very neutral organization so the term secular and religion does not really matter to PYA as long as it makes sure the focus would not be disturbed. PYA focuses on to basic human rights for all, equality and justice to all either Muslims or belong to other religions.

5. IT STRIVES TO BUILD UP THE CHARACTER OF OUR FUTURE GENERATION THROUGH EDUCATIONAL POLICY? How? I mean what is your policy and how will sell it to the youth?

The educational policy is included in PYA’s agenda and that is to strengthen and stabilize the educational system by providing one standard curriculum for all in one medium. It also includes a teachers training programme that would help implementing the values to our education.

6. PYA WORKS IN AN UNPRECEDENTED MANNER, WITH MANY NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LIAISONS? What is the role of an international liaison and how will it effect the activities in Pakistan?

PYA is a global forum and it is working with a collaboration of Pakistani overseas. It has its chapters not only within Pakistan but in UK, US, Toronto, Geneva aswel. It would affect the activities in Pakistan in a way that whenever there is some common cause, we all stand beside and united.

7. How do you see the future of Pakistan?

Future is always hope and so are we. We are striving our best to get united, and to learn to respect, trust and tolerate others. This is what that is in our hands and we are hopeful.

8. Your Message to the youth of Pakistan?

Since you are the youth, the future, the power. Its your duty to put your energies an efforts to a cause that is to make ourselves a better human being, our country, the best country and to make sure that our lives not to be wasted.

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