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Posts Tagged ‘Maryam Kanwer’

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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Article published in Indian Newspaper Express Buzz

First Published: 29 Aug 2010 11:24:00 AM IST Last Updated : 28 Aug 2010 06:51:18 PM IST

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, 24, has not slept for over 24 hours. It is a day after the UN declared Pakistan’s floods a bigger disaster than the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake combined. Hundreds have died, millions are homeless, and Zaidi is making his ninth delivery of food packets in south Punjab for 1,500 families.

He is the founder of Pakistan Youth Alliance, a youth-based and youth-run organisation that started in 2007 after emergency rule. “It aims to create socio-political awareness in the country,” says Zaidi. Their network extends across and outside Pakistan and has more than 20,000 members.

The group has organised and completed 120 events worldwide, including walks, vigils, protests, concerts, relief work, seminars and art for change competitions. “We have reached out to 15,000 families with immediate relief aid and have managed to raise over 12 million rupees from the streets, by begging,” says Zaidi.

Most of PYA’s members have impressive academic records. Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, poet and columnist. Then there is Maryam Kanwer, 26,

co-founder of the organisation and a teacher and researcher; Maryam Noor Malik, 21, a medical student; Husham Ahmed, a research consultant with a degree in electrical engineering and Shakeel Ahsan who is an MBA student. These are just a few of them.  

“We started work for flood affected even before it became a disaster of unparalleled nature,” says Zaidi.

It has been physically exhausting and emotionally taxing. “After visiting flood-hit areas and having personally experienced the situation from Pakhtunkhwa to south Punjab, I can easily say this is the worst disaster to hit Pakistan,” says Zaidi. “For example, last time I went to Nowshera the locals told me how they found water containers floating on flood water. When they opened them, there were babies inside. Mothers who were about to drown in nearby villages had put their little ones inside it.”

“Similarly, we hear of how water levels started to rise while people were sleeping and they could not save their five-year-olds, how everything they had was washed away. People are angry. They complain of no prior warning, no evacuation plan and no disaster management by the government.

“The situation is chaotic. Children face skin diseases, mothers fight each other to snatch more food for their

babies, fathers are turning desperate to keep their kids alive. We hear of sex for food and parents stealing food,” says Zaidi. “Children live in the midst of snakes, mosquitoes, hunger — dreaming of a normal life.”

“Everything has been destroyed — schools, mosques, hospitals. Infrastructure has been rendered useless. I haven’t seen anything like this. During the Swat crisis (when the Pakistan offensive against Taliban left millions homeless), people were hopeful that they would go back home and start a normal life. But here, they have nothing to go back to. Nothing is left.”

Zaidi says the government “should have been pro-active, instead of reacting the way the tide turns.”

Foreign aid and NGO support have been helpful. And Zaidi has heard of some India-based groups helping flood victims in Pakistan. “It makes my heart warm,” he says. “I would love to collaborate with such youth groups.”

“I’ve always dreamt of working with an Indian youth organisation, to spread the message of love and tolerance. Extremists and war-mongers in India and Pakistan must realise war can never be a solution. We need to feed our people, for God’s sake, we need to provide them shelter and clothes.”

Zaidi has been dreaming of a better world since he was a child. His email address is damanwiddaplan@hotmail.com (the man with a plan). “I thought I do have THE plan,” he laughs. PYA seems like a workable one

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