The Day I beat Roger Federer, I was playing as a Pakistani, not as an individual. If the youth becomes determined nothing is impossible for them - Aisam ul Haq (The PEACE Ambassador of CDA at 1st NYPF 2010)

On 22nd September 2010, the Ali Auditorium echoed with loud applause and hooting as the latest obsession of the Pakistani youth, the tennis star, Aisam ul Haq, made his way to the stage. The participants had been waiting to catch a glimpse of him since the beginning of the vent. Some yelled “Cheetay” others screamed “We love you aisamooo”.

In his appearance during the 1st NYPF, he was awarded the “ABASSADOR OF PEACE AWARD” by Chanan Development Association (CDA). Addressing the young people he said that he has been surprised by the enthusiasm of the youth and humbled by the statements that Pakistan was proud of him.

“The day I beat Roger Federer, I was playing as a Pakistani, not as an individual. I know if the youth becomes determined nothing is impossible” he added. Haq was the last chief guest of the 1st National Youth Peace Festival 2010 that was held at Ali Auditorium on Wednesday.

The festival was organized by Chanan Development Association ( CDA ) with Support of United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAoC), and Action-Aid Pakistan with the theme “TOGETHER, we are the SOLUTION!”. More than 500 young leaders and students from all over Pakistan including FATA and Gilgit Baltistan attended the event. CDA has selected 100 provincial delegates while 400 local delegates to attend the festival free of charge. The festival was a part of CDA’s National Youth PEACE Campaign which was launched earlier this year in all the provincial capitals of Pakistan.

In the opening ceremony of the 1st NYPF 2010, Executive Director of Chanan Development Association (CDA), Muhammad Shahzad Khan while speaking to the audience said that the theme of the festival, i.e. “Together we are the SOLUTION!” is being selected to promote national integrity amongst the young people living in different provinces. He added, that the “young people posses the great ability to provide innovative solutions to the old problems, and their potential needs to be channelized in a positive and constructive manner”.

He added that Chanan Development Association (CDA) through its National Youth-PEACE Campaign has engaged more than 2,000 young people in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Gilgit and trained them as young peace builders. He also said that the first phase of CDA’s campaign is going to be concluded with the 1st National Youth-PEACE Festival 2010.

He told audience that CDA has selected people from different fields as peace ambassadors including, Aisam ul Haq, Nadia Jamil and singers Malku, Arif Lohar and Noori.

Other speakers including Mr. I.A. Rehman (General Secretary – Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), Mr. Muhammad Tehseen (Founding Director – South Asian Partnership), Mr. Peter Jacob (Secretary – National Commission for Justice and Peace) and Ms. Uzma Tahir (Action-Aid Pakistan) along with CDA’s provincial coordinators from Sindh and Khyber PK emphasized that if provided the opportunities, the Pakistani youth could bring about a positive change. They shared that the festival is a great initiative by CDA and its partners to engage young people in peace promotion activities. They urged the organizers to extend the outreach of the festival to the South Asian youth to promote peace on a regional level.

The event also included Interfaith Dialogue for PEACE which was chaired by Molana Syed Abdul Khabeer Azad (Khateeb Badshahi Masjid) while Mr. Sohail Warraich (GEO TV) was the moderator of the session. Religious scholars from 6 major religions including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Parsism, and Bahaai during their speeches shared that all the religions promote peace and harmony but some of the individuals misinterpretation the religions for their personal benefits and it is our collective responsibility to identify those individuals and get rid of them. The speakers emphasized that the interfaith harmony could be a great source to promote peace in Pakistan as Pakistan is a multi-religious society. In his closing remarks, Maulana Syed Abdul Khabeer Azad (Khateeb Badshahi Masjid) invited CDA and the young people attending the forum to visit the Badshahi Masjid during Friday prayer and he will preach the message of peace that the young people trying to give through this forum in his Friday Speech (Khutba).

After that several skills building workshops were conducted on youth participation and leadership, social entrepreneurship, resource mobilization, conflict resolution and engaging media for peace. The basic objectives of these workshops were to equip young people with skills to practically exercise the peace in their routine lives. British Council of Pakistan also shared their Active Citizens program during the best practices sessions while Chanan Theatre group also staged a theatre play. The theme of the play revolved around the security threat to educational institutions and role of young people as peace builders. Musical performances included from Malku, Baba Bullah Shahi Darbari Qawal and Noori Band.

In the closing ceremony, speakers included Ms. Nadia Jamil (one of the famous TV anchor), Mr. Akram Rabbani (former opposition leaders Punjab), Mr. Mehboob Sada (Director-CSC), Mr. Rehmatullah Javed (LCCI) and Rana Bilal Ahmed (Program Manager- Youth Parliament of Pakistan).

Nadia Jameel was however the most prominent panelist in a moving speech she explained why she left her job as TV anchor. She said that before joining the media she wasn’t aware that the media was just another organization that earn money through people’s sufferings. “I am worried for the youth of Pakistan, I am worried for their present and their future, just as I am for my own kid”. She ended her speech with an extract from one of Faiz Ahmed Faiz as tears rolled down her cheeks and standing ovation from the audience.

Ms. Sana Sohail (Media Director – CDA) during her closing remarks said that the best part of the festival was that it is solely being organized by the young people themselves. The oldest amongst the team was only 25 years while there were 80 young leaders from all over Pakistan who spent more than 2 months in preparing this mega event

She concluded by saying that the “Recommendations from the participants and the members will be forwarded to the Government as we want the youth to be involved in the policy making of the country”.

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