ISLAMABAD: Strive for the promotion of peace and stability, while generating awareness about poverty and education. This was the unanimous consensus among participants at the closing ceremony of the Sixth South Asia Youth Conference, which began on November 6 and ended on Saturday.
The 120 delegates from eight countries were emerging representatives of their countries from South Asia.
Among the most noticeable things the foreign delegates had to say was how their perceptions of Pakistan changed after coming here.
“It was an amazing experience collaborating and have conversations with people from different countries, but most notably my perception about Pakistan has totally changed since the day I entered Pakistan,” said Om Prakash Jat, a civil engineer with the Government of India. Jat told The Express Tribune that he felt worried and uncertain about coming here amid all the negative news about the country, “but the picture here is very different”.
The closing ceremony was marked by expressions of hope, love and smiles on the faces of every delegate, and the fact the organisers did not invite any politicians or high-ups made it all the more memorable.
The chief guest was Sulman Chishti, a young Indian delegate from Ajmer Sharif. Chishti, a calm and tall man, said the visit left him pleasantly surprised.
He remarked that these are the moments that will be cherished and will resonate in life after they return to their home countries.
Rakesh Biswas, a delegate from Kolkata who is running a waste management technology company, was enthusiastic.
“We visited Jinnah Market, a suburban school and Faisal Mosque and found the people very hospitable. Shopkeepers welcomed us and offered us items at discounted rates,” Biswas added.
He added that he shared his company’s idea during the conference, with some local companies showed interest in the technology, which can help sort out sanitation problems in big cities.
Shiva Raz Mishra from Nepal was of the view that “South Asians have common problems and such conferences could compel our governments to move towards a single currency and common visa like the European Union, and move towards peace and prosperity.”
Paimana, a graduate from Afghanistan, called her meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar the highlight of her visit.
Hanif from Maldives told The Express Tribune that the conformity with the declaration of the conference will define the purpose. “We should do our efforts to implement the declaration and must not be afraid of the change, because it is inevitable for Pakistan, South Asia and the whole world,” Hanif said.
Over half of the hall was deserted as only the delegates and organisers were allowed to enter. “Though this hall is empty, it is full of passion and determination to reach out masses for change,” said Chisti.
Sri Lankan student Lahara Ranaweera told the Express Tribune that “though we belong to different castes and religions, but after all we are human beings and the time is ripe for youth to come forward as they have determination, passion and potential for a greater cause for the betterment and development of the region and the world.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2012.