Three-day international student convention & expo from 17- 19 April, 2019 brought students and their mentors across the country in Lahore to discuss the common theme of ‘Securing our future.’ This second edition of the convention followed the paradigm of its first youth gathering held in Islamabad under the umbrella of Inter-University Consortium for the Promotion of Social Sciences Arts and Humanities (IUCPSS). Overall 12 highly focused workshops towards enhancing students’ academic skills; 17 sessions guided by experts from diversified fields dedicated to identifying problems Pakistani youth facing and their possible solutions. A couple of dozen inter-university student competitions in academic and extracurricular activities were part of the highly organized schedule. Importantly, an elegant expo bringing all higher education institutes of the country showcasing their educational and research activities under one roof beside a first-ever youth literary festival in the country further added value to this gathering. There is no question about the role of youth and particularly their proper guidance to make them highly useful global citizen. Bringing them together on a common platform beside exchange of ideas generate opportunities for collaborative work and understanding about contemporary educational opportunities in the country and abroad. This convention has particular importance as it received important commitments from the two honourable guests having a significant impact on the future of education in the country. Professor Atta ur Rehman addressing the inaugural session of the conference advised the youth to be dedicated, confident, optimistic, tolerant and manifest integrity with determination to serve. He also spelled his vision and current government efforts in academia with a statement   “What I would like to see is the shift of direction of our country, strategic change in directions from a natural resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy through investment in education, science and technology, and innovation. Of course, investment in social sciences, you must not neglect social science; it has to be a balanced approach.” 

The Minister of Higher Education in Punjab, a keen observer, committed his future reformative efforts in universities with resolve to improve higher education by concluding his talk, “Unless we give them proper autonomy and proper finance, they would not be able to improve the universities.” Both the leaders alluded to improving standards of education aligning with contemporary priorities.

Although it is impossible to cover all activities of the conference centered at making youth as a better citizen of the country. However, a brief about few is: Among several sessions, a model United Nations session, particularly taking into consideration sustainable development and peace across the globe inculcated in student minds how to be competitive and interactive with other nations around the world. The session on international opportunities in higher education for Pakistani youth gained much attraction of students. Mr. Nadeem Akbar from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies described about the collaboration of the organization he is heading with 38 North American Universities for exchange of scholars and students training. He highlighted recent changes in the Fulbright Scholarship opportunities for Pakistani students with two years of Master and four-year doctoral programs. Importantly, his presentation elaborately covered the criteria on which Fulbright scholars are selected. A session on the role of youth in promoting peace, tolerance, harmony, preventing extremism and terrorism relatively got more attention by the participating youth. Speakers discussed about various factors contributing towards such issues and role of youth in overcoming intrastate matters. Besides other highly impressive presentations Dr. Sohail Habib Tajik, a senior police officer showed how trained doctors, engineers, and business graduates were recently brainwashed to participate in terroristic activities suggesting that it is not only the madrassah culture; instead this issue has permeated widely. According to Dr. Tajik to the root cause of such disgruntled youth is relatively lesser employment opportunities. He suggested a solution to divert resentful youth to be healthy citizen through 3Es initiative including quality education, gainful employment and meaningful engagement of youth. In Pakistan above, 61 percent people are job seekers, and their talent and expertise need to be utilized through creating/arranging job opportunities.

The conference received accolade across the country including dignitaries’ messages, commendation, and international recognition. Mr. Vlastimil Samek, Acting Director of United Nation Information Center in Islamabad, Pakistan, praised the model United Nation organized by students. Mr. Neil Buhne United Nations Resident Coordinator in Islamabad appreciated Inter-University Consortium for the Promotion of Social Sciences efforts in motivating Pakistani youth through such conventions – an opportunity for their mutual interactions. He shared his team pleasant experience of participating in the first edition of this conference. In his message, he reminded that 64% of the youth under 30 is the treasure in the country. What is needed is more investment and trust in their capabilities. He hoped that student convention would come up with specific programs through partnership, enhance collaborative efforts thus making them highly productive and beneficial global citizen. The world-renowned climate change expert Professor Gabriel Filippelli address to Pakistani youth focused on environmental challenges. He urged that higher education institutions should play their constructive role by diverting their youth energies towards voluntary activities promoting citizen science mainly in the area of climate change. He outlined the challenges highly populated cities of Pakistan are/will be facing with the air quality. Prof. Filippelli asked youth to play their role in saving the environment deterioration overall. The University of Education Lahore Vice Chancellor, Prof. Dr. Rauf -i- Azam and several other stressed on the establishment of focused student societies so their potential can be unleashed for the benefits of community.

The student convention evenings were enchanting with captivating social performances from students across Pakistan. Regional music tones brought everyone on a common platform in a mini Pakistan with zeal and zest to be energetic and diverting training and educational priorities aligning with vision Chief guest of the conference outlined. Besides several other media outlets, the digital broadcasting television (DBTV) network broadcasted several functions through their highly sophisticated system.

As a founding Chairperson of the IUCPSS, I feel joyous to witness efforts of this organization in bringing change among the youth through motivational efforts that we initially envisioned on the establishment of this consortium in the year 2012 at the Islamia University of Bahawalpur. Long live Pakistani youth and organizations like IUCPSS  investing in the future intellectual assets of the country.