ISLAMABAD-A webinar was held by Pak-Afghan Youth Forum where youth icons, students and young professionals from both sides of the border came together to discuss the various problems and issues that were faced by them. The webinar was organised as part of PAYF’s initiatives to enhance people-to-people connection between two countries. The youth jirga was also arranged in an effort to start cross-border dialogue between the youth of Pakistan and Afghanistan to understand the all-important role of the youth of both the countries as Afghanistan finally heads towards peace and stability. 

The jirga style setup enabled the participants to interact in an informal and casual atmosphere so that problems and solutions were presented by each country’s representatives amicably. Keynote speaker for the event was Mr. Shehryar Khan Afridi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir and the former Minister of State for SAFRON & Narcotics Control. Mr. Shehryar Afridi delivered his address in Pashto and English, reminding the Afghan panellists of our shared history, lineage, culture, and traditions. He spoke from the heart regarding how the Afghan refugees, historically have been welcomed with open arms in the Pakistani society. How Pakistan has always looked towards them as their brotherly guests, free to roam in our country as they would in their own motherland. Without a peaceful Afghanistan, the future of this region is very bleak; only together can the new generation fight the political powers that aim to bring disruption and chaos to both countries, he said. 

The panellists echoed his sentiments by talking about how the role of the youth has evolved during the years and now is the time where the frayed bonds between the people of both countries must be repaired in order to bring peace and stability to the region. Ahmad Zia Mohmand, a youth representative from the civil society of Afghanistan said, “Eventhough we have inherited a war torn nation, we now have the opportunity to turn that curse into a chance. The new generation can make a difference to set things right, with the help of the Pakistani society and the great people of Pakistan.” 

Likewise, another panellist, Mr. Syed Hussain Anosh, Executive Director of the Civil Society and Human Rights Network think tank in Afghanistan, spoke about the economic gains both countries can achieve via cooperation and peaceful coexistence. 

He felt that the youth has to see Pak Afghan relations beyond strict bilateral contours, as Afghanistan is a gateway to Central Asia, Middle East, Iran and China.

Furthermore, a young martial art champion and representative of the Hazara community, Ms. Farzana Hakimi spoke very eloquently about how Pak-Afghan relations are always trapped in hard politics, marred by terrorism and violence. In her opinion the youth and their issues often go neglected. She felt that although there is some emphasis on educational pursuits, issues of sports never come to light. Being a young sportsman, she urged Pak-Afghan Youth Forum to tap the talent of the youth from both sides. The webinar was concluded with an aim to highlight thought-provoking ideas and solutions in different sittings of Jirga which shall be helpful in improving ties between two countries.