In the midst of woods where two weathers were colliding to conquer the heat of summers, over the coldness of January but at the end winters won the race. While embracing the surprise visit of snowfall in the heated month of April, I thought about the fools of our history. The whole retreat by National Assembly of Pakistan in collaboration with Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary studies and British Council at Nathiagali was a tweak to our bubble where young people from different mindsets, ideologies, ethnicity, beliefs, political affiliations and regions were coiled together in a single bouquet from April 19 to April 22. The inter-provincial youth retreat, themed as Youth and Democracy was comprising of everything from literature to politics, from heritage and culture to music and ice-breaking. Through that melting I witnessed the democratic acceptance in not every but most of the participants of the retreat.

Democratising youth for the smooth functioning of our political system was the main agenda of the retreat but it was beautifully different due to its focus on “Behavior” rather than politics only. Sound political culture could be achieved only through sound democratic behavior. The rigid social conditioning of the notion of “other” from “us” is deeply penetrated in our roots which is a result of political hindrance as well. The four-day escape was a complete encounter with one’s self through the activities of social interaction with distant humans, consolation to history as well as recommendations for future, follies of politicians and the backdrops of us as a nation, political defects and democratic results. Everything was covered through it. It was composed of political talks with politicians and literary talks with literary scholars along with the personal chit chat of the participants from all over the country who were doing something in their own spheres.

There is another whole part of the conference where brutal face of human existence was thrown towards us; from the words of Mashal Khan’s father, APS attack survivor Akif and through the stories of the worst form of human anguish from Musarat Misbah. It was the time when I think most of us were feeling ashamed from a father who was telling us about the smashed fingers of his son, from a child who saw seventeen massacred bodies of his friends and from a woman who is still giving the courage to face life to the faceless girls. I was feeling accountable myself for not reducing this human anguishes at least a bit.

The last part of the conference was a cultural night where all the beautiful cultures were presenting themselves in the cozy hotel of Nathiagali. The one who are more marginalised were presenting themselves more explicitly and the one who were not facing any identity threat were least participating. Punjabis were not that much celebrating their culture which again tells us about our behavioural changes towards our traditions.

The conference ended with the recitation of Harris Khalique’s translation of Nizar Qabbani’s poem in the beautiful voice of Projects Management Unit Coordinator and National Assembly Joint Secretary Syed Shamoon Hashmi: Ijazat mil skay gi kiya? And it left us with the same question.