Pakistan has a well-established debate culture that discusses issues ranging from religion, politics to economics, according to IDEA Asia Youth Forum trainer Abdur Rehman.
“Debate is not about expressing your personal belief and values. It is a directed discussion that makes you look at an issue through different perspectives and teaches tolerance. It is a good platform for Pakistan to evaluate points of views on different issues even if it’s controversial,” said Abdur.
One example of a controversial issue that was hotly debated in Pakistan was the Hudood Ordinance – a piece of legislation based on Islamic law for prescribing punishments on crimes such as extramarital sex, theft and alcohol consumption.
Women alleging rape who fail to provide at least four adult male witnesses were consequently prosecuted of adultery and incarcerated under the Hudood Ordinance. The law has since been repealed and replaced with the Women’s Protection Bill in 2006.
“We will just see things in black and white if no one takes the initiative to understand and debate the structure being represented,” Abdur said.
Debate communities consisting of students and professionals are active in the three major cities – Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, although a centralized debating society known as the Debating Society of Pakistan also aims to spread it to in other smaller urban areas.
The Debating Society of Pakistan is responsible for charting out the debating calendar and coordinating with different schools hosting tournaments and workshops.
They also organize the nationals, which are comprised of two categories – Under 17s (high school) and Under 19s (A levels). Representatives on the international level are usually selected from events such as these. University students are also active in the debating circuit, often working as coaches or adjudicators in different parliamentary events.
The Asia Youth Forum hosted from 14-27 May in Thailand provides a platform for exchange of ideas by debaters around Asia.