By Wardah Syed and Shah Abdullah

All in all it was a very good experience, in fact an experience of a life time. I am very happy for the efforts ASI put into arranging this workshop and making it successful. I feel very fortunate for being a part of it.

By Wardah Syed and Shah Abdullah

The course conducted by the Alternate Solutions Institute in the scenic valley of Khanaspur has become kind of a ritual. A ritual that everyone looks forward to and be a part of. We also happened to be a few of the lucky ones who got the opportunity to attend the Program: Ideas for a Free, Responsible and Prosperous Society, 4th Residential Course for the Beginners. The main objective of the Course is to inculcate philosophical, political and economic understanding and importance of the concept of personal freedom in the minds of participants. Also, this Course provides the participants with a platform where they can learn all about Economic Freedom.

The date and timings of this course couldn’t have been better for we had just gotten free from the hectic end semester exams. The journey from NUST Islamabad to Khanaspur via Murree was as pleasant as we could have ever hoped. The rising trees and falling temperature added coolness and freshness to the otherwise polluted air of the city. We were looking forward to an enriching experience so the journey of a few hours wasn’t a bad price to pay. We arrived at the Punjab University residential area Khanaspur at around 7 p.m. on June 10. After such a tiresome journey, the rooms looked warm and welcoming. We were welcomed by Dr. Razaullah Director Programs & Institute Relations Alternate Solutions Institute and some 26 students. We needed a good night’s sleep because for the second Day we had already planned to get up early to see a water fall nearby and get back in time for breakfast.

We got up at around to a beautiful and soothing cold morning of 14 degrees Celsius. The peace, serenity and stillness of the early morning combined with the soft chirping of the birds were music to the ears and soul. Everyone including me sensed and felt it. This sent a new wave of enthusiasm among the group and I instantly felt was a good omen of the wonderful and enlightening tasks that we had yet to accomplish. Khanaspur is basically a hilly town 7000 above the sea level with most of the properties either private or government which made it the best location for ASI to conduct their course while providing the participants a good and hassle free environment to learn and adapt more easily. The overall environment and the surroundings had such a magnetic appeal to it that we spent around two hours only walking just 2 km, chatting and strolling, stopping to admire the view or a tree and hence could not get to the water fall in time. Abandoning our exploration for the day and postponing it for some other time, we headed back to our haven.

Upon our arrival the breakfast was served followed by a group photo of the participants. Everyone was provided with a complete set of stationery pack and a print of the schedule. Session I was conducted from 10:00 to 11:30 AM which included Orientation and introduction of each student, his/her achievements, aspirations and goals in life. A discussion was also conducted on the current economic problems of Pakistan and their causes such as: Inflation, Unemployment, Poverty, corruption etc.

Tea was served at around 11:30 to 12:00 AM to freshen up the participants and energize them for the next Session II to be conducted from 12:00 AM to 01:30 PM. This time the conversation centered on the Bases of Freedom, Philosophy of Rights; The Concept of Natural and Inalienable Rights, The Concept of Self-Ownership; The Philosophy of Liberty; Economic Rights and Fundamental Rights in Pakistan.

Session II ended up for Lunch Break: 01:30 PM to 02:30 PM. The participants did lunch, relaxed and offered dhuar prayers. Session III continued from 02:30 to 04:00 PM. The participants were enlightened about the idea of Economic Freedom; its Definition, Elements of Economic Freedom, Implications of Economic Freedom, Economic and Political Freedom. Probing questions were discussed like How Economic Freedom relates to Political Freedom? What is the Nature of the Relationship? Can one Survive without the other? Can Economic Freedom ensure Political Freedom?

The course was planned over 4 days and each day was marked with three sessions under the same time span and schedule explained above. The topics discussed on each day were however different. Every day, the Resource person would first ask everybody to talk especially about the problems and shortcoming of the practices currently being carried out in Pakistan. Then resource person would ask for the causes of those problems, encourage arguing and at the end he would ask for the recommendations. He explained the topic, its applications, practice in Pakistan and recommendations for improvement. He explained through the course material, real examples, survey, graphs and charts from the given course material. In the following sessions, the topics would be discussed further and more deeply. Mr. Zafar, one of the resource persons, would discuss the topics in light of psychology. Students were also divided in groups of five and were given an assignment to take measure of how much they are learning and retaining from the class discussions and what is being taught to them. The students would then give presentation on the assigned topics, give examples and answered questions. At the end of each day’s class Dr. Khalil, moderator and resource person, would explain the learning of the day in a nutshell. The learning session was designed to be interactive so that the participants wouldn’t only cram the information they are getting but rather transform it into an understandable piece of knowledge they are able to retain and transfer it to the world.

I would like to mention here that we were free to go anywhere sightseeing after the classes were done. We used to roam around in groups taking in the travelled and never visited before paths. It was adventurous everyday and we would come more enthusiastic everyday for learning new things. This was a healthy exercise for both the mind and body. On our walks we would discuss interesting topics generally left ignored like self esteem, happiness and confidence with Mr. Zafar. After our two failed attempts to reach that much talked about waterfall, we finally managed to go there under the guidance of Mr. Farrukh Kamboh, one of the coordinators of the course. It was an arduous journey of climbing down and up almost 3000 ft but nonetheless a worthwhile one. Everyone was happy they were able to make it.

The plan also included a beautiful BB-Q and bonfire. Another resource person Shahid Gul, a guest of the Institute, who also guided us through the pipe line excursion also joined us. His jovial and open personality lit up the whole event and entertained everyone singing old classic songs in his sweet melodious voice. A Full Day Excursion to a nearby resort was also organized by our esteemed organizers during our stay there .It about 8000 feet higher smooth walking track. The conclusion of the workshop was marked by an ending ceremony which included giving away the prize money of Rs.5000 to Mr. Mujahid Hanif for his brilliant and valuable discussion and participation. We got individual feedback and concluding remarks from everyone in order to improve further and know what impact the course had on the students.

All in all it was a very good experience, in fact an experience of a life time. I am very happy for the efforts ASI put into arranging this workshop and making it successful. I feel very fortunate for being a part of it.

Shah Abdullah
Syeda Wardah

National University of Science and Technology (NUST)