AJK-based non-profit organisation Centre for Peace Development and Reforms in collaboration with London based conflict transformation organisation Conciliation Resources launched the first ever needs assessment survey of youth of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The survey targeted a large number of youth across AJK on socio-political and economic issues being confronted by them in the backdrop of Kashmir conflict. It revealed that the unresolved Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India is widely considered the main issue of concern; almost 95 percent of AJK youth considered it paramount in their lives and believe their socio-economic deprivation derives from it.

The report maintained that on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, majority of Kashmiri youth in general oppose any sort of violence and wholeheartedly support the non-violent movement to advance political goals. Conversely, the youth believe that India’s week response to non-violent movement and continued state suppression may militarise young Kashmiris, giving rise to extremism. The report says that youth values and understand the significance of the increasing translational and trans-border connectivity of a globalising world.

The launching ceremony was held in Rawalakot which was attended among others by cross section of civil society including, media academia, political representatives, lawyers, trade unions and youth leaders. The participants gave their feedback on the report.

Speaking on the occasion, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Sardar Abid Hussain Abid appreciated the effort of exclusively documenting aspirations and issues of the youth of AJK for the first time. He believed such reports will enable policy makers to better comprehend the issue of youth for informed policy making.

It revealed that unemployment is of prime concern to AJK’s youth. Almost 66 percent from Muzaffarabad, 60 percent from Rawalakot and 58 percent from Mirpur, strongly believe that economic deprivation is strongly linked to the unresolved issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Waqas Ali, author of the report apprised the audience that during survey youth identified unemployment major cause of migration by AJK youth. The report also states that majority of the youth believe in political process of AJK but sizeable percentage of AJK’s youth (in Muzaffarabad 46 percent, Mirpur 53 percent, and Rawalakot 49 percent) has questioned the fairness of AJK’s political system. He also stated that the majority of youth in all three AJK divisions vote with Muzaffarabad having the highest rate of young voters - almost 78 percent. Almost 65 percent youth from Rawalakot, 64 percent from Muzaffarabad and 52 percent from Mirpur believe that their vote can bring change.

Speaking on the occasion, Ershad Mahmud Executive Director CPDR stressed that there is need to create economic opportunities to youth and government. He emphasised on the social mobilisation and increasing role of civil society of AJK for better governance and holding authorities accountable. He also underlined the need for increasing communication between the youth of both sides of Line of Control.

Amjad Yousaf, the executive director of Kashmir Institute of International Relations, stated that there was urgent need to empower youth for better future. He saw that it is healthy sign that a large chunk of youth believe that initiatives like trade, travel, and cross-border ventures will help strengthen and normalise peace process.