The Great Debate competition has provided a unique opportunity to celebrate the UK and Pakistan’s shared culture of vibrant discussion.
After four of debating across 12 of Pakistan’s major cities the finalists gathered in Islamabad on 13 December for the grand final of the British High Commission’s Great Debate competition.
Launched in September, in collaboration with the British Council, the Great Debate competition has provided a unique opportunity to celebrate the UK and Pakistan’s shared culture of vibrant discussion. The competition also served as a platform for students to show their talent in the art of debating and to test of their skills. Twelve winners were selected from the rounds of Great Debates held in over a hundred universities across the country, including in some of Pakistan’s remotest areas such as interior Sindh and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Peter Upton, the Head of British Council Pakistan was also present at the event. The British Council and the British High Commission are strategic partners in the GREAT Debate competition. The aim of the collaboration is to raise awareness of the UK as an equal partner of Pakistan in the fields of education and culture.
The four prestigious judges of the debates were the British High Commission’s Political Counsellor, Jennifer Cole; the Director United National Information Center, Vittorio Cammarota; the Director General, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, Farman-ullah Anjum; and the prominent TV anchor Sidra Iqbal.
Gadhaun Aslam from Forman Christian College, Lahore won the final beating 11 other finalists selected from the twelve heats held across the country and is awarded a British High Commission scholarship of £2000. The runner up, Iza Afridi, COMSATS University from Abbottabad is awarded a scholarship of £1000.
In addition, all of the finalists were invited to join the British High Commission’s newly formed Youth Advisory Board, a platform aimed at generating debate among the youth around issues concerning them and to give advice on the UK’s work on education and engagement with young people in Pakistan.
Speaking ahead of the final of the Great Debate, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Philip Barton CMG OBE said:
I am very pleased that the British High Commission’s Great Debate has highlighted the talent among the young people of Pakistan. I look forward to hearing more from them as they form our first Youth Advisory Board of Pakistan. The youth of Pakistan make up two-thirds of its population. They have a vital role to play in ensuring economic, political and social progress. We will keep in touch with these 12 unique and gifted students and use their enthusiasm and expertise to help us engage with the wider youth of the country and to promote a culture of debate among the future leaders of Pakistan.
I believe Pakistan has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape itself to be the kind of country its people want. I hope the young people of Pakistan will continue to generate a wider conversation about the kind of Pakistan they want in 2047. That is 100 years from the birth of Pakistan. It is also when the young people of today will be leading Pakistan and will have their opportunity to shape the country.
The power to make arguments, to persuade others and to put your point across coherently – is a really important skill for the future. I am delighted the UK is playing a part in helping young people in Pakistan make the most of the opportunities presented to them.
Speaking at the event, the Head of the British Council Pakistan said:
Words matter the ability to shape ideas, to organise arguments and to put forward a coherent analysis matters. Our world is shaped by words, ideas, and ideals. This event demonstrated how young people in Pakistan have the skills that can shape the future of this country through peaceful debate.
Winning the competition Gaudhan Aslam said
I am overjoyed and honoured to have won the GREAT Debate held by BHC. It was an intriguing roller coaster ride from the Regional round to the Final one. I am surely blessed and it was an awesome learning experience. I thank BHC for arranging a fantastic opportunity!
Press Attaché, British High Commission, Islamabad; tel. 051 201 2000