“The destiny of any nation, at any given time, depends on the opinions of its young men under five-and-twenty.” – Goethe.
If what Goethe said is true then what is the problem with the destiny of Pakistan? Why is its destiny twisting in a whirlpool of troubles though it is a rich country? It is blessed with 63% of its 183 million people being youth, a much higher statistic in comparison to other countries. What are the reasons behind Pakistan hurtling further towards a dark age, and what is the role of youth?
The answer is simple and easy, but the solution, in practical terms, is complicated and difficult. Pakistan, since its independence, has been trapped in a deep trench with regard to several issues, spanning social, political, economic and cultural realities. These giant monsters have become challenges for the youth. Some elements have connected them in such a complicated way that it is too hard to get rid of these monsters that are ruining the prosperity of the country, clinging and feasting on the structure like termites to wood.
Weak economic conditions, poor education, poverty, less opportunities for employment and development, negative religious and political influence, bad law and order situations, and injustices have lured the youth towards radicalization, extremism, child labor, crimes, ignorance, and hatred.
Youth rights have been deprived since the independence of Pakistan. Their socio-economic, civil, political, and cultural rights have been trampled by the government, military, and militants from the very moment Pakistan emerged on the world map.
The socio-economic rights of the youth are ignored, which has lead to severe repercussions. The enrollment of students in schools is less than the enrollment of students inside madrassas, and child labor is also a big problem.
In Pakistan, education has been divided into three different standards: public institutes, private institutes, and madrassas. In most public institutes the standard of the education is not satisfactory. It is low. The syllabus is old and often contains wrong history, which in turn promotes hatred. While in most private schools the education is modern and the standard is much better than that of government schools, their expenses are out of reach of the middle class. As for the madrassas, they attract those students who belong to poor families and cannot bear huge schooling expenses. These are the places where shelter, food, and daily expenses are borne by funders, many of whom have dubious or harmful intentions, such as Saudi Arabian funders, actively promoting sectarian violence inside the Pakistan. These madrassas are involved in creating extremists and fanatics, some of whom are used as suicide bombers.
On the other hand, many children in Pakistan are forced into bonded labor. According to International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), 3.8 million children in the age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan out of the 40 million Pakistani children in this age group. The future of our youth is being ground in the mill of standards.
A large number of youth are being deprived from the right to an adequate standard of living. A majority of families are living below the poverty line. They have no access to their basic needs. They do not have sufficient food to eat or enough clothes to save them from the extreme elements. No health facilities cater to them. Due to unemployment and illiteracy, the youth are becoming habituated in narcotics and crime. Due to insufficient food, they become the prey of malnutrition. They have no shelter to live they spend their lives on the footpaths. Their civil rights are not protected.
Youth belonging to other religions are discriminated on the basis of religion. Youth living beyond the boundaries of the accepted standards of life are discriminated on the basis of race, gender, and disabilities. No development has led to less employment opportunities. This whole game of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy has led them to illegal activities. Militants and politicians are the ones who take advantage of this poverty and helplessness.
This most precious asset of Pakistan is misguided. The problem in Pakistan is that the youth are being made to waste their energies on unimportant things. Some youth actively promote military and religious parties in the social media, and they are very active. This is occurring because of a brainwashing being done by the evil culprits on society who are using the youth as a weapon against the youth, promoting material for hatred to brainwash other youth to unite against democratic and peaceful ideals.
The Pakistani people are sentimental towards their religion. In the name of Islam this whole game is being played, and no one is there to dare challenge it. The dire consequences of this game are imminent. According to one survey, 40 % of Pakistani youth are in favour of Sharia Laws (Islamic law) instead of those passed democratically through Parliament and they consider Sharia law as a solution for problems like corruption, terrorism, employment, and inflation. The state is not sincere with the youth. And youthful energies are being dispersed on negative things.
The destiny of the country lies in the hands of the youth. If the youth are able to invest their energies for the betterment of society, we will find a new Pakistan. However, presently the youth of Pakistan has to understand that the betterment of the country is not in Jihad; our real enemies are hunger and inflation, and our real weapon is education for true prosperity. Our fight is against these enemies which erupts courtesy, sectarian hatred, and hatred of non-Muslims must not be our fight. We cannot achieve good results without investing our energies on positive things.
About the Author: Nida Nida is working on youth issues in Pakistan and is office bearer of Progressive Youth Forum (PYF) Pakistan. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org