In Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen primary drivers behind the uprising are inflation and unemployment for the masses coupled with corruption of the elite. In Bahrain and Libya primary drivers are more political-civil liberties and political rights-than economic.
To be certain, the one common thread among Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya is youth unemployment; the 15 to 24-year old segment of the population that is able and willing to work but is somehow unable to find employment. Egypt’s youth unemployment, at 43 per cent, is the highest in the Arab world. Tunisia at 30 per cent is not that far behind and, surprisingly, youth unemployment in the more prosperous Bahrain is still a painful 20 per cent.
Is Pakistan ripe for a revolution? To be sure, Pakistan’s record on political rights and civil liberties is much, much superior than enjoyed by the citizens of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. From within the group, Libya is the worst offender with Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain not too far behind (Freedom House; www.freedomhouse.org).
As far as corruption becoming a driver to an uprising, Libya (146/178), Yemen (146/178) and Pakistan (143/178)-being among the most corrupt-are all in the same league (Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; www.transparency.org).
Summing it up, Pakistan has a democratically elected government; Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya do not. Pakistan has a vibrant, harshly critical, open media; Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya do not. Ben Ali ruled for 23 years, Mubarak for 30 years and Qaddafi for 41 years; Zardari assumed office on 9 September 2008. What that means is that Pakistanis do not have political drivers that would bring them out on to the streets.
Are there economic drivers that can cause an uprising in Pakistanis? Well, the rate of inflation in Pakistan is higher than in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. Can poverty become a driver to an uprising? From within the group, 47 per cent of Yemen’s population lives at or below $2 a day. Poverty in Pakistan, on the other hand, is dangerously high where at least 60 per cent of the population earns $2 a day or less.
Can the high rate of youth unemployment cause an uprising in Pakistan? Well, the median age in Pakistan, at 21, is lower than in Egypt (24), Tunisia (30), Libya (24) and Bahrain (30). What that means is that Pakistan has more young people (as a percentage of population) than countries that are going through massive uprisings on the streets. I was unable to locate multiple sources confirming the exact rate of youth unemployment in Pakistan but there is hard evidence that youth unemployment in Pakistan has gone through the roof over the past three years.
All said and done, my focus remains on youth unemployment (that being the common thread behind the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya). All said and done, it is youth unemployment that brought down Ben Ali as well as Hosni Mubarak.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]