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Opinion

August 6, 2016

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Opportunities and priorities

Owing to the plethora of problems faced by Pakistan, we often brush aside drug abuse and addiction, not realising that the problem will continue to worsen even under the carpet.

In 2014, a report by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) cited as one of the major reasons behind drug abuse and addiction: “Lack of family attention, paucity of sports facilities and lack of physical entertainment, outings and busy routine of parents make teenagers lonely, aloof and bored. This boredom is a big factor for drug increase/drug abuse in teens and young adults”.

There are very few institutions which have been established in Pakistan that recognise the importance of physical activity and active involvement in society as opposing forces to drug use. One such organisation is the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation (KKAWF).

The KKAWF was launched in June 2015 by Cristina and Tariq Afridi. The objective of the institution is to spread awareness with regard to the dangers associated with drug abuse. In the achievement of this objective, the KKAWF identifies four key pillars that must be used as counter-forces in the fight against drug abuse: environment, developing civic sense, sports and theatre.

While responsibility for fighting against drug addiction and abuse lies with the government and international sub-organisations, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the citizens of Pakistan must take necessary steps to kick-start this initiative.

To give some context to the problem of drug abuse, it is pertinent to identify the structures that create circumstances conducive to its use.

One could be the way the nation treats its talent. Of course, that is not to say that Pakistan doesn’t give talent any opportunity – what it simply reflects is that, in order for one to reach the stars, having been born in Pakistan, the socio-economic standing of the individual must be shoulder to shoulder with the upper strata of society. This may come as a shock to the elite of this country who believe opportunity is available where talent is present. To ensure the shock has value, let us briefly discuss two national assets, side-lined and exploited.

Syed Hussain Shah, born on Independence Day, represented Pakistan at the 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul. A boxer from Lyari, Shah won Pakistan its first ever Olympic boxing medal. Shah’s is a story that has not received the attention it deserves. Hailing from extreme poverty, Shah was exploited by the government and never given what he was promised though, as per our usual love for drama, we did award him a Sitara-e-Imtiaz.

Similarly, former Olympian Muhammad Ashiq, now aged 81, recently gave a statement to an English daily stating: “Why and how they all forgot me, I cannot believe”. A former cyclist for Pakistan at the Olympic Games, Ashiq now tries to make ends meet by driving around a rickshaw in Lahore.

These are just two examples of the lack of opportunity, encouragement and recognition given to the common man in Pakistan. Of course, Shah and Ashiq did not turn to drugs, but the youth who is never even given half the opportunity they were given will be more inclined to do so. Even for the elite, while money can buy access to private parks, facilities and clubs, the general attitude towards sports and physical activity in this country is so discouraging that drugs become all the more appealing.

Will we continue to allow tragedy to plague our youth and society or will we step up and provide for them what the state has been unable to do for decades now? Further, will we hold the state accountable for the lack of initiative taken by the Pakistan Sports Board in developing and maintaining subsidised or free sporting facilities across the country?

Now is probably a good time for the citizens of Pakistan to come together and put up a fight in this battle we are already losing. The loss is huge, and is one that will forever dent the progress of this country if we do not fight against it now. There is no way but down unless we prioritise our youth because ultimately: no youth, no future.

The writer is a lawyer.

Email: [email protected]

 

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