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The cynical youth

Today - June 26 - marks the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This worldwide observance was decided by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 to raise the level of awareness in the international community about the dangers of drug abuse, to prevent its spread and to encourage all efforts to combat the menace at international level.
Every society tends to ignore its more troublesome characteristics. Most often they are taken for granted because their recognition would be painful for those who want to maintain the status quo. There is nothing surprising, then, if the rulers in this country show little concern when their actions subject citizens to the greatest psychological strains arising due to an unjust system and a lack of basic facilities. This indifference is usually disguised by the favourite rhetoric of ‘love for country’, which prevents any real understanding of the situation.
Against this background let us look at the drug scene and problems of the youth in Pakistan. They are reminded by everyone about how fortunate they are to live in this land, achieved in the name of Islam after sacrificing thousands of lives in a long struggle against infidels. Having been reminded of this fact, they are called upon to remember that the defence of the ideological frontiers of the state should be their first priority.
They are constantly being convinced that because of the great sacrifices of their elders they live amidst opportunities that could have never come their way in an undivided India. The purpose of all this is very clear: to leave the country’s youth with the illusory conviction that the mere fact of achieving independence is sufficient to prevent them from thinking what happened in this country after 1947.
Knowing very well the emptiness of such sermonising, the youth draws its own conclusions about the social realities on the basis of its daily experiences. However, in shaping the overall behaviour of the

youth, political oppression over the past six decades has played the most devastating role. A Pakistani of hardly 50 years of age has witnessed two horrible wars, the worst kind of terrorist attacks, three martial laws and one military-dominated civil rule, political torture of the crudest form, mass imprisonments, suicide bombings, wanton attacks on schools and religious places of worship, victimisation of people in the name of religion, sectarian and ethnic clashes, muzzling of press and judiciary by the executive and, the most painful of all, the political hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, assassinations of Benazir Bhutto, Akbar Bugti and many others.
All this has inculcated in the youth too a deep sense of cynicism. Cynicism is the key word to explain the general attitude of our youth towards life. For them the only reality of life is an endless struggle for adjustment with a system based on corruption, cronyism, oppression, inequality and injustice. Their cynicism is totally justified.
They have grown up in families where unquestionable obedience to parents (authority) is expected, money and power are the most cherished values, caste and creed have been very important issues and sect and ethnic affiliations are considered a sacred theme. The younger lot has seen at least one thing: the obvious contradiction between principle and practice when it comes to their elders.
This has led to what can be termed as an almost institutionalisation of hypocrisy. The gap between values and actual practice is accepted as a fundamental truth of life. The Pakistani youth faces a number of problems like fanaticism, radicalisation, militancy, lack of merit, unemployment, deteriorating academic standards, political violence, pressures of rigid family system and alienation.
In our present-day reality, the most disturbing aspect of youth behaviour is the growing use of narcotics, especially heroin. This phenomenon cannot be viewed in isolation from the existing socio-political and economic realities. The concern shown by official quarters always tends to ignore the relationship between drug abuse and the existing social pressures. Instead of looking into the factors behind drug addiction, the authorities are busy showing their concern over the rapid increase in the number of addicts every year.
The Drug Use in Pakistan 2013 Survey Report, a collaborative research by the Narcotics Control Division, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and the UN, says there are 7.6 million addicts, out of which 78 percent are men and 22 percent women. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in Pakistan, with nearly four million people listed as users. Opiates, namely opium and heroin, are used by almost one percent of the total drug users, with 860,000 chronic heroin users.
An estimated chronic three million drug dependents are in dire need of professional treatment. However, the available structure can cater for less than 30,000 drug users a year. According to a conservative estimate, the rate of increase in number of addicts is 40,000 per year. The most disturbing fact revealed by the survey is the growing number of heroin addicts in the country with the average age of users falling below 24.
A survey of 10 colleges and two universities of Lahore, conducted recently, highlights some terrible facts related to drug abuse among students. The majority of students surveyed (57 percent) reported using one or more drugs. This and many other surveys clearly show the rising number of young drug addicts in the country.
It is not debatable that the devastating effects of drugs should be discussed even in school and wide awareness campaigns should be launched, especially through electronic media. But it is more important to find and remove the reasons behind the rapid growth of drug abuse among the youth. Is this a manifestation of non-conformity or indignation against the existing unjust and hypocritical setup which has little to offer them?
Pakistan’s younger generation is a victim of the authoritarian attitudes of parents and teachers, is highly resentful of social restraints and, above all, lack of love and affection. Unfortunately, nobody is willing to understand their problems sympathetically. Rejecting the unfortunate addict, juvenile delinquent and dissident young person is an easy escape from collective responsibility.
Those who control the existing institutions and matter in the land must realise that young people detest the prevailing setup where corruption, cronyism and money power rule. Our young no longer want to be a part of this oppressive system. And a majority of them, lacking any alternative, find escape in drugs or terrorism.
The writer specialises in the study of narco-terrorism and global heroin economy.
Email: [email protected] com

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