Thursday July 07, 2022

It’s time to address youth’s frustration

May 16, 2022

Youths have the potential to spearhead construction or destruction of any nation. They have energy to overcome all challenges to pave the way for their destiny. Literature suggests that inclusion, participation, recognition and legitimacy are basic elements to determine the constructive or destructive role of youths. Thus, wise governments try to design specialised programmes to ensure constructive role of young people.

Pakistan has a different story. The country’s 63 percent population falls in the category of youth. The story starts from home by not allowing the youths to pursue their choices for education and career. It kills the natural talent. Young people are not allowed to exercise their right to vote according to their own will.

They are forced by elders in the name of caste, tribe, class and sub-national identity to vote for favourite party. Data shows youths can play a big role in elections if they are allowed to use their right independently. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 55.57 million, 45.8 percent of registered voters, fall under the age of 35 years. Further, 23.53 million voters (19.46 percent) fall between 18-25 years age.

Second, young people have been deprived of livelihood opportunities by powerful sections of the society. Retired people grab a chunk of good jobs. They ask why retired persons are being rehired as they are already enjoying benefits of post-retirement. If they want to serve the nation with their experience, they must do it free-of-cost. The retired officers and politicians are also entering into consultancy business. Donor community feels happy to work with them as they can use their influence to achieve project objectives. It is disturbing, as on one hand, donors write lengthy reports on inclusion of youth, but on the other they prefer to hire these consultants. There is also a new type of consultants, on-job consultants. These people use their official position to avail the opportunities of trainings, courses and higher education. It leads to systematic exclusion of youths by depriving them of good opportunities of scholarships, courses and trainings, which have grave implications on their future.

Third, the elite class uses influence to kill the merit. They oblige each other by accommodating each other’s kids. They push think tanks, NGOs and international agencies to accommodate their kids. These organisations do it with pleasure, as they get direct access to decision-makers and the ruling elite.

On top of everything, Pakistan has an education system which is adding to the miseries of young people. System is creating graduates with no or limited life skills. Ruling elite has no interest in reforming the system, as their kids are not enrolled in government institutes. Either they study in high profile private educational institutes or go abroad. Recent example of Higher Education Commission debacle is a classic example of elite mentality.

It is frustrating for young people. They do not know what to do. Further, the lengthy speeches on resourcefulness of Pakistan add salt to the wounds. They are asking where the resources are, why they are not being shared with common people. They have been left with no choice except to revolt against the system. Youths are not in a mood to accept old logics. They want actions.

State has to realise that we are living in the era of fifth-generation warfare (FGW). FGW has its own dynamics and old tactics will not work. Hiding the information is not possible as today’s youth has skills to dig it out. Thus, there is need to engage them in meaningful activities not just talks. Rest assured, they will not be satisfied with laptop schemes or advocacy programmes or Kamyab Jawan eyewash projects. They need real time interventions and change in their lives. They are looking for life skills, modern techniques, decent jobs and quality livelihood opportunities. One plausible option is restructuring the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to lead the job creation for youths. Sate can also work to create new types of SOEs like Fourth Industrial Revolution industry.

Simultaneously, State will have to invest on quality education with life skills. For that purpose, it will have to build modern educational institutes and make sure that every citizen is benefiting from them. Unfortunately, it is not happening. Private sector is thriving which has turned education into a lucrative business. Education has become extremely expensive. There is need to reverse the process as it is responsibility of State to provide education, according to the Constitution.

In conclusion, it is high time to act and consider concerns of frustrated youth. Otherwise, Pakistan might face worst impacts of fifth-generation warfare.