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Getting Beyond the Rhetoric

Today, the realities of 1.8 billion youth and adolescents represent a dynamic, informed, and globally connected engine for change. Integrating their needs, rights to choice and their voices in the new development agenda at local and international, will be a key factor for success. Like many other countries, youth constitute the majority of the country demographics. Pakistan has the 6th largest population in the world and 40% are youth aged 10-29 years. The potential benefits of this demographic pattern are enormous, while the challenges are also not to be underestimated. The emergence of youth in recent politics & social movements is changing the socio-political canvas of Pakistan.. Income and gender dimensions make populations statistic more about young populations are more challenging. Extremism and terrorism has multiplied the vulnerabilities. Economic growth is not benefiting the large segments; they are affected badly by taxes imposed on utility bills of electricity, gas and petroleum.

In a global online survey My World 2015 conducted by United Nations, over 7 million citizens worldwide voted for their priorities nearly 60% of participants were young people aged 16-30 .Youth put good education, better healthcare and job opportunities, an honest and responsive government and food security at the top of their list. Youth in Pakistan share the same aspiration and demands from their government and political parties.

In reaction to the populist movement lead by Imran Khan in last couple of months, the two major political parties fielded their next generation as future leaders. But the youth showed them exit Gates. This signs that a large number of the Pakistan youth is not convinced by personality oriented cult politics, they are more interested in strong economic and social agenda & program that promise  quality education, better health care, jobs, social justice, meritocracy, denial of corruption & nepotism. Physical and emotional aspects of young population are important factors to be considered along with education & job opportunities.  They are more exposed to risk behaviors. Public display of displeasure by youngsters against protocol culture and unequal treatments in front of law and judicial system for rich and poor are symptoms of their anarchical responses and intensive converge in national electronic and social media made these displays viral and shared across the different segments of societies. Popular reactions to these display of pleasure & reaction was social glorification, applause & ovation.

False promises, Opportunism & bad governance in Mafia Styles by decades’ long political dynasties & slot of politicians is leading a social and political disappointment & unrest among youth, resulted anger, anguish and heat of which can be felt in  their expression on social media. This distrust is very fatal for the society as a system but also strengthening of the democracy and democratic process in our country. Lack of trust in social institutions and processes means normlessness and anarchy. Growing violence & street crimes in different parts of the country is reflection of this catastrophe in line.

If some miracle does not occur, Hamza, Mariyam & Bilawal, the next generation of Sharif and Zardari seem empty without any charisma to allure Pakistani youth. Middle class urbanites are well educated, well spoken, groomed, with more dandy personality and linked with global economy & politics as compare to the next generation leaders of the both political legacies who are intellectually poor without any novelty in their political ideas and approaches.  It is time, however, to get beyond lofty rhetoric and well-intended consultation.

Studies and statistics show that youth are falling short. While (with good reason) youth unemployment and inadequate education make headlines, limited opportunities or weak status in other respects largely go unnoticed. Projects like Youth Loan Programs, BISP, Yellow Taxis and Laptop can not address the restlessness of youngsters but add into agony, apathy and disappointments. With poor youth’s perception about the projects, these projects are irrelevant to cater the real needs of the youth.

We need a comprehensive and inclusive approach in our national policy & development agenda catering the expectations of young society. Present theories, policies and actions by all governments, federal or provincial, won’t suffice. These expectations are characterized by enthusiasm, restlessness & hopes.  Inclusive growth and development is about more than skills and jobs; and that educational and economic success is interdependent with many variables including health, safety and security, rights and participation, financial inclusion, and infrastructure. Intentional policy and programmatic initiatives that are reflective of their unique developmental experiences of youth, and designed to advance their specific needs and aspirations and support them in making healthy, productive and safe choices will produce some results.

With growing concern for inequality, and a “leave no one behind” ethos, it is critical that youth are addressed in a more wide-ranging and concrete manner than the current model of government policies.  By taking the right path for and with youth, we can arrive at a better destination.

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