Pakistan is passing through the most difficult period of its history. It is facing serious crises. These crises are coming both thick and fast. The term “manufactured crises” best distills the reality of these crises. There is an unprecedented increase in the crime, violence and terrorism activities. Majority of these activities are carried out by young people living in low-income families and communities. All the government departments and agencies are unable to control and stop these crises. One of the major reasons for this growing deterioration in law and order situation in Pakistan is the disengagement of young people. Pakistan is one of those unfortunate countries in the world where young people are disconnected from the society. The numbers of disengaged and vulnerable young people are increasing tremendously. It is our greatest failure. It is our biggest threat. These young people if not engaged in some constructive activities will continue to prove a prescription for disaster for themselves and for the society. The disengagement of young people of Pakistan is the greatest loss of the country. Unfortunately, the numbers of disengaged and socially-excluded young people are increasing every day. These numbers are never lit on the billboards of the city so that everyone can see how quickly numbers are increasing. There is a need to declare a “Youth Emergency” in the country to help millions of young people in Pakistan to find a purpose, connection, hope and place in the society.
There is no shortage of evidences reflecting the costs of neglecting young people in Pakistan. Almost all the terrorist attacks made recently are committed by young people between the ages of 12-30. These young people are telling us through their behaviors that what is missing in the society and it is our responsibility to listen to their voices and understand their needs. It would not be wrong to say that it is not easy being youth in Pakistan. Despite of the fact, that Pakistan has the largest cohort of children and young people in its history, there is no public cry to reach out and engage young people. Our politicians, policy makers and practitioners have a very low or no understanding about the consequences of ignoring young people. If there are any efforts underway, they are limited to discussion and manipulation. It is the need of the hour that we must recognize young people as partners in development. How can we even think of any development, prosperity and progress without the engagement and contributions of young people? Time has come when we should understand the strong linkage between youth engagement and community development. No nation and community has ever developed by ignoring its young people. Young people are the lifeline of any nation. They are the most promising resource available to us in a huge quantity. Unfortunately, this untapped resource is not recognized and tapped by the society for greater good. It is heartbreaking to see the waste of so many lives of young people. We need to ask ourselves why extremists’ and terrorists’ groups find it so easy to mobilize and engage youth in self-destructive activities. What they offer to young people? Why young people listen to them? Why young people give up their lives so easily? These extremists groups offer everything which is missing in the lives of young people. They give hope, desire, sense of purpose and sense of usefulness to young people.
Imagine what would have happened in Pakistan, if all these young people who have committed suicide attacks were engaged in positive activities. Imagine what would have happened in Pakistan, if these young people had used their potential, passion and energies to address issues like education, women empowerment, health, environment, etc. instead of blowing themselves up. It is a sad reality that our country has forgotten young people. Young people are considered as future leaders. We have forgotten that young people are also the present. Young people cannot become leaders by simply getting education or staying away from problems. They need opportunities to act and lead. They need structured opportunities to explore and realize their potential. They need support and acknowledgment from the society. They need validation of their intelligence. We have enough time available to us to discuss about the economic challenges and increasing national debt faced by the country. We are always thinking that we have a money problem in our country. If we will get financial assistance, our problems will be resolved. We are unable to understand that we do not have a money problem in this country. We have a serious youth disengagement problem. This disengagement has already cost us a lot. It is time for all of us to revisit our priorities and programs. It is clear that without change in our thinking, no change will occur. It is very painful to see that even those countries which are supporting Pakistan to fight against terrorism and social evils are unable to read the situation. We cannot win any war against terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, etc unless and until we open doors of engagement for our young people. We must ask ourselves what kind of Pakistan we are creating and for whose benefit. We have an education crisis, an electricity crisis, a gas crisis, a food crisis, a political crisis, a water crisis and above all a crisis to understand that young people are our best resource and best hope for the continuity of our nation. It seems to me that we have settled for a country where a vast majority of children and young people are expected to grow-up without any desire and hope in their lives. They are expected to lead a very impoverished, disconnected and anxiety-driven life over which they have no control.
A disengaged youth is the biggest threat to a family, community and country. A disengaged youth is a hazard which has the potential to turn into a disaster. A disengaged youth can cause more damage and collapse through his/her actions to the society than a fully-prepared youth. A disengaged youth has more power to influence the lives of others negatively than a prepared youth who is waiting for the opportunity to get engaged. Engagement of young people should be the responsibility of everyone; it should not be restricted to few experts and professionals. Youth engagement should be recognized as an exciting strategy to create an impact in the lives of everyone.