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Saturday
Jan072012

Pakistan's youth solution

Common sense suggests that Pakistan's problem's are not about to solved by a saviour who gathers them all up squashes them into a little (cricket?) ball shape and hurls them into the sun. Making things better is going to take groups of people with new ideas and approaches, supported by similarly minded people with the resources, taking legitimacy from an even bigger group of people who support what they are doing.

Huma Yusuf does a great job on the IHT's Latitude blog of illustrating that the best bet for change in Pakistan is the country's young.

"An exciting shift is now under way in Pakistan: the young are becoming politically engaged. In coffee shops, beauty salons and workplaces, instead of gossiping or deconstructing the latest televised drama, youngsters are arguing about the merits of various politicians. As a journalist, I can’t walk into a social gathering without getting grilled by my peers and their younger siblings about this policy or that. Older Pakistanis who have long bemoaned the apathy of the country’s educated, middle-class youth are sighing in relief at this newfound activism. As one elderly family friend put it, “Your lot has finally woken up.”"

Huma makes the point that Imran Khan has benefited from (or perhaps sparked) this awakening of interest among the young, but this is part of a bigger trend.

"Several social media sites have hosted online voter-registration drives for the 2013 general elections. Many of these are not affiliated with any political party; they are simply seeking to boost youth participation at the polls. Pakistan’s mainstream political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (P.P.P.) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (P.M.L.N.), are launching youth-oriented campaigns and showcasing a new generation of politicians. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, of the P.P.P., is encouraging private media outlets to emphasize youth-oriented programming. The opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads the P.M.L.N., recently drafted a new strategy to revamp his party’s Facebook presence and, in a bid to entice young voters, promised to distribute 300,000 laptops to students if he is elected."

Pakistan is a young country with a tumultuous history, and as such the era you were born into has a big impact on your outlook to life, culture, your view of the outside world and politics.

What Londonstani finds really interesting about all this is that there is evidence to suggest Pakistan's under 35 year old majority approach life in a very different way to their elders. The impact of social media, mass communication and migrations all have their place, but there is an even more elemental level to this. For examle, someone who grew up being told to fear a Hindu-dominated Alll-India government will approach things differently to someone who's lived their whole life secure in the "Muslimness" of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Londonstani's work recently involved researching the views of Pakistani young people. The picture that emerged was of a huge body of people who are more confident in their identities as Pakistanis, less interested in ethnic backgrounds, more questioning of received logic, less fearful of India and much more keen on travel and engagement with the outside world. The study was limited and much more work should be done looking at this area, but, for Londonstani, it was well summed up by one of the interviewees:

"The most influential person in my life? Well, I should say my father. But, he often talks very forcefully about a subject and then I look online or ask my friends and find out he doesn't have that much information."

The reality is that life in Pakistan at all levels is dominated by men who are typically over 45 (this, of course, includes Imran). Whether military, religious ideologues, feudal landlords, business moguls or media magnates, they do things in very similar, patriarchal ways. The political parties' scramble to get young people involved is an effort to direct the inevitable trend. (The young generation the parties are promoting are often sons and daughters of the leaders).

Huma makes the point that she is not talking about a Pakistani version of the Arab Spring; "Unlike their counterparts in the Arab world, young Pakistanis are less inspired by revolutionary rhetoric than in producing results through the existing system. They are demanding issue-based politics."

This in itself is a revolution.

If you want to see what sort of people Huma is talking about, watch Al Jazeera's documentary on Ali Abbas Zaidi:

And while you're at it, check out rapper Adil Omar:

Oh, and of course Co-Ven

 

** oops, I wrongly cited the writer of the original piece as Huma Imtiaz when it was in fact Huma Yusuf. This has been fixed apols to both Humas.

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