BY SALMAN KHAN
As a third world nation, with a population of over 200 million, Pakistan has its fair share of problems. Our country lacks a quality education, accessible health care, and even the very basic infrastructure that is to be expected in the 21st century.
This plethora of problems joined by political brinkmanship and the constant tussle over power has left many in the country destitute, and most others ignored.
Perhaps the demographic most neglected is the nation’s ever-growing youth. According to the Pakistan National Human Development Report, in 2018, Pakistan is to see the largest generation of young people in the history of the country.
Two-thirds of the total population of the natis are under the age of 30. The Report outlines a need to invest in the youth through education, empowerment and meaningful engagement opportunities.
Vibrant and full of energy, Pakistan’s youth is brimming with hope, optimism and talent. Indeed, there are many hidden gems amongst us such as singers, artists, debaters, social activists and geniuses of all kinds.
However, sadly, there is no structural long-term effort to give them a platform to express themselves. Several brands have launched talent based initiatives in the recent few years such as Veet Miss Pakistan and Pepsi Battle of the Bands, however, with such a vast population, there is always room for further projects.
Recently, a striking example of this need was displayed on one of the largest, mainstream entertainment shows on cable television. On a morning show hosted by Sahir Lodhi, a young man expressed his anguish over the lack of opportunities, mentioning that he was a singer, and was simply looking for a chance to share his talent.
He stated that a few years earlier, there was a platform named Azme Alishaan, which was giving the youth a chance to showcase itself. Although he was very keen to do so, sadly he was unable to participate at the time.
Yet, even 8 years later, his desire to do so still stays strong, and he hopes for such platforms to be revived. To his credit, Sahir Lodhi did encourage and help the aspiring singer, giving the young man a means to showcase his talent, as Sahir has done with many other Pakistani’s before. His effort, however, stands as a singular act.
As the numbers grow, as does the need to expand the countries efforts to engage the youth, not only by showcasing their existing talents and expand their minds but also to educate and engage young minds about civic and social responsibilities.
Out of 105 million registered voters in Pakistan, 46 million of those are under the age of 25, making the youth the largest voter bank.
Yet, in 2018, Pakistan saw a decline in young voters. A potential reason for this could be an overall lack of trust in leaders to look out for the youth demographic. Additionally, Pakistan is devoid of any well managed educational and skill building recreational centres.
There is little access to programmes which allow the youth to engage in meaningful discourse, pursue their creativity, collaborate with like-minded individuals and be mentored by fellow successful Pakistanis.
With a deeply fragmented country, broken into several religious, linguistic and geographical segments, it is not hard to believe that the youth of Pakistan are missing a sense of unity and national pride.
Our youngsters are brimming with energy and passion. As a nation, we must help our youth take their energy and put it towards positive, fun and productive experiences, and we must also encourage them to participate in social activities and community events, that encourage civic sense and unity, whilst developing a love and appreciation for one’s nation and fellow Pakistanis.