Role of youth for a peaceful and tolerant society in Pakistan
Fatima Jinnah Women University
The word tolerant, with reference to society, refers to such an ideology or conviction that believes in peace, mutual harmony and accord among society’s individuals. Mutual harmony is actually the attainment of synchronization of different ideas, opinions and beliefs of individuals to such a concurrent point where it is agreed upon and willingly accepted by the majority. The opposite of harmony is conflict; conflict is always there when more than one individual comes together due to the difference in ways of thinking The need of the hour is to resolve the conflicts. At times conflicts bring positive result too however to avoid extreme situations, the conflicts need to be settled. If we look at our Pakistani society today, we can clearly observe that actually the unchecked rise in conflicts among the people in our country has led to an imbalanced situation and has swept away the concepts of tolerant and peaceful society from our country. The difference in opinions is certain to exist in a country like Pakistan where people from different backgrounds, races, religions and paradigms are living together. But the need of the hour is to make people learn to respect each others opinions.
The United Nations define youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24.In Pakistan, youth make up the bulk of the population which if united to work together for a common cause will be able to bring a dynamic change in society. An estimated 103 million Pakistanis, or 63% of the population, fall under the age of 25 years. However, as a result of endemic poverty, the majority of youth in Pakistan do not have the opportunity to experience a normal childhood and visit educational institutions. Thus they are not able to learn and polish their abilities.
In the recent course of time the most important target for the Pakistani youth should be their realization to practically start working towards the attainment of a peaceful and tolerant society. The small proportion of our youth, who are exposed to education and have access to the right kind of information, though aware of their responsibilities are reluctant to play their role due to lack of self motivation and support from civil society. However there are some brilliant people in Pakistan who are still discharging their responsibility in a very efficient manner. Young singer and philanthropist, Shahzad Roy, the founder of the Zindagi Trust, can be taken as an example. In 2008, he launched his new album “Qismat Apne Hath Mein” in Karachi juvenile jail. He wanted to make people realize how many young juveniles are imprisoned in our country.
The essence of peace has become almost extinct from our society because of the intolerant attitude of people to discard and disrespect the views of other people coming from different school of thought. The spirit to negotiate, respect and welcome others’ ideas and opinions has been totally eliminated from our institutions and lives. Because of the rigidity, inflexibility and extremist behavior of Pakistanis. On the one side are the rigid and stern religious groups of warriors, and on the other we have those 33 or so feudal, imperialistic and elite families whose forefathers got land, by serving the British at the cost of their nation. These few families which constitute less than 1% of our population, are mostly western educated. Instead of trying to fix the issue by bringing equality and justice to society, they have opted to sideline all those who oppose them. Except these 1% or so and the extremists, the rest of our society is freedom-loving and tolerant. The oppression, discrimination and cruelty which they face due to the direct influence of top 1% of our population makes them hate the richest and consequently some of them become extremists. It is no surprise that most of the extremists are from very poor regions and families. Islam says “bhook kufar tak lay jaati hay” and it sounds exactly true in our case.
First the youth need to realize and understand the fact that they are responsible citizens of Pakistan and need to fulfill their duties in this respect. They are accountable for their lives and the role they play in their society. They need to discover their duties, to become aware of society’s root problems and then choose some field according to their abilities and aptitude so they can play their due role in making Pakistan tolerant and peaceful. Unity and the spirit of team work are the key elements to achieve any goal. In other words for successful achievement of the goals it is essential that the youth develop their personalities in a manner that their individual interests align with their collective interests. This type of approach is difficult as shaping and modifying a person’s own individual interests with the collective interest of a specific group, usually requires huge sacrifices from the individuals. However, the long run benefits of such an approach are fruitful both for the individuals and society as a whole.
Volunteerism is an important step required to transform Pakistan into a tolerant and peaceful society. The youth need to develop the spirit of social welfare and community development without any ??? any personal or material motives. This approach is necessary because we know Pakistan is a poor country which has a shortfall in finances. Youth should look around at all levels every minute at things around them and act as a positive change agent. Small things can bring big differences if implemented at the right place with constant effort. While volunteerism is good, it is important that sustainable for-profit initiatives are also taken within the social development sector because not-for-profit is not self-sustainable and is usually dependent on grants and charity. The example of Bangladeshi Banker and Economist, Professor Muhammad Yunus is worth mentioning here.
Professor Muhammad Yunus started a small micro finance initiative to resolve the problems of the poorest of the poor. With his graduate students in Chittagong University in 1976, he designed an experimental credit program to serve the poor. It spread rapidly to hundreds of villages in Bangladesh. Through a special relationship with rural banks, he disbursed and recovered thousands of loans, but the bankers refused to take over the project at the end of the pilot phase. They feared it was too expensive and risky as the poor had no collateral and weren’t considered credit-worthy in the conventional banking model. Eventually, through the support of donors, the Grameen Bank was founded in 1983 which now serves more than 4 million borrowers. The success of Grameen Bank led Muhammad Yunus to win the Noble Peace Prize in 2006. Yunus actually developed a social welfare based microfinance program for the small entrepreneurs of his country. His project became an inspiration for the whole world and later many banks in the West started working on micro financing and microcredit. The Pakistani youth should therefore utilize their intellectual abilities for such useful and productive social welfare projects so as to add value to society from economic point of view.
Another major reason for conflict in our society is our poor economic condition. The economic problems of poverty, unemployment and inflation give rise to social evils like higher crime rates and susceptibility to terrorist organizations. The youth should propose healthy plans to stabilize the economy of the country. The economic issues once stabilized will help put an end to the other evils too. It is not an easily attainable task and requires collective effort. Entrepreneurship can be one of the solutions to economic problems. Youth should step forward to act as change agents and start making small enterprises keeping the social, environmental, moral and ethical standards of business in view. There are many fields nowadays in which youth can work as entrepreneurs by using their innovative ideas. They can even work in small teams to shape their ideas into small enterprises. This kind of initiative will contribute in eradicating poverty, generating employment and stabilizing the economy. On a larger scale it will help establishing peace by lowering the crime rate.
Political instability is a major factor of the unrest and turbulence in our country. The youth should try to educate themselves and understand the political problems prevailing in Pakistan. We are never satisfied with those who are in power i-e, the Government, and we continuously blame them for their bad policies and self-centered agendas. Instead of blaming them we should try to understand that they are exercising the authority given by the public through election. In Pakistan youth can be held responsible for this because most of them do not cast their votes. They are either ignorant of their right or do not exercise it. As a result a sizable proportion of the votes go to waste. Youth of today need to realize that exercising their constitutional rights is as important as fulfilling their duties. Practicing and raising voice for the constitutional rights is also a duty towards the state. There has been a lot of political restlessness in Pakistan and till now (?) no single Government in Pakistan has been able to complete its tenure. The point to be highlighted is that such a situation would never have arisen if the public, of which youth are a part, have had made the right decision at the right time. Moreover, youth should develop an analytic ability, i.e., to look deeply and observe the situation from all possible angles. They should not to fall prey to hypothetical promises made by insincere and corrupt politicians. Youth must develop the right kind of judgment and should do their best to identify and campaign for those politicians or political ideas which really bring justice, quality, and prosperity to the country. They should try to analyze the manifestos of politicians instead of being impressed by their hollow, illusionist and grand slogans. Another important thing is that youth should not hesitate in taking part in practical politics. In fact being young, fresh, energetic and largely patriotic, they are the best group to join politics.
The Youth Literacy Rate (age 15/24) is estimated to be 53% which is very low. Female youth literacy (age 15-24) conforming to the wider pattern in Pakistan, is even lower at 42.0%.The flaws in our educational system have shaped and resulted in intolerant and aggressive behavior of the young minds of our youth. We see a boom of religious extremism in Pakistan these days, which has given rise to many problems as they offer a false, biased and violent interpretation of Islam.
Mostly poor people send their children to these Madrassas as these religious institutions do not charge any fees and provide them with free boarding and lodging. There is a need to remove the variation existing in the curriculum of Madrassas and other educational institutions. A standardized education system based on uniform rules and regulations should be adopted. The youth should request for the Government to adopt a homogenous educational system. They should ask for an increased budget allocation to the education sector, so that there is free education for all at all levels like in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Last but not least the youth can play their role towards the establishment of peace and tolerance in society by inculcating personal values. They should develop patience in their personalities. They should mould themselves as Iqbal‘s Shaheen – prestigious, brave and pure. Moreover the youth must realize that now is the right time to start working for a peaceful and tolerant society otherwise it may soon be too late. As Edgar Lee Masters says:
In youth my wings were strong and tireless,
But I did not know the mountains.
In age I knew the mountains
But my weary wings could not follow my vision –
Genius is wisdom and youth.