Hai jazba, junoon tou himmat na haar…” seems to have become the national anthem of the youth in Pakistan, not only during the recent cricket matches but generally as well. From the neighbourhood to campus youth associations to the more prominent youth NGO’s and alliances, Pakistani youth today is out-there and doing it.
Along the years, since I formed the Empowering Youth Organisation (EYO) in 2006, and while we were working for the earthquake victims on various rehabilitation projects, I met some of the most brilliant and promising leaders of tomorrow. Most of them share the same attitude — as Rabi-ur-Rehman, an engineer and founder of Karachi Youth Organistion (KYO) puts it, “We don’t need to wait for the government to solve our problems. 63 years have proven that they are incapable. Now we are here and we will stand for Pakistan.”
In a world where parents, teachers and the government tag youth as being dependent and lazy; the youth in Pakistan have risen to the challenge in every national situation and initiated a parlance of ‘can-do’ and ‘will-do’. They do not come empty-handed. They come with a spark, with a passion that fuels them constantly to go ahead. With this enormous energy, they struggle everyday to “bring the change they want to see in the world, particularly in their own country.”
Youth organisations and forums have contributed immensely in generating a healthy and forward-looking environment for the youth of today. With initiatives like Young Leaders Conference (YLC) and Youth Parliaments (there are two of them, each with thousands of active members all over the country); there are innumerable opportunities and options for the young generation to contribute to social development. Some of these organisations work independently while others collaborate in order to be more effective and attain quick results.
It may not be wrong to say that today’s 16-year-old is more politically aware and decisive of his/her political polarity than a 26-year-old, perhaps two decades back. “We are not like our past generations, who slacked around and let corruption barge into our societies and penetrate our civic, governmental and social systems,” says Hiba Khalid, a student at LUMS, and Head of Lahore Operations of EYO. “Our previous generation was an abysmal lot who made either terribly weedy decisions or had severely shadowed perceptions that led to the weakness we are submerged in today. But I believe that today’s youth is much more aware and willing to participate in social development. We are warm and honest towards Pakistan and we will ensure it rises again.”
What these youngsters today are accomplishing is enormous; breaking down colossal walls and moving ahead. Of late, the disasters and national calamity that shook the country has seen the youth coming out to the forefront and spreading hope. Last year on August 14, when the nation was morose and worrying about the floods, a dozen young university students marched out from Do-Talwar in Karachi, with boxes in their hands, collecting funds from people on the streets. Within a couple of hours, they had gathered around Rs 0.4 million for the flood victims. This is just one of the many ways the Pakistani youth is making a difference today.
The shining stars
Among the many youth organisations that have really made a difference with their efforts, Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) is so far the most prominent and almost avant-garde group. It was prominent in helping flood victims with persistent relief efforts.
Ali Abbas Zaidi, the founder of the PYA that started in 2007 after Musharraf’s emergency rule, says, “Our aim is to create socio-political awareness in the country.” The PYA has more than 20,000 active members in Pakistan and abroad. To date, the PYA has made 34 deliveries of goods to flood affectees worth Rs 35 million helping around 44,000 affected families. The PYA also helped Miradore Productions (an event management company) materialise their dream of having an international youth conference in Pakistan. Even though the current socio-political situation of Pakistan is not very accommodating, these young stars worked day and night to pull this event and were successful in doing so. The event was none other than the International Youth Conference & Festival 2010 (IYC2010) held in Islamabad. The event that aimed to ‘Build bridges across the world’ had 78 young participants from 22 different countries. It was Zaidi who brought different organisations and the government on one platform to work together for the youth. The foreign youngsters were surprised to see how open and interactive Pakistani people are. “Most of them were so shocked and happy to come here, that they promised to promote Pakistan in their countries and urge a positive image in whatever way they can,” Zaidi said.
After months of sleepless nights, the team of IYC2010 recently exchanged text messages saying, “We are bored, let’s take it forward and do something bigger.” So let’s wait and watch what these young great minds are coming up with next…
What the government has to say?
These young minds have been quite successful in impressing the Youth Minister of Sindh, Faisal Sabzwari. He says, “In our days, we didn’t see so much enthusiasm in the youth and there were very few student unions in universities.” He encouraged students to come forward and join politics regardless of what their professional background is. He believes that the youngsters today are much more aware and down-to-earth and they don’t hesitate in expressing themselves, which is the best part.
Want to be a change-agent?
In the current chaos and social and political struggle that our country is suffering from, many passionate youth hesitate to come out and express themselves. For those who don’t know where to turn, KHUDI is here to support any form of anti-extremism initiative.
They conduct regular awareness programmes and have made quite an impact with their work in very little time. Khudi is open to all and if you have an idea for change, it is ready to support you to bring that idea to life.
KHUDI’s Founder Majid Nawaz says, “Come to us with your ideas and vision and develop your own local franchises. Initiate exciting projects and set up your own work. Let us all work together to build this country again, brick by brick. This will not happen overnight, we cannot promise a sudden change, but if we stand together and start working through collaborations and consensus-based work, we will see a positive change in our generation, just as we have seen a negative change over the last ten years. Don’t give up, Pakistan is your identity, and to give up would be to give up on yourselves!”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2011.