RAWALPINDI: Waseem Ahmed busily prepares pakoras in Rawalpindi’s bustling Raja Bazaar on a hot day.
Dressed neatly in a shirt and trousers, he looks slightly out of place – which is only natural, considering that he is an engineer by profession. Despite being educated and qualified, Waseem simply cannot manage to find a decent job these days. He seems to have fallen through the cracks of the system, and is disheartened and disillusioned because he feels his efforts to educate himself have amounted to nothing.
“I’ve applied to so many places. I have yet to hear back from any of them,” said Waseem. “Wherever I go, I am asked to bribe people [to gain employment].” “What’s the point of being educated?” he asks. “If this is the kind of situation an educated person will face after he graduates, I don’t think there is any need for people to spend money in order to educate their children.” Waseem studied at the Rawalpindi Polytechnic Institute. His mother, Nasreen, recounts how proud Waseem’s father was when his son graduated.
Waseem’s father has since passed away. “I always envisioned a bright future for my son,” said Nasreen. “I want him to be a good human being, I want him to do good work. But fate and poverty have ensured that he will not get a decent job.” Economist Dr Zafar Moeen says Pakistan’s unemployment rate is said to be around 5.5 per cent, but the reality is very different. “According to estimates that are used by foreign countries, if an under-developed state has a certain statistic, you multiply that by four to get a more accurate number.” “This means that if Pakistan claims its unemployment rate is around 5 per cent, about 20 per cent of the labour force is likely to be unemployed,” he said.
There are many factors that have led to increasing unemployment in Pakistan, including load shedding and general insecurity. Waseem is of the opinion that if the government cannot provide young people with jobs, then it should at the very least develop schemes through which the youth can earn a living. Until then, Waseem will continue to fry pakoras on the roadside, in hope for a better future.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 18th, 2010.