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Need to create healthy activities & opportunities for youth

Need to create healthy activities and potential opportunities for youth

by Amir Murtaza
June 9, 2013

Print and electronic media reports indicate that during past five years the crime rate has been increased in all big cities in Pakistan at an alarming rate. It is equally disturbing to see that the involvement of youth in these unlawful activities has also simultaneously risen.

Not much research material and literature is available on primary and secondary causes of youth delinquency in our country. However certain explicit or implicit factors like, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, loose family ties and a perennial urge to become overnight rich are now well established.

No one can argue that lack of opportunities, such as education, employment and recreation, have created a sense of frustration among the young people and they have become more vulnerable to violence and criminal activities.

The overwhelmingly proportion of Pakistani population is young people and they are the most valuable asset for our future development. However, insufficient, inconsistent and disorganized investment on youths, especially of middle and low income localities, has created a sense of deprivation among them.

A UNDP’s report, regarding Pakistan, stated that, “The proportion of people under the age of 30 years is 68% of the total population of the country from which 37% youth is illiterate, 71% of youth doesn’t receive career counseling at school, 28% finds curriculum irrelevant to the job market, 47% don’t have sports facilities in their localities and 23% youth want to start their own business but not supported at all.”

It is equally important here to reiterate that we are a fast growing country, with population multiplied many folds in last sixty-six years. What we need is to urgently take measures to curb our population growth. Pakistan is a country struggling on many fronts with limited resources. While on one hand, having a broad base of children and young adults promises of a large workforce, but on the other side, developing them into a bunch of illiterate, semi illiterate, unskilled youth is bound to increase their frustration and drift them into a world of crime and criminals.

Abdul Haq has been engaged in social work for more than twenty years in a densely-populated-low-income locality in Karachi. He observed that, “Lack of employment opportunities is the major problem of area youth and due to prolong joblessness these youth have become involved in violence and criminal activities.” The Karachi based social worker added that, “I have seen that how some children and youths have started involving in petty crimes and later they became hardened criminals.” Abdul Haq observed that involvement of youth in violence is a serious issue and therefore, he suggested that government should create educational and employment opportunities for the youth of marginalized communities.

“Violent youths do not usually begin their careers with a serious violent offense. While the developmental pathway varies, depending on what types of behavior are monitored, studies generally agree that a violent career begins with relatively minor forms of antisocial or delinquent behavior. These acts later increase in frequency, seriousness, and variety, often progressing to serious violent behavior (Elliott, 1994; Loeber et al., 1998; Moffitt, 1993; Tolan & Gorman-Smith, 1998)”.

Lucifer on the Loose by Jack Anderson identified ten top causes of violence, including; the media, substance abuse, gangs, unemployment, weapons, poverty, peer pressure, broken homes, poor family environment/dad neighbourhoods and intolerance/ ignorance.

Badar Siddiqui, a qualified psychologist, informed that unemployment, poverty, lack of education and lack of recreational activities are the major reasons of youth involvement in violence. He added that availability of drugs and weapons coupled with the dominance of organized gangs in a certain locality may also influence the youth to involve in criminal activities.

Reforming Pakistan’s Prison System, Asia Report N°212 – 12 October 2011, by International Crises Group mentioned, “In violation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), children continue to be arrested for petty offences and illegally detained for days and even months; in the absence of adequate facilities, their exposure to hardened criminals, including jihadis, makes them more likely to embrace crime, including militancy, after they are released than before they were imprisoned. Yet, with jails overflowing, it is nearly impossible to isolate hardened criminals, including militants, from remand prisoners, juveniles and low-level or first-time offenders”.

Pakistan has unprecedented young human resource that should be groomed and utilized. A news article, “Country’s youth in a state of disarray” in daily Dawn, by Amin Ahmed mentioned, “The Planning Commission says that the social and economic costs of youth unemployment are enormous, and there is an urgent need to invest more in youth to utilize their energies and to ensure that next generation of Pakistan has better economic and social development prospects”.

Nisar Ahmed is a sports lover and he has been supporting sports activities for quite some time. Nisar Ahmed observed that, “Youth can change the future of any country and Pakistani youths also have great potential to play a significant role in the development of the country. He, however, noted that youths need clear guidance and inspiration from political leaders and political parties to utilize their energy in constructive activities.”

In 1989, the youth Affairs Division was established by the government of Pakistan. Over the period of time different governments at federal level had tried to resolve the youth issues. In 2009, the government had approved the National Youth Policy. The Youth Ministry facilitated and organized different activities to promote youth participation and create learning, employment and recreation opportunities for them. However, after the passage of the 18th amendment to the constitution of the country in 2010, the youth affairs have been delegated from center to the provinces. It is pertinent to mention that the government of Punjab had taken initiatives to socially and economically empower the youths. However, in other provinces not many efforts were witnessed.

Pakistani youth have great potential to do wonders in every walk of life. This young population has tremendous energy and talent; however, we have to provide them proper avenues to positively utilize their energy and talent. It is now the prime responsibility of newly elected federal and provincial governments to create opportunities for young people and should initiate programs to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities.

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Amir Murtaza is a senior researcher, analyst and writer on social development issues, especially pertaining to women, youth and children.

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