Pakistan’s economy is in the doldrums, youth is misguided and employed in violent services, and the socio-political atmosphere is a mawkish drama we have all watched for 70 years, the actors keep changing but the absurdity remains the same…. A special report by Ruksana Saleem
As Pakistan hangs by a thread, it should take some time out from being the flag-bearer of Kashmiris, and maintain focus on its failing governance. The failed state is tirelessly swimming in the flood waters of 2022 which has pushed nine million people to poverty, left four million children on the brink of death, and 32 million displaced.
The citizens of the nation do not have access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water, the paramount necessities of a human’s existence. Public health facilities, schools, and cropland exist only in past. By December last year the economy was at risk of default, security has been a joke, and the unpopular government continues to face international humiliation. But despite the state’s perpetual ordeals, last week Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called up India to resolve “burning issues such as Kashmir”. Later Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari raised the Kashmir ‘issue’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos, but was left embarrassed when no global leaders shared his sentiment.
On a visit to J&K UT, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Micheal Rubin, declared – “Pakistan is in trouble. While Kashmiris under Pakistani control remain hobbled by a moribund economy and suppressed by Jamaat-e-Islami extremism, Kashmiris in India have security, taste freedom, and thrive.”
Today J&K UT is bubbling with developments. Youth is at the forefront of all activities. Gun culture and terror have been replaced with entrepreneurial tools and an enterprising mindset. Separatists and Pak-supporting elements are standing with begging bowls on streetcorners, unnoticed by people. Kashmiris have understood who truly cares for their well-being. They lived miserably in penury in the hands of sold-out leaders for decades. And they will not be deceived again.
In current situation, Pakistan can’t even think of Kashmir again; not just today but in the future too. While India is building a strong foundation for the youth in terms of education and self-employment opportunities paired with world-class learning centres and heavy cash inflow to jolt start-ups off ground, in Pakistan “public education is not a priority”, as published in the local daily Dawn.
64 percent of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30 and is still suffering the aftereffects of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization of education. When extremism and sectarianisation of education are tolerated at educational institutes, which themselves are supervised by religious scholars and conservatives rather than independent thinkers, one can only imagine the condition of the country in the coming years.
A recent survey claimed that 70 percent of Pakistani youth wanted to migrate to other countries in whatever capacity they can be employed. In the local government elections in Karachi last Sunday (15th January 2023), the youth turnout was a mere 20 per cent, showing a lack of interest. A young man claimed to have voted for Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) because it is in “fashion” these days.
Many believed since “polls are already rigged”, what is the point of casting the vote?
This is the “new blood” of the nation. More than 27,000 schools have been wiped out due to the flood and with that, we can predict more than half of the school-going children will never see the inside of a classroom because the schools will not be rebuilt in at least coming ten years (parallel to the 2005 Pakistan earthquake aftermath). Their hopelessness and frustration foreshadow the doom the country will befall in absence of timely measures.
Pakistan is running on life support, more so in recent years, living off of donations. It depends upon them to fire up the economic engine. The UAE loan of $3 billion ($2 bn existing debt and additional support of $1 bn) and $10 billion for flood recovery from Geneva, can buy time but will not keep them afloat as a nation.
Amid all this on January 17, Pakistan’s parliament amended and toughened its blasphemy law, sparking fear and unrest among minority groups who have fallen prey to its abuse throughout history. Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the rising Jammat party said it was necessary to make it stringent. Even when half the nation has no food to eat and innumerable water-borne diseases are killing hundreds daily.
The country’s economy is in the doldrums, youth is misguided and employed in violent services, and the socio-political atmosphere is a mawkish drama we have all watched for 70 years, the actors keep changing but the absurdity remains the same.
Every few years, the state falls back to a familiar place of despondency. The rouge country neither has the capacity nor the bright future to rise unless it invests its energies into itself. A false sense of stability and raising questions on Kashmir will only humiliate them further. It should focus on first standing on two feet without clutches, and forget Kashmir.