Arab revolution in Pakistan!

Youth are the only hope in the current circumstances in Pakistan who can alter the path of history. Are they ready to bring this change? You never know!

Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa are witnessing amazing waves of change these days. After the relentless youth in Tunisia successfully threw out the three-decade old dictatorship a similar surge in agitation and protest is sweeping across Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and possibly some other countries of the region. Will these waves have a domino effect in other Arab nations or cross the region to Muslim states in Asia, Africa and the Far East? Will this youth revolt bring a real change or it will prove to be a temporary outcry of some disgruntled youth? The world is anxiously waiting to get answers to these vital questions.

In a region where agitation and political rallies are not common modes of change historically, these new waves of discontent are seen as a breath of fresh air with youth taking the center stage challenging decades old dictatorships, political repression, economic deprivation, denial of political freedom to citizens and widespread corruption of the upper class and ruling elites.

This time, however, an important contributing factor behind the recent uprising is a large number of young Arabs who are dissatisfied with deteriorating economic and political conditions in their countries. The overwhelming unemployment rate which is more prevalent in young women than men is also giving rise to the deeply-rooted gender discrimination economically and socially.

A widely unnoticed demographic report recently released by the “Pew Forum of Religion and Public Life” has revealed astonishing population trends in Muslim societies. The report confirms that youth make a predominant proportion of Muslim countries today. The report says, in 1990 more than two-thirds of the total population of Muslim-majority countries was under 30. Today, people under 30 make up about 60% of the population of these countries and by 2030 they are projected to fall to about 50%. Despite this fall to 50% however, youth will still be the major part of Muslim societies as compared to non-Muslim societies. This trend is typical for Muslim nations that sets them a part from non-Muslim countries where youth are not a large proportion of their societies.

The young-and-restless in these Muslim societies are finally out on the street to make a positive change. The lack of political participation, illiteracy, unemployment, gender inequality, poverty and class-based repression are the major causes of this unrest in the region today. These young men and women have seen no change in their life during the last three decades. While they have seen dictators clinging to power transforming political leadership into a sham monarchy changing batons from fathers to sons, these young people do not see economic and political future for themselves.

Political, social and economic conditions are not different in Muslim countries outside the Middle East and North Africa. A more astonishing projection of the above mentioned report states that the Muslim population will grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades. It will increase by 35% in the next 20 years, from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion in 2030.

This surge will also be seen in Asia in 2030 when Pakistan will become the largest Muslim nation in the continent surpassing Indonesia. Pakistan’s population is projected to increase from 178 million in 2010 to 256 million in 2030. Currently youth are already an enormous part of Pakistan’s population where over half of the people are under 19. As a matter of fact more young people live in Pakistan now than at any other time in its history. Pathetically,36% of youth in the country have never gone to school and consequently they are unable to read and write. As more educated young people belong to the higher socio-economic class, a large number of our youth are illiterate and poor.

For Greg Mortenson, who has established dozens of schools for girls in remote areas of Pakistan,educating a girl means educating the whole generation. Educated women positively impact well-being of the whole family in terms of educational level, family health and upbringing of children. Paradoxically, poverty in Pakistan has further widened the gender imbalance in the society where women already suffer from a cultural, social and economic discrimination. Only one-fifth of the girls in poor strata of the society go to school.

Although most Muslim societies all over the world face similar challenges of illiteracy, economic disparity and gender inequality, their political systems, based on historical realities, are somewhat different. In the Middle East and North African Muslim societies, civilian dictators, supported by the army, the business class, and external powers, have established and successfully sustained their hegemonic ruling system for decades using fake elections and pseudo-democratic institutions.

In Pakistan, however, military has been in the driving seat for the last 60 years allowing political parties to form governments following each devastative military regime in the country. Although they have been ruling the country for most of the time, they have been successful in creating a negative image of political parties blaming them for all the ills created by the military itself. Every pseudo change in the country has come through the marching boots.As a result of ill-conceived policies mostly determined by the military, fundamentalism has been intensified giving rise to daily incidents of violence and factional infighting resulting in the loss of civilian lives at an unimaginable scale.

Demographic, social, economic and political conditions are ripe for a youth revolt in Pakistan. In the wake of widespread dissatisfaction and frustration, people, however, have taken refuge toa state of psychological hibernation avoiding direct confrontation with the elite. Perhaps, they have been terrorized for too long!

However, any true revolution in the country has to drastically change the prevailing political setup uprooting fundamentalism,dismantling feudalism, throwing out the bureaucracy and sending armed forces back to their barracks for good. Following the Turkish model, army has to support and nurture democracy, instead of destabilizing it.

Youth are the only hope in the current circumstances in Pakistan who can alter the path of history by transforming its political, social and economic structures into a more participatory and equitable system to be relevant and functional in the broader sense of history. Are they ready to bring this change? You never know!

(From Viewpoint Online)