Monday, December 07, 2009

The coming generation in Pakistan: Unprepared?

A few days ago [Nov 22, 09] Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times gave us a summary of the British Council’s recent survey of Pakistan’s young people. The report indicates that this generation, the largest in the country’s history, is deeply disillusioned with their government and democracy. Not good news for the future of that country.

They feel abandoned by their government and are discouraged about the future. Few have found jobs, and half of those interviewed actually stated that they lack the skills to enter the workplace. One in four could not read or write. Most identify themselves as Muslims before claiming they are Pakistani. Their greatest worry is inflation – not the Islamist insurgency that has been expanding over the country. Only a third of them think democracy is the best system for Pakistan; about the same number saw "Islamic law" [some version of sharia?] as preferable. The most respected institution was Pakistan’s military; the next-most respected were the religious schools. Scarcely any of them had much respect for the civilian government.

So, along with all the other reasons to worry about Pakistan there is the generation of Pakistanis that will rise to prominence in the next two decades or more: they are under-educated, disillusioned with the institutions of governance, respectful of the military and the religious schools; indifferent to the threat of radical Islamism even as it become more vicious before their eyes.

It is hard for any of us to peer into the future with much discernment, but the picture this report gives us of the up-coming generation in Pakistan suggests that they are even less adequately able to envision and prepare for the kind of world they are likely to face in the future.

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