Most young Pakistanis see nation going in the wrong direction, study finds

November 22, 2009

Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times

LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan will face a “demographic disaster” if it does not address the needs of its young generation, the largest in the country’s history, whose views reflect a deep disillusionment with government and democracy, according to a report released here on Saturday.

The report, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Nielsen research company, drew a picture of a deeply frustrated young generation that feels abandoned by its government and despondent about its future.

An overwhelming majority of young Pakistanis say their country is headed in the wrong direction, the report said, and only 1 in 10 has confidence in the government. Most see themselves as Muslim first and Pakistani second, and they are now entering a work force in which the lion’s share cannot find jobs, a potentially volatile situation if the government cannot address its concerns.

“This is a real wake-up call for the international community,” said David Steven, a fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, who was an adviser on the report. “You could get rapid social and economic change. But the other route will lead to a nightmare that would unfold over 20 to 30 years.”

The report provides an unsettling portrait of a difficult time for Pakistan, a 62-year-old nuclear-armed country that is fighting an insurgency in its western mountains and struggling to provide for its rapidly expanding population. The population has risen by almost half in just 20 years, a pace that is double the world average, according to the report.

The despair among the young generation is rooted in the condition of their lives, the report found. Only a fifth of those interviewed had permanent full-time jobs. Half said they did not have sufficient skills to enter the workplace. And one in four could not read or write, a legacy of the country’s abysmal public education system, in which less than 40 percent of children are enrolled in school, far below the South Asian average of 58 percent.

While most do not trust their government, they attach their loyalty to religion. Three-quarters identified themselves primarily as Muslim, with just one in seven identifying themselves as Pakistani.

The demographic power of this generation represents a turning point for Pakistan. Its energy, if properly harnessed, could power an economic rise, as was the case in many East Asian countries in the 1990s, Mr. Steven said in a telephone interview.

But if the opportunity is squandered by insufficient investment in areas like education and health care, the country will face a demographic disaster, the report said. To avoid that, the authors of the report calculated that Pakistan’s economy would need to grow by 36 million jobs in the next decade — about a quarter the size of the United States economy — an enormous challenge in an economy that is growing by about a million jobs a year.

Pakistan has a long way to go. The study interviewed 1,226 Pakistanis ages 18 to 29, from different backgrounds across the country, in March and April. More than 70 percent said they were worse off financially than they were last year. This year’s budget earmarks just 2 percent of the economy for education, about half the percentage spent in India and Turkey. Life in rural areas is rudimentary. The report cites data showing that 40 percent of households have no electricity, and that animal dung and leftover waste from crops account for more than 80 percent of the country’s energy use.

Young people’s biggest concern — far above terrorism — was inflation, which rose to 23 percent in 2009, pushing 7 percent of Pakistanis back into poverty, the report said. More than 90 percent agreed better quality education was a priority.

There were bright spots. The young people were civic-minded, with a third saying the purpose of education was to create good citizens. They were also more interested in collective action and volunteer activities than their parents. But they were deeply disillusioned with politics, which they saw as corrupt and based on a system in which personal connections mattered more than merit. That sentiment is borne out by the global competitiveness index of 133 countries produced by the World Economic Forum, which in 2009 put Pakistan in slot 101, two notches below Nigeria.

“Here a student struggles day and night but the son of a rich man by giving money gets higher marks than him,” the report quoted a young man in Lahore as saying.

That led to one of the report’s most surprising findings: Only a third of those polled thought democracy was the best system for Pakistan, equal to the fraction preferring Islamic law, in what David Martin, director of the British Council in Pakistan, called “an indictment of the failures of democracy over many years.”

Only 1 in 10 said they were “very interested” in political events in Pakistan, while more than a third said they were not interested at all. The highest-ranking institution was Pakistan’s military. Sixty percent of those interviewed said that they trusted it. Second highest was religious educational institutions, trusted by about 50 percent of respondents. The national government came last at 10 percent.

If the government has failed to channel the energy of Pakistan’s youth, militant groups have succeeded, drawing educated and uneducated young people with slogans of jihad and, in some cases, of social justice.

The findings were sobering for Pakistani officials. Faisal Subzwari, minister of youth affairs for Sindh Province, who attended the presentation of the report in Lahore, said: “These are the facts. They might be cruel, but we have to admit them.”

But young Pakistanis have demonstrated their appetite for collective action, with thousands of people taking to the streets last spring as part of a movement of lawyers, who were demanding the reinstatement of the chief justice, and Mr. Steven argued that the country’s future would depend on how that energy was channeled. “Can Pakistan harness this energy, or will it continue to fight against it?” he said.



  1. Pakistan is ripe for a youth revolution

  2. major contribution of PKKH in this .. NO doubt about it …

    Keep up the great work .. JazakAllah

  3. masha-ALLAH
    we need more this kind of activities …

  4. youth revolution my arse.

    what u need is stability

    • @ SAL

      Shut up Malu …and dont talk about ur Dirty Black ASS up here ….we dont want ur smelly shit up here …lol lol lol lol

      Here my dog is getting bored … do ur thing….lol lol lol 😀 😀 😀

  5. Pakistan’s biggest export to the world:

    • @yogi, just shut your mouth up. I dont know whats wrong with our neighbouring country, even when their wives get pregnant, they blame us for the coming shit….

  6. The Transparency International accused Pakistan’s Army as the most corrupt institution in Pakistan but added Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had, nevertheless, taken up serious violation of public procurement rules by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and other violators of rules.

  7. First step to dealing with a problem is admitting it!.I’m glad that we’re not pretending for Pak to be a great nation but we’ll get there!

  8. Mashalla.

  9. Pakistani government taken a good step against currupt people, most be all currupt people realse from the service,, as soon as possible..

    I think is the best opportunities for Democracy.

    I think valid opportunities for PPP government,,

  10. What you expect when 4 times boots and rest of the time some thieves run a country?

    As i discuss national issues with friends i clearly see their disappointment with the country as a “STATE” and not just a political party or setup.

    An elite of 2% of some GENERALS WADERAZ and BILLIONAIREs has hijacked this country with the help of political parties and the mullaz.

    The need is to invest in coming generations w.r.t education and health instead of Gauriz and Ghaznaviz and Nulcear tools.

    But like Javed chaudhry ask . . . “kare ga kon”

  11. These are good findings and i agree that this is the perfect time for the Government to show that they want to do something for the youth (if they want to). We are sick of every f**** person who comes into power, fills his pockets and flew away. We want someone who is sincere with the country and want Pakistan to rise among the world nations. I would also suggest for the youth to concerntrate on their study related activities reather then engaging themselves in such activities that the enjoyable momentarily but later when the time is over they would have nothing in their hand, no education, no future. I strongly believe if you have the will to progress and brighten your future then nothing can stop you. I can give you examples of the people who studies from ordinary schools but with their untiring efforts they did proved their metal. Work Hard and show the world your potential. I strongly believe kah ” agar num ho tu yay miti bari zarkhair hay saqe”. Longlive Pakistan :))

  12. While it is true that not only the youth but most of Pakistani people would most likely respond similary to such a question. The real question is what have they done to make it better, and the more important question is are they willing to consider this nation as their home ????. while most would be offended by this question but truely speaking what they need to ask themselves is ; how many would throw rubbish in the can rather than the streets, would they throw rubbish in their house like that, how many would be willing to stand in line rather push people around or pay underhand so they may be given preferred treament even if it means against laws and legalities, how many would keep their money in their own nation every time they feel that the boat is sinking, would you leave your home knowing that it is collapsing and there are family members inside it or try to strenghten it.While these questions might seem stupid outwardly but it reflects the thinking of people.

    It is the people who make a nation and their willingness to make it better that brings about a change. We have learnt the easy way out ” Blame the government and continue living the way we are ” not at all realizing that every time a government is formed it is from the people of that very nation and only reflects the thinking of the people.

    Let us accept that we are Pakistanis and we as a nation have to unite to make it a better place for our coming generations.

  13. This report has many aspects which need to be pondered. The conditions of the youth in Pakistan is alarming.

    We should face these circumstances with courage and hope that things will improve one day.

  14. i believe in our power and every point aired with my fellow brothers and sisters and i will never go against.i will every support what they need or want even though it maybe too weird and unacceptable

  15. hello,
    its true we r in problems but u know guys the whole world is in problems,may be more than u r in,but we as a nation simple people so we lost hopes soon,do not give up ur hopes, give hopes to determined and positive souls. good luck

  16. mashallah Allah hamare mulk ko salamat rakhe ameen.

  17. i proud to be a pakistani.

  18. Pakistan is going in the wrong direction and I am very proud of these young citizens who are wise beyond their years and can see the dilemnas that they face.

    Regardless of the environment, I strongly encourage them to persevere and educate themselves on all matters in life. Their desire to grow, be educated, and do right by themselves, their parents and their people and their country will be their ultimate road to prosperity. These young people of Pakistan are my heroes.

  19. aak baat kahoon ga sirf kay ” I LOVE PAKISTAN”


  21. It’s absolutely true and now it’s the responsibility of our youth. they must have to play their role to kick out the royalty of civil an military bureaucracy in Pakistan. These two department are wasting our 90% resources. And we must struggle to kick out the feudal’s and inherited politicians from our country please don’t raise the slogans to stamp on TEER and SHARE those who cannot manage the situation of sugar and flour crisis how they coward can manage the situation of War and in stability in country.

  22. i m proud 2 b a Pakistani

  23. i love Pakistan

  24. I just love my dear Motherland…….Pakistan Zinda Bad.

  25. The situation is worsened, what is required here is to mobilize youth to change the norms and corrupt practices.If the youth of our nation will just be limited to become good machinery for making cash,hanging out with friends and party… this situation will go worse.. We can’t leave our country in the hands of a handful of corrupt politicians and army rulers.. we have to come to the front … we will have to fight.. we will have to bring the revolution… First look down on urself and make your self right..then come and face the reality, n stay together, united.. we will see the difference. or else Pakistan would just be a piece of land searching for a nation…
    Proud to be a Pakistani
    Long live Pakistan

  26. We have to do something physically, other wise situation will remain same.

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