‘Youth is the joy, the little bird that has broken out of the eggs and is eagerly waiting to spread out its wings in the open sky of freedom and hope.’
In a ninety to hundred years’ period, a nation sees three human generations. So in the whole world the three generations ? the seniors, the middle-aged and the youth ? simultaneously spend life, owing to their social enlightenment along with economic and political development, with the respective age differences. This puts the youth in a position from where they can make close and detailed observations of their recent past and compare it with the contemporary world as well. The perceptivity and insight based on the profound knowledge of social and political history make the young people agile and diligent to do some sound planning and devise effective policies for the brighter future.
Now at the eve of 65th anniversary of the Pakistan’s independence, if we make an in depth analysis of the youth’s role in the same context, the complexity of the grave political, social and economic woes will be comprehendible quite easily and we will be able to look for the future opportunities to get out of these imbroglios.
We are strongly convinced rather we believe that the War of Independence 1857 was the starting point of the Independence or Pakistan Movement. We see three generations actively involved in this struggle with the leadership role passing on from Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his illustrious fellows to Quaid-e-Azam eventually. Realistically speaking, the Muslims of the subcontinent did make a long struggle for the independence with extreme vigour and commitment, and at last their efforts bore the fruit when on August 14, 1947, Pakistan became an independent state. The generation that included Quaid-e-Azam also, was quite young at the dawn of the 20th century but grew old when the goal of independence was achieved.
The people who were born in 1920-30s were young at the time of independence. But between these two generations, there was another generation comprising mature and middle-aged fellows. This lot included the personalities like Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardi, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. It is the perturbing fact that at the time when Pakistan could have been made stronger and thrivingly prosperous, most of these leaders formulated and followed the policies which did more harm than the good to the country and its future prospects.
But the generation that was rather young at the time of partition was far more important than their predecessors. The first major issue which Pakistan faced soon after independence was the arrival of millions of migrants. Their arrival continued incessantly until 1951 when Pakistan barred their entry to hold the first census in the country. According to independent estimates, nearly 4.5 million Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while almost 6.5 million Muslims came into Pakistan. The results of the first census, taken in 1951, revealed that the total population of Pakistan was 33,816,000. From the demographic point of view, the population, and its proportion of youth, is necessary to mention here.
Eighty-five per cent of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan in wake of the partition were young. The census showed their count at more than 20,000,000. They mainly belonged to central parts of India. The migrants from Eastern part of Punjab mainly settled in rural areas. It is pertinent to mention that at that time, the country’s urban population was only 17.80%. It means the total urban population of Pakistan was 6 million while the population of major cities of Karachi and Lahore was 0.8 million and 0.3 million, respectively.
Analysis of the data in sociological research perspective reveals that on one hand, we had majority rural population, i.e. 82.20% while on the other we had the feudal system prevalent with all its tyranny and oppression in full force. And, unfortunately, till now when more than six decades have passed, there is only a meagre decline in this system. Thus, the size of middle class neither grew according to the proportion nor could it play a pivotal role on the political front. Contrary to this, the middle class youth of India and after its creation in 1971, Bangladesh, had contributed a lot to arouse the social and political awakening in their respective countries.
The young generation of 1947 became active on the national political scene in 1960s. Among them leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Mufti Mehmood, Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani, Prof Khursheed Ahmed and Ch. Zahoor Ehlahi are prominent.
A discourse of the most deplorable event in our national history and the popular leadership in the subcontinent along with international developments that actually affect our political state of affairs seems necessary here.
On December 16, 1971, East Pakistan separated from its western wing to become a new country, Bangladesh. Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi were the most popular political leaders of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, respectively in the history of subcontinent. They were dealing with national and international politics and decision-making adeptly. The question here is that ‘was it just a coincidence that all three of them faced unnatural death?’ It doesn’t seem so.
In the ’70s, the people who represented youth at the time of independence assumed power to govern the country. This was the time when the next young generation, born in 1957-58, also emerged. I also belong to this new young generation.
Our generation is blamed for many ills in the society. However, it is noteworthy that in the, ’70s, nearly 35 million people of this generation went abroad, especially the Middle East, for the employment. Today, even when they had grown old, they are still there to serve the nation by sending foreign exchange in billions of dollars annually.
On the political front, the youth of this era came forward to assume the leadership responsibilities during Gen Zia-ul-Haq regime. Some of these politicians favoured him while many vehemently opposed him. These include Ms Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Altaf Hussain, Ch. Sujaat Hussain, Asfand Yar Wali, Imran Khan, and Ch. Pervaiz Ehlai.
Benazir Bhutto, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Asfand Yar Wali, Ch. Sujaat Hussain and Ch. Pervaiz Elahi got this status in inheritance while Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif rose as new political leaders after 1985.
The 1981 census showed that the population of the country was 84,254,000 with 28.28% urban population while rural population stood at 71.72%. It means that the urban population was about 25,000,000. Altaf Hussain represented the middle class urban population of Karachi but he entitled his party ‘Muhajir Qaumi Movement’. It is widely believed that he represents a linguistic group. However, he has been continually trying to elaborate his party’s manifesto on the basis of the rule of middle class. But, the fact is there that MQM had not yet succeeded in winning seats like PML(N) or PPP.
Now, in 2012, the country’s total population stands at more than 180,000,000 individuals. Among them about 90,000,000 live in cities. Encouragingly, the youth is 50% of our nation. This is the third generation since independence and they too have a lot of complicated problems before them left unsolved by their two predecessors especially the leaders belonging to these generations.
As regards the political leadership of this third generation, the names ininclude Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Fatima Bhutto, Hamza Shahbaz, Maryam Nawaz, and Moonis Ehlai who are inheriting leadership from there elders.
But this 3rd generation can bring about a revolutionary change in upcoming elections because the voter’s age limit is 18 years, thus more than 30,000,000 new voters will be registered. NADRA had also announced that before the next general elections, all the fake votes which are more than 30000000 will be removed.
Now, the most important and pertinent question of today is ‘Who will be the leader to channelise the lan and dynamism of our youth to bring about the revolution?’ Let’s hope for the best!