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Social challenges of Pakistan and Media

The social constitution and safety of the people are necessary ingredients for a broad-based and inclusive growth of a nation, but Pakistan after 65 years of its creation, is still far away from properly addressing the confronting social challenges.

Resultantly, today Pakistani society is polarised and is beset with social and economic injustice, religious and ethnic sectarianism, gender and class discrimination, terrorism and extremism, unemployment and inflation, illiteracy and health sector problems, high population growth rate and insufficient food supply, energy crisis and lack of foreign investment and so on. Although Pakistan, the 7th nuclear power with a strong army, is the sixth most populous country in the world yet in the recent UNDP human development indicators, it stands at 145th position.

Keeping in view the current growth rate, it is predicted that Pakistan will be the world’s third most populous country by 2050. However, the silver lining is that nearly 67% of more than 170 million Pakistanis comprises the youth with an average age of less than 30 years. We are comparatively a young, vigorous and energetic nation with loads of potential. Ironically, no proper strategy has been devised yet to channel the abounding talent and élan of youth in the right direction.

Rapidly growing population, internal and external political tensions and a debt-ridden economy, all serve to thwart Pakistan’s progress that it needs to develop and perhaps even to survive. Massive foreign debt eats up half of budget every year. Hence, it doesn’t remain possible to allocate sufficient funds for economic and social development. This has pushed a considerable portion (34%) of Pakistanis to live in abject poverty while the unemployment rate is also on the rise.

With the highest rate of urbanisation in the region, the extent and intensity of the socioeconomic problems of Pakistan has soared to alarming level. Due to poverty, unemployment and unmanageable urbanisation, the basic amenities i.e. shelter, food and clothing are not being adequately provided. This deprivation has become the apparent cause of different other menaces. Social evils like street crimes, robbery, beggary, drug addiction, etc. are becoming common. The caste system and superstitions are also deep-rooted in the society. This state of affairs has made social reforms imperative for the development of the society and the masses.

We need to focus on diverse approaches to combat these menaces as the goal of social stability is unachievable without spreading education compatible with the requirements of the contemporary world and advancements in science and technology. Pakistan needs reforms and innovation in political, education, health and agriculture sectors and above all economic reforms are the most urgently required. We have to adopt the policies which facilitate local solutions for our problems and media can play a significant and supportive role in this regard.

Being the fourth pillar of the state, it plays the role of a watchdog in a democratic society. It also enhances the knowledge by communicating the happenings from around the world. Media in Pakistan is working rather freely. It is poised to serve the nation in having a bright future. A variety of TV channels are on air nowadays and their content comprises diverse programmes ranging from news and talk shows to sitcoms, dramas, music and sports. It also highlights multiple issues related to education, social crimes, politics, religion, etc.

This unprecedented growth and range of Pakistani media make someone believe that it is playing and can play a constructive role to overcome the social challenges. Media has effectively highlighted the important issues, particularly, war on terror, energy crisis, water shortage, social crimes, poverty, etc.  It has helped in formulating public opinion against the war on terror which has caused a great deal of economic and human loss to Pakistan.

Ironically, no proper strategy has been devised yet to channel the abounding talent and lan of youth in the right direction.
The importance and role of media is undeniable especially with reference to social challenges of Pakistan. It reveals the truth to the people about all the social issues. Its diverse programmes not only reflect the social evils but also present solution to them. It is playing a significant role in changing and reshaping the social attitude of Pakistanis. The media plays a pivotal role in national identity building within and outside the country. Professional journalists strive to create a sense of belonging in the disillusioned youth and encourage them to be the responsible citizens of Pakistan.

However, it is observed that Pakistani media, sometimes, does not maintain balance between political and social issues rather more time is given to the politics and political activities. The role of various media houses, in the recent years, has become quite irresponsible. The journalists frequently cross the limits and exaggerate the facts in a bid to improve their readership, and channels, their viewership. This harum-scarum and irrational approach creates unrest and leads to chaos which ultimately negates development. TV channels and newspapers should develop a responsible and balanced approach and show a responsible behaviour while addressing the social issues. Many journalists are also blamed for their political affiliation and that they work on a defined agenda. This state of affairs requires improvement and professionalism to play its role effectively.

In prevailing situation, media should work to create consciousness and awareness among the masses through their programmes. It should motivate and boost up the morale of the public and the government as well. This motivation and guidance can inspire them to resolve conflicts and work together for the common interests and resolve the social problems. The media should refrain from biased criticism and provide fair and balanced analysis to the public. It should show both sides of the picture. Programmes of broadcast media should be aimed at providing guidance to the general public and have solution-oriented approach.

It is the responsibility of media to highlight and project the positive aspects and activities while discourage the unethical factors of the society to achieve the goal of social development. The sensitive social issues must be reported sensibly and with great care.

Media should strive toward stabilising and strengthening the country and play its important role through disseminating information and education. It should also work to spread awareness and knowledge as only those societies develop that have a high literacy rate and are knowledgeable.

The media should criticise the government for improvement in governance and good aspects and steps should also be admired.

Social media can be a strong motivator when it comes to mobilise the youth as youth is now socialising online because such conversations are more interactive. The examples of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution manifest the impact of social media. Media can be used to sensitise and motivate the youth for adopting positive attitude towards the betterment of society.

By: Dr. Anjum Zia

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