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Perspectives

April 23, 2009
With no future in sight, young Pakistanis pick up arms

Young Pakistanis face dim economic prospects.

Poverty alleviation is fundamental to contain and reverse extremism,” an aide to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari recently stated. 

Terrorism has cost Pakistan an estimated $35 billion, and though international donors recently pledged billions to help the country’s deteriorating economy, the unemployment rate is soaring. 

Sharmeen Gangat is a Pakistani-American who writes at the “World Policy Blog” to explain why she left Pakistan — and why youth too poor to leave often resort to lucrative criminal acts. 

Sharmeen Gangat: Crime and (the Lack of) Punishment in Pakistan

The grim reality of daily violence is an ever-present concern for millions of Pakistanis. Sadly, fearing for the safety of one’s family is a part of everyday life.

From my perch outside Pakistan, the international discussion often focuses on my homeland as a place for harboring and exporting terrorists. What goes missing is any apparent concern for what is happening to civilian life within the country.

Since 2002, there have been 140 suicide blasts. But the total figures obscure a worrying rising trend: in 2008 alone, 61 suicide bombings killed approximately 889 civilians and injured 2,072.

“When suicide bombs are such a norm, who would cry over kidnappings, robberies, and murders?” said my brother.[…]

At the root of the problem are Pakistan’s weak political and legal institutions, and the lack of opportunities for educated and the resourceful youth. As such, those with the means (like myself) look to migrate abroad. Those who don’t have sufficient funds or connections to leave the country often resort to picking up arms—either for corrupt political leaders, on behalf of terrorist organizations, or sometimes just for themselves.

The lack of economic opportunities for youth combined with religious indoctrination has resulted in a gang mentality, with violent crime as the obvious result. There are more students graduating than there are jobs available, and a lack of technical, professional, and vocational institutions adds to the problem.

In this climate, criminal activities offer a lucrative option, spiced with religious frenzy and anti-American banter that has roots in the U.S.-supported war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979 and that has been re-inflamed by recent events.

If the scourge of terrorism is to be fought and won in that country, the United States will have to ally with local youth (in both Pakistan and Afghanistan) who can be won over by positive economic and social development.

In the past, Pakistanis have responded warmly to American humanitarian efforts. For example, after the United States pledged $510 million for post-earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan in 2005, 78 percent of Pakistanis expressed a more favorable opinion of the United States—with the strongest support among those under 35 years of age. Interestingly, this also resulted in a significant decline in support for Al Qaeda.

But what must come first is support for the rule of law and the rebuilding of a broken police and security apparatus. Until people feel safe at home and have opportunities for education, advancement, and steady employment, the lure of the gun will prove too strong.

To read more, see the original post.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Travlr under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments

2 comments

#2

Hum like my other friends who just write the few sentence above about the youth of pakistan and there so called future in there on ways i will just say that writing and just pointing on some thing is a very easy thing we have to do some thing in real we pakistanies are just dreaming,and every one knowns that dreams naver come true with out hard work .a few days ago i just read a joke in news paper basicaly it was not a joke it was a statment of one of pakistan some sort of ambasdorin usa he says that usa just pick out the name of pakistan from the list of those countries for which they have introduce the new security systeam and its a work of our government and balabalabal but he didnt say that usa just fully stop that systeam for all the countreies
hahah

#1

What most people tend to ignore is that huge majority of pakistanis who have the means and decide not to leave and also those who do not have the means and do not take up arms, whats lies on bothe the ends of this spectrum is universal,.It is is the same across the world. Young unemployed men are taking up arms not just in Pakistan but in U.S, U.K, France so why such a concern over just the economic situation. When any one stands up to question the reasons why this country came into being or when it is going to disintegrate they must look at what oyther factors are at play. I am not blinded by patriotism but I am not blinded . For one if only the out side influences stop encouraging the most corrupt to be leading this nation i believe that things would be a lot better.

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