Looking for future leadership

By: Ali Azami

It is usually believed, and so did rightly, that the future of a nation is determined by its youth. How the future of a nation will look is dependent upon how much the young people of that nation are conscious about the role they are going to play in the development of the country because it is the younger generation that has to hold the reins of a country in future. A nation is considered to be fortunate if its majority of the population comprises of youth, and becomes even more fortunate if that youth is well educated and skillful. Pakistan happened to be a fortunate country in the sense that youth makes more than sixty percent of its population. But the question that arises is whether or not the youth of the country is ready and capable of ruling over the country in the future. The keenness and interest of young people in national politics is something to cherish about. But, is youth really inclined towards practical and electoral politics? Are we going to see well-educated young men and women to be serving as political leaders of the motherland in the future? Will the future political landscape of the country be different from what we observe today. Who will be leading the nation politically in the times to come? Will the dynastic nature of national politics be changed? To ascertain the answers to these pertinent questions, just have a visit to any academic institute or university and interact with the youngsters studying over there asking them about their opinions about the overall political system and existing state affairs. It would be definitely a pleasant experience to see the young generation express their opinion in an articulate manner over different social and political issues existing in Pakistan. They are not only aware of the problems afflicted upon the country but also analytical enough to present their solutions as per their own understanding. So, seeing the interest in politics, of youth, and that is also educated, gives a sense of better future with regard to political culture and system of the country. But this is only one side of the picture. The other side depicts a different case altogether. To visualize this side of the picture, just ask the same young people another question and that is about their future ambitions. You will be pleased to know that you are interacting with future doctors, engineers, IT experts, journalists, lawyers, business persons, civil servants, army officers, teachers, etc. That is very positive thing that youngsters are determined to serve the country in different fields. But there should be a matter of concern as you will hardly find someone aspiring to be a future politician or leader, let alone the prime minister. Despite having a lot of interest, the young generation is not desirous of joining practical politics. In other words, they find it to be very difficult to enter into the arena of practical politics. So it is essential to determine those factors that prevent the young generation from becoming the part of electoral system of the country.

One of the primary reasons that create hurdles for the youth in their way to joining politics is the overall political culture prevalent in the country. The political culture is characterized by the presence of a capitalistic system favoring industrialists and landlords at upper level, and caste and clan-oriented politics at the lower level. At the local level, the politics revolve around the biradarism,various kind of pressure groups and thana culture. So, in this scenario, the space for a young well-educated person willing to take part in electoral politics is shrunk. It seems to be impossible for him to synchronize with this political culture, and resultantly he keeps himself aloof from this type of politics.

Another factor that desists the youth from going in for practical politics is the lack of political training among the young people. There is no platform available in the country to train and prepare the youth for politics. In the past, there used to be student unions in colleges and universities which served as a nursery for the development of political leadership in the country. These students’ unions produced many leaders, of them, a few are still very prominent over the political horizon of the country. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the ban was imposed on students ‘ unions in 1984, and still has not been reinstated thereby further increasing the gulf between the younger generation and the political process of the country. And this is not a positive thing as there is already deficit of political leadership, and if the invaluable resource in the form of youth is not channelized into making a political entity and power, the nation will be grappling with issue of leadership dearth in the future as well.

In order to make the youth an inclusive part of the national political system, a few measures have to be taken seriously. It should be made mandatory for every political party to grant a certain percentage of party tickets to young people thus making them contest the election. If every political party does so, many new faces will be seen in the parliament and political institutions. In this regard if legislation is required, it should be rendered to induct the youth into political process of the country.

Secondly, the ban on students’ unions should be lifted. No doubt, there are a lot of negative things associated with these unions. Specifically, the element of violence and extremism became an inseparable part of student politics in the past. But outlawing the unions is not a solution to this problem. Ethnic and sectarian groups must be discouraged from polluting the atmosphere of campuses but not at the cost of students unions because if this platform is also made unavailable to the youth then they are left with no option of entering into the national political stream. In other words, the majority of the population is detached from political system of the country.

In a nutshell, arrangements must be made on social, political, legislative and administrative levels devising the path for the youth to move on and provide the nation with vibrant and energetic leadership having the capability to navigate the country through turbulent circumstances and present viable and innovative solutions to existing challenges facing the country. As, to  reinvigorate the deteriorating body of current political system, circulation of fresh blood is drastically needed. And there is none other than youth that can act as this fresh blood and revitalize the dormant political system of the country.