A message for Pakistani youth stuck in a rut

A message for Pakistani youth stuck in a rut


The Problem

Let’s admit, it is difficult time for youth in Pakistan. The environment is incredibly over stimulating. The local news feed is surreal, bizarre and traumatizing.  As a Pakistani living abroad, it is difficult to overlook the many tabloid news channels that have mushroomed in Pakistan over the last decade.

With a school siege here, a bomb scare there, politicians in fisticuffs, anarchic riots and corruptions scandals on a conveyer belt, there is always plenty on offer.

With such engaging delights, who would not be hooked on? And so hours are wasted in front of bickering talk shows or news bulletins to get tiny morsels of information from every breaking story. This bombardment of negativity does impact the collective emotional state, which is left at a very low notch.

To overcome depressive low -injected through drip feed of vile using the conduit of yellow journalism- Pakistan has adopted a policy of fighting fire with fire. More screen time is dedicated to “Prozac” programs which in turn overcompensate and push people in a viscous cycle. The anti-depressant viewing includes watching cricket, football or being glued to the cell phone in wait for that one text message to arrive.

Whenever I return to Pakistan, I am never short of finding people who watch test match cricket, ball to ball, for days.  And that too of teams that do not include Pakistan. Don’t get me wrong watching cricket is in our DNA, but we don’t realize its price i.e. the opportunity cost of time.

The unregulated cable operators have rolled out a channel bonanza and with that wide choice has come gluttonous consumption.  It is one thing to watch English premier league matches, it is another to endlessly feast on Bundesliga , La Liga and Serie-A matches among others.

Curious minds that should have been acquiring skills and soaking up useful information are absorbing futile sporting records. If not, they typing or forwarding narcissistic posts on social media with the caption, this deserves a like (is post per aik like to bunta hai). The phrase popularized by Timothy Leary “Turn on, tune in, drop out” has found a whole new meaning in Pakistan.

Stuck in a Rut

In any society it is the middle class that is engine of progress. It is this portion of demographic from which the creativity oozes. It is middle class youth that recognizes and solves the challenges that are faced by a nation and propels it forward. It is the agent of change that challenges the status quo, instils vibrancy and provides the energy to persevere. It is the seed that brews revolution. Pakistani middle class youth however is in a process of getting anesthetized.

A hallmark of Pakistanis abroad has been their entrepreneurial spirit. The cocktail of senseless entertainment and traumatic news feed is sapping this capacity from the current crop.

Equal in this crime of dormancy is the fairer sex. Generally speaking, if it is sports and talk shows for men, then it is soap operas and 24 hour cooking channels for the ladies.  Some of these food networks due to scarcity of quality content churn out constant garbage.  Here is a classic, “Today we are going to make Lasagne with all this cheese and pasta. It is extremely healthy as we will bake it and not deep fry it”

Only in Pakistan: Nutritious and 1 of five a day- a Portion of Lasange
Only in Pakistan: Nutritious and 1 of five a day- a Portion of Lasange

It is important to point out that many young people in the upper middle class enjoy luxuries that can only be dreamed of in the west. They enjoy the absolute freedom from daily chores, such as washing, cooking and cleaning that most people living in the west have to take up. This spare time that should have gone into creativity has on the contrary  killed any development.

Pakistani Youth, time to wake up

Pakistan is not Palestine, Iraq, modern-day Syria or Afghanistan, countries where youth has been pushed into a strait jacket environment. We have an infrastructure that might not be as efficient, but it is in existence. We have to come out of this rut.

To address this very latent nature, Iqbal reached out to the youth:

Khuda tujhay kisi tufan say ashna ker day

Kay teray behar ki maujon main istriab nahi


May God acquaint you with some storm! 

For there is no billow in your sea of norm

The way forward

Only if we open our eyes we would see a world of endless possibilities. Anyone connected to the internet, has the world at his feet. And many of our fellow Pakistanis have treaded the path and made a name of their own in the global village while remaining in Pakistan.

In today’s world, where connectivity has provided the license to work from home there is nothing stopping us from offering freelance services of the skills we already have. Talented Pakistanis such as Eyedeus lab in Lahore who created the popular smartphone app Groupic, have shown that it is only a matter of will.

With the current modes of money transfer (PayPal, wire transfer and Western union) not even a domestic bank account is required to be paid for services.

“Talented Pakistanis” has almost become a cliché term and yet we have not capitalized on it.  We just need to follow the three steps to greatness:

  1. Unhook

It would be hard at the start, but one has to turn away from the media offerings. Everything should be consumed in moderation. With the cricket world cup beginning, there is little chance that most people will pay heed to this advice. However one must weigh the cost of this entertainment.  Citing my own example, I doubled the productivity on my blog articles, by halving the time I spent on media.

Further on the unhooking phase, the sooner it’s done the more beneficial it is. However for many individuals who have become institutionalized in their spaces, it can be a gradual process.

  1. Regroup

Replace your talk shows with a skill that you have wanted to learn. For example, one can learn a language or a craft that they always wanted to practice. There is a wealth of information that can create ample opportunities. For example using the information available on the internet, a friend of mine has made a business of turning waste cooking oil into diesel.  Likewise there are people who have created lucrative livelihoods just by creating websites and blogs. As Seth Godin has pointed out, with the internet everyone can have their own media house.

  1. Rise and Shine

Once sufficient skill level is acquired, the word is your oyster; the world is your market. Using the internet, pitch yourself to a global audience.

Disseminate, enthrall and receive plaudits of things that you take pride in. The reward and the feedback received would be the fuel for the further perpetuation of your work and constant self improvement. The greater the effort the greater the luster and shine.

Internet Highway: Endless possibilities
Internet highway: Endless possibilities

It should be noted that the global market waiting to be tapped is not limited to just IT services (computer programming or app development). There is a host of other services that can be offered. CAD (computer Aided Drawing), Arts (logo design, illustrations) write ups (article and report and ebook), paraphrasing, business support, sales and marketing, engineering consultancy are just to cite a few.

People who complain about the lack of electricity and a robust infrastructure need to be reminded that the hindrances and challenges help in bringing the best out of us. For instance, if it wasn’t for lack of support for our bowlers on the dusty pitches, we wouldn’t have invented reserve swing.

Rising against adversity is a ticket and an opportunity to realize our potential.