Extremely tragic news as many bullet riddled dead bodies have been found in Baluchistan. These bodies have been revealed to be belonging to youth from Punjab’s Gujranwala district. The desperate youth were reportedly being smuggled from Pakistan to Europe and other destinations in search for healthy economic opportunities . They were shot down repeatedly from a close range which depicts that they must have been completely unable and helpless to protect themselves from imminent death.
The economic conditions prevailing for our youth in Punjab are deeply problematic where unable to earn and feed their families, they become easy target for human smugglers who prey on their precious resources, while promising them brighter future, like they did in Baluchistan. Just to give you an insight, most of the families affected by this tragedy were aware that their dear ones were taking an illegal route into another country and this may jeopardize their lives but still they were willing to take this risk as it may provide a way out of abject poverty.
There are a number of issues at play here. First is the dysfunctional state of our education system where despite education being declared a right in the constitution, we have till now failed to impart education to large sections of our population. So it is no surprise when uneducated youth with no skills in hand struggle to make ends meet and ultimately opt for desperate and dangerous measures for their survival and supporting their families.
Second is our population problem as Pakistan has one of the highest population growth rates in the region. Combine this with the fact that we have a family structure where mostly males are part of the labor force and they have the burden of earning for the entire household. With ever greater resources required to sustain this family structure, there are times when all sorts of unforeseen and unintended consequences follow as we saw in the prevailing case.
Third is the vicious cycle of poverty that is the result of interplay between above two factors and the kind of economic/development model we have in Punjab. When we have least investments in education or human capital development with a rapidly growing population having masses in poverty, we are just ensuring that our future generations end up in the poverty they were born into. This is primarily because our development model focuses on infrastructure to the detriment of our human resource. With the structure of economy skewed towards urban development while bulk of population lives in rural areas, the economic conditions for the rural youth could hardly be improved.
Most importantly, the news of the bullet riddled bodies found in Baluchistan is not a new one. Those who read news regularly about the province are tragically used to reading such news which are seldom reported on the mainstream media. The high handedness with which the dissent of the Baluch youth has been handled needs hardly any emphasis. However, since the youth involved in this case belonged to Punjab, therefore, it was reported widely and seen with concern. Such dual standards must be abandoned by the mainstream media altogether and all youth and their well being must be treated with same level of concern and empathy.
Can the state regulate the human traffickers that were involved in this incident and bring them to book? Can our educational paralysis be overcome by imparting education and skills for economically empowering our youth? Can we control our population problem by creating awareness among people? Can we alter our development model so that it is geared towards human development and eradicating poverty rather than flaunting infrastructure projects as hallmark of development? Can our media be mature enough to debate and discuss problems faced by our youth across provinces and give them a voice to make themselves heard?
I wish, hope and desire that the answers to all mentioned questions is a resounding YES, however, our recent history and existing circumstances caution me against such a response. But the examples of so many other countries that made out of direr situations tells me that another reality is possible. But the last and the most important question is: Do we really want such a reality as a nation and whether we have the will to aspire for it?