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Pakistani Senator Shares Views of Pakistani Youth

October 2003 — During his visit to RAND, Pakistani senator Abdullah Riar gave IMEY his feelings on Pakistani youth:

Senator Riar

"The population of Pakistan is 150 million, representing 40% of the Muslim population of Southasia and 12% of the Muslim population of the world. The youth among this population faces a triple jeopardy: collapsed education and health infrastructure, distorted priorities at the national level with a grossly inflated defense budget, and a lack of inspiring leadership which could offer them a forward looking national vision. The result is a lack of motivation and diminishing hope. Under better conditions the youth of a society can be a vital force for progress and prosperity, but unfortunately under this environment of hopelessness and apathy certain potent forces of exploitation have successfully taken advantage of this segment of society and channeled their energies towards distorted priorities such as the jihad of Afghanistan and the struggle for Kashmiri freedom. The Afghan conflict created the mushrooming of religious seminaries preaching narrow versions of Wahhabi Islam. They acted as factories producing human missiles. They created a critical mass of disoriented, emotionally blindfolded youth , pursuing Jehad and martyrdom as the objects of life.

"This deliberate intoxication of Pakistani youth has even overtaken the silent majority of the youth who do not subscribe to this vision of life. Obviously the total collapse of the education system did not help the situation. Now when global realities have changed and country has to adjust its priorities, the nation is experiencing a very costly withdrawal. Some of the symptoms are in form of turning the same weapon inward (domestic terror).

"The need of the hour is to market a new vision of a moderate Pakistan persuasively at every level, by a legitimate political leadership which carries credibility with the masses. The coalition of international forces against terrorism should also include the detoxification of Pakistani youth and nation as part of their agenda - after all, they were a party to the exercise on intoxication."