Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Opportunities Now (Panel Discussion)

To solve the unemployment problem of Pakistan, we need to ask ourselves a question like, why is there a significant difference between Pakistan and its neighbours, particularly India, in terms of industrial development and exports. We need to ask why Pakistan is behind India and why a small country, Israel, has developed while Pakistan has not. The answer lies in ‘thinking’, and thinking comes from education, and even mere education is not enough. Quality education is required to develop a ‘thinking community’.

Education-Society Nexus: The situation on the ground is just the opposite of what is required – Pakistan’s educational system has killed curiosity, thinking, and the desire to learn. It has failed to produce good minds. However, educational institutions, schools, colleges, and universities are not solely to be blamed for not bringing up curious-minded students; rather, society is to be blamed for it.

The Question of Religiosity: One of the main causes of brain drain is religious bigotry in Pakistan. The second cause is that merit does not prevail in Pakistan—A system that cannot distinguish between good and bad, cannot further the development of a society.

Taleem, but also Tarbiyat: We need to ask, what are opportunities, and where do they come from? Means are required to create, and the means are possessed by those in power – the politicians etc. Taleem (education) and tarbiyat (discipline and soft skills) are equally important. Rather one without the other is not possible—our system has failed on both counts.

Nurture Opportunities: Neither opportunities nor unemployment comes out of the blue – we reap what we sow—once we develop a pitch for nurturing opportunities, only then we will manage to reap opportunities otherwise, we will have unemployment— opportunities are available in a society where humans are equal in terms of their rights, where there is justice, and where there is transparency in behaviours.

Brain Drain: We face a brain drain from the country, and this furnishes evidence that sufficient opportunities to let the talent flower do not exist in Pakistan. Because the opportunities to work for self-recognition do not exist in the country—a ripe ground for the opportunities to be created is the one in which the system of merit and equal access prevails. It is these conditions that one should be striving for.

English as gatekeeper: Part of the opportunities that we have in this world and the opportunities that we have within our country come from being able to speak the language of the coloniser, i.e., English.

Opportunities via Universities: Universities are centres of learning and opportunities. There are three aspects of creating opportunities for youth in universities: mentorship, coaching, and research. These are important for personal as well as professional development, and these create opportunities for the youth.

Are there pro-poor opportunities?: People are poor because they are not empowered. Street vending is a pro-poor opportunity but is looked upon as encroachment by the administration. The administration is so averse to street vending that despite the existence of street vending no attempt is made to collect data on it. Around 99 percent of the street vendors are working without a license and this makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

  • The Islamabad administration, Ehsaas, and PIDE have worked together and launched a project for the betterment of the street vendors. The Prime Minister of Pakistan later suggested extending it to other parts of the country. So far, the project has covered approximately 375 vendors in Islamabad and about 160 of them have the newly designed efficient carts. The key message from the street vending project is that poverty has nothing to do with money – poverty results from disempowerment.

Arfa Sayeda Zehra
Professor, FCCU University

Pervez Hoodbhoy
Nuclear Physicist/ Activist

Neda Mulji
Senior Manager, Professional Development at Oxford University Press

Zia Banday
Senior Research Fellow, PIDE

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