As a young adult, I have noticed that I am automatically categorized as being part of a generation that knows nothing or very little about politics nor seems to care about it. Rated as one of the most politically apathetic region in Pakistan, it makes one wonder whether we are really concerned with what’s going on around us. We seem detached with the political process in our own area. Majority of us (educated youth) don’t vote either. We see thing going on in wrong directions, but don’t react. Why? Because we don’t care; we have to complete our education; we are busy with our jobs; our leaders are not good; our political system is redundant; we don’t have time to think about. There are so many excuses for our irrelevancy and aloofness. But, it seems that we need to concentrate on this very important process of our social life. We must be serious about our political leadership, and political process or simply the most ignored part of our social life- politics.
Things are changing now. Over the past few years people, mostly the educated population, have started to realize that we are lagging behind in political development. They are now more critical about our political system. They have started to raise questions about the worth of our political leadership. They realize that the existing political system is not addressing the core needs of our society. They feel that our political leadership has failed to play their role to give us a proper direction, identity and recognition. There are so many question marks on the role of our political leadership. We need educated leaders, highly educated ones. This feeling seems started to take place and break in every mind in Hunza valley. People have realized that Hunza is lagging behind in political development inspite of achieving an honorable level in socio-economic development.
“I don’t know when the people of Hunza will think about an educated leadership at political front”, this question of Syed Yahya Shah at a seminar on “50 years of evolution of development in Hunza/Nagar-opportunities and challenges” on November 7, 2007 in Karimabad (Quoted by A. Zulfiqar, 2008), is enough to provoke our thoughts. It is adequate to open our eyes; it is sufficient to challenge our educated youth’s position and role in our political life. Why did he ask this question?
Hunzakuts are not only thinking but also striving to bring in the “educated leadership”. Unfortunately it is the prevailing political culture in our country which restricts the abilities of those leaders. Instead of leading the community they are falling prey of their personal gains and interests. Instead of actualizing their “broad vision” they are indulging themselves in a very narrow interpretation of development and progress. They are weighing their success with the yardstick of road and water channel construction, or establishment of few vocational centers. Elections have been an exercise of “spend and earn” in our country at all level.
Regrettably our political system has been monopolized by an array of corrupt politicians. Here I am not talking about the political system in our nameless land, Northern Areas, but I am talking about the entire country. Our system has been infected by innumerable social diseases, economic viruses and political germs. These, altogether, are blotting the immunity of every “educated leader”. Our political body is not sound, while a sound body is must for a sound mind. In this situation how can we expect that we will be able to bring some positive change at our end? It seems pleasant notion to elect educated and worth leading persons without any political affiliation, but when the entire political game has been played under the flags and shadows of various parties it is not easy to distant ourselves from certain political influences and affiliations. Let us say the educated segment of our society will do so, but what percentage of voters do they constitute? Our past experience shows that election results have been changed overnight. How and through what means we all know.
Strengthening our civil society organizations is the best way to foster the political process. It is, no doubt, the most effective method to enhance political awareness and develop our political leadership. But a sound and fair civil society structure always poses threat to the vicious interests of the corrupt politicians and the redundant political system or the ruling authority everywhere. They will never bear a sound civil society structure. What is happening in our country today is its best example. The game of spoiling civil society organizations is not only in progress on national level, but on regional and local level as well. It is also important to strengthen our CSO’s through active participation; through knowledge, skill and time contribution. Our educated youth is equipped with these requirements and they are also determent to play their due role. I hope they will.
Lack of political awareness is one of the major causes of our political backwardness. But what is political awareness? Political Awareness in its widest sense is an educational process whereby individuals explore and come to understand the influences which can affect their lives and those of others. Another question, why is it important? It is important because this process helps individuals to:
Think beyond themselves.
Recognize when change is necessary.
Build-up the skills and confidence to enable them to feel sufficiently empowered to contribute to change or action.
Make a positive contribution to society.
Secure the optimum quality of life for themselves and others.
Increase their knowledge of local, national and global issues.
It is not any overnight activity, but is a long term systematic process. It is a process of changing the mindset of people; it is a process of enabling people to decide for their future. So it is sophisticated too.
We need time, we need resources, we need opportunities, we need willingness, and above all we need determination and commitment. Both determination and commitment are crucial to raise political awareness and build strong political institutions in our area. We need to change the prevailing traditional undemocratic political culture of political parties. In order to bring change we need to give people awareness about collective cause and collective thinking. We need to make the people realize how precious their vote is. People must know how to use their vote. They must know what kind of leadership we need. They must trust our educated youth.
Let us not be pessimist or hopeless, let us come together and take step towards cultivating hope about a political system based on true democracy having pluralism as its base. Let us come out from our small packets: packets of villages, packets of localities and packets of regions. Let us work on political awareness.