Thursday, April 04, 2013

This is Pakistan's most conservative generation

by Salman Hameed

In time for the elections, a new survey by the British Council has come out that looks at the views of Pakistan's youth. It is a fascinating report and I'm going through it right now (you can find the pdf here). But I want to highlight two quick things. First, it seems that this is the most conservative Pakistani generation ever. We knew this anecdotally and from seeing the changes in popular culture etc, but now we also have some quantitative information. From Dawn:

Sixty-four per cent of the male youth describe themselves as conservative/religious, whereas 75 per cent of women feel the same. 
Only a quarter of urban young people have an interest in politics. Three quarters of the youth who expressed an opinion in the survey worry about exposure to foreign media, films, music and ideas. 
Young people from urban areas were most worried about foreign influence. 
Youth with access to cable TV were less conservative than those who only had access to terrestrial (conversely, terrestrial watchers were more optimistic than cable viewers).
Owners of mobile phones are more likely to want to vote, more interested in politics and more likely to believe they can change Pakistan. 
The survey suggests that this may be the most conservative generation thus far in Pakistan, especially compared to the generations that grew up before the 1990s.

And surprisingly, there is still much faith in the military. Here is the question that asks about the form of government that the youth of Pakistan want. Well, 29% favor democracy, 32% favor military, and 38% want Islamic Sharia. Now - as expected, the headlines across the world were about the Islamic Sharia part. I actually think that the scariest part is the faith in the military despite its repeated failures (democracy hasn't done well either - but the process has been repeatedly aborted by the military) and subsequent disasters. And I'm a bit skeptical of the responses to the Islamic Sharia question. That is the only option with "Islam" and I'm pretty sure that those who say 'yes' to Islamic Sharia must have so many different interpretations of what is meant by "Islamic Sharia'. Therefore, I think those numbers might be inflated a bit. Nevertheless, a disappointing picture. This is the generation that will be shaping the future of Pakistan.

But then I wan also struck by the way violence has been impacting a large segment of Pakistani society. It is a country at war. It is a country in siege. Here is the response to the question of 'levels of violence experienced' and the levels are astonishingly high:


You can find the full report here.


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