Allama Iqbal prays to Allah: “Give the young, O Lord, my passionate love for Thee, and give them an eagle’s force to fly and to see.”

Youths are the powerhouse of any nation, and their identity and role as citizens are inevitable for a prosperous and sustainable future.

Youth bulge contributed to many developments at the global level in the present, recent past, and far past of the world, for example in American civil rights moments from 1946-68, young leaders like John Lewis, who was 23 years old, led a march and his historic speech at Washington in 1963 fuelled civil rights and social justice moments in the USA.

Whether it was the Umbrella moment in Hong Kong led by students in 2014 or Greenham’s common peace activism in the 1980s, where young females came to the front and thwarted the installation of cruise missiles that could have sparked a signal of war.

More interestingly within Gilgit-Baltistan, It was during the liberation movement of Gilgit-Baltistan that prominent leader Mirza Hasan Khan, who at the time was only 28 years old, led a liberation force and declared independence from Dogra raj while surrendering Governor Gansara Singh with the support of local youth and elders.

The young population of Gilgit-Baltistan has been pursuing cases of identity crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan in all forums, either national media or international media, through their wisdom reflected in their writings, speeches, and democratic means. Those youth resisted and denounced black laws like FCR (Frontier Crime Regulation Acts).

Youth in Gilgit-Baltistan’s quest for democracy is not new. Rather, they have been staunchly hoping and struggling for democracy and the rule of law in Gilgit-Baltistan as other nations do.

Since the Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment and self-governance order was promulgated consequently, 33 seats (24 elected; 6 seats reserved for women and 3 seats reserved for Technocrats and Professionals) unicameral legislative body were established, and the designation of Chief minister and governor were also granted to Gilgit-Baltistan like other provinces of Pakistan but the region has been under the subject of International resolution by United Nations in 1948 that declares GB as disputed territory, a part of state of Jammu and Kashmir, until UN holds plebiscite or referendum.

Youth in Gilgit-Baltistan are more concerned about their fate and identity, but their political participation has not been considerable; rather, they are used and being wasted by mainstream political parties like Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf(PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) as their political workers also termed as “karakul”. Their due role in politics hasn’t yet been granted and proclaimed by any political party. Rather, they are only stand by and call to arrange political power shows, “Syaasi Jalsa” or “Syaasi Rally,” more occasionally chanting slogans and spreading hate speech in society, youths have been used as a key tool by political parties.

The access to the internet and more exposure to the internet without training young minds about its good use and hazards in the region during the recent past further fuelled polarization, misinformation, and hate instead of becoming a source to transforming the youth and training their minds for the progressive role of youth in nation building.

Youth in Gilgit-Baltistan have become keyboard warriors; they are being witnessed spreading hate and using abusive words against one another on political as well as religious subjects.

The political dynamics in the region support a patron/client system where political elites develop entrenched relations with other local influential elites. Politicians take shelter of religion and get unequivocal support from religious clerics during election campaigns, and after winning elections, politicians become more concerned about keeping religious clerics on board for every political appointment and even allocation of development funds; other than politicians, local elites own huge assets and lands, whose support to politicians are also decisive and mandatory for a politician.

People in Gilgit-Baltistan are also misled based on sect, language, ethnicity, and geography. They are discouraged from using rationality and reason and rather choose the one who belongs to their sects, ethnicity, and close relatives and benefits their family more. Local Bureaucrats’ role in this regard can’t be negated; they, in most cases, join hands with politicians and tactically become the mouthpiece of politicians for petty political interests and appointments.

All these noteworthy nexus with politicians paved their way into power, and ultimately, politicians work for the interests of the few and exploit the rest. It is quite evident from the dynamics of politics in Gilgit-Baltistan that there is little space for lower and middle-class factions of youth in politics; if any youth is given a political role or public office in Gilgit-Baltistan in any government, then in most cases, it is based on how strong his affiliations with politicians or on stronger referenced basis rather than pure meritocracy.

As per the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey, approximately 45% of Gilgit Baltistan’s residents live below the poverty line; in such conditions, motivated and deserving young minds from low-income income couldn’t secure a place in politics and hence fall into the trap of being misled, wasted and used by political parties for their petty political interests.

It is solely up to the youth to mobilize themselves and look into all affairs with deep understanding and study, promote progressive student politics and unions where inclusivity should be exercised for males and females with no gender, sect, language, or ethnicity discrimination. Young minds should arrange study circles by collaborating with local scholars who are enriched in knowledge and men of principles, who could lead young minds of Gilgit-Baltistan toward a more prosperous and sustainable future. Youths could address core issues of the region like Climate change, governance, and reforms. The menace of youth bulge can be turned into an opportunity if dealt with wisely and sincerely.

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