Faced with a world-changing at breakneck speed, cultural oases are slowly giving way to global influences. Boundaries are melting and technological innovation is largely defining the path of progress ahead. We are in more ways en route to an integrated global community than ever before. The unprecedented decision of Oscars Academy to honor a foreign language film (Parasite) with its prestigious best movie award of 2019 speaks volumes of a definite nod towards diversity never witnessed in history before. Now, the onus for continuing the mission along these lines falls on the youth of today. This endeavor, however, is far from complete and countries like ours have a long way to go before they can boast stellar performance in diversity indicators. 

Pakistan is largely a young country with 63 percent of its population below 30 and the same is set to grow steadily till 2050. According to UNDP’s National Youth Perception Survey 2015, the vast majority of youth in the country lack basic access to libraries, sports facilities, internet, among others. This is no wonder that we have witnessed a sharp increase in acts of violence in the youth of our country. There is an acute need for a dialogue culture among youth to check this state of affairs. 

The province of Balochistan has fared no better. The recent demonstration by the students of Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences (BUMHS) Quetta over a hike in university dues is a case in point. Mob justice is on the rise and youngsters seem to be bent upon crushing dissent instead of finding common ground for conflict resolution through civilized and peaceful tactics. Examples abound; from 2011 Salman Taseer’s murder, 2017 lynching of Mashal Khan, to the recent stabbing of Khalid Hameed, head of the English department at Bahawalpur’s Government Sadiq Egerton College point towards the death of dialogue in the country. 

The doors for negotiation have been tightly shut and minor disagreements blow into major conflicts in no time. The difference of opinion is held in contempt and communication fails to allay raging tempers. Mob justice is on the rise and we have a long way to go before a sensibility that champions and respects plurality of views is cultivated. 

The youth often lacks discretion and there are huge gaps in their reasoning process. They have to learn to accommodate dissent without aggression and seek a path towards reasoned dialogue based on mutual respect and sustained communication. The inability to accommodate differing perspectives is one of the major reasons for unending social unrest. They are the future leaders and they need to be equipped with the requisite skill sets in a rapidly diversifying world. It is of utmost importance in conflict management and de-escalating crises through constructive dialogue. 

This objective can only be achieved through a cooperative nexus that prioritizes knowledge sharing and assesses alternative paradigms. For it to be successful in the long run, it has to be predicated on shared objectives and a willingness to engage in meaningful communication. The youth of the country has to develop a sense of community and adopt a national outlook instead of getting mired in a parochial straitjacket that does not allow a difference of opinion. Valuing cultural diversity along with their distinct traditions and perceptions of the world will morph into a lasting sense of belonging which is a time-honored gel that strengthens community feeling and builds a conducive environment for an enduring culture of dialogue. 

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Leena Shah Mir is a freelance analyst from Gwadar, Balochistan.

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