Stewarding Pakistan’s demographic dividend

Pakistan’s population boom brings both the opportunity and risk simultaneously

At present, the youth constitute the majority of this country’s population. According to rough estimates, more than 60 percent of Pakistan’s current population is home to youth lot. This demographic dividend brings Pakistan knocking at the door of opportunity and risk simultaneously. If the potential of the youth is tapped properly, it could begin to rotate the clogged wheel of Pakistan’s development — be it social, political or economic; otherwise, this youth, if it is not directed in a positive direction, is nothing less than a ticking time bomb. Any effort on the part of the government or private sector should be acknowledged and be brought into the spotlight so that it can create positive vibes and can inspire people across Pakistan to make such inspiring endeavours.

One such endeavour, which hasn’t received much attention, was made this past weekend at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) by a young Pakistani entrepreneur and LUMS alumnus, Ali Sohail, through his social media platform ‘I Am Tomorrow-Lahore’. In the event, female leaders cutting through the conservative milieu of Pakistan and bringing laurels to Pakistan in different walks of life had been invited to share their stories of unflinching commitment in pursuit of their goals so they could inspire other young people through their life experiences.

On the one hand, where the event was aimed at impressing upon the youth that passion, if it was pursued with full commitment, could translate itself into something incredible and could not only make their lives better but could have a wide ranging positive impact. On the other hand, issues faced by girls and women in our society were also brought into the spotlight as each participant shed light on different dimensions of issues faced by women in Pakistan through their personal stories. At many points during the discussion sessions, the point was strongly emphasized that the gender roles advocated by our society needed to be reviewed and Pakistan direly needed a more gender inclusive society.

If the potential of the youth is tapped properly, it could rotate the clogged wheel of Pakistan’s development — be it social, political or economic; otherwise, this youth is nothing less than a ticking time bomb

Among all the sessions, one session conducted in the form of TED talks’ style by Tamara Robeer was the most inspiring. Tamara, who is a photographer by profession and had come from the Netherlands to attend the event, talked about how to regain control of your life when the world took it away from you. She grabbed the attention of the audience when she narrated a story from her school life, about an incident when a teacher had discouraged her from participating in class discussions. According to the teacher, her level of participation discouraged the other students from taking part in discussions. This shut up call impacted her later in life negatively in the most profound ways and, as per her, for a longer time, she could not raise her voice for herself as she thought that speaking for oneself was tantamount to stopping the growth of others. Her message was to connect to oneself and get control of one’s life in one’s hands instead of giving it to others.

In one of my conversations with Tamara during the break session, she shared a very interesting point about to how to be at one’s best and that was: Connect ‘I’ with ‘I’. As per her conversation, sometimes in life, because of negative emotions like anger, fear, pessimism, hatred, sadness, disappointment, failure or hopelessness — people lose control of themselves and give their ‘I’ in the hands of others; as a result, they get depressed and demotivated. On the outside, as per her, they might seem happy but, on the inside, they feel empty. According to her, true existence comes in following your heart instead of doing what you think society wants you to do.

The significance of an event like ‘I Am Tomorrow-Lahore’ can hardly be overlooked. Its aim to inspire the young lot to chase something bigger in their lives despite all the odds facing them in their eyes through the introduction of exemplary female icons is not only directing Pakistan’s demographic dividend in the positive direction, but is also planting the seeds for a more gender inclusive society in Pakistan.

Most importantly, it has been doing an incredible job by helping millennials in Pakistan understand the concept of ‘I’ and how tomorrow can belong to them if they own themselves; in other words, if they follow their passions. This is a worldwide dilemma which the youth across the globe are facing. Because of technological bombardment complemented by so much information flow carrying in its lap a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities, the millennial lot has this one distinct feature of their own, which is to achieve their self-visualized goals in their own way; however, somewhere in chasing their dreams, they are inhibited by themes and ideas pervasive in society. In Pakistan, talk to any student about their aims and you will come across a living evidence of this dilemma, as every student has been carrying two worlds inside him or her; one is the world of her his or her passions and other is the world thrust upon them by popular themes.

The writer is an MPhil scholar studying International Relations at Department of Political Science in University of the Punjab, Lahore. He can be reached at

Published in Daily Times, March 6th 2018.