Pakistan is facing challenges on all major fronts; be it social, political, economic, or religious. We lag behind on all global socio-economic indicators, add the loss of 50,000 fellow countrymen due to terrorism related violence and irreversible effects on economy – and we can say that not everyone is hopeful about a brighter future. But what we need to remember is that not one institution or party can solve these issues, and they won’t be solved unless the counter narrative comes from within the society. We, as a society, have to play our role in finding and executing solutions to all these problems and assist the state. Over the last four decades, our country has undergone huge social transformations; the society today is much more intolerant and lacking in empathy than the one which existed decades ago. We are not only facing religious extremism, rather we are becoming an impatient and aggressive society where we don’t take disagreements well and are literally killing each other over petty issues. The lack of implementation of rule of law is definitely playing a key role in this regard but the fact remains that we are not inculcating values like empathy, tolerance and critical thinking in our next generation. The educational system is failing to deliver the key objectives of tolerance, morals and most importantly the respect of human life. The youth, especially in the rural areas, are more vulnerable to these extremist narratives due to incompetent teachers and a curriculum which at times promotes the extremist ideas and conspiracy theories. Majority of them are not joining militant groups or engaging themselves in terrorism related activities but they have been fed these narratives for so long, that deep down almost all of us are hardliners in one way or the other. But the good and the bad news is that Pakistan is a country where 70% of the population is under the age of 35. If trained and led well, this can prove to be a blessing in disguise. It’s all about leading, guiding and directing them towards the right direction. In the middle of all these problems, there are a number of initiatives and projects in the country where people are trying to address, discuss and solve these issues. They vary from initiatives working in Education to countering the extremist ideologies through the power of visuals and storytelling. We have a lot of social initiatives coming up with engaging and sustainable solutions to address these issues. The first step in solving any problem remains the admission of the problem. Only from there you can look for the root causes and solutions to the issue. To inculcate these humanitarian values, different approaches are being adopted, one of them being storytelling through comics and animation. One of these efforts is a comic book series, “Paasban – The Guardian”, which was launched in 2015 as a direct counter narrative to the extremist ideologies. The first issues were totally focused on terrorism but now these Paasban are tackling issues like gender empowerment, student politics and religious intolerance. Through our comic books, we wish to create Paasban (Guardians) in every home in the country to protect society from narratives of hatred and bigotry, and fight the narratives that threaten to divide us” says Mustafa Hasnain, Co-creator of the organization CFx Comics, the team behind the comic book series “Zindan” is another interesting project which has been launched by a duo of Pakistani doctors based in USA. Set in the Mughal era, it tells us a story of two orphans – Zain and Timur. In search of shelter, they find themselves alone in a struggle for survival. They are eventually taken in by the Ansaars who are an ancient secret order of noble individuals, who have sworn an oath of stewardship over the world’s worst criminals. It might not sound like a relevant idea in the local context but Zindan’s Co Creator Khurram Mehtabdin is confident that it will resonate well with the local audience. “I think Zindan is the perfect story for our fellow Pakistanis because the story line is just that – our story. Pakistanis have been through hell and back. We are in need of superheroes. Why can’t we romanticize our history, our culture, our religion and give ourselves some hope? We come from such a rich history, have such a rich culture, it’s time we share our story with the world. That’s exactly what we hope to do with Zindan.” They have recently launched their comic in Pakistan through a digital publishing platform and are in the initial stages of exploring global partnerships for bringing Zindan to TV or movies. A flying Muslim superhero with superhuman strength fighting injustice! Meet Yusuf Abdullah, resident of Nova City, a philanthropist who can fly and fight crime. Created by two brothers Adil&KamilImtiaz, in Buraaq the central theme revolves around universal Islamic values and philosophy that is shared across all major religions. This of course is packaged with the elements of mystery, action, and adventure. In the era where the Smartphone and 3G/4G penetration among Pakistan’s lower-income groups is increasing exponentially, creating digital publishing platforms is one way to reach a mass audience. One of the biggest advantages is that you have direct contact with your readers, which helps in delivering the message clearly. All of these comics are available on a local digital publishing platform in English as well as in Urdu, which helps them in reach out to larger audiences. Engaging the audience in an interactive way with subtle animations, bilingual content and interactive experience through a mobile app will definitely enhance the user experience. It’s time that we take concrete steps to save our younger generation from being seduced by misleading narratives and provide them with an awareness of social and religious values that reject extremism and bigotry in its every form.