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Youth engagement results from young people’s participation in responsible, challenging actions to effect positive social change. This involves involving youth in planning and decision-making that affects them and others. Youth engagement occurs in structured partnerships between youth and adults in which both groups contribute, teach, and learn from one another.

UNDP estimates that Pakistan’s young population is one of the largest in history, with 68% of the population under 30 and 27% between the ages of 15 and 29. This requires youth participation in civic and political life, economic empowerment, and resilience-building roles. According to UNICEF, Pakistan ranks poorly on the Youth Progress Index due to social exclusion, limited personal freedom, and limited internet access. The expense of exclusion is considerable. For instance, occupational segregation results in significant productivity loss.

The government and public institutions, such as state-directed civic education, primarily conduct normative engagement. For instance, the outgoing PML-N government established the National Commission on Civic Education, which included civic education in the curriculum. However, due to the 18th Amendment’s devaluation of education in the provinces, it was limited to Islamabad only.

Similarly, the government attempted to educate young people about governance through programs such as the National Internship Program and the laptop scheme. Extracurricular activities and other forms of youth engagement in public educational institutions, including youth-led organizations, are also typical.

Under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, provincial administrations are now responsible for youth development, eliminating the need for a national youth policy. All provinces have developed youth policies based primarily on the national policy of 2008. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have approved their youth policies (in 2012 and 2016, respectively), whereas Sindh and Balochistan only have proposed policies (dated 2016 and 2015, respectively).

In 2019, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government established Pakistan’s first National Youth Council. National Youth Council’s vision is “A world where young people are respected, able to influence and inform decisions that affect their lives or on which they have strong opinions.”  Most of the Council’s ‘Values’ include participation, inclusion, equality, adolescent leadership, and recognition. It was a significant achievement in terms of youth engagement in Pakistan.

CREDP believes that the current youth programs must improve in quantity and quality. Although the youth desire to participate in constructive endeavors, the opportunities available to them are limited compared to the large population they represent. The current options need to be improved in quality to facilitate significant positive transformation effectively. The youth is experiencing frustration due to a lack of outlets for self-expression. The latest national youth policy was created in 2008. No federal ministry or other national agency or group is responsible for youth management. There needs to be an adequate youth energy management policy. Young people are left to fend for themselves.