Pakistan facing exodus of educated youths | By Tariq Aqil


Pakistan facing exodus of educated youths

PAKISTAN has confronted a myriad of social, economic and political problems since the very beginning of independence and these obstacles have been the main impediment in the development and progress of our country. During the last few years the country is in the eye of an economic and political storm with no end in sight. The most recent and striking problem today is the brain drain. More and more young educated and talented Pakistanis are now leaving the country rather than face the grim political and economic situation at home or to hope for the best in this grim uncertain future. According to the latest figures available with the Bureau of Emigration, 765,000 Pakistanis, mostly well-educated doctors, engineers and IT professionals chose to fly abroad rather than staying back in the present conditions of chaos and anarchy. This is the actual figure of those who left the country legally but this is just the tip of the iceberg because countless others less educated or skilled have left through illegal channels. In 2019, 625,000 educated youths left the country and the figure fell in 2020 and 2021 but increased to the highest levels in 2022. It is very obvious why so many educated youngsters are fleeing from the country.

We can see that the country is on the edge of the precipice of default or as people now say Pakistan is already in a situation of virtual default. According to renowned economist Dr. Atif Mian of Princeton University, the country has already defaulted and is now dependent on the bailout package of the IMF. Apart from the grim economic situation, the country is once again faced with the horrors of religious extremism, bigotry and terrorism and people are just in fear of their lives. Pakistan today has 218 universities in both public and private sectors accredited by the Higher Education Commission and thousands of graduates from these universities are entering the job market every year. Our universities are producing professionals in engineering, Information Technology, medicine and social sciences and the large number now leaving the country means that we are deprived of our brightest minds and individuals who are capable of bringing about a change in our society.

Because of the grim and uncertain conditions at home, many of our young professionals have decided to try their luck in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries or Turkey and Romania. In certain cases entire families with their children have immigrated to Turkey in the hope that their children will have a brighter future there and they will enjoy greater economic opportunities. In spite of these glaring examples, our political leaders are in no mood to do anything to ensure political stability and economic betterment for our future generations. It is worth noting that young people themselves are often eager to serve their country, no matter what the conditions are. A number of graduates from top institutions, including those in the US or Britain, say that they wish to set up startups which can offer people jobs or even run soup kitchens in areas where people are destitute or in need of any kind of relief that can be offered to them after the floods devastated Sindh in particular.

The sacrifice of these people in their twenties, or perhaps a few years beyond this, of course, has to be commended. But can we really blame those who wish to get away and start life elsewhere? No, we cannot. The situation is so unstable that very few feel confident about building future within Pakistan. Young educated women are in the forefront of the present exodus because they feel threatened and endangered. The number of rape cases has increased to frightening levels and the cases of victim blaming makes them rather desperate to settle somewhere safe where they have basic freedom such as the right to go out as they please and the right to dress as they choose. The air of religious extremism and cultural constraints has taken this country back to the medieval ages.

The result is that now more and more bright young minds just want to leave and have no desire to struggle and make a future here. Ironically these are the very people who must stay home and become the catalyst of change. We just cannot ask for individual sacrifice for a national cause for a country that has been so negligent in serving and taking care of the basic needs of its citizens. The young educated persons leaving the country cannot be blamed for their decisions. Pakistani students do extremely well in overseas settings. Today in Pakistan we do not have the opportunities in our firms, factories or offices. No positions are available for engineers, doctors and IT professionals where they could use their expertise to start their career and provide a decent living for their families.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]