Peshawar: For a party propelled to power by young voters, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s vaunted youth centres established to empower the young have stalled for want of funds within a year of their establishment.
The district youth centres were established in seven divisional headquarters in 2014. Imran Khan’s PTI, presently in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, promised these in the party manifesto steeped in youth aspirations, around which the PTI’s election campaign for the May 2013 general elections was built.
Come 2015 and the provincial government turned off the funding tap on the centres. “When we submitted proposals for more activities in March 2015, the deputy commissioner office said all funds for the youth centres have been exhausted,” Sumera Shams, a member of the advisory board of Peshawar Youth Centre told News Lens.
Even though allocation has been made in the annual budget 2016-2017 for the centres, according to the budget document, it is not for activities but construction of new centres. As a result, the cash-strapped centres that have not received any money have stopped all activities.
Soon after PTI was voted into power in KP, the government in its first budget for the year 2013-14 allocated an amount of Rs70 million for the establishment of seven district youth centers to involve “youth in healthy activities”, of which Rs 10 million were released for each center.
The budget document for the year 2015-16, a copy of which is obtained by News Lens Pakistan, allocated an amount of Rs50 million for the youth centres. It said an additional Rs950 million were expected to be allocated in 2016-17 for construction of 76 ‘jawan markaz’ – youth centres – in all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa.
However, the latest budget document for the year 2016-17, only allocates Rs 0.001 million for the construction of the new youth centres. As for the funding allocation for activities, the document says nothing.
In absence of funds, activities carried out by the centres – youth carnivals, youth festivals, sports events, and awareness campaigns about various diseases, free coaching classes for the students of intermediate and metric etc. – have been discontinued. The centres carried out these activities in collaboration with the district departments including the deputy commissioner office, and the Sports Department.
“Terrorism in the province has adversely affected the outlook of youth and healthy activities are necessary to restore hope,” said Shams.
She said involvement of youth in “positive activities” act as a deterrent to their involvement in unhealthy pursuits and getting recruited for terror activities. Healthy activities, she said, were important to polish the talent of youth in the province. In Peshawar alone, the city based youth centre engaged 500 youth in various activities, said Shams.
Youth aged 15-29 constitutes around 32 per cent of the total population of Pakistan (182 million, according to the 2013 World Bank projection), of which 15.6 per cent is female while the rest is male, according to statistics released in 2013 by the National Institute of
Population Studies. To build on the potential of the country’s youth bulge, political parties have been increasingly focusing on youth, especially around election time to get their support, as established in the General Election 2013.
Advisor to Chief Minister KP on Information, Mushtaq Ghani, said funds for the youth centers had been stopped for the last two years due to lack of a proper youth policy. He said the provincial government had formed a committee to design a youth policy.
“Once we have a youth policy, funds will be provided to youth centers to conduct their activities,” said Ghani.
The youth policy, he said, would provide clarity on the targeted youth population – whether the centres should focus on university students, youth that are out of the universities or those studying in colleges.
Meanwhile, youth activists are concerned over the lack of funds for youth centres. Muhammad Rafiq, who heads Motivated Youth Organization, said youth development activities in KP needed to be intensified.
“These centers can be nurseries for empowered youth to play a role in the development of the province,” said Rafiq. “Vocational and technical skills should be provided to youth of the province through youth centers, especially in the urban localities.”