On Thursday, the British Council organized an international conference of the Next Generation research series in Lahore to launch its third and latest report titled Next Generation: Insecure Lives, Untold Stories. The report is unprecedented; it is the largest piece of qualitative research conducted in Pakistan, and certainly the first of its kind, collecting the stories of 1800 young people who have lived amidst violence. At a time of overwhelming insecurity, the report reveals the extraordinary resilience of young Pakistanis coping with the all but complete loss of hope and self. It highlights what the largely singular focus on terrorism is ignoring: different roots of violence. This in turn leads to the silencing of equally grave narratives on conflict (domestic, family disputes, poverty etc). Though the loss of 50,000 people to terrorism has shaped the debate on loss in the country, the physical and psychological trauma of every loss is essentially the same; it disengages young people from their futures, from their families and from society at large.

The ideology behind and recommendations of the report are a welcome change to the policy agendas for youth propagated by the government. Through research, some of which is deeply personal, the report delves deep into the issues that dictate the behaviour, aspirations and motivations of young people living in complex, conflict-ridden communities and encourages innovation for rehabilitative and therapeutic measures like group therapy in schools. The policy making elite would do well to take a cue from this initiative and make use of its practical calls to action including the creation of a large scale public health programme that addresses the psychological needs of survivors and victims of violence. If nothing else, the Next Generation report has systematically collected and created a necessary and relevant qualitative database on national violence. It must be used. Those under the greatest threat of being mired under the generic and oversimplified policies of successive governments in Pakistan have been shaped for years by narratives of hate, suffering and a culture that promotes silencing. Perhaps now, with 1800 of them telling their powerful stories, somebody will listen and act.