News / Asia

Analysts: Pakistan Youth Vote Could Tip Power Balance

Naim ullah Khattak (L), an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) worker, verifies voters using a list from the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) database in the outskirts of Islamabad on Sept. 12, 2011.
Naim ullah Khattak (L), an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) worker, verifies voters using a list from the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) database in the outskirts of Islamabad on Sept. 12, 2011.
Sharon Behn
As Pakistan gears up for expected national elections in May, there are 35 million new voters on the rolls, most of them between the ages of 18 and 25.
 
For decades, the country has been ruled by two political dynasties - or by the military. Party leaders have depended on political favors and ethnic loyalties to win over entire communities that vote as a block in their favor.
 
But students from across Pakistan say the new generations could change these longstanding political alliances.
 
“It is also very important because youth are mostly non-partial, I mean impartial," explained graduate student Mehram Ali Khan Wazir, who comes from a rural area in the northwest, "they try to vote on the basis of policy not on the basis of personality, so I am very hopeful that they will bring change.”
 
Wazir says that even if this year's vote does not radically alter the balance of power in parliament, political parties are aware of the growing power and frustration of Pakistan's younger voters. As a result, he says, young voters could influence political decision making.
 
More than half of the voters eligible to cast ballots in the upcoming national elections expected to take place in May are under the age of 40.
 
Despite more Web-connected youth who have new opportunities for political engagement, Sameera Hassan, a graduate student and organizer from the eastern city of Lahore, says many young urban voters are not motivated enough to cast ballots.
 
She adds that in rural areas young voters' political independence remains uncertain in a country where family background and respect for the opinion of elders can trump personal choices.

"This is the real dilemma for Pakistan youth because they hardly go contrary to their parents," she noted, "there is no voluntary effort to vote for a new political person - they affiliate themselves and it is very rare they go contrary to their parents."
 
The ruling Pakistan People's Party, or PPP, rules through a political coalition of several parties. But there is a growing awareness among the opposition political leadership that if it could get enough young voters, it could tip the balance of power in its favor.
 
Political pollster Tariq Juanid says parties like the PTI, a relevant newcomer to the political scene led by former cricketer Imran Khan, and the opposition Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif are reaching out to the younger demographic.
 
"Despite the fact the present youth is more politicized, the present youth is more sensitized towards elections," Juanid said, "it would be really early to say the youth will actually change the whole nature of the next elections - 65 percent of that belongs to rural areas where your ethnic background is more important than anything else."
 
Such a result would disappoint students like Habib Tahir, who strongly believes those his age have so far avoided their responsibility to change years of political corruption and mismanagement.
 
Speaking on the train on his way to his university in the violence-ridden city of Karachi, Tahir says the upcoming ballot could be the beginning of change.
 
"This is an opportunity for us to get rid of the corrupt people and clean our house using our vote, and they can play a vital role in setting a direction for the future of the country in the elections, since the elections are a turning point for the democratic nations," he said.
 
So far, no single political party appears to have won the allegiances of Pakistan's youth. Analysts say despite attempts by Imran Khan's PTI and firebrand Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri to challenge the existing political order, the ruling PPP and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League are expected to remain the main political forces in parliament.

As university student Tahir says, changing Pakistan's political dynamic will likely be gradual.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid