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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid