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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid