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.
    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.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora