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Pakistan’s youth pessimistic about the future

26th Apr 2013
Pakistan’s youth pessimistic about the future

Pakistan Next Generation Report (British Council)

Aisha Ali

As Pakistan prepares for general elections on May 11, a report published earlier this month by the British Council found deep political pessimism from the country’s youth.

Ninety-four percent of young Pakistanis believe that their country is heading in the wrong direction. Security, employment, poverty, inflation, corruption, and education, are all issues identified in the report as factors that will decide the young people, 18-29, vote.

Seventy-three percent felt that life for most people in Pakistan was not safe.

Non-political institutions were regarded more favourable than political institutions. 71 percent were unfavourable towards the Government of Pakistan. The media, religious centres, judiciary, and army are all regarded favourably by more than half of Pakistan’s young people.

‘The next generation goes to the ballot box 2013’ is the second report of its kind, released before the elections. Researchers said, “Our survey shows that the next generation is less hopeful about the future than it was in our first survey.”

“Pessimism is fast becoming a defining trait of Pakistan’s next generation,” they added.

Over 103 million Pakistanis, 63% of the population, are under the age of 25. The report highlights the importance of this generation. “We know that it will be young adults, and not children, that exert a dominant influence over coming decades. Growing numbers of old people will inevitably need support as the population continues to age.”

The largest concerns for 18-29 year-olds is the country’s economic situation. Just one in ten have full-time, contracted jobs, with three quarters in the private sector and one quarter working for the Government. 43% are homemakers, and almost 20% are still in full time education.

Inflation was regarded as the biggest concern, with rising energy and food prices, the standard of living is being affected.

When asked what political system they felt was the best for Pakistan, only 29% felt democracy was the best. 32% said military rule, and 38% Islamic Shari’ah.

Further questions broke down how they felt each system would help deal with their concerns. The report noted that “military rule is perceived to offer greater security – both internally and externally – with around half of young people believing it is best able to stand firm against Pakistan’s foreign enemies and make the country itself safer.”

Islamic Shari’ah, meanwhile, is “favoured for its ability to advance moral and religious values” and thought to be “the best system for giving people their rights and freedom, for promoting tolerance, and making the country a fairer one.”

In the report, Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais, from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, estimates that there are more than 25 million registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 years, just over 30% of the electorate. “Our survey shows that 55% of the next generation will be voting for the first time. That’s a pool of over 13 million new votes for political parties to compete for.”

One party that is extremely hopeful for the countries next generation is Imran Khan’s, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who have targeted the young generation.

All the major parties were given the opportunity to address the youth in this report. He said, “Those who can bring about freedom where it is absent and justice where it is denied are chiefly young people. PTI’s strength has always been the youth. I only need the youth of Pakistan to bring change, not big names or big politicians.”

The report stated: “This is a generation at a crossroads. Starved of opportunity, it feels bottled up and frustrated, trapped in a world where only the wealthy and well-connected thrive.”

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