Author: Muhammad Rafeh
Abdul Qadir Patel became Pakistan’s youngest member of the Sindh provincial assembly – aged 25 – in 1993. Covering almost two decades of political façade in the country since then, the number of persons under 30 in either the National Assembly or the Provincial Assemblies binds closer to zero.
Benazir Bhutto became the youngest elected Prime Minister of a Muslim state – aged 35 – in 1988. Continuing the legacy, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari became the youngest foreign minister of Pakistan – aged 33 – in the year 2022. While critics grew firm in the opposition to Pakistan’s foreign affairs predicament, having placed little trust in Bhutto’s command over foreign affairs, the benefits of having a younger foreign minister seemed lackluster to the general population.
In a world where countries seem to thrive on young leaders, including Finland under Marin’s leadership, Chile under Boric, and Georgia under Garibashvili, Pakistan has been ill-fated even to have the presence of youth in their assemblies. Imran Khan turned 66 when he presided over his office in 2018; Nawaz Sharif assumed his prime ministerial office, turning 64, whereas Yousaf Raza Gillani took office at the prime age of 56. These are nothing but only the plain records of Pakistan’s democratically elected leaders post-Musharraf.
A critical look into the absence of Pakistan’s youth from legislative assemblies and politics also asks us to consider the youth wings of political parties. In fact, a deeper dive into the mechanics of such existing youth wings ironically highlights these absences. PTI’s youth wing leader in Punjab before the 2018 general elections was Zubair Khan Niazi, who not only did not qualify for youth but also fared through Khan’s bloodline. PMLN’s youth wing performed no different with its current President being Captain (R) Safdar – currently aged 58 and the legal spouse of Maryam Nawaz Khan. The only upside that Pakistan People’s Party hopes to appoint is Asifa Bhutto as the Youth Wing leader of PPP. However, the irony is visible to the naked eye.
Various op-eds have mentioned the need for Pakistan’s youth to vote in the upcoming general election of 2023 – or sooner. The populace of youth between 15 and 30 stands at around 64%. The issues that the nation faces today – in terms of global competition, social security, etc. – fall directly under the youth of Pakistan. A potential voter aged twenty-four could possibly turn into a definitive voter if they were voting for an individual within the same age gap rather than for a Babuji.
While one may present ideas as Khan does, such as pleading the youth to vote and save Pakistan from the irony of heinous invaders unlike himself – a better way to make the youth vote is to ‘make the youth vote for the youth.’ Only if the youth was provided party tickets to PTI than be pleaded to by the former Prime Minister to join their task force in persuading individuals to walk out of their homes and vote for the 2023 general elections.
Sociology consistently points towards the idea that for a person to understand another’s problems, they need to relate to the individual in question. Hence, there seems no way possible other than the way of making the youth vote for the youth in the upcoming elections. While the process may not fare entirely well, even gathering 70% of the 64% population of Pakistan to vote in the national elections of 2023 compared to the 30% who voted in 2018 would be a win for a country whose leaders repeatedly claim for democracy.
Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “We may not be able to build the future for our youth, but we may be able to build the youth for the future.” In a country where dynasty politics runs rampant, and the future leadership of PTI is destined to go haywire, it is necessary for the youth to be mobilized into politics and provided party tickets. It may not be time to say goodbye to the old notaries for now, but it will be soon.