How do young Pakistanis plan to vote in the general election?

Some are loyal to mainstream parties, others want change and many have no belief in the political system.

PK elections 2018: VOX POPS RABIA KHAN
Rabia Khan plans to vote for a young Pakistan Peoples Party candidate [Courtesy Rabia Khan]

At one end of the spectrum in Pakistan, young people are fiercely involved in politics. At the other end are those who have no belief in the political system.

Around 17.4 million people, between 18 and 25 years old, will cast their vote for the first time on July 25. Along with 28 million people between 26 and 35 years old, they account for 43 percent of the 105 million registered voters.

“The youth are galvanised and willing to vote, more than they were in the 1990s,” Nadeem Farooq Paracha, cultural critic and journalist, told Al Jazeera.

The country goes to the polls, under the shadow of alleged election engineering and a crackdown on media, to vote in the next parliament and prime minister.

Since 1988, two main parties have dominated politics – the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by the Bhutto family, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), run by the Sharifs.

But Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan at the helm, has emerged as a viable third option – he disrupted the status quo in the last election. 

His party is expected to win an even larger share of seats this year.

“The youth were firmly behind PTI in 2013 and yet the party could not win more than 30 seats,” Paracha said.

“This time around, even though a lot of the youth vote might again go to the PTI, large portions of this vote will also go to PML-N and the PPP and, interestingly, to some really interesting young independent candidates.”

Al Jazeera spoke to some young voters and a candidate, about the upcoming election.

Rabia Khan, 28-year-old lawyer from Karachi

“Murtaza Wahab from PPP has worked on minority issues and is into animal welfare. For me, it’s important that I vote for somebody who knows what’s going on. He’s also young. I’m tired of voting for the same people and not seeing change, and I for one have seen him work. 

“As a feminist, I think it’s very important I vote for him because he comes from a family of very strong women and his mum, Fauzia Wahab, is a veteran politician in the party.”

Taha Tariq, 24-year-old school counsellor from Lahore 

“Voting for the first time is supposed to be exciting, I have lost all enthusiasm. I am disillusioned with the all the mainstream political parties and I don’t think that any represents my views. I had thought that I would vote for PTI. However, the party’s practice of pandering to the dangerous far right in the country, as well as awarding tickets to the same corrupt politicians that the party criticised for years, has convinced me otherwise.

“I considered voting for the lesser of the two evils, but I’m still not sold on that line of reasoning completely. I’m going to look into the independent candidates running from my constituency.”

Taha Tariq is disappointed with Imran Khan's PTI party [Courtesy: Taha Tariq]
Taha Tariq is disappointed with Imran Khan’s PTI party [Courtesy: Taha Tariq]

Shayan Ahmed Yar, 21-year-old student from Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 

“Charsadda has been under the Awami National Party’s (ANP) control for as long as I can remember. The university, the family connections, it’s always been about our tribal connections to the leaders of ANP. But what have they done for us?

“We don’t have real teachers, we don’t have an [efficient] administration. It’s all based on references and nepotism. 

“We want people who will actually work for us, and we want teachers and local administrators who are there on a merit basis.

“[Everyone should vote], mums, dads, kids, cousins – we don’t care who they are voting for, they just need to vote and understand the importance of it.

“I’ll be voting for PTI this time because I need to believe things can be different.”

Jibran Nasir, 31-year-old human rights lawyer, activist, and candidate for Karachi South II

“I’m a man without a party, but all these parties are one-man parties. Once you remove [Bilawal Bhutto Zardari] from the PPP, the Sharifs from the PML-N and Imran Khan from PTI, who will vote for them? An election is contested for two purposes – one to win, the other is to propagate an agenda to the masses. 

“We are advocating a new form of politics and will not compromise out of fear or self-interest. 

“We are not indulging in populist slogans, but are identifying our issues and seeking votes by offering practical and believable solutions.

“Political parties do a disservice to the democratic process by indulging in populist slogans based on religion, ethnicity and nationalism. And in doing so, they distract the voters from development issues. We condemn and resist such politics.” 

Jibran Nasir does not believe in populist slogans [Courtesy: Jibran Nasir]
Jibran Nasir does not believe in populist slogans [Courtesy: Jibran Nasir]

Benazir Vighio, 19-year-old from Dadu, Sindh

“I’m casting my vote for the first time, and I’m very excited. I’ve grown up watching my family voting and I can finally vote myself now. 

“I will vote for the same PPP representative from the last election because he’s done a lot of work for us. He’s built a college and two parks. It would be great if someone from our own age or community would step forward and do better than what we have.”

Benazir Vighio will vote for the first time on July 25 [Courtesy: Benazir Virghio]
Benazir Vighio will vote for the first time on July 25 [Courtesy: Benazir Virghio]

Moghees Shahid, 24-year-old aerospace engineer from Islamabad

“Young people represent the future. It is as simple as that. They have the energy to actively participate in the election process and afterwards, to hold accountable all those who renege on their promises.

“My expectations from this election is greater awareness among the people, as well as the candidates, resulting in greater accountability and enhanced transparency. As long as people do not realise it is their right to question everything about those they elect to rule, democracy is meaningless.” 

Moghees Shahid believes young people will hold power to account [Courtesy: Moghees Shahid]
Moghees Shahid believes young people will hold power to account [Courtesy: Moghees Shahid]

Urooj Javed, 22-year-old student from Karachi

“We don’t know if the voting system is rigged, I just want my vote to matter.

“I’ll vote for Imran Khan because I really like him and I admire his work in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard stories. All of our ex-presidents and our ex-governments have taken away so much money from our country, so let’s just give Imran Khan a chance. He’s the ideal candidate for all of us.”

Urooj Javed will vote for Imran Khan's PTI party [Courtesy: Urooj Javed]
Urooj Javed will vote for Imran Khan’s PTI party [Courtesy: Urooj Javed]

These interviews were edited for clarity and brevity.

Source: Al Jazeera