2018 elections need the youth vote
Youth is a top priority for all major political parties, and has been described as the main engine to achieve the goals outlined in their party manifestos
Election 2018 is around the corner. All political parties have presented their manifestos with a slogan to turn around the fortunes of the country. Youth is a top priority for all major political parties, and have been described as the main engine to achieve the goals outlined in their party manifestos.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) currently enjoys great support among the youth, as they have been courting them since their inception and they also contested the last elections by engaging them, as well as allocating some tickets to young people as well.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is also trying to exploit its young leadership to attract young voters. Although Zardari is making all the decisions, Bilawal has been given the task to lead the campaign and become the face of the party. The Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) is not far behind either, and their schemes like providing free laptops and promising jobs for the burgeoning youth population of the country, have garnered them support in the community as well.
Inclusion of youth in party manifestos is recognition of the fact that the youth has a leading role in shaping the future of Pakistan. There is a consensus that the youth is fundamental in building or dismantling social and economic capital, and are a linchpin for development, prosperity, and the strengthening of democracy. They can also play an instrumental part in countering extremist ideology and play a constructive role in ensuring social unity and equality.
Despite their huge potential, their current condition is not very encouraging. It seems like the youth have lost their way, and increasingly prone to destructive behaviour. There are several reasons behind this worrisome trend, with scholars suggesting these issues stem from a lack of belonging, inclusion, participation, recognition and legitimacy in our society, yet the fundamental issue remains the exclusion of the youth in decision-making and policy development.
In the past, political parties have largely failed to address the significance of the youth, and one major reason behind this was the youth’s obliviousness to their basic rights. Fortunately, they have recently started to realize their mistake, and are now focusing on making their voices heard. They are mobilizing through various forums, like Youth parliaments etc, yet most of these opportunities are still only available to a privileged few, mostly from the urban centres in our country.
There is a consensus that the youth is fundamental in building or dismantling social and economic capital, and is a linchpin for development, prosperity, and the strengthening of democracy. They can also play an instrumental part in countering extremist ideology and play a constructive role in ensuring social unity and equality
It would be better if these initiatives were promoted amongst the less fortunate segments of society as well. If the politicians could extend their support to the youth that don’t belong to the elite class, then there might be an equitable level of development amongst the young population of Pakistan, across every level. Yet increasingly, class barriers are becoming another major hurdle for the majority of the youth and this situation needs immediate attention.
The current change in manifestos has been attributed to the higher ratio of youth in the upcoming elections. The Government of Pakistan has identified that 44 percent of voters are less than 35 years old. However, no matter what political parties talk about at the moment, in the end it all boils down to delivery of promises. Every manifesto only deals with job creation for the youth, ignoring the other glaring issues facing this large percentage of the population, and it remains to be seen whether the politicians will eventually succeed with garnering support or not.
All political parties are propagating that there would be millions of jobs for youth in Pakistan; with the PTI claiming it can create 10 million jobs when in power. However, these claims are being made in the absence of any data about the condition of the current job market, or the demand or level of skilled labour required. Without the relevant statistics, these claims are nothing more than mere words and the parties previously in charge are mainly to be blamed for this state of affairs. No data collection has been conducted on the employment trends in the country, nor has any action been taken to develop the specific skills, or educational institutes required according to the conditions of the current labour market.
Youth and skill development has been discussed in different provincial policies and frameworks. However, they are only useful if they are implemented properly, and due to a lack of support and funds from the government, many of these policies have been ignored to date. Although successive governments have launched different youth engagement initiatives, they are mostly skewed in favour of upper middle class or elite groups of society. Youth from national institutions are generally ignored, and the main cause is usually that they lack the necessary English fluency, research and technical skills required for such programs. Yet even that is the government’s own fault, for failing to provide adequate learning opportunities in their state institutions.
The main area of concern however, remains the exclusion of youth from policy formulation and decision-making at all levels of our society, both domestic and public. They are expected to just follow the commands of the people in power, without any meaningful attempts to include them in process. Musharraf tried to overcome this shortcoming of the system by introducing youth seats in local governments, however, their authority was minimum and they did not have the necessary funds to initiate worthwhile youth programs in the community.
Regardless of the deficiencies in the system, this move was still a valuable learning experience for the youth. It provided them with the opportunity to participate in local politics, and raise their voice in important policy making decisions. It also gave them a chance to see democracy at work at a young age, and pick up important skills for future careers in politics. Even though this system was discarded with the ouster of Musharraf, perhaps it can be reintroduced in order to empower the marginalised segments of Pakistani society.
Reforms at local level can lead to reforms at provincial and national levels as well. It has the potential to encourage the youth to play a constructive role for the sustainable development and prosperity of the country in the future, and give them the necessary drive to make a real difference.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.