Muhammad Faheem

Preparations for the upcoming general elections have commenced, and there is speculation that the federal government might dissolve its term in early August, giving political parties time to conduct their election campaigns. Historically, each election campaign in Pakistan has been driven by different narratives, with new slogans presented to the people.

In 2008, the campaign focused on opposing the then-dictator General Pervez Musharraf, and political parties garnered votes under this banner. In 2013, the country faced serious energy crises and law and order issues, and parties campaigned on addressing these problems. Similarly, in 2018, the anti-corruption narrative gained popularity, influencing people’s voting choices.

As we approach the 2023 elections, it appears that the slogan on everyone’s lips will be economic stability, with political parties vying for votes based on this platform. However, what is noticeably absent is a concerted effort to address the concerns of the youth in the country, who could play a pivotal role in solving the nation’s challenges.

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Shafiq Gigyani, an advocate for youth rights, emphasizes that Pakistan boasts the highest proportion of young voters globally, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Recognized worldwide, countries with a larger youth population tend to experience more significant development. However, in Pakistan, the youth are becoming disillusioned and disengaged. Political parties fail to prioritize providing technical skills and economic empowerment to the youth.

While their election manifestos may promise attractive solutions, the lack of concrete actions leaves much to be desired. It is essential for political parties to genuinely focus on the youth, involving them in political decision-making processes and mainstreaming their voices.

The Election Commission’s data reveals approximately 120 million registered voters across the country, with more than 60 million men and over 50 million women. Among them, 23 million fall within the 18 to 25 years age bracket, while 32 million are between 26 to 35 years old, and more than 27 million are aged 36 to 45 years. With such a significant youth demographic, any prudent approach would target the youth vote. However, this does not seem to be the case in the current political landscape.

Young social activist Naila Altaf expresses concern over the unscientific approach of political parties towards youth issues, noting that they often narrowly focus on male youth, neglecting the rights and potential of young women. Women, especially those in tribal regions, have historically faced deprivation, and their opportunities remain limited. Despite a growing political consciousness among young women, they are still inadequately represented in political decision-making processes.

Naila calls for inclusivity and equal representation of women in political leadership, stressing that the youth, both male and female, should be empowered to actively participate in shaping the nation’s future. She laments that political parties continue to rely on traditional methods, overlooking the pressing concerns of the youth.

In conclusion, the forthcoming elections present an opportunity for political parties to recognize the importance of the youth vote and address their needs and aspirations. By prioritizing the youth and fostering their involvement in decision-making processes, Pakistan can harness its greatest asset for a prosperous future.

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