Hopefully, we as Canadians can further appreciate our privileges and rights upon looking at what Pakistanis have gone through over the past few weeks.
Pakistan has just undergone a major election in the past week. The country voted to elect members to the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa, and saw an unprecedented interest from young Pakistanis. Former cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, of the Pakistan Tehrek-I-Insaf Party had a message of justice and change to the political system. Khan was challenging the rule of the Muslim National League, headed by Nawaz Sharif, as well as the Pakistan People’s Party co-chaired by Asif Ali Zardari and his son, Bilawl Zardari.
Mohsin Ali Syed, a young Pakistani who worked at a polling station in Karachi, spoke about the election and the role youth played.
“We are more than aware of our country’s problems, just like the entire world seems to be. Now, we as the next generation of Pakistanis are looking forward to the Naya [new] Pakistan, one that will hopefully be rid of the evils present now,” Syed said.
Even though there were high hopes with this election, there were many problems apparent. In Karachi especially, there have been widespread reports of stuffing ballot boxes, intimidation by thugs, and other discrepancies. Syed says that there should have been a lot more done by the government and armed forces to prevent the errors from taking place.
“We were told ahead of voting day that the army would be stationed outside each polling station to ensure that the job would be done honestly and efficiently, but they were not there at all. Many media don’t want to report this, but everyone in Karachi knows that the MQM, headed by Adnan Hussein, has a stranglehold of the city. They know that many people are tired of them, and would vote for something different. They sent out thugs to terrorize voters and workers like me,” Syed said.
Despite all of this, Syed was clear that Pakistanis would take to the streets again and again to make it known that what happened was not right.
“If we don’t speak out, who else will? To sit at home as an entire population and not do anything is a collective wrong, and that is the worst possible thing to do. If we want change and a better future, we have no choice but to take these kinds of risks,” Syed said.
Khan was the first to address youth heavily in his speeches and online forums, but he was not the only one to do so. While Khan’s message was the loudest in a crowded political stage, Sharif also emphasized his party’s achievements; however, Sharif and the PMLN, focused on youth in Punjab by addressing families and what was needed for families to sustain themselves, managing to secure the majority of votes there.
Asad Sayeed, a politics expert and a member of the Karachi based think tank Collective for Social Science Research, explains why even though Khan was popular with youth, it was Sharif who ultimately bested him.
“Yes, a lot of urban middle class youth support Khan, but those from poorer families voted who they felt would best deliver their platform. Khan’s platform was very anti-elitist, and almost anti-political, for someone entering politics, and he might have gotten caught in that,” Sayeed said.
“I hope that youth in other parts of the world can learn from our problems. Yes, we have more problems than solutions, but in order to change, we have no choice but to look at the solution. Never waste the rights you are entitled to, because you never know when they can be taken away” Syed said.
Although the PTI did not perform as they had hoped to, a message was definitely sent out to the Pakistan Muslim League, headed by Nawab Sharif (the victor). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI won most of the seats in that assembly, and have promised to “make it a model for the entire nation to follow”.
In Canada, where apathy is prevalent amongst a large amount of citizens (especially youth), it is important to look at a country like Pakistan and look at the impact of their young citizens. If their youth can be so optimistic about their future in a country with so many problems, why can’t we? Are we getting threatened if we go out to vote? Do we have to wait in scorching heat for hours, to cast a vote that may or may not get tampered with later on? Hopefully, we as Canadians can further appreciate our privileges and rights upon looking at what Pakistanis have gone through over the past few weeks.