Poll: Pakistani youth disenchanted with democracy

Published Apr 04, 2013 04:03pm

Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan addresses his supporters during a rally in the northwestern city of Mingora. His Movement for Justice party appeals to a young, urban constituency tired of the corruption that plagues the system. —Photo (File) AP
Imran Khan addresses his supporters during a rally. His Movement for Justice party appeals to a young, urban constituency tired of the corruption that plagues the system. —Photo (File) AP

ISLAMABAD: A larger number of young Pakistanis believe the country should be governed by Islamic law or military rule rather than democracy, according to a survey released on Wednesday, weeks before historic national elections.    

Pakistan is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on May 11 - the first transition between democratically elected governments in a country that has experienced three military coups and constant political instability since its creation in 1947. The parliament's ability to complete its five-year term has been hailed as a significant achievement.

But a survey by the British Council found that young Pakistanis - defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29 - have grown more pessimistic about the future over this period, as the country has struggled with a weak economy, high inflation, pervasive energy shortages and a deadly Taliban insurgency.

About 94 per cent of young Pakistanis believe the country is going in the wrong direction, compared with 86 per cent in 2009, the study found. Less than a quarter believe democracy has benefited themselves or their families.

Given these figures, it is perhaps not surprising to find relatively low levels of support for democracy among the youth. Only 29 per cent of young Pakistanis believe democracy is the best political system for the country, according to the poll.

''Look at this government that just completed its term. What did it give to people?'' Waseem Qureshi, a 24-year-old call center worker in Islamabad, told The Associated Press. ''You keep looting national wealth, and you tell us to bear with it because it's democracy.''

Many Pakistanis have an extremely low opinion of the country's politicians, who they often view as more interested in earning money through corruption than dealing with problems facing ordinary citizens.

Qureshi said Islamic law, or Shariah, would be better suited for Pakistan. Around 38 per cent of young Pakistanis agreed with him, according to the poll, a reflection of the deeply held religious views of many young people in the majority Muslim country.

Military rule also came out ahead of democracy, with 32 per cent support, despite the turbulent history of the army toppling civilian governments in coups. The survey found that the army enjoys much higher levels of support among people, 77 per cent, than the civilian government, 14 per cent.

''Military rule is better than democracy, at least compared to what we have experienced in recent times,'' Uzair Bashir, a 20-year-old university student in the southern city of Karachi, told the AP.

He cited the era of General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, left Pakistan in self-imposed exile in 2008 and recently returned to the country to run in elections.

''During his rule youngsters had job opportunities, security was far better than today, economic conditions were good and there was less inflation,'' said Bashir.

The three forms of government in the survey were offered as distinct choices, although in theory, Islamic law could be implemented in conjunction with either democracy or military rule.

Despite having a relatively low opinion of democracy, Pakistan's bulging youth population could be influential in the upcoming election. More than 30 per cent of registered voters, or more than 25 million, are between the ages of 18 and 29, and many will be voting for the first time, the report said.

Many young Pakistanis have been drawn to former cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, who has railed against the country's traditional political parties as bastions of corruption. His message has hit a chord, especially among the urban middle class, but the question is whether he can motivate young people to show up at the polls.

Around 60 per cent of young people plan to vote, while another 10 per cent said they could still be persuaded to turn out, the survey said.

High inflation, unemployment and poverty are three of the most important issues for young Pakistanis - just one in 10 are in stable employment. Many are also concerned with education, health care, terrorism, corruption and energy and water shortages.

Young people actually identified democracy as the best system for economic growth, while Shariah was better for upholding morality, and military rule for providing security, the survey said.

''The costs of failing to harness the energies of youth are high,'' the report said. ''If young people are starved of opportunities, they can wreak havoc on any society, turning a demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.''

Pakistan is running out of time to give young people the education and jobs needed to take advantage of this demographic dividend. By mid-century, the proportion of workers in the population will be falling and the country will be aging fast, making it harder to care for growing numbers of elderly, the report said, warning that the country could be one of the first ever to grow old before it has grown rich.

"Far from collecting its demographic dividend, Pakistan continues to advance further down the road to demographic disaster," the report said. "The next generation is increasingly gripped by a profound feeling of helplessness and young people do not feel in control of their own destinies."

The British Council survey was carried out by talking to more than 5,000 young Pakistanis in December 2012 and January 2013. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 per cent.

More From This Section

Comments (26) (Closed)


raika45
Apr 04, 2013 02:10pm
What did Nawaz Sharif do when he was running the country at one time? That is before Musharraf "took over" ? What were his beneficial values to the country? Can you please elaborate.
ajaz
Apr 04, 2013 02:15pm
you have got to kidding!!!
raika45
Apr 04, 2013 12:55pm
A democracy will only work if the country is led by honest law abiding people that put the nation's interests first.Not those who have their personal interests at the forefront like in India.In both your countries democracy has become a joke.No wonder the people are fed up and want change.That the alternative will work is up to speculation.
ID
Apr 04, 2013 03:26pm
Survey by the British Council!
Rashid Sultan
Apr 04, 2013 12:51pm
Vote for Nawaz Sharif and save the nation. Others will make promises, never deliver sell out, rule with fanaticism and fear or be dictatorial. Nawaz, although not a shining example of manhood, is the least damaging choice. He can move the right levers.
Sonia K
Apr 04, 2013 01:28pm
British Council conducting a survey???? Since when was British Council so interested in Pakistani politics? Coz youth is taking part in politics doesnot make them exactly the right candidate! Secondly the sample size for the report is not stated in any news item in any article online!!! Seems very well- placed article!
Abbas
Apr 04, 2013 03:52pm
I live in the west I love the the west and respect the human values I have learnt in all these 20 years , but Islam is the solution today for all the young and old Muslims alike. but ,are we ready to embrace Islam as a true and honest Muslim .....? This is the million rupee question.
Indusonian
Apr 04, 2013 12:21pm
Vote for PTI to build a new Pakistan or destroy Pakistan by voting otherwise.
Sonia K
Apr 05, 2013 08:48pm
:) If you 'really' want to see Shariah- you need to go back some 1400 years and read unbiased historical accounts!! Not Afghanistan that was used by the US for breaking Russia and then plundering! Thats how Taliban were created in the first place!
Wild Wild West
Apr 04, 2013 12:20pm
"Young people actually identified democracy as the best system for economic growth, while Shariah was better for upholding morality, and military rule for providing security, the survey said" This is not the way International media reported the survey. They are saying young people actually identified Sharia law as the best system.
parmi99
Apr 05, 2013 07:44pm
Just look around. How many Muslim countries are most there, who are developed and are most technologically advanced?
Sinn Sal
Apr 04, 2013 03:07pm
Democracy is the slowest form of governance but the surest form of governance.
Azhar
Apr 04, 2013 04:53pm
We have already tried and tested PPP & PML(N). Lets give a chance to Imran Khan. In my opinion, he is the best choice at the moment. Corruption is the main problem of Pakistan and Imran is the only clean and uncorrupted leader who can fight this menace.
anony
Apr 04, 2013 05:11pm
Vote for Imran Khan. Inshallah PTI will win.
How Wrong
Apr 04, 2013 05:49pm
Was that a joke?
Porus
Apr 04, 2013 06:15pm
Cos they havent seen the Sharia law yet. Remember Afghanistan under Taliban and Swat ?
Cyrus Howell
Apr 04, 2013 06:24pm
Those who wish to be governed by Islamic law deserve to get their wish good and hard. Of course they see only the wealthy sons and daughters of Pakistan obtaining university educations and good jobs. Those wealthy ones should keep in mind that Sharia law is meant to punish. It has no other purpose.
Cyrus Howell
Apr 04, 2013 06:29pm
Food for thought, Rashid. Food for thought.
Cyrus Howell
Apr 04, 2013 06:32pm
Vote for PTI ? Any change is better than what the people have now. Pakistan has never been this badly managed. Water and electricity theft should be treasonable offenses.
ss
Apr 04, 2013 07:04pm
i based on my observation, somewhat agree with survey :-/
Jawaid
Apr 05, 2013 05:27pm
This poll is a sham. How can Brit Council hold a meanigfull poll when they have closed down their library and gone into hiding
Xulf
Apr 05, 2013 12:09am
The British has forfeited any moral high ground on truthfulness. I used to listen to BBC years ago but not anymore and unless they try Tony Blair for war crimes they will never be taken seriously again
anonymous
Apr 05, 2013 12:25am
I prefer military. Even IK can't do anything about it. Democracy is the best revenge - take it out on ppl .
zeeshansyed
Apr 05, 2013 03:52am
I'd be surprised if our so-called youth, the mummy-daddy kids living in Pakistan's posh areas will even consider getting up in the morning, standing in line under the heat just to vote for a change. Big mouths, no actions. THAT is our history and THAT is our motto and THAT is what will happen again this time. Yup, bookmark this page and my comment and get back to me if I am proven wrong come May 11. I'll be more than happy to eat my words and say, "I was 100% wrong".
immad
Apr 05, 2013 04:41am
vote for Nawaz Sharif and help him make another billion pound property in London, another 10 star luxorious palace in Pakistan, another industrial empire in middle east. I wonder how can sensible people campaign for such filthy politicians.
omar
Apr 06, 2013 06:49am
just because some youth were born to well educated well off families doesnt give you the right to judge. I know many who would do anything to save this country from itself. In any case its the brain washed people living under feudal lordship is what we should be concerned most about.