Youth in Karachi show lack of interest in electoral process

Published January 16, 2023
Youngsters show their CNICs after casting their votes along with their family in a Gulshan-i-Iqbal area on Sunday. —White Star
Youngsters show their CNICs after casting their votes along with their family in a Gulshan-i-Iqbal area on Sunday. —White Star

KARACHI: Some saw boycott by the factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a reason for low turnout in Sunday’s local government elections in Karachi while some believed that disconnect of the people due to the late finalisation of the polls played a huge role.

But the lack of participation of young persons in the key electoral process puts not only a question mark on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf that claimed to be the party of youth but also on other parties that have been championing the rights of youth.

During a visit to various areas of the city, this reporter saw an overwhelming majority of the youth who chose not to participate in the election in the manner the political parties rely on them.

Assistant Presiding Officer Jibran Raees in UC-13, North Karachi/New Karachi, told Dawn that the turnout was very low and the youth were also not in a large number. “Only the young people who are bringing their parents are casting their votes. You may say that 20 per cent of the voters are young, which is just ok.”

“Earlier, 30-35pc voters used to be youth, but this time they are hardly 20pc. This shows the disinterest of our young people,” said another polling officer from UC-4, North Nazimabad.

Ajmal Zubair, who cast his vote in a polling station of Hyderabad Colony, told Dawn that he voted for the Jamaat-i-Islami since it is a ‘fashion’ these days to vote for them. “This was my first local government election as a voter. Before that, in 2018, I voted for the PTI and Pak Sarzameen Party [for the provincial assembly],” he said.

Rafay Shareef, who also exercised his right to vote for the first time, told Dawn that he voted for former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal in the 2018 general elections considering that he had worked for the city in the past. “This time I voted for JI because MQM has boycotted and we will never vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party. We have also tried PTI and they too have disappointed us. So, the only option was JI.

“We could have wasted our vote, but since we have tried everyone so we are giving a chance to them as well. They feel like trying hard and looks like a sensible party to us. This is our last option. It’s over after them if they too fail to deliver,” he said.

Even those who exercised their right to vote were of the opinion that they had voted for the JI as it was their final hope. “We [Karachiites] have tried everyone and they are the only ones who have not been tested recently. So, let’s give them a chance for once. If they fail as well, then we will see what to do in the upcoming elections,” a group of friends in UC-6, Gulberg Town, said.

The same attitude was of the most of the young voters who cast their vote for a particular party for the first time.

“I never in my life thought that I would be voting for them, but they look like the only option left. If they do not deliver, it’s over for me,” 23-year-old Fatima from Ayesha Manzil told this reporter.

The number of eligible young voters found at tea shops outside polling stations was way more than those in polling stations.

Shumail Ahmed, a resident of North Nazimabad Block A who was sitting a tea shop with friends, said: “The PTI was the last party I ever trusted, but they too stabbed us. I don’t feel like voting anymore. At the end of the day, we have to do things on our own then why bother about all this.”

Maham Awan, who came to a polling station in the Hyderi area with her family but did not cast her ballot, said: “This is my second time voting. The first time I did, it was influenced by a wave and I believed that things would change. We were told that we were a change, but we were just another pawn for another party. So, this time I made sure that I don’t get fooled by another wave.”

However, this was not the only reason that kept the youth from actively engaging in the electoral process.

Some also believed that since ‘the polls are already rigged’ there was no point in making any effort.

A resident of Naya Nazimabad, Yaheya Khan, said: “I have been hearing all day long that the PPP will win. So, why should I travel miles to cast my vote when things are already settled? This makes no sense. So I preferred sleeping all day and enjoying my weekend.”

However, those who even wanted to vote faced some problems that ultimately discouraged them. A voter who wished not to be named showed up at a polling station in UC-8, Gulshan-i-Iqbal town, to cast his vote, but did not find his name in the list despite being shown in the message received by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2023

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