HARIPUR: As the polling day draws near, the young people below 26, who constitute about 19 per cent of the total voters in eight districts of Hazara division, seem perplexed about whom to vote for in the absence of Imran Khan, who is now out of the elections race.
History of the previous two elections shows a considerable tilt of young voters from the base level age group of 18 to 25 years, towards Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf of Imran Khan. During the last elections, PTI had four NA seats out of total seven in the eight districts of Hazara and nine of the total 18 provincial assembly seats.
However, the situation changed after the withdrawal of election symbol ‘bat’ from PTI by ECP. A visible disintegration in the party following Mr Khan’s conviction considerably caused his popularity graph to plummet, especially in marriage and Toshakhana cases.
Apart from party contestants’ complaints of not having a level playing field, what is worrisome for PTI is the disenchantment of youth, who seem to be in a state of confusion about whether to vote or otherwise.
Most of them unsure about casting their vote
“I am not sure I would cast my vote or abstain this time,” said Wasim Khan, a teenager and once a staunch supporter of PTI.
Dilawaz Amir Khan, another university graduate, also expressed similar views. She said that she was disappointed with the political system as the man, who was her ideal, was now a convict on moral grounds. Whether it was politically motivated or based on the truth, Mr Khan’s conviction has literally bewildered the youth, who have no option as according to Ahsan Khan, a social activist, the other mainstream parties have abandoned the PTI’s youth calling them ‘Youthia’ sans political ethics and values.
“The youth, who were a ray of hope of political future of PTI, are perplexed in the wake of prevailing political situation unfolded after the fall of PTI government and conviction of its leader,” said Abdul Saboor Qureshi, a political analyst.
He said that youth were demoralised and double minded about their role in the electoral system because they were sceptical about the leaderless PTI’s return to power. He said that with the absence of a charismatic leader and party’s symbol, a good majority of them was most likely to stay away from the voting process.
To a question about the diversion of youth vote bank to a party close to PTI, Mr Qureshi said that PPP’s manifesto was close to the hearts of have-nots, jobless youth and a common man. “But unfortunately Bilawal, despite being potential leader with more chances of attracting PTI’s voters, has little work and popularity in Hazara division. That’s why he could hardly entice them as alternative to Imran Khan,” he said in the purview of Hazara’s political landscape.
Tahir Amin a local labor leader and PTI supporter believes that the youth motivated by PTI have no other choice but to vote for nominees of the party without caring that their election symbol is changed and their leader is behind bars.
“Our 90 per cent youth are social media savvy and well-informed about the situation on ground. They will bravely sail against the tide taking the nation by surprise on Feb 8,” he claimed.
However, he said that only a fraction of middle age party workers, who were not connected with digital platforms, could turn out to be an ‘easy prey’ for anti-PTI elements.
“When they are not benefiting from the modern technology in this cyber age, it would certainly difficult for the party to educate them in this difficult time as to what exactly is happening in the country and how they could vote for the party nominees,” he said.
Abdul Saboor Yusufi, an activist of JI, however, claimed that his party was the last ray of hope for youth as all mainstream parties including PTI disappointed them and abandoned them after using them for their political motives. He said that since all the voters in 18-26 age group were not the workers of PTI, his party was optimistic about drawing the strength of young voters.
The local leaders of PML-N, QWP, JUI-F and ANP are also hopeful of attracting the leaderless young workers of PTI.
Hazara division has a total of 3,430,456 registered voters, who will elect seven MNAs and 18 MPAs. The number of voters falling in the first group of 18-25 years is 650,860, constituting 18.97 per cent of the total 3.43 million voters of the eight districts of Hazara division.
The female voters of the same age group are 40.28 per cent or 262,169 against their male age fellow voters, who are 59.72 per cent or 388,691.
The district-wise breakup of the 18-25 years old voters shows that Mansehra district tops the ladder with 211,747 voters, followed by Abbottabad that has 166,374 young voters, Haripur with 125,095, Battagram with 73,793, Torghar 25,389, Kohistan Upper 19,737, Kohistan Lower 18,657 and Kolai Palas having 10,069 young voters.
To find your constituency and location of your polling booth, SMS your NIC number (no spaces) to 8300. Once you know your constituency, visit the ECP website here for candidates.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024