Pakistan’s interesting demographics will play a large role in its future. Roughly 42 per cent of our population is 14 and under. Only four per cent of the population is above 65. If utilised properly, our youthful population has the ability to make Pakistan the place all of us know it can be. Given the unique demographic position we find ourselves in, the current period will play a crucial role in our history. If we want it badly enough, the next few years can alter the state of our nation.
Moving away from the abstract, what is required? For starters, the last week of October was a good one for Pakistan’s democracy. The freedom and power of political activism is what sustains a democracy. Hence, it is encouraging to see people come out in droves in support of the parties they believe hold the solutions to their problems. Moreover, it is highly encouraging to see young people participating, considering that the youth has rarely played a key role in Pakistan’s political scene. What is most important now is to ensure that this political activism is translated into tangible change through democratic means. If there is anything that a vast majority of Pakistanis agree on today, it is that change is required.
But, questions linger. What kind of change is required? Who will bring this change? How will the change come about? The answers to these questions are not immediate, but they can be found. The signs from last week are encouraging, but more political action is required.
In 2008, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), more than 35 million people turned out to vote in Pakistan’s general election. At the time, that figure represented 44 per cent of the population eligible to vote. The IPU monitors dozens of countries, and Pakistan’s voter turnout percentage was the third lowest out of all the countries they monitor. This abysmal figure represents a problem that needs to be solved going forward. Some of the 56 per cent who did not turn out to vote in 2008 are part of those craving change today. The best way for them and the rest of the population to enact change is through their vote. The greatest strength of a democracy is found in the immense power a single voter has. If the vast majority of the country fails to utilise their vote, our democracy becomes significantly weaker.
When change arrives in Pakistan, it will be for the better. Often when countries transform, there is an evolution across the board: the politicians mature, the state is bolstered, the society strengthens and the economy picks up. It is almost as if a change in one sector elicits change in the others.
The renewed sense of political activism we find ourselves witnessing today may be the catalyst for the change the nation is craving. A new sense of hope has been ignited. We may not know it yet, but we have already started the journey to a better tomorrow. Pakistan’s youth has an immense burden to carry, but at more than a hundred million-strong, that burden is one we can handle.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2011.
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