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Monday, 9 January, 2012
A Pakistani Spring?
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HILE I was living in Washington on a research fellowship last year, Pakistanis often urged me to use the opportunity to promote Pakistan’s “positive aspects” to Americans. With the country steeped in ethnic and sectarian violence and regressing along the Human Development Index, this seemed like a challenge, and I’d struggle to muster compelling examples. No longer. An exciting shift is now under way in Pakistan: the young are becoming politically engaged. In coffee shops, beauty salons and workplaces, instead of gossiping or deconstructing the latest televised drama, youngsters are arguing about the merits of various politicians. As a journalist, I can’t walk into a social gathering without getting grilled by my peers and their younger siblings about this policy or that. Older Pakistanis who have long bemoaned the apathy of the country’s educated, middle-class youth are sighing in relief at this newfound activism. As one elderly family friend put it, “Your lot has
finally woken up.” Unlike their counterparts in the Arab world, young Pakistanis are less inspired by revolutionary rhetoric than in producing results through the existing system. They are demanding issuebased politics and sound government policies to reduce corruption, create jobs and recalibrate US-Pakistani relations.
country’s future has fuelled the unexpected success of the cricketerturned-politician Imran Khan. He boasts more than 150,000 followers on Twitter and more than 330,000 Facebook likes. The student wing of his Pakistan Tehreek-eInsaf (PTI) party counts over 4,000 members in Karachi. A PTI rally in Lahore in October attracted more than 7,000 students
Unlike their counterparts in the arab world, young Pakistanis are less inspired by revolutionary rhetoric than in producing results through the existing system. They are demanding issue-based politics and sound government policies to reduce corruption, create jobs and recalibrate US-Pakistani relations Blogging in a local daily, Muhammad Bilal Lakhani describes the evolution, “A visible and growing number of young, educated professionals in Pakistan are channelling their energies to incrementally improve the system by engaging with the current set up.” Pakistani youngsters’ desire for change and a greater stake in their
and thousands of young voters; with so many fresh faces in the crowd, the line between political gathering and rock concert seemed blurred. And this energy goes beyond PTI supporters. Several social media sites have hosted online voter-registration drives for the 2013 general elections. Many of these are not affiliated
with any political party; they are simply seeking to boost youth participation at the polls. Pakistan’s mainstream political parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), are launching youth-oriented campaigns and showcasing a new generation of politicians. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, of the PPP, is encouraging private media outlets to emphasise youth-oriented programming. The opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads the PML-N, recently drafted a new strategy to revamp his party’s Facebook presence and, in a bid to entice young voters, promised to distribute 300,000 laptops to students if he is elected. The heightened political engagement of Pakistan’s youth is especially significant these days as judicial activism and military interference in the political arena threaten the country’s democratic foundations. Now that’s a positive aspect of Pakistan I’m happy to highlight to Americans or anyone around the world. Huma Yusuf is a columnist for a local daily and was the 2010-11 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
PHOTO EXHIBITION STARTS JANUARY 9 AT 06:00 PM VENUE: gOETHE-INSTITUT
ART EXHIBITION STARTS JANUARY 10 AT 05:30 PM VENUE: CHAWKANDI ART
ART EXHIBITION STARTS JANUARY 13 AT 05:00 PM VENUE: UNICORN gALLERY
‘50 Years of Pakistan-German Development Cooperation’ from January 9 to 31 at the Goethe-Institut. Call 35661633 for more information.
Hadia Moiz, Kiran Saeed and Sobia Ahmed’s art exhibition from January 10 to 18 at the Chawkandi Art gallery. Call 35373582 for more information.
Farazeh Syed’s art exhibition from January 13 to 20 at the Unicorn Gallery. Call 35831220 for more information.