Pakistani youth’s political engagement has been complicated in the past. Power is constantly being withheld from young people, which historically speaking, has turned out to be a barrier in their political involvement. In the past, low young voter turnout has been an evidence of structural and organizational obstacles to young electoral participation, which included the distrust many young people felt towards traditional institutions of governance. Therefore, feeling disconnected from a political process was not youth’s apathy but their rejection of the ineffective political model, that refused to give any credence to their political voice, especially when they grew up seeing how the political parties repeatedly failed their people. The youth of Pakistan, after decades of remaining on the side lines, played a decisive role in the victory of Imran Khan in 2018. The voter turnout among young people was the highest ever with an estimated 20 to 30 percent of people voting for the first time in the 2018 elections.
This was a revolutionary change and is still going through the process of maturity, ever since Imran khan has taken the plunge to engage the neglected youth of the past, which is around 63 percent population of the country aged between 15 and 33 (UN Population Fund Report 2017).
It is Imran khan who has empowered the youth and who has politically engaged young people from all backgrounds through the use of social media for sharing information, mobilization and to make their mark in political spaces. Imran Khan focused on the participation of young people in formal, institutional political processes and challenged the disenfranchisement of young people by giving them a place in the political arena. Imran Khan made it clear that in the new and emerging democracies, the inclusion of young people in formal political processes is significant right from the get-go.
For the first time in the political history of Pakistan, a leader has engaged young people in a political process by giving them a voice in formulating today’s and tomorrow’s politics. He has given those a political consciousness, who were left unrepresented and greatly let down by the dynastic political parties. Imran Khan has made them realize that their political engagement and voting is their democratic right that no one can take away from them. His inspiration has revolutionized how our youth are now engaging with our political institutions, processes, and decision-making, and in particular in elections, with the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate in a meaningful way to bring about a change.
The recent political events leading to the toppling of Imran Khan’s government are a testament to the fact that along with a massive majority, young people have also been at the forefront of the protests and are showing a deep concern, anger and perceive these challenges as a betrayal of their future. And what we are witnessing is that they are not letting this crises stifle them and their optimism – and now seem to believe in the power of their voice, that Imran Khan has given them. The youth is demonstrating that nothing will stall them, no obstacles are unbeatable for them; and that they are in it for the long haul. Imran Khan has become the inspiring and endearing leader, proving that in mature democracies, youth is extremely vital to change the political landscape of the country.
Imran Khan deserves the full credit for this political awakening of the youth through his persistence, determination, and message of tabdeeli. To the youth of Pakistan, Imran khan is their savior, a reformer, and a champion who has for the first time raised the issue of what the character of a true Islamic and a great society should look like.