Youth Engagement In National Politics Can Save Pakistan

Youth Engagement In National Politics Can Save Pakistan
With a population of over 220 million, almost two-thirds under the age of 30, Pakistan is a youthful country. This demographic constitution makes youth participation in politics crucial for Pakistan's success and for determining the nation's destiny through representation of the popular will. Engaging young people in politics will assist in fostering diversity, contributing fresh ideas and viewpoints to the national political debate, and is the surest guarantee for the nation-state being run in a way that represents the aspirations and ambitions of all its citizens.

Unfortunately, Pakistan's youth have been ignored in programmes implemented by previous administrations. Only the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) government in Punjab province actually implemented uplift programmes for the youth, providing laptops to the region's most promising students. Consequently, this allowed them to engage with the global community on the world wide web (WWW) as well as become active in the domestic political arena, at least in the information domain if not in the election or policymaking dimensions as yet.

Upon her return from the UK, PMLN chief organiser and senior vice president Maryam Nawaz has been actively engaging with young people and visiting educational institutions to listen to their views and opinions on matters that concern our country. This is a significant step towards building a stronger and more inclusive political culture in Pakistan.

The PMLN, and especially Maryam Nawaz, firmly believe that the youth of Pakistan are not just the future, but must also be treated as the 'present' of our national consciousness. It is essential to engage with them and empower them to make informed decisions about their future. By doing so, we can ensure that the voices of the next generation are heard and represented in our nascent, sometimes dysfunctional democracy. To ensure concerted and fruitful engagement, the senior vice president of the PMLN has been making efforts towards organising meetings with young leaders of PMLN.

In a recent meeting with party's youth leaders, Maryam Nawaz discussed the organisational structure of the youth wing and gave recommendations on how social media should be used to increase the political influence of the PMLN, and promote its sound policies which have delivered results. Social media is quickly becoming the new mainstream media, especially in the case of youth who are able to voice their own opinions and enjoy freedom of expression - even freedom to ridicule - unlike ever before. The internet is a crucial tool for mobilization of the citizenry, and there is no replacement for it when it comes to talking about public grievances.

Maryam Nawaz emphasised that social media should be used to establish a positive and healthy tradition of social cohesion, political consensus, and civil discourse. She reiterated that poisonous propaganda from the opposition should be countered with facts, rational arguments, and good manners.

The party's senior vice president also listened to young leaders on the problems faced by the country's youth, and their suggestions on how to solve them were also discussed. Maryam Nawaz offered a holistic framework for addressing the issues faced by the youth, in the form of the PMLN's priorities for youth development were also discussed by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, especially involving the youth in nation-building and development efforts.
It is important to understand that Maryam's efforts to interact with young people does not indicate that she is opposed to the party's senior leaders.

In the meeting, the party also held consultations on its new youth policy. Maryam Nawaz stressed that the youth must participate in the fields of IT, e-commerce, and artificial intelligence related fields so that Pakistan can not only survive, but compete globally, and ensure its long-term prosperity through sustainable development.

Currently, the Pakistani youth are suffering from endemic unemployment and stagnant wages, with reduced purchasing power due to inflation, and many other problems due to the political polarisation that the opposition is engaged in. Many youth do not have requisite skills to compete for jobs, or innovate, as the previous PTI government never invested in any skill development programmes. The current PDM unity government, however, is actively working on providing skills-based and vocational trainings to the youth, as well as interest-free loans so that young entrepreneurs can establish their own businesses and contribute to the development of the country.

According to Maryam Nawaz, the party's organisational structure will be strengthened by bringing the youth forward, which would eliminate any flaws in the existing systems, making the structure itself more effective and dynamic throughout the nation. With the hopes that the current team would infuse new life into the party's youth wing, she announced the appointment of Ashiq Hussain Kirmani as the coordinator of Punjab youth.

It is important to understand that Maryam's efforts to interact with young people does not indicate that she is opposed to the party's senior leaders who have served the country for decades. Maryam appreciates the value of wisdom and the contributions of the older generation in determining how the future of our nation can best enable us to rescue Pakistan from the ongoing crises. To develop a stronger and more unified political culture, she contends that we must cooperate and forge links between the young and the old. Maryam has taken it upon herself to form a bridge between the party's senior leadership and younger cadres.

PMLN strongly believes that youth engagement in politics is not just a political responsibility, but the purpose of our society - to nurture the next generation of leadership - as a whole. The party urges all segments of society to come together and support the Pakistani youth in taking an active, meaningful, constructive interest in politics. Through awareness and advocacy for the real issues at the local, provincial, national and global level, the youth of Pakistan can become a force multiplier in contributing towards the development of our nation.

Maryam’s efforts for youth in particular, and to create a more inclusive and vibrant political culture in general, must be applauded. Involving young people in the political process can promote inclusivity, bring fresh perspectives to the discussion, promote openness and exchange of ideas, encourage stability, strengthen democracy, and ultimately build a more prosperous and progressive Pakistan. The PMLN is actively pursuing this idea, with Maryam Nawaz Sharif as the flagbearer of this vanguard initiative.

The PMLN will continue to play its part for the democratic representation and true empowerment of the people of Pakistan. But it is the responsibility of all political parties, and also the civil society, to create an environment that encourages and supports youth involvement in mainstream politics. Once younger Pakistanis build confidence in the system by occupying seats of legislative power, only then can we build a country that represents the dreams and aspirations of all its citizens.

The writer is a LUMS graduate and a former member of the Punjab assembly. She is affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).