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Naya daur: Denim brigade wants to bring in the change

The encounter is between the youths’ demand for change and the status quo of the mainstream politics. Huma Fakhar writes.

india Updated: May 10, 2013 01:54 IST
Huma Fakhar
Huma Fakhar
Hindustan Times
Pakistan elections 2013,Benazir Bhutto,Pakistan Peoples Party

Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party perceived democracy as a form of revenge. That revenge is finding expression now with the youth of Pakistan. The youth across the country has jumped in the political process, almost with a vengeance. They claim election 2013 is a war to create a “Naya (new) Pakistan” of Imran Khan’s vision. Being termed as the Youth Election, the encounter is between the youths’ demand for change and the status quo of the mainstream politics. “What have the old-time politicians given us in the last 65 years?” says Ibrarul Toheed, a graduate of Punjab University, “we want serious reformers and not professional politicians”. Ibrar goes on to quote Roosevelt “An election cannot give a country a firm sense of direction if it has two or more national parties which merely have different names, but are as alike in their principles and aims.” “We are lucky,” claims Ibrar, “as unlike the past, the youth now has a choice today with Imran’s Pakistan Tehrike Insaaf (PTI).”

This view has reverberated among thousands of educated denim-clad young supporters of PTI at Khan’s rallies. Surprisingly, the last few weeks have been even more astounding. The "PTI bug" as most call it, has gone beyond the denim revolutionaries of big cities. The rural young have also joined the youth movement. Evelyn Zuberbhuler, a visitor from Switzerland travelling across rural Pakistan, says: "Pakistani youth are no more at the cross-roads. There is a clear choice for a new mindset."

The youths could tip Pakistan’s balance of power, according to a report by Voice of America. There are 35 million new voters, out of which a majority is between the age of 18 and 25; almost sixty percent of those likely to make their way to the ballot box on May 11.

Aware of this huge “surprise youth vote”, political parties have courted the young. Nawaz Sharif’s PML – N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) has in the last few months encouraged youth festivals and successfully launched a programme of distributing free laptops to almost 200,000 young students.

Imran’s vision, on the contrary, is one of overall engagement of the young not only as voters but also as participants in the political progression. The PTI’s economic agenda encompasses a vigorous youth policy. It has tossed the first-ever fund of its kind the “Naya Pakistan Fund”.

This fund pooled in by common Pakistanis, aims to sponsor young and deserving electoral candidates across the country in the 2013 elections. The elections seem to have become a feud where young educated candidates are battling against old-time “electables”. Twenty-five per cent of candidates sponsored by the PTI under the fund are 35 years of age or less.

These Tabdeeli Razakars (agents of change) are not just young denim-clad revolutionaries who call themselves the “Khan’s Army” that began in big cities. The trend’s also catching up in rural Pakistan. A young man from Sargodha in Punjab says “It is wrong to say PTI is only an urban phenomenon. The Quaid e Azam (Jinnah) talked to the villagers in English and the villagers responded as if they understood the language. It’s about passion and it’s the same with Imran.”

The jewel in the crown of this youth revolution is the PTI’s Tabdeeli Razakar Programme – TRP. Tabdeeli means “Change” and “Razakar” means volunteer/agents. These “agents of change” are the new face of Pakistan’s politics. TRP is run by the PTI’s two dynamic leaders Asad Umar and Andleeb Abbas.

These top professionals of the country have forgone their successful careers and dedicated themselves to the “change” the PTI strives for. Umar was the highest paid CEO of the country at the time he resigned from the corporate world to join the PTI. The leadership of these two young warriors has made TRP the pivot around which the PTI’s success revolves.

Andleeb Abass explains how the TRP is defying the politics of money. “The PTI campaign had to be kicked off from Lahore, the political nerve centre of Pakistan. Generally to collect 10000 people for a rally it requires 10 days and the money for advertising and organisation. The TRP organised it in 10 hours with just an SMS to all TRs in the area and with zero money. Thirty thousand passionate TRs turned up to make political history. A boy suffering from cancer has become a TR saying that this is his moment to do something meaningful”.

The TRP has become a Pakistani role model. It involves almost a million volunteers and draws mainly on popular passion. The compassion-based TRP structure has surpassed the formalities of political organisation, negating the over dependence on money. The programme is attracting young girls and women as well from remote areas. The angry young boys of the street display order and discipline at TR gatherings; all focused and charged up to a single purpose, Naya Pakistan, which will continue beyond elections 2013.

The PTI is a dream come true for the people of Pakistan. No process is perfect and neither is the PTI. But it has the ability to carve a nation out of an otherwise disoriented state. People believe that this could be a perfectly viable country.

This is no time to look back into our endless list of sins; bigotry, extremism and intolerance. It is time to look ahead as a modern and a thinking nation by making a choice between old tested politicians and reformers.

Will this denim revolution and beyond unfold into victory on election day? Will the catalysts of change triumph? Or will the insanity of repeating our mistakes prevail? Time will tell.

Huma Fakhar, is a businessperson from Pakistan, living in Lahore.

First Published: May 09, 2013 22:43 IST