After polls, Pakistani youth cautiously hopeful of nation’s future

February 23rd, 2008 - 10:35 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 23 (IANS) Two days after the two largest political parties announced their plans for a coalition government, Pakistani youngsters, most of whom voted for the first time, are clear-eyed that while the elections herald new hope, past history makes them wary of being too optimistic. On the first day of their semester, 24-year-old Khurram Gondhar sat in a car with two friends, outside the boys’ hostel in Quaid-e-Azam University, which nestles at the foot of the Margalla Hills surrounding Islamabad.

“I am just glad the that the elections threw out the Chaudhury clan,” he said, as a boy brought them three glasses of red fruit juices, shakily balanced on a steel tray.

The “Chaudhary clan” referred to the leader of the former ‘king’s party’ - Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) - Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, and his brother Pervez Elahi, who was chief minister of Punjab for over five years.

The Feb 18 general elections threw out the PML-Q out of power and gave a simple majority to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) at 87 votes, followed by PML-Nawaz at 66. On Thursday night, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif shook hands to signal the formation of a consensus government.

“This had to happen. Noon (as PML-N is known colloquially) and PPP will work together and make it work,” Gondhar told IANS. A student of masters in economics, he was optimistic that the coalition will run “for the next three to five years”.

Amused by Gondhar’s effort to gaze into the crystal ball, his friend Sharyar Ali slapped him on his back, saying: “He is the spokesperson of all students”.

In another part of the widely spaced university campus, 21-year-old Saba Khalid, a student of international relations, was sitting on a bench while some of her classmates stood around discussing the new feeling prevailing in the nation.

“There is hope now,” she asserted, referring to the polls, which some analysts had termed as a referendum on the policies of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

But, when asked if the coalition would stay together for long, she shrugged, “I am not sure. They probably will not.”

“We may again vote within two years,” said Shehri Awan, which provoked the youngest of the bunch, 20-year-old Maria Malik, to assert with confidence: “It will be within a year.”

According to Zila Huma, 21, the best agenda among political parties was that of PML-N. “They always talk about releasing judges and restoring judiciary, which is great,” she said.

Agreeing with her friend’s description, Saba, however, qualified: “If Benazir Bhutto had been alive, then PPP would have been the perfect party.”

But they agreed that Zardari as PM would be untenable.

“(Makhdoom Amin) Faheem would be the right choice, but he does not seem to be a bold person and remains only the in the shadows. But, at least I trust him, but do not trust Zardari,” said Anashia, 24, who is pursuing a degree in MPA.

While they debated on who should be the next PM, in another part of the federal capital two young cousins braved burning eyes and dozens of riot policemen to take part in a protest outside the fortified home of former chief justice Iftikhar Ali Chaudhary who has been kept under house arrest by Musharraf who had suspended and replaced him.

“I had wanted to vote this time, but my entire family, including my grandmother who has voted in all elections, was not part of the electoral rolls,” said Iram Ali, a 25-year-old barrister, as she held aloft a home made poster in which she had lambasted the US for propping up Musharraf.

Her cousin, 18-year-old Noor Anwar, was waving a Pakistani flag in front of rolled-up tinted windows of luxury vehicles going onto Frontier House, adjacent to the judge’s colony.

“I plan to practice law. If I don’t do something now, then I may have to give up my dream,” Noor said.

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