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‘38% of Pak youth prefer Sharia, 29% democracy’

Author: PTI
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 4, 2013

Ahead of crucial elections marking the first democratic transition in Pakistan’s history, more than 90% of the youth believe the country is heading in the wrong direction while nearly 40% think that Sharia or Islamic law would be the best political system, a survey said.
   
These are among the key findings of a new survey by the British Council that focussed on youths between 18 and 29 years, who are expected to play a vital role in the May 11 general election.
   
The ‘Next Generation Goes to the Ballot Box’ report, published on Wednesday, indicated deep pessimism among the youth, many of whom will be voting for the first time.
   
While pessimism was a worrying trend in the last ‘Pakistan: The Next Generation’ report, it is ‘significantly worse’ in the new report, said columnist Fasi Zaka, a member of the task force behind the survey.
   
“In 2007, 50 % of the youth thought Pakistan was heading in the wrong direction, today that figure is 94%,” Zaka said.
   
A majority of respondents — 38 %— said Islamic Sharia would be the best system for Pakistan while 32 % backed military rule and only 29 % favoured democracy, according to the survey that covered over 5,200 youths across the country.
   
Those who backed Islamic law said it was the best system for ‘promoting moral behaviour’, eradicating corruption, ensuring access to electricity and water, and providing people with healthcare and education.
   
Sixty-four % of male youths described themselves as conservative or religious while the figure for females was 75%.
   
Asked about the most important events in their lives, most of the youths did not point to a positive event or collective achievement.
   
Most referred to the devastating earthquake of 2005, floods in 2010 or the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, which topped the list. “More worrying is the fact that a quarter of all young people have been directly affected by violence or witnessed a serious violent event,” said Zaka.

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Voters to get ‘none of the above’ choice?
   

For the first time, Pakistani voters may get the choice of not voting for any of the candidates in the fray for the May 11 general election, with the Election Commission on Wednesday deciding to incorporate “none of the above” option in ballot papers. The decision to include the “none of the above” option in ballot papers was made at a meeting of the poll panel chaired by chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, officials told the media. Since the measure will require legal backing, a formal proposal will be sent by the Election Commission to the prime minister about issuing an ordinance, the officials said. A blank slot will be included in ballots along with the names of candidates in every constituency. If 51% of voters opt for the blank slot, a re-election will be held in the constituency, the officials said.
 
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