ISLAMABAD (AP) — A larger number of young Pakistanis believe the country should be governed by Islamic law or military rule rather than democracy, according to a survey released Wednesday, weeks before historic national elections.
Pakistan is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on May 11 — the first transition between democratically elected governments in a country that has experienced three military coups and constant political instability since its creation in 1947. The parliament's ability to complete its five-year term has been hailed as a significant achievement.
But a survey by the British Council found that young Pakistanis — defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29 — have grown more pessimistic about the future over this period, as the country has struggled with a weak economy, high inflation, pervasive energy shortages and a deadly Taliban insurgency.
About 94 percent of young Pakistanis believe the country is going in the wrong direction, compared with 86 percent in 2009, the study found. Less than a quarter believe democracy has benefited themselves or their families.
Given these figures, it is perhaps not surprising to find relatively low levels of support for democracy among the youth. Only 29 percent of young Pakistanis believe democracy is the best political system for the country, according to the poll.
"Look at this government that just completed its term. What did it give to people?" Waseem Qureshi, a 24-year-old call center worker in Islamabad, told The Associated Press. "You keep looting national wealth, and you tell us to bear with it because it's democracy."
Many Pakistanis have an extremely low opinion of the country's politicians, who they often view as more interested in earning money through corruption than dealing with problems facing ordinary citizens.
Qureshi said Islamic law, or Shariah, would be better suited for Pakistan. Around 38 percent of young Pakistanis agreed with him, according to the poll, a reflection of the deeply held religious views of many young people in the majority Muslim country.
Military rule also came out ahead of democracy, with 32 percent support, despite the turbulent history of the army toppling civilian governments in coups. The survey found that the army enjoys much higher levels of support among people, 77 percent, than the civilian government, 14 percent.
"Military rule is better than democracy, at least compared to what we have experienced in recent times," Uzair Bashir, a 20-year-old university student in the southern city of Karachi, told the AP.
He cited the era of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, left Pakistan in self-imposed exile in 2008 and recently returned to the country to run in elections.
"During his rule youngsters had job opportunities, security was far better than today, economic conditions were good and there was less inflation," said Bashir.
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