Punjab Government’s recent Laptop Scheme for youths excelling in the educational quarter invited much criticism and disapproval, particularly from PML-N’s opponents.
All controversy, contention, partisanship and public announcements regarding the scheme apart – let us accept, or assume [ Suit your views ] that this is a purely political strategy. Either as a component of pre-election campaigning or to rightfully attempt to secure and include a substantial slice of the the nation, in their voter base.
It has come to be seen that many of those who received the laptops themselves, consider the whole project as an effort to raise a favourable image and opinion of PML-N in this distinct section, in face of the popularity that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf enjoys amongst them.
Equally manifest and relevant, is how many of these very recipients who have been given the laptops and hold the aforementioned view, mention rather sarcastically, the enjoyment they are deriving of ‘PML-N’s’ free modern technological device, while reinforcing their political leanings towards PTI.
And as bad as an example as the following will sound to be, similarities do lie between the Punjab Government’s Laptop Scheme and the Aata Scheme that was executed by PML-Q a few months before the 2008 elections.
PML-Q’s Government in Punjab drove a campaign that involved sending workers to houses in Punjab, with free bags of flour, rice and crisp notes that ranged from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 – as ‘gifts’ from the government. Almost everyone accepted them, and those who refused to, were often forced to take it all, afterall, they were ‘gifts’ from the government.
But what does strike a tiny semblance between that and this Laptop Scheme, is not much but this certain pattern of response. Most of who accepted Q’s ‘gifts’ back then also reckoned to vote for PML-N at the end, just as many [ Bear in mind, the use of 'most' and 'many' does not imply all ] today are receiving the laptops yet still corroborating and adhering to their following of PTI; while not lending second consideration to other probable reasons behind the commencement of the scheme.
The youth comprise around 60 to 70 percent of Pakistan today and thanks to the revolution in Arab countries, the state of Pakistan as a bubbling cauldron and numerous youth-oriented organizations sprining up since the Musharraf era, are becoming increasingly politically aware and interested, and their standing as this great bulge has affixed them with tremendous materiality and weight.
It wouldn’t be inaccurate to state that this is creating a necessity for political parties in Pakistan, to practise voter segmentation; the classification and division of voters on the basis of similar characteristics shared by them.
Taking cue from basic economics and its idea of market segmentation, the sorting of voters into different groups, gives birth to the possibility of political parties recognizing and responding better to the interests, concerns, objections and expectations of these groups - in short, their pulse. Voter segmentation is intertwined with political parties catering to various people within and part of the separate stratums of the society in a nation – making it all the more vital for emerging democratic countries, like Pakistan.
As far as this and the youth are related, tilting this segment of the voters to their advantage, will be a shrewed move by any party. Considering their state presently and the fact, that the tapping of their propitious, political alignment by any party today towards itself at this time, may turn out to continue as a strong association, years later when the youths mature into adults.
Conclusively, it can be said that rather than such schemes that border on being hugely rendered ineffective, long-term policies such as Punjab Government’s vibrant upcoming ‘Youth Policy’ ‘that aims to engage young people between the ages of 15 to 29, in healthy activities and provide them with social, political and economic empowerment, as well as encouragement of the youth’s involvement in mainstream politics and governance’ will serve both, the youth well, inevitably, PML-N’s own political status and future.
~ Hafsa Khawaja