Disappointment in the outgoing government is understandable. The past five years have seen the country fall apart in many respects, even from a strictly
domestic perspective. Energy shortages have crippled Pakistan, corruption has been
rampant in the highest levels of government, protection for minority rights has been dismissed by the current
administration, inflation has consistently been in the 12 to 15 percent range, and nearly a quarter of the country finds itself unemployed.
Further, crime, violence, and terrorism have reached new levels over the past five years. The government has proven to be incredibly ineffective in
disrupting extremists groups, as militants have wreaked havoc in Pakistan over the past five years. Since 2008, over 17,000 civilians and security officials have been
killed in terrorist attacks, including 1500 so far this year alone. Just about every group of Pakistanis has been targeted in violence, from politicians,
to minorities, to various ethnic groups. 93 percent of Pakistanis say that terrorism is a very big problem, and security concerns will play a pivotal role
in deciding who will take over the helm of Pakistani leadership. The outgoing government has come under fire for standing on the sidelines, including
earlier this year when attacks against various Shiite communities took the lives of hundreds.
Under this backdrop, Pakistanis have grown frustrated with the direction of their country and have accordingly lost faith in their democratic leaders and
institutions. While only 24 percent of Pakistanis believe the national government has a good influence on the country, 69 percent believe that religious
leaders have a good influence, and an overwhelming 79 percent say the same about the military. After a number of embarrassing incidents for the military
over the past few years -- including the security collapse at the Mehran Naval Base and the Bin Laden raid -- not to mention the wide unpopularity of the
country's last military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, the high marks for the armed forces are telling about the mood among Pakistanis.
That mood, especially amongst young people, may translate to bad news for proponents of democracy if things do not change soon -- more than two-thirds of
Pakistanis are under the age of 30, and most of them are wary of the benefits of a democratic government. In
a study conducted by the British Council Pakistan
earlier this year, only 23 percent of Pakistanis between the ages of 18 and 29 say that democracy has been good for the country, and just 29 percent think
it is the best political system. Conversely, military rule and Islamic Sharia score high among young people -- as 32 percent and 38 percent, respectively,
find these to be better political alternatives.
While young Pakistanis certainly have not given up on democracy, these numbers do indicate limited patience with the next elected government. The country
has changed significantly since Musharraf's administration, and a military takeover of the government is highly unlikely. But a lack of progress from the
next civilian government may result in calls for a stronger military presence in domestic affairs, especially as young Pakistanis, who favor the military
over the national government, come of age and increasingly express their political opinions.