Earlier this year, results of a survey by the British Council stunned many. A total of 5,271 people aged between 18 and 29 were interviewed, across Pakistan. The report revealed that a mere 29% supported democracy, 38% favoured the implementation of Islamic Sharia law whereas 32 % believed a military rule is ideal for the country.

While democracy is a ‘beautiful idea' and the world sings its praises night and day, to us –  Generation X – it is simply a governance system and nothing more. The yardstick we use for measuring the success and suitability of a democratic system, is often the performance of the last elected government – so you can well imagine the reasons for disenchantment with it. It is true that the system has not been allowed to function without being rudely interrupted every now and then. But, even during its brief glimpses, the politicians have been seen dedicating considerable vim and vigour to serving and protecting their own interests, not their voters’. To expect otherwise from feudal lords and industrialists, often the two categories of the rich, which the poor, digging their own graves, elect for representation, is not the sort of daydreaming we indulge in anymore. In power or not, they are powerful, and with no one daring to hold them accountable, we can only watch and moan.

The alternative? Let’s try religion – like we don’t already have enough of it. The demand of the implementation of Islamic Sharia law is as old as the country itself. However, its support is limited to a small section of the large conservative segment of the society. But, why is it that the younger lot -- which enjoys Indian films, idealizes pop culture, and is generally not exactly conservative about its practice of Islam -- seek the implementation of the strict Sharia law? Probably because they’ve heard great things about the system and never lived under it. The youth, when demanding Sharia law, are not necessarily giving in to the idea of being ruled by a cleric, nor are they willing to abide by the strict code of life which the system demands. Instead, they imagine a system that would put an end to the culture of rampant corruption and nepotism that directly affects them, free them from the iron-grip of the elite, and most importantly, provide swift justice.

The politicians' loss has been the military’s gain in Pakistan. There is not a single generation in the country that has not seen the military in power in its lifetime. Resultantly, despite failure after failure and blunder after blunder, the generals sworn to protect the borders have successfully established themselves as a visible alternative to democratic leadership. Pakistan has a hostile relationship with neighbouring India, and the anti-Indian sentiment is prevalent in the youth just as much as the wider society. The youth views the military to be the only institution that can really 'challenge the enemy'. The rhetoric from the prominent wars of 1965 and 1971 continues to shape the image of the Pakistan Army as the ‘saviours of the nation’. The romanticised notion of PMA-taught formalities, impeccable uniforms, glimmering medals, and gentlemanly mannerisms presents the lads in khaki in a different light from the gregarious, but unpolished politicians who are often found testing the limits of their vocal chords as well as the strength of the fabric of their clothing, struggling to contain the mass within. The military’s 77% approval rating is also a result of minimal scrutiny as a whole and the engineered, but popular narrative of equating loyalty to the country with loyalty to its armed forces.

The younger lot, by their very nature, is prone to exploring every new idea with equal weight. Even if some of these ideas would seem anathema to the code of ‘youth’. If the goal is to rally the new generation behind a steady democratic system, politicians will first have to realise that their empty promises and poor performances are catching up with them. While we enjoy their long lectures on sacred democratic values on talk shows every night, its perhaps time they strived to improve the conditions of the people who vote for them with the same revolutionary zeal which, they pontificate, defines them.

Yes, it is surprisingly satisfying to see politicians suffering, at times necessary, criticism and censure at the hands of the judiciary. But, the obsession to keep the politicians ‘clean’ is further clogging the system. The pile of non-political cases keeps growing and growing, and faith in the justice system continues to falter.

The military, in my humble and civilian opinion, can ‘save’ us from the enemies within and without, not by abrogating the constitution and taking over by force, like the good old times, but by restricting themselves to their clearly defined constitutional duties and allowing the ‘bloody civilians’ to run the show without the unnecessary commercial breaks. The youth is disenfranchised and confused. It needs empowerment and direction. Despite the failures of the system, 60% said that they would vote in the May 2013 elections, and they did. Politicians can’t blame the ‘burgers’ and ‘bun-kebabs’ for being a-political and unconcerned anymore. They’re going to have to shape up and deliver, or ship out, with not much of a lament from the under-30s – who are, by the by, roughly 70% of the strength of the population. If I were them, I would be afraid. Very afraid.

    The writer is a member of staff.