Politics is no longer the amusement of the elderly. Statistics released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reveal that the youth might be the game-changer in the next election, showing that 42.4 million out of the nearly 97 million registered voters in the country are between the ages of 18 and 35. Young people constitute one of most impactful says in the 2018 elections, consisting of 44 percent of all registered voters.

While these statistics are eye-opening, it is difficult to estimate just how instrumental the youth can be in the upcoming election. They may consist of a significant population; however, they can only affect the tides of change if they actually show up to vote. In 2013, a fifth of the 85 million Pakistanis registered to vote in the upcoming elections were between 18 and 25 years old, a weighty number; however, only 47 percent of young voters were willing to vote, according to surveys conducted by Fafen, as compared to 84 percent of voters aged 55-65.

Thus, these statistics would not amount to anything if the 44 percent of Pakistan’s registered voters are a group largely apathetic to politics. Political parties should take notice, as the party which can mobilize the youth and engage them will be one with great advantage.

Even more interesting is that the greatest youth bank is Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), where the youth constitute 23 percent, with KPK coming in second with 18%. Any layman on politics would think this awards Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) with the greatest benefit, with PTI being popular with the youth and especially in KPK. However, Imran Khan should not distribute sweets just as yet, as 2013 proved that the youth’s support for PTI was overstated. While the younger population did show more preference for PTI than their older counterparts in 2013, the highest proportion in every age bracket named the PML-N as the party they were associated with. The issue with PTI is that their support is usually among the most visible and urban youth, with the rural youth, which is larger in number, left out of the loop. Thus, in 2018, PTI should focus on bringing the rural youth in the limelight.

Playing the youth right could be the game changer of this election. Just handing out laptops will not serve and this time, actual structural change addressing issues of the youth should be emphasized by the parties.