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Youth and craving for change, key in Pakistan's elections

Of the nearly 106 million of potential voters, 46 are less than 35 years old and will determine the outcome after a controversial campaign

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Youth and craving for change, key in Pakistan's elections

Hana is 19 years old and votes for first time this Wednesday in Pakistan's elections. The shawl with which he covers his face fails to hide his enthusiasm. "For me, as a Pakistani, it is very important to make use of my right," he says as he shows inked finger that proves he voted. Like her, almost 10 million young people have joined new electoral census. Of nearly 106 million of potential voters, 46 million are less than 35 years old and are key to determining outcome after a particularly angry campaign. Accused of being favored by army, populist Imran Khan disputes government with Muslim League of Pakistan (PML) of Nawaz Sharif.

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"We need improvements in education. To provide scholarships for us, "defends Hana at exit of an electoral college in Rawalpindi, twin city of Islamabad, but in province of Punjab. Two older sisters and ir mor, all with ir faces covered, let her speak. The four of m voted same. And your far and brors? Also. We meet and decide who deserves our support, "explains this university as if it were most natural.

Farah, a 43-year-old teacher who comes out shortly after, disagrees. "I choose for myself; It's my right, "he replies while waiting for her husband. The men's tail is significantly longer in this mixed voting center, where one and or vote at separate tables. "What we need is people who are not corrupt," he defends by revealing himself as a voter in Imran Khan's Justice Movement (PTI). Doubt, however, that that is possible in Pakistan. "To reach power must be supported by bad", points in reference to "eligible" landowners and feudal lords with control of thousands of votes in ir districts that guarantee ir choice whatever acronym under which y are presented.

"We suffer from lack of infrastructure. Water, electricity... I hope re will be a change and we will improve, "says Abdul Qayum, a 55-year-old chemistry teacher. The idea of change and fight against corruption are repeated among Khan's supporters, who are majority among young interviewees or with higher education. But despite favorable polls, his party does not lower its guard.

In Taufkiyan, in province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, campaign music of PTI helps to find ballot boxes. In spite of prohibition of campaigning from day before and during election day, many of its sympathizers crowd to door of primary school for children (where men vote) carrying hats and badges with colors of party (green and red). A few streets beyond, in women's Electoral College, an elegant lady grazes half a dozen villagers. "We expect a change in country. Imran Khan is right person, "replies journalist.

The Electoral Commission has rejected request of Sharif party, which is in prison and has not been able to vote, to extend scrutiny

Not every woman is allowed to be a boss. Marzan Bibi, a 79-year-old granny, says vote "is a national responsibility." At his side, Muntazer Bibi, of 57, says he wants "a strong country that gives jobs to women." She has no education and cannot work, but she would have liked to do it "to be independent". Sumbal Bukhari, a 23-year-old newlywed, votes for government to protect women from forced marriages. and Rubat Zahara, 25, who is a master in Islamic studies, wants to keep policies of last five years "because with Nawaz has greatly improved electricity and we are given our rights within Islam."

It also surprises noisy presence of a handful of supporters of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, son of murdered Benazir Bhutto. Although PPP has been confined to its stronghold in Sindh province after losing 2013 elections, it remains choice of progressive minorities and sectors concerned about inequality. In this corner of region of Khanpur, Shiites around 70% of inhabitants (in whole country are one fifth of population) and some families are faithful to m.

"I support m because y help poor," says Rayan Javeed, a 24-year-old student of aircraft mechanics, before confessing that he is candidate's nephew. Its neighbor, Riasat, a retired policeman of 65 years, defends that y need a new face, in reference to leader of PTI.

In Islamabad, Sikh Mohinder Kumar, a 30-year financial consultant, confirms that he has voted for PPP at exit of Model School of G-9, one of neighborhoods of capital. The Sikhs are only 0.2% of population. However, Ahmadis, some three million Pakistanis, have boycotted elections because it seems discriminatory that ir names appear on separate lists. That means that state still does not consider m Muslims, something that y dispute. The Christians, who according to last census are 1.625 billion, claim to be able to elect ir own representatives and one of its leaders, Sajid Ishaq, explained to country that it has asked that where re is not a Christian candidate boycott elections.

A quarter of an hour before closing of schools, scheduled for six in afternoon, arrives to mobile a message asking that, please, vote for Imran Khan. The Electoral Commission has rejected request of Sharif party, which is in prison and has not been able to vote, to extend scrutiny one hour. Alleged that storms and rains have hampered access to polls in Lahore and or areas of Punjab, most populous province in Pakistan and one that selects largest number of deputies (148 of 272 in Liza). They have also denounced slowness of votes, implying that y were being tried to harm m.

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