An appointment was made at the end of the day at a large school, whose name will remain anonymous, so as not to expose its director. The district, located in the suburbs of Karachi, the economic capital of Pakistan, is plunged into darkness, subject to incessant power cuts due to the dilapidated infrastructure. A group of students, young men with a westernized style, young girls, wearing traditional scarves and dresses, are gathered in a room, so sealed that no sound is likely to escape.

Muhammad, 22, is seething. His hero, Imran Khan, former national cricket glory, youth champion, at the zenith of his popularity, has been languishing in prison since August and will not be able to be a candidate in the next general elections in Pakistan. So the student will not vote on February 8, 2024.

“What’s the point,” he says. The stakes are already cast, the establishment has chosen its candidate. Nawaz Sharif will be the next prime minister. » He does not feel anything good for this septuagenarian, already three times prime minister, returning to the country after four years of voluntary exile in London to avoid serving a prison sentence in a corruption case. “Pakistan is in very poor economic and democratic health,” Muhammad continues. I have no hope for my country, because you cannot fight against the establishment. The only one who tried is now behind bars. »

In Pakistan, the “establishment” refers to the army, this state within a state which has ruled the country directly or behind the scenes since the creation of the republic in 1947, after the partition of India. The chief of staff, Asim Munir, took a new turn of the screw in May after the outbreak of anger directed, among others, against military institutions. It took place during protests that erupted across the country in response to the first arrest of Imran Khan. The former prime minister, overthrown in April 2022, following a vote of no confidence in Parliament, had massively mobilized citizens around the idea of ​​a plot by the head of the armed forces. He was in disgrace, after being the favorite of the military in 2018. Never, in seventy-five years, has a Pakistani prime minister completed his term.

Harassed by the police

Most of the students gathered this November evening are preparing to boycott the vote in a sort of gesture of disobedience. Muhammad could have been tempted to vote for a thirty-year-old local representative, Bilawal Bhutto, the son of Benazir, the former prime minister assassinated in December 2007, whose stronghold is in Karachi, capital of the Sindh province. Minister of Foreign Affairs in the last government, the president of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) knows how much youth will count. He promises, if he wins, to prioritize youth empowerment.