Pakistan

'Democracy to become unrepresentative sans youth vote'


 

Despite being active on social media platforms, youth’s electoral participation is abysmally low as compared to international democracies and unless ways to increase their turnout are devised and implemented, democracy is facing the threat of being "unrepresentative".

These concerns were raised at a dialogue organised by PILDAT in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Pakistan on the subject of ‘Missing Young Voters of Pakistan’ in Lahore.

Qurat-ul-Ain Fatima, director media coordination and outreach wing and director protocol ECP, shared with the participants ECP’s continuous efforts to engage and educate Pakistan’s youth about the significance of their vote.

She highlighted that the electoral watchdog’s SVEEP programme, which focuses on new voter education and registration, has conducted 443 sessions in schools, colleges and universities.

To actively pursue the younger tech-savvy generation, they collaborate with YouTubers and vloggers attending seminars and workshops so that these volunteer influencers further the message of voting to their viewers.

In 2018, ECP’s protocol wing launched its internship programme in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, offering students an opportunity to directly learn about the election process.

Qurat ul Ain suggested having reserved seats for youth in the Senate, National Assembly, as well as provincial assemblies and introducing elections and democracy as a compulsory part of the education syllabus, which would aid youth participation in electoral processes

Abdullah Dayo, programme manager of FES Pakistan, said that FES Pakistan was dedicated to enhancing the role and participation of youth in the electoral systems of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, President PILDAT Ahmed Bilal Mehboob in his opening remarks expressed anticipations that if the young populace was not led on to democratic paths then they are "in danger of developing extremist and radical tendencies", which will be a threat to the existence of democracy within the country.

A comparison of India and Pakistan’s youth voting trends was made by Mehboob after which he put forward examples of democracies from around the world and highlighted their innovative efforts to increase their countries’ youth voter turnout.

Meanwhile, Dr Ammar Ali Jan, who is a youth activist, academic and founder-president of the Haqooq-e-Khalq party, highlighted the core problem of political parties, emphasising that internal democracy and true representation within a political party was absolutely essential.

He noted that there was a need to change the attitude towards young people, stressing that they should be treated as assets rather than “a problem for law and order”.

Jan also highlighted the difficulties faced by young activists and fledgling politicians, bemoaning that they were “forced to keep quiet and obey leaving them with two radical options: one where they despise politics and politicians who misuse power and the other is where young leaders abandon their free thinking and become slogan chanters and fodder for corrupt, feudal politicians”.

Syed Umair Hassan, director of youth affairs of Punjab, highlighted the efforts of the Punjab youth affairs, sports and culture ministry to engage youth to tackle youth voting issues. He requested ECP to conduct awareness sessions at their e-libraries, a place utilised by the youth of Punjab.


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