Speakers seek meaningful participation of youth in Pakistan’s democratic process

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Zubair Qureshi

Pakistan is the country of youth and for their meaningful participation in the nation’s democratic processes, civic education can play a vital role. Speakers said this at the launch of a paper, ‘Political Parties and Civic Education’ arranged by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Country Director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dr Niels Hegewisch in his opening remarks said democracy needed democrats and civic education was an effective tool to nurture them. Civic education serves as a vital vaccine for a healthy democracy as it imparts knowledge about the country’s system and structures besides training the young in the art of dialogue, tolerance and peaceful co-existence, he added.Sidra Saeed introduced the foundation’s work on civic education.

We have conducted training for the implementation of the national civic education Act passed in 2018 and worked with legislators to enact provincial laws, she added.

Author of the paper, Zafarullah Khan said according to the last population census, 60 percent of the population is youth i.e. is below 24 year.

Similarly, the number of registered voters with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) confirms youthful demography of the electorate. Out of 120 million plus registered voters, 20.35 million are between the ages of 18-25.‘Youth needs civic education to learn about democracy, constitution, parliamentary institutions and political parties etc. so that they can peacefully participate in the country’s affairs,’’ he advocated.

The research paper has surveyed existing pledges on civic education by political parties and offers a set of suggestions for future election manifestos.Speakers urged public service broadcast and private channels and radios to allocate ample time for civic education. Almost all political parties have their students and youth wings but there are very limited opportunities to learn through study circles or proper training academies.

Speakers said, in absence of such dialogue, discussion and learning spaces, we are witnessing hate speech, increased political intolerance and occasional resort to violence. This does not augur well for the future of democracy in a ‘youth bulge’ country.The research papers say the political parties must pay attention to civic education, promise legislation and its implementation. The parliament, provincial assemblies and local governments shall establish civic education desks and invite youth to watch their proceedings and learn about their functioning.

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