Speakers urged voters to cast their vote on Election Day

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Zubair Qureshi

In observance of the National Voters Day in Pakistan, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT) on Thursday convened a dialogue with youth, political party representatives, legislators, members of civil society, academia, media, and the general public to discuss the voting process of the upcoming general elections and the steps that must be taken to ensure they are free and fair, and to increase youth voter participation.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, PILDAT president, chaired two panel discussions (How to Ensure Upcoming General Elections Are Free, Fair, and Credible & The subject of the second panel was Youth Voter Education & Information and How to Increase Youth Voter Participation?).

Special Assistant to PM (SAPM) on Public Policy & Strategic Communications Fahad Husain remarked that there was pressure to ensure that the next general elections are free, fair, and transparent because they will determine the stability of our nation and the trajectory of the country over the next few years. Prior to the next elections, a system must be developed and installed in a short amount of time.

ECP’s Media and Outreach Wing, Haroon Shinwari presented the Election Commission\perspective on election-related problems and outlined some of the measures ECP was doing to guarantee elections are fair and credible.

They spent Rs47 million on awareness efforts to ensure inclusion, one of the determinants of a legitimate election. For the 2023 elections, there will be a total of one hundred thousand polling stations around the nation, each with four voting booths to accommodate a total of one thousand six hundred voters during the nine-hour voting day.

To prevent election disputes, a real-time results technology has been tested and will be used in the next general election.

Syed Talat Hussain, senior journalist, commented on the potential fairness of the 2023 elections by describing some of the challenges voters experience at the polls. Voters demand a more streamlined election process, particularly in terms of logistics, to be at peace. Voting booths should be placed in close proximity to each neighbourhood, modernising the electoral process.

Rana Ihsan Afzal Khan, Co-ordinator to the Prime Minister for Commerce and Industry, encouraged youngsters to participate in the nation’s administration, referring to them as the country’s future. Youth is the majority in the voting group, yet when voter participation is measured, they become the minority; Pakistan must solve this dilemma. He also underlined the significance of local governments, as they would engage the youth and solve their concerns at the local level.

Arifa Noor, a senior journalist, suggested that instead of singling out young people, it should be emphasised that Pakistanis do not vote. Those under the age of 35 make up fifty percent of the population, thus rather than categorising them as young, the situation should be termed such that Pakistani citizens are not participating in the voting process. The political discourse does not centre on the challenges of our country or the young, which neither engages nor motivates the youth to vote. Without political stability, programmes would be subject to continual change, and progress could not be quantified.

Representatives from civil society, academics, foreign embassies to Pakistan, attorneys, engineers, entrepreneurs, and journalists were among the participants in the National Voters’ Dialogue hosted by PILDAT in Islamabad.