LAHORE: Punjab University Pakistan Study Centre (PSC) has organized webinar on “Voters Education in Pakistan”. Director of Confucius Institute and Professor of Political Science Dr Rana Ijaz Ahmad delivered a talk as a key note speaker along with Maham Syed from USA, Salman Abid, a political analyst and Tanveer Shahzad, a renowned journalist, all of who explained their point of view on the topic under discussion.
Prof. Dr. Amra Raza, Director PSC & Dean Faculty of Arts & Humanities expressed her gratitude to the participants and organizers, and most importantly appreciated the efforts of Dr. Karim Haider Syed for organizing this webinar. The webinar started with her welcome speech.
In her welcome speech, she highlighted the need of voter’s education in Pakistan and said it is our responsibility to educate the people to participate in the electoral process. Ms Maham Syed, a Human Resource graduate from Oakland University, Michigan USA, showed deep concern about the electoral process of Pakistan having spent 18 years in Pakistan. She believed that voting is one of the crucial aspects that decide the fate of a country. She highlighted the fact that most Pakistani citizens are not aware of the voting process and end up voting the choice of their parents/elders. She quoted the example of education system of USA and proposed it for Pakistan to educate every citizen up to primary level, so every citizen gets awareness about their rights as citizens and overall ethical sensibility. She emphasized on the use of information technology along with print media in a vigilant way to increase voters’ education.
Salman Abid highlighted that the electoral process is not issue based in Pakistan, it is based upon regional politics, ethnicity, hero-worship and nepotism. He also talked about the voters’ turnout which is an average of (50-55) %, in Pakistan elections. Salman suggested that casting vote must be compulsory in Pakistan. He also emphasized the voter education particularly for youth population. Prof. Dr. Rana Eijaz Ahmad in his keynote speech emphasized the voter’s education in Pakistan in a pragmatical way and highlighted it from a different angle. He believes human behavior is unpredicted so it is necessary to understand the composition of the individuals in a society. He pointed out that usually, there are three kinds of individuals in any society, Subjects, Parochial and Participants. The first one is the individuals that have slave mindset and have no interest in the electoral process. Secondly the parochial, take interest in politics with their specific interests, e.g. nationalist parties, they are always part of the electoral process when their interests are deprived otherwise they do not show any interest in politics. And thirdly participants are in small number in any society but they serve as the base of a society. A good size of participants in any society is the guarantee of a stable society and it also determines the right direction of the state. He further elaborates, in Pakistan it has been difficult to motivate a voter to come out for casting a vote without any internal or external influence. Although, political parties do work for the grooming of voters and try to influence them.. They use posters, banners with manifestos and make promises for different agendas that they will fulfill. He underlines the grooming of voters to cast a vote according to their own choice which is the major objective of the webinar.
At the end of his keynote speech, he suggested some practical recommendations like Pakistan needs to appoint a commission which must consists of the Professors of Political Science and Psychology. Before voter’s education, more provinces on administrative grounds are need of the day. He also called for election reforms and administrative reforms. Furthermore, Department of Political Science needs to polish candidates and voters to have a prosperous society. Debates on different topics like economics, foreign policy, education, health, etc. must be conducted among candidates to measure the capability of the candidates so that voters can make an informed decision when casting their votes.
Dr. Rehana Hashmi, Associate Professor of Political Science said that sensible and mature voting behavior can be adopted thought voter’s education. In voters education, the most important thing is to develop critical thinking skills and applying the skills as active citizens. She further said that for an effective voter’s education, a Grand National strategy is required in which election commission, civil society, NGO’s, educational institutions and media should play their complete role. Under this strategy, voters must be trained and given information about the functions of electoral process, structural and functional aspects of political parties and the implementation of strategy about their manifestos. Mr. Tanveer Shahzad, a journalist and analyst, stated in his speech that having covered all elections of Pakistan for renowned National Newspaper, he believes emphasis should be on the independence of voter’s choice. According to him, American & European model cannot be implemented in Pakistan and suggested that government should make a National Policy on Voters awareness. Dr. Safder Ali Sherazi, the Professor and Chairman of Geography department, said that we must allow students to take part in politics for good turnout. He also highlighted that most of the population lived in villages and it the necessary to educate them for electoral process. The organizer of webinar Dr Karim Haider Syed, the current researcher of Pakistan Study Centre covered major elections of Pakistan and documented these in the form of Books. He stressed the need of voter’s education in Pakistan. He also appreciated the efforts of faculty members, Prof Dr. Naumana Kiran, Dr Amjad Abbas Magsi, Dr Ahmed Ijaz and also the students of M.Phil and PhD.