Have you ever felt weak and hopeless in front of government institutions in Pakistan? Have you ever performed excellent in an exam but later the mark-sheet displayed opposite? Have you ever been disqualified from a job despite of your success in tests and interviews? Are you a senior citizen waiting for post-retirement allowances and allotment of pension? Have you ever felt that, you cannot question the decisions of government institutions and your voice can never enter the doors of public bodies? Right to information (RTI) is a powerful tool to solve such problems; RTI can break the wheel of secrecy and authoritarianism.

Article 19-A of Constitution of Pakistan; protects citizen’s fundamental human right to know. It states that:

Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulations and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”

Through Article 19-A, citizens of Pakistan can have access to information held by the government departments. All over the world, democratic states empower its citizens by protecting their fundamental human right to know. This in turn, helps to promote transparency in government affairs, endorse citizen participation in policy making, enhances people’s confidence in the performance of government bodies and last but not the least, solves the issues of service delivery faced by common man. Though RTI is the fundamental human right but it is not an absolute right. According to federal and provincial right to information laws applicable in Pakistan, exempted information covers the subjects of defence and security matters, commercial matters which can affect economy of the state and breach of privacy etc. Rest of the information can be acquired through RTI.

People’s access to information held by government departments is significant because a major part of government’ revenue is collected from the taxes paid by common people. Therefore, common people are the owners and it is their right to know that where the money is going and how is it being used? Government works for the benefit of public, so one way or another all the information that government holds is related to us.

It is unfortunate that the implementation of RTI Laws in Pakistan is not satisfactory. Despite of enacting strong and progressive RTI laws, implementation is a big question especially in the province of Balochistan and Sindh. On the other hand, federal government and provincial governments of KP and Punjab are making continuous efforts to properly implement their respective RTI laws.

Lack of awareness about social and political rights in Pakistan is the reason of failure of RTI regime. It is high time that government, media and civil society in Pakistan join hands to raise awareness about RTI among masses. Now, citizens of Pakistan should be enabled and empowered to call for their fundamental human right to know because.

Written by:
Syeda Raheela Bano (Guest Blogger)

Note: The views expressed by guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Pakvoter.

‘Right to Information’ (RTI) has been accepted as a fundamental human right by the United Nations. More than 123 countries have enacted RTI laws to facilitate their citizens with an easy access to government held information. This results in greater transparency, eradication of corruption, favoritism and nepotism in the system. In other words, the citizen’s right to information results in good governance.

RTI is a powerful instrument to fight against corruption. Good governance is characterized by political accountability, availability of freedom, bureaucratic accountability, availability of information, law abiding citizens and cooperation between government and society. Therefore, RTI is a natural corollary of good governance. Enactment of RTI laws paves way to an open and transparent form of government. In such systems every citizen has right to seek and receive information from government departments. Thus citizen can make administration more responsible and transparent leading to good governance.

Access to information is crucial for good governance as it reflects the activities of government.  If people do not know what is happening in their society, if the actions of those who rule them are hidden, then they cannot participate in the affairs of government.  Access to information not only promotes openness, transparency and accountability in administration but also facilitates active participation of people in the democratic governance processes. Moreover RTI is a powerful tool and its implementation ensures other rights already promised in the constitution.

In contemporary era, public participation in government matters, respect for  rule of law, freedom of expression and association, transparency and accountability, legitimacy of government, and the like which are the core values of good governance, can be materialized only if RTI is implemented in its true letter and  spirit.

Thus, it can be rightly mentioned that RTI is an agent of good governance and it makes administration more accountable to the people. It makes people aware of administration and gives them an opportunity to take part in decision making process. It reduces the chances of corruption and abuse of authority by public servants. Since RTI laws are enacted for people‘s interest, its success also depends upon how citizens exercise their right to know. Moreover, there is need of active participation from people,, civil society groups, government officials and departments to aware masses and raise demand for the implementation of RTI in Pakistan.

Written by:
Nabila Nazir (Guest Blogger)

Note: The views expressed by guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Pakvoter.

Elections are the most happening and significant occasion where the fortune of the nation is being decided by the nation themselves. But wait, have you voted in recent elections? This question forms the basis of this blog and if you have not used your vote this time make sure you are well prepared to vote in the next election (this is your obligation as a citizen of the country). Below we will be discussing some important considerations that actually help you get ready for next election.

Conform Your Registration
So, the elections are coming and you still are not sure whether you are registered in voters list or not? Isn’t this nasty and gross? You need to be very sure that your name is listed in voters list well before elections. If you are not sure then it is your duty to find out from your local government or by any other means. Nowadays, voter list can be accessed over internet on many government or private websites. Start searching for your name and if you fail to find your name get in touch with local administration to get register.
Getting yourself registered among voters list is the utmost important and fundamental responsibility of all voters. As a responsible citizen of the society, everyone should be registered to use his or her fundamental right to vote. Unfortunately, voting ratio in our country is below among lowest in the world, which is reflected by turnover during past elections. Wait, this is not enough, you are obliged for not only your registration, but also you have to register all your family members. So, get your butts up and get ready to register for the upcoming election.

Get Familiar with your polling station
Once you get yourself registered in voters list, it is time to get familiar with your polling station. Usually you will have a polling station near to your residence but there are occasion where you might get troubled over the location of your polling station. So, make sure before the Election Day you are completely familiar with the precise location of polling station and avoid any messy delays.

Get Familiar with the Candidates:
Whoa! Are you thinking to cast your vote on linguistic, ethnic, or political affinity basis? Friend you got to be kidding right! Elections are not a joke and you need to understand the magnitude and stakes that are involved in elections. Do not just waste your vote to enhance your personal agenda or even community agenda. You have to understand things at a bigger perspective. Try to turn tables around this time and vote wisely. Choose the best candidate with a high morality and honest politician rather than any corrupt political parasites who will eventually suck the life out of the people.

Believe it that once the nation raise above their political and other affinities on the Election Day, the course of country would be changed forever. Though electoral process in Pakistan is not up to the international standards and there are loopholes for rigging, still the nation has to bear the responsibility of choosing the right candidate based on policy statement and not based on political affinity.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

Being an informed citizen of Pakistan we should definitely have the information about national legal framework of the election laws and international standard which embark upon on our internal mechanism and serve as bench mark.
In order to analyze fairly, it is pertinent to have a start from the constitution first to know what it offers to its citizen. Do basic freedoms exist for exercise of fundamentals rights for citizen of Pakistan? Pakistan constitution 1973 covers protections for political and democratic rights for its citizens like freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of speech which mainly lays grounds for democratic culture in a country. Further constitution offers right of information to its citizens on all matters of public affairs and particularly state is responsible to treat all citizens on equality principle without any prejudice.

Regarding election conduct and appointment of election commissioner, constitution embarks through article 218 and 213 and offers democratic process amended by 2010 legislative body. Similarly Article 219 of the Constitution, under 18th Amendment, assigns the Election Commission with the responsibility of preparing electoral rolls and revising them annually as well as conducting elections to the Senate or filling up the vacant seats in the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. Further, the Commission can also appoint Election Tribunals to adjudicate upon post-election disputes and conduct local government election under newly amended articles.
Previously electoral laws were mostly amended by the military regimes with overwhelm intent to extend military rule, deter political course and to restrict working of political parties. Like Political Parties Order 2002, Conduct of General elections 2002, Allocation of election symbols 2002 etc. Though legal framework for electoral laws exist in country in bits and parts and needs to be reformed in consolidated manner; it must cover aspiration of democratic processes for political parties and transparent mechanisms for election conduct necessarily if country is proceeding towards democracy.

Democracy Blog: Evolution of Democracy in Pakistan
Pakistan is sixth most populous country in the world, created on the basis of popular will of people in 1947 with the vision to have a liberal, moderate and democratic parliamentary federation. Soon after independence, Pakistan adopted British legacy constitutional framework and introduced the parliamentary democracy, following much from the Government of India Act 1935 – the last constitution of British India.However, Pakistan being a postcolonial state, the democratic experience was underpinned by the steel frame of bureaucracy and political stability and institutionalized democratic set up remained a distant dream.
Democracy: Space for Civil Society
Technology aided elections is the latest fever that grips those concerned in any way with the elections in Pakistan. To them it is a ‘silver bullet’ that will deliver free, fair and transparent elections. Apparently they are well on their way to reinventing the wheel. Recently ECP, on the recommendation of Parliamentary Electoral Reforms Committee, has piloted Biometric voter verification system (BVVS) in a by-election in Haripur. The assumption on the part of pro technology segments is that an overwhelming majority of the electorate during the 2018 elections will be a smart phone using one; hence will be more at home using technology to cast their vote.
Democracy: Rise of Nations
Democracy is a system in which all the people or members of a society, community, country, state and nation have equal right to vote and power. Democracy is actually a wakeup call for the sleeping nations to alter their political fate. Every nation and state has its own ideology of democracy. It is a misunderstanding of politics that systems of government are like pieces of machinery which can be imported from other countries and would work as efficiently as they worked in the country of their origin; or a system of government can be successfully transplanted from one country to another. Every society has its own traditions of behaviors. Political and democratic systems usually arise from the traditions of behaviors.
Democracy: The backbone of a system
Democracy and participatory governance are popular political nations in today’s world. Fair and free elections are the key pre-requisite of democracy. However, democracy lacks substance unless the electoral process is coupled with the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and civil and political rights and freedoms for the people. The state must practice the principle of equal citizenship irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity and regional background. It must also ensure equality of opportunity to all for advancement in social, economic and political domains and guarantee security of life and property of its citizens.
Democracy: The most essential and fundamental element
Democracy is the most essential and fundamental element for managing the affairs of society systematically. Democracy and participatory governance are popular political patterns in the modern world. In a broader sense democracy encompasses the leading features; fair and free election process, supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and freedom for the people. In other words democratic state must practice the principles of equal citizenship irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity and regional background. It must also ensure equality of opportunity to all for advancement in social, political and economic domains and guarantee security of life and property to its citizens.
Democracy: How wrongly do we strive?
Democracy was once considered a phenomenon that meant that, it was a government that was organized for the people, by the people and of the people. Today, Pakistan remains a paradox in the world. Democracy alone has been one of the biggest factor that plunged back Pakistan from the heights of justice, national growth and better economy for the poor class. The providence of democracy in Pakistan has only been injustice, questions on national solidarity and the show of power of the elite. Alas! How wrongly do we strive to build and maintain this nation?
Democracy is a universal value
Democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.
While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy.

It was on March 16, 2013 when National Assembly of Pakistan dissolved accomplishing its five years term. This happened first time in the history of Pakistan that National Assembly & Provincial Assemblies completed constitutional duration without military interference. Then the nation geared up for general elections in May, 2013. Pakistan election results were supposed to be credible and fair. It is evident that one of the essentials for making electoral process genuine and credible is the opportunity to get resolution for the disputes and complaints pertaining to the electoral process. This opportunity is equally significant for both citizens as well as contestant political profiles. The transparency, legitimization, and fairness heavily depend upon the country’s sound Election Dispute Resolution mechanisms (EDR). Unfortunately, Pakistan’s legal framework is not strong enough to provide adequate EDR processes consistent with international commitments. Though several efforts were made recently involving certain amendments in electoral legislations in order to review and eradicate the weaknesses in the EDR systems, yet the changing couldn’t make much difference in the electoral politics in Pakistan.
This discrepancy or the absence of effective system for electoral dispute resolution exposes the electoral process with a fundamental challenge. It consequently can lead to invalid election results and puts the political stability at risk. Moreover, an effective system is vital to bring Pakistan up to international conventions. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which establishes basic rights i.e. right to vote or to be elected at fair periodic election feels necessity for Pakistan to stand as State Party via covenant to ensure powerful counter step for violation of these rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 85); ICCPR (Art. 2 & Art. 25), and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD, Art. 5.6) also enshrine the right to a sound remedy for the breach of rights.
Currently, the dispute resolution system of Pakistan is grounded partially in legislation and partially in informal practices formulated by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The formal dispute resolution processes are derived from Constitution and the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), 1976. In order to fill up the gaps in this system and eradicate the ambiguities of the process, the EDR framework is strongly required to be built purely upon law or Parliament act. This framework should have distinctive demarcations concerning authority levels and jurisdictions between political profiles and courts. Moreover, the whole process should be cost effective, easy-to-follow and accessible to electoral parties and other individuals as well. By the same token, it is vital that the EDR procedures for transparent and prompt dispositions of the pre-polling & polling day’s complaints should involve predetermined regulations. Though the ECP has worked out to develop certain strategies to improve the dispute resolution procedures yet a constant review and update in the existing framework is required for fair remedy consistent to the international conventions.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

Political finance refers to all sorts of funds that are utilized for various political purposes. Such purposes may cover election campaigns, political contests, policy development by parties, and training activities and so on and so forth. The reporting of political finance involves different sources of income and particular expenditure items, for instance, offices & staff, radio, TV, advertisements via print media, campaign material and opinion polls. The effective reporting of all categories of fund raised & spent is essential for a transparent political system but unfortunately, the current scenario is totally opposite. It is very awful to realize that corruption has plagued our beloved country since its inauguration. The worst part is that with the passage of time it has become a wide spread phenomenon and government of Pakistan failed to cut it down. Corruption is constantly becoming a matter of concern. It not only damages the social contact between government and its people but also a continuous threat to the integrity of the political parties of Pakistan. The core of corruption lies in embezzling the public funds that consequently leads to violation of human rights and puts democracy at risk. Through financial and political corruption, misuse of power and nepotism, the leaders are amassing extensive private fortunes while leaving their constituents in poverty. According to a report issued in 2012 by Transparency International Pakistan, the country has become more corrupt by achieving ranking number 33 from the previous 42. A total corruption of almost Rs. 12,600 billion is estimated in past five years.
Although there are multiple anti-corruption laws yet they have certain gaps and lacking in terms of implementation. The report by TI inscribes certain features of a powerful anti-corruption legislation must have following features:
A. Transparency legislation featuring following points:

Reporting of conflicts of interests;
Disclosure of assets by state officials and politicians (before & after appointment and annually during the appointment as well);
Freedom of information law- this information should be publically accessible.
B. Corruption Legislation featuring following points:

Defining the problem;
Ensuring whistle blowing protection legislation-that is meant to protect federal whistleblowers working for the government and reporting agency misconduct. This law is violated when any agency authority retaliate personal act against any employee due to that disclosure of information.
This simple legislation outline provides the basis for the effective implementation of the relevant laws in the political finance area. The transparency in political finance can be obtained via availability as well as accessibility of the disclosure information. Enhancing transparency in political finance system will be helpful in mitigating and illuminating the influence of illegal and corrupt practices. At the same time, it will benefit those who obey rules. Pakistan stands first in introducing right to information act in South Asian countries, however legislative bodies need to make legislation stronger followed by an effective implementation of these laws. Current legislation pitfalls have frustrated Pakistanis for too long. They are now looking forward for some positive changes in legislature for justice, rights, and security in their country. The political parties in Pakistan can work on existing framework of the political finance. Based upon international best practices, it can be further revised and improved and can help leading useful foundation for an effective legislature in our country.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

Civic education is also known as democracy education or citizen education and it broadly implies to the provision of learning experiences and knowledge to citizens in order to empower them to contribute effectively in the democratic mechanisms. The basic goal of this education is to support democratic as well as participatory governance. Civic education is manifested in many different forms including; classroom-based learning, experiential learning, informal learning & mass-media campaigns. It addresses a wide range of governance and political issues such as civic apathy/post-conflict reconciliation or corruption. In addition, it also takes social issues into account such as drug abuse, domestic violence etc. Overall, this field of study implies to civic knowledge, skills & disposition.
With specific reference to Election Day, the civic education in Pakistan has couple of major implications. First, it promotes participation of citizens in the electoral processes. It is observed generally that individuals who receive civic education, more actively participate in voting, legislation and policymaking, civil and political protests, problem solving initiatives for their community, election campaigns and accessing elected personnel. Second, students of civic education are considered to have sound knowledge about Pakistan and the basic features of its political system, structure & function of democratic bodies, civil/political rights and election timings. One of the most important aspects of civic education in Pakistan is voter education also referred to as electoral education. This type of education is imparted as a component of civic education and also in conjunction with electoral management bodies (EMB). This type of civic education is of immense importance in election context. It generally deals with the dissemination of materials, information, and programs designed to motivate and prepare individuals to participate fully in particular election process. It helps the individuals to understand more complex processes with reference to elections and highlighting significance & implications of voting, voting rights, human rights, roles, & responsibilities of voters, the conditions vital for democracy, and the relationship between democracy & elections. It also make them clear about the nature of electoral politics in Pakistan, eligibility criteria of electoral bodies, registration procedures, voting procedures or Election procedures in Pakistan.
Without civic and voter education, meaningful participation in an election process is not possible. If voters will be well aware of their rights & responsibilities, and legally valid procedures of casting ballots, the Election Day will become smooth and successful. Moreover, this education is crucial in regulating women participation in elections especially in under-developing & post-conflict countries where women do not use to play active role in elections. In this respect civic education can also play effective role by emphasizing equal rights of men and women. It can highlight the role women can play in national reconciliation and reconstruction if they possess knowledge and expertise and if they are given equal opportunities. The civic education must be equally accessible to both man & women. However, it should be ensured that during elections the government-sponsored Pakistan civic education or voter education must be accurate and neutral. It should not favor any particular party and should follow international best practices. The non-governmental bodies, media and local communities can make effective contributions in promoting civic education in election context while nourishing and strengthening all aspects of politics.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

Recently held elections in Pakistan saw massive criticism due to various rigging incidents in different constituencies of the country. Observers said that at least 10 percent – or 7,000 – polling stations were reportedly rigged to influence the voters. Bogus votes, pressurizing voters, in-availability of ballot boxes, papers and various other similar problems were reported in different parts of the country.
Experts are of the view that overall elections went well and there is no way of making election 100 percent fool-proof, especially at this magnitude and they are right. To be honest, the influence of political parties on the general people is strong, especially in a city like Karachi, that one belonging to political group only needs to go to a person and demand them to vote in favour of his party. This might not have happened in every area of Karachi but I have witnesses, who have openly said that people of certain party came to their homes and demanded vote, failing to do so they will have to face severe consequences in future.
Social media even now is filled with rigging videos that took place in certain polling stations of the country. Karachi wasn’t the only city affected by it. Cities of Punjab, Baluchistan and KPK also faced the same fate. Now the question that arises is that was the electoral system of Pakistan to be blamed for it? Was the system so weak that it could be manipulated so easily? Well, in my opinion, I wouldn’t blame the system. I think that the election commission of Pakistan did a decent job in making the elections free and fair. Then what went wrong? Well, people of Karachi know exactly what went wrong.
People in this city were aware of the threats that posed to the transparency of the elections. The hunger of power, political party who claims Karachi to be their own property was, in my opinion the main reason of rigged elections in Karachi. Besides that, in Karachi every political party has their own area and they did what they could in their area to get the maximum vote out in favour of their party and they succeeded. These political parties are so powerful and their hold is so strong that the election commission cannot do anything about it.
I blame the political parties for not following the electoral system. There power for hunger is so strong that no ethic or social value means anything to them and they will do everything in their power to win. And that is what they did. One thing that needs to be applauded here is the turnout of voters on the day of elections. Despite of the threats and the targeted bombings on campaigns of political parties prior to elections, the turnout was massive. According survey, the turnout ration was 60 to 65 percent compared to the 40 percent in 2008 elections.
The only positive thing that I can take out from these elections is the motivation of people to vote and use their right. The print and electronic media played its part. The role of social media in creating awareness about the elections, and campaigns like Pak Voter, have done an excellent job in spreading the word and getting people out of their homes to vote. The ratio might be low, but at least, this nation is awaking.
Way to go Pakistan!

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

The 2013 elections in Pakistan brought to the fore old faces with new promises to change the country’s fate. The days leading to the elections saw a torrent of content being shared over the Internet and social media, with Facebook and Twitter in particular, becoming an online war zone between supporters of various parties. Now that the storm has settled and the parties have taken their seats in the National Assembly, people are looking forward to a better Pakistan as it is time to act and manifest the promises into action.

Over the years, social media has emerged as a Big Brother where all activities of politicians are shared over Facebook and people make comments to make the feedback look interesting, which stirs up a never-ending debate. However, the hype of following political leaders on social media is a trend, which is now declining as people are busy with their jobs and since elections is always a time of change; therefore, social media was abuzz until a few days after June 11.

Nevertheless, social media will continue to play its part as the media, which reveals all truths which print and electronic media hide beneath the pen and the camera. Social media has been monitoring political leaders but the intensity is not as same as before. Still, there are posts shared, comments made, and content liked on Facebook, which means that Pakistanis want social media to compel politicians to follow the decorum and fulfill their promises. Otherwise, one picture or video can stir up a viral humiliation of a politician.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

By Abbas Malik

Pakistan is a country where every human being is a political expert. The entire country is extremely politicized. Whether we’re in our villages, homes, on the street, at work, on Facebook or on twitter, we are always discussing politics. This is irrespective of age, occupation or financial status. Keeping this in mind, we can safely conclude that everyone wants the country to progress and prosper in peace.

Pakistan has been in a bad state for years. Governments have come and gone all saying the same thing yet no government did anything to get Pakistan out of the poor state. Prior to elections 2013, the state of the country was so poor that it made the people realize that they had to take a stand and be the change you wish to see in Pakistan. This led to people realizing their role in voting and the power they possessed in making a change happen.

During the elections 2013 there was more focus on in creating awareness about the role of voter. Campaigns were targeted in electronic and social media to get people out of their homes and vote. The youth played a decisive role in voting this time around. According to the stats revealed by the media, more than 60 percent of the people came out to vote compared to the 40 percent in the 2008 elections. This is more than enough to realize that the people of Pakistan were ready to bring about a change and change the course of the country. This should be kept in mind that elections 2013 process was threatened by the extreme groups and blasts at the gathering of political parties was a big threat to general people who were ready to vote. But the turnout was huge. The people were happy almost as if believing that the change they wanted was here. The elections 2013 result was not as people had expected, especially in a city like Karachi but the positive side of the part was that people came to vote.

Now, We already have a new government running in and things don’t seem to be different than they were in the last government. We can only hope that the new government will make its upmost effort to stabilize the country and get rid of diseases like corruption.

Pakistan Zindabad!
The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

As Pakistani public celebrate successful transition of power from one elected government to another through 2013 general elections, some very important questions come up in my mind regarding possible participation of minorities which include Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Ahmedies. Approx figures of non Muslim minorities in Pakistan range from 6 to 10 percent of total Pakistani population. Shia muslims make up to 20 to 35 percent. However, the new wave of violence against minorities in Pakistan namely Shia’s and Christians is a matter of concern. Also almost negligible participation of non Muslim minority candidates in elections depicts the trust deficit minorities have in Pakistan’s democratic system. We also did not see open support by different leading political parties for rights of minorities in Pakistan. May be this is the reason that Pakistan’s minorities did not openly support any political party and decided to vote for their local candidates based on individual preferences.

But despite all above issues, did Pakistan’s minorities participate in these elections? Well the answer can be Yes and No. If we look at voter’s turnout then there is a possibility that minorities did come out to vote, however, did they vote for safe guarding their rights? The answer is No. They voted on individual preferences and for their local Muslim candidates. Murder of Christian Federal Minister Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, attacks on Christian neighborhood in Lahore, killing of Hazara Shias in Balochistan are one of few incidents targeting minorities in Pakistan. With such attacks pacing up, Muslim and non Muslim minorities of Pakistan remain under constant threat from terrorist and fundamental elements. Non Muslim minorities know that blasphemy law can be used against them at any time leading to death sentence with minimal proof. Most of such cases were later reported to be fake and were charged for vested interests of accusers. In these circumstances, and with almost no emphasis on safe guarding rights of minorities in Pakistan by leading political parties, one finds it hard to believe that minorities voted with same zeal and commitment as their Muslim brothers and sisters did.

Both National and Provisional Assemblies of Pakistan have reserved seats for minorities and women. Candidates are nominated based on number of seats won by different political parties. These candidates enjoy equal status as of elected members of assemblies, however can be replaced by nominating political party at any time and their membership is subject to party loyalty.

Surveys have shown that there are 96 constituencies of National and Provincial Assemblies where minorities dominate voter strength and without their support it’s impossible for competing candidates to win. However, these minority voter dominated constituencies are represented by Muslim candidates in NA and PA. The security challenges did hamper minority voter turnout in Pakistan, a lot needs to be done to ensure minorities in Pakistan fully participate in electoral process of Pakistan and their immediate concerns are addressed namely security. The confidence building mechanism have to be undertaken by leading Parties. Minorities should also focus on a single platform like they had early 90’s.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

The presidential elections are taking place in Pakistan today, another major landmark for democracy after the successful general elections held in may and the peaceful transition of power to the new government.
There has been very hectic lobbying ahead of the presidential elections with Pakistan Muslim league nawaz putting forth the name of Mamnoon hussain and getting backing from around eight smaller political groups, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP), Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP), Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z) and Balochistan chapter of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid.
The second candidate Justice (red) Wajihuddin ahmed was put forth by Pakistan Tehreek I Insaf and supported by its ally Jamaat E Islami. While it seems that as per current situation it is Mamnoon hussain that will win, we must realise that for the second time in recent history we are going to have a properly democratically elected president.
While many scoff at the process and call it a sham and make claims of irregularities during elections. We must understand that even despite irregularities and miscounts and re voting in some areas of Pakistan we have to move forward whilst putting the questions being asked to courts of law to decide upon them, as the system instructs us to do.
There are a multitude of issues facing us as a country, from power woes to an economic crunch to an ever increasing burden of the war we are fighting with the taliban. However the only way out of these issues if there is even a way out in the time period given to one government is the nexus of civilian and military leadership of which the president is the figurehead.
As always social media is going to be watching and making sure any of the cracks seamed over by the mainstream are explored to the fullest as they were during the general elections. We now have digitally enabled members of the national assembly from various parties feeding directly into the network as well. In short we are watching the watchers here.
So here is hoping then new president of Pakistan can provide us able leadership and take us forward with positive notes.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

Ever since the world wide web came into being and governments around the world slowly but surely realized the adverse effects of communication on regimes which tend to sweep uncomfortable things under the carpet there have been efforts made to control the flow of information.
The problem however is that information and attempts to block it nowadays is like water hitting porous sand. As the mediums multiply daily and the flow of data becomes quicker and quicker with the gadgets we use spreading like rabbits around our lives it has become hireto impossible to ebb this flow no matter what any one tries. In the midst of all this we have our Pakistani government which although has provisions in its constitution (article 18) to protect electronic commerce but still maintains the need to try again and again to exert control over a medium which is proving to be a pain in its keister.
Is this agony due to the fact that there are bad guys roaming social networks like whatsapp and viber and plotting things that are against national security? I suppose some of it maybe but to think those same tech equipped bad guys would not be able to side step a ban via proxy is somewhat un intelligent to me. Also more dim witted seems the idea that bad guys exist in sindh only and thus this region must be the only one subjected to this proposed ban.
Frankly speaking Pakistan is to me a pretty overheated pressure cooker of emotion since quite some time. One can see it in incidents of road rage when we are pushed slightly in ramzan or around our daily lives as women when we walk down the street to raping stares. Social media seems to be the only place left where it is even slightly safe to engage in healthy discourse over issues which plague most of us at some point or the other in our lives. Taking away this medium would to me have the same effect as removing the steam valve from a pressure cooker. Do we want to know what would happen if our society implodes on itself in a fit of frustrated rage? Things would go out of control…the same control that our government or any government does not want to slip from its hands.
Without control there can exist no leadership, without leadership or law there is only anarchy. We have been teetering at the brink of this anarchy for quite some time now. If I was the government I would be taking all steps possible to de escalate the growing anger Pakistanis feel towards it not push them over the brink by banning their favourite means of communication. Specially in lieu of the fact that the past bans and attempts to block sms, facebook, twitter and youtube have not really resulted in a slew of terrorist arrests and trials.
“Those who give up their essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.” – Benjamin Franklin

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.

The election in 2013 will be remembered for couple of reasons in the history of Pakistan, one of which is the high turnout. The role played by Election Commission of Pakistan in this regard has to be applauded. It was ECP, under the leadership of Honorable Justice (R) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, which worked day and night to increase registered voters all across Pakistan. Figures show remarkable increase in registered voters as compared to the 2008 general elections i.e. an increase of 5,393,420 registered votes.

NADRA played a key role in supporting ECP for increasing registered voters. Among the various interventions, NADRA, in accordance with orders from Supreme Court of Pakistan, issued CNIC to the transgender community of Pakistan. Additional efforts were made by NADRA with support of UNWOMEN and ECP to increase women votes in 2013 elections. These efforts were fruitful and a total of 37,597,415 female votes were registered for 2013 election as compared to 48,592,387 male votes. It is estimated that even the women turnout was higher this time, keeping in view the overall 55% turnout. Although not many female candidates made it to assemblies as compared to 2008 elections, it is believed that women participation did increase manifold. While a lot has to be done to increase women participation, there is still more that is required, especially in terms of commutation to polling stations on election days, as due to lack of transport and other cultural and religious obligations women do not make it polling station to cast their vote.

NADRA also enrolled transgender community and issued them with CNICs. This move came after a Supreme Court ruling instructing both NADRA and ECP to acknowledge status of transgender community and their right to vote as citizens of Pakistan. NADRA figures show approx., 600 transgender male and female members were issued CNIC. This may not be true representation of transgender community in Pakistan, but a move towards right direction.

Use of technological advancement also played an important role in increasing number of votes for 2013 election. NADRA introduced SMS services keeping in view access of mobile phone services to a large population of Pakistan. This service enabled registered voters to locate their polling stations hence saving their efforts to physically go and verify. Moreover, on Election Day presiding officers were provided voter lists having pictures of registered voters. This proved to be very useful in verification of voters. Also, NADRA used fingerprint-screening system to verify votes in different districts after elections to verify valid votes.

We should also not forget the positive role played by all political parties despite threats from militants and terrorists in different high security risk areas of Pakistan. Several Pakistani men and women were killed and injured in bomb blasts and IED attacks on political party offices and rallies. It was heartening to see that all political parties despite clear threats continued their participation in electoral process and did not back off. Security forces despite limited resources ensured elections were carried out in a safe manner. Special security measures were put in place for polling stations on Election Day. Election staff along with security personnel ensured polling stations remained a safe place for voters. These special arrangements encouraged voters to come out and vote despite tense security situation in different parts of Pakistan. Voters were seen standing in long queues and waiting for their turn, hence showing their confidence in arrangements made by ECP and its partners for successful conduct of elections.

We yet have to see another important electoral process happening this year i.e. local government elections. As per constitution, ECP is responsible for conducting local government elections in collaboration with Provincial Governments. As we wait for final schedule to be announced by provincial governments, it is evident that this will be another milestone in Pakistan’s electoral history. We are hopeful that the process will be more streamlined and all lesson learnt during 11 May elections will be incorporated.

The views expressed by this guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the pakvoter.