Vote is the act of showing your choice or opinion in an election which is a cornerstone of every democratic country. By voting, people select their representatives who make the laws and policies. The prime part of voting in an election is the ‘Right of Vote’ which is the fundamental democratic right of every eligible voter. The legitimacy of governments lies in the fact that it is elected by the people. The higher number of vote results in more powerful government and it has more legitimate power. This leads to more efficient governments that can prosper the development of the country by stabilizing its political situation. Moreover, voting is a powerful way to send a message to governments and politicians. Overall, voting is one of the easiest ways to have a say in how society is governed. Thus, voting has an immense significance in democratic country.
If there is one thing that every country has in abundance, it is youth. As a great number of population consists of youth and it is foremost duty of youth to cast their vote. It is the youth that can challenge the country’s “hereditary” political system, and to put forward their vision in encompassing health, education and sports issues as top priorities. When young people are not participating in elections or they do not vote, then the governments are less responsive to resolving the issues of country. However, young people do not vote because most political parties are less interested about issues of youth related to health, education and development of the country. But by not voting, youth is losing an opportunity to raise their voices and their grip on the development of the country. On the other hand, vote by youth is the sign of a change which is thriving the development of the country. As more young people are receiving education and becoming aware of the significance of vote, the more is the development of the country.

Media is a force that may produce effects on the society positive or negative but it depends how much the driving force is aware of its aftershocks once a message is disseminated to masses. Governments do use media as a source of manipulation and are engaged in setting the agenda of masses at large scale through media sources. If this force intended for right direction it will produce productive results for the society as “Development Journalist” the term introduced in late 90s is still as much applicable as it was after the disastrous use of media for sole purposes by west forces to attain the power in general. Political system nurturing needs the fertilizer of healthy and free flow of information from every corner of the world and the information should be treated with the owed admiration without any prejudice of peripheral of semi peripheral Nations. When there is a free flow of information and the agenda setting role of media is on right direction let’s say for development of the society its outcome will directly affect the working pattern of governments in productive manner. When media start distributing the knowledge of rights of common people and duties of rulers it will surely bring a transparent, accountable and favorable political system that could serve the purpose of fulfillment of needs of public. Certainly the spread of information from one part to another with the help of communication channels and modification of the tools of mass media via technological development time to time has made the effort of sharing knowledge, wisdom, culture, experiences and experiments possible in very short time that formed a global society learning and sharing from each others. Media for the democracy promoters that corporate ownership and commercial pressures sway media content, sharply limiting the range of news, opinions, and entertainment citizens collect. Therefore, they call for a more equal distribution of economic, social, cultural, and information capital, which would lead to a more informed citizenry, as well as a more enlightened, representative political discourse.

Pakistan is blessed to have as many equally, if not more, talented intelligent and hard working women as men. We have Oscar as well as a Noble prize winning females in the country. We have Shiza Farhan, who added to the global recognition of Pakistani women’s talents by making it to Forbe’s list of 30 under 30 entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, when it comes to how well women fare in empowerment and decision making in general, the situation in Pakistan is not encouraging. Women in Pakistan have failed to break free from the shackles of the patriarchal structures at household and societal levels that stringently govern their lives. As a result, power and influence of women in the private and the public domain is severely impacted. Gender biases, coupled with widespread poverty and illiteracy aggravates the situation for the females. The distinction emanates from birth of the child, with sex marking the distinctive line. Social injustice towards females perpetuates deeper and deeper till the person is laid to rest. As a result, what we see around us is a case of missing leadership of women. Women are disproportionately absent from political leadership and the public life. They are denied equality of opportunities, which is a prerequisite to empower them into becoming strong and confident individuals.

Benazir Bhutto was the first prime minister of Pakistan. She wielded adequate authority and influence and was able to command respect through her contributions to the country. Her government was at par with the standards of modern democracy and comparable to any other male led regime of the country. Looking at her as a success story, it wouldn’t be wrong to recognize the strong family support and encouragement behind her that gave her the mettle to enter national political arena and acquire a high stature. Ms. Bhutto’s political rise, thus, teaches us an important lesson- if support, encouragement and enabling environment is provided to Pakistani females that is at par with the males, nothing can stop them from rising to the top.

The challenge then is to provide females equal opportunities and that can’t happen until and unless we change societal norms towards and expectations from females. While female focused policies, gender sensitive budgeting and ensuring access to quality public services are all important factors that determine the empowerment of the females, the real challenge will always be how the patriarchal structures that govern our societal function are dismantled. Even a challenge bigger than that is how much the females themselves are eager to progress ahead in life. To have women in leadership positions, whether it be in offices or the political arena, is a long journey that we all need to take. With local governments allowing greater representation of women from grassroots tier, there is a huge possibility for a stronger female representation in provincial and national assemblies. It is time to cash in on this opportunity.

We need to raise the level of education and awareness at both the household and the societal level so that women are recognized as, not inferior, but, equal to males. This equality must be linked directly to the opportunities provided to her since she is born; meaning that she is provided nutrition, education and health services equal to her male sibling/s. She has to be taken-in by the job market at equal remuneration as to that of a male. She must be allowed to make her own choices, with a free will, independently; confidently and courageously. She needs to be encouraged and supported to pursue her dreams, whether they be of becoming the prime minister of Pakistan. We should all support her to dream that dream.

Let us lead Pakistan towards development by helping our women in entering the political domain. Let us recognize and rejoice over their spirit and contributions so that we may have more of Sharmeen Obaids and Shiza Farhans. So that we may have many more influential woman prime ministers.

Regardless of limits set in election expanses by law, the political candidates spend much more than stipulated amount. Votes are sold, votes are bought in elections. Political affiliations, political support, and elections are manipulated by spending money. Money is used for campaign electronic and print advertisements. Money is used for running election offices, for corner meetings, and for Election Day process. Certainly, regulation of finances for political campaign matters because the free use of money can pave the way for manipulation of elections.
In each of the last 10 General Elections held in Pakistan, from 1977 to 2013, there have been many accusations (and counter accusations) of pre and post-election vote rigging, manipulation, and mandate snatching. Opposition and loosing parties often make these claims, and the mainstream media reports vigorously. For instance, in a famous Supreme Court judgment after the 1990 elections, in Asgher Khan Case regarding the use of money for poll rigging, the Court established that the Army had bought political loyalty. Such type of stories have regularly been in media all the way up until 2013.
Nevertheless, in the last ten years and so, though demanded several times, there seemed no legal reforms regarding political finance in Pakistan. There were not even presented any bills in legislature regarding political finance. Only the matter of increasing the upper limit of election expenses (from 1.5 million rupees (approx. 15,000 US dollars), was reported discussed in a cabinet meeting. The basic reason for this is that candidates do, in practice, spend much more than the stipulated amount; however, in order to conceal the violation of Article 49 of The Representation of the People Act, 1976, candidates deliberately submit misleading reports on their expenses to the ECP. As the ECP does not have mechanisms to enforce, monitor, and verify the reported elections expenses and violations of regulations and code of conduct, it is easy for candidates to mislead the ECP without repercussions.
The sections 5 and 6 of The Political Parties Order 2002, requires political parties to maintain bank accounts for party funds, contributions, and disbursement and to submit to ECP annual record. Similarly, sections 49 of the Representation of Peoples Act (ROPA) 1976, provides for limitation of election expenses to 1.5 million and one million through a valid single bank account for a candidate contesting elections for National Assembly seat and Provincial Assembly seat respectively. Additionally, section 50 of the ROPA 1976 provides for maintenance and return of election expenses constituted of contributions made and expenditures incurred to returning officers.
Nevertheless, for regulations of finances, there is need of enactment of new laws and implementation of existing ones, along with robust enforcement mechanism aided with state institutions such as State Bank, FBR, NADRA, NAB, and Judiciary.

As per projected estimates[1], there are approximately 5.035 million persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Pakistan. Worrisome is the fact that only 14% of PWDs work, while the rest are all reliant upon family members for financial support. Even more worrying is that 1.4 million (28.09% of total PWDs) are children of school going age that do not have access to education. The question for us as a society is: are we doing enough to help facilitate the inclusion of these PWDs in the spectrum of normal life? The statistics presented, speak otherwise. PWDs are missing from all major streams of life. Their participation in socio-economic and political activities is limited by their characterization as weak and less capable individuals. While in developed societies, you observe the governments continuously striving to create equitably enabling environments for PWDs, to help them enjoy a quality life, with dignity, the situation in Pakistan remains discouraging.

Political participation of PWDs in Pakistan is marred by the social stigma attached to the disability. Not adequately facilitated to participate in life up to one’s full potential, the lives of most of the PWDs are spent in seeking help and assistance from people around them. Quite a few of us are unaware of the difficulties a PWD might face during the performance of tasks that we might consider menial and routine. The societal level of awareness, exposure and empathy towards the needs of this significant minority is not commendable.

Lack of government’s interest towards PWDs is reflected in the government’s failure to keep up with job quotas of two percent assigned to PWDs and adequate pay scales to ensure their dignified living. These problems are firmly enrooted in the lack of voice, empowerment and subsequent representation of PWDs in the political sphere.

In a society where even getting to the polling station is a remarkable feat for the PWDs, what follows at the polling station is much more troubling. Imagine yourself as a person on a wheelchair who wants to cast a vote. Convincing someone to accompany you to the polling station on a public transport is quite a task. Even those who are going to vote, might just turn down your request, thinking about how much effort it would take to get you at the polling station. The struggle is not over once you are at the polling station; a huge probability is that there are no ramps to greet you- you need to be carried inside again. Once inside, you are likely to face difficulty in mobility, as the polling booths are mostly overcrowded and congested, with people not much sensitized on the problems that PWDs face. If you lack eyesight or if your hearing is impaired, you won’t find specialized staff at the polling stations to assist you. Would there be brails for the sight-impaired to cast vote? Not really. How would the privacy of the ballot of the sight-impaired be preserved, if there is no braille? Or is privacy of no importance?

The plain truth is that Pakistan has a long way to go in terms of facilitating PWDs to ensure their effective electoral participation. Right to vote is the building block of democracy. It is an instrument through which the aspirations of people are reflected and actualized. If millions of PWDs are excluded from the electoral process, we cannot call the elections inclusive and fair. Inability to vote due to lack of facilitative mechanism leaves a strong question mark on the performance of ECP in ensuring that all Pakistanis are treated equally. Failure to arrange polling stations that are sensitive to the requirements of the PWDs is, in plain and simple words, a denial of the right to vote.

[1] Waqar, K., Dr. (2014, May). Disability:Situation in Pakistan. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://itacec.org/document/gaw/gaw2014/2.%20Disability%20Pages%202.pdf

I, like tens of thousands of others, commute from Rawalpindi to Islamabad for work every day. Every day, I make my way through the hustle and bustle of heavy traffic to get to work on time; to meet my deadlines; to be productive. Men and women, old and young, some on their own vehicles, others on public transport, irrespective of whether it is raining or scorching heat, need to commute daily. We all need to get to our offices to do our work, to make a living. We need free movement to perform our lives as normal humans, to perform domestic chores, to function with optimum efficacy. Alas, far too often, our lives are disturbed as a result of political agitations that are neither peaceful nor civilized. While, right to assemble peacefully, without arms is our constitutional right, far too often we fail to realize that it also has to be taken into consideration that public order is not disturbed. The essence of peaceful assembly, which is clearly a legitimate method of political agitation – is to get the point across to those in the realms of power- the policy makers. Not in any way is any assembly permissible that creates hurdles for the citizens and deteriorates the quality of public life by curtailing free movement and causing panic.

As a daily traveler between the twin-cities, I have faced testing times where my freedoms have been violated by, not peaceful, but, violent assembly of politically motivated workers of various parties. Disruption of public order and rejection of state directives is, far too often, a common sight. Scuffles between law enforcement agencies and enraged political workers and destruction of public property for no good reason during protests are frequent incidents that we witness and hear about in the news.

We need to recognize that we have blurred the distinctive line between peaceful agitation and violent protests. The nature of the violence is such that it not only has the ability to damage individuals physically, but also carries a high potential to inflict economic loss and damage our social fabric. When public order is disrupted by a political group through violent agitation that has no regard for the maintenance of public order and public interest, it must be rejected and not supported by the public.

There is ample space in every city to organize political protests in a peaceful manner. Sports stadiums, parade grounds and several other public spaces can be utilized by political parties to limelight their demands and register their voice on the media. Compliance with state directives on how to go about with the protest must be followed in the best interest of the public at large. Noncompliance with state agencies’ directives and disrupting public order, depicts a political party’s weakness with respect to respecting rule of law and demonstrates its lack of empathy to the interests of the people.

If people can’t move freely due to political agitation and road blockades, their livelihoods are directly affected, children can’t go to educational institutions, economic activity declines, patients can’t get to hospitals – everything comes down to a halt. You become a prisoner in a free country. Why should citizens buy such nuisance under the guise of right to peaceful protest? Why should societal freedom of movement be curtailed and public order deteriorated for the interest of some specific few? All of us want a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan, but we can only get it if we act in responsible and civilized manner. Unless political parties demonstrate respect for constitution and a high regard for rule of law, especially during political agitations, we cannot expect them to be a worthy custodian of the rights and liberties of the people of Pakistan.

The most important ingredient of democracy is the electoral exercise in which people surrender their will to their chosen representatives providing them an opportunity of deliverance in a given time frame. Though the delivery period of governance has a mechanism of accountability through formal state institutions, however, performance appraisal of the elected representatives is also carried out to make them accountable to the people through an electoral exercise to complete the democratic cycle. In other words, the edifice of democracy is raised on the foundations of elections which must be free and fair so that will of the people is exercised by their true representatives.

In Pakistan, the primary institution responsible for carrying out elections is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) constituted under Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973. It is headed by a Chief Election Commissioner and comprises four members, one each from all the four provinces. They are appointed by a twelve-member Parliamentary Committee with equal representation from the government and opposition. The Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of Opposition sends three names for each slot to the Parliamentary Committee for finalization which are then formally appointed by the President for a five year term.

The Chief Election Commissioner and Commission Members are the core functionaries to conduct elections in Pakistan. With a history of disputed electoral results in Pakistan, the wrath of an alleged unfair election has ultimately fallen on ECP and its Members and strengthening it is a major part of the proposed electoral reforms. The structural issues of ECP including lack of resources, autonomy and authority to carry out free and fair election and to make accountable those hindering a free and fair electoral process have been major impediments to achieve its objectives and are being duly addressed in the electoral reforms. However, the credibility of electoral exercise also greatly depends upon the integrity of Chief Election Commissioner and Commission Members. Though the process of appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Commission Members are prima facie quite democratic, but still the same failed to ensure credibility to the elections and general election-2013 is the latest example which led to a political turmoil in Pakistan. The process, therefore, needs to be reviewed to enhance the acceptability of elections but is not being addressed in the electoral reforms.

Having half of the representation in the twelve-member Parliamentary Committee, the government needs just a single member for majority to make appointments of its own choice which is quite easy. Though some political theorists are of the opinion that government has the right for administrative appointments but others opine that the appointments in an electoral body should not be treated in the same manner. Requiring a higher level of neutrality to conduct an electoral exercise, the institution responsible for it has, therefore, been historically manned by judiciary in most of the democratic setups. The very act of revision of eligibility criteria in 22nd Amendment by making eligible retired civil servants and technocrats is against this spirit. There is a strong opinion that political parties being the most important stakeholders in an election should have no or minimal role in the appointment of electoral body. They should be from the judiciary with an institutionalized mechanism to fill the vacant slot of Chairman with the most recently retired Chief Justice or in case of his non-availability, senior most retired Judge of the Supreme Court. Similarly, the slot of Member from each province should be filled with the most recently retired Chief Justice or in the case of his non-availability, the senior most retired Judge of the concerned High Court. The spirit of this proposal is to devise a mode of appointment wherein the discretion of nominations by the government is eliminated. If it is incorporated and approved in the electoral reforms bill, it may enhance the credibility of ECP as well as of the elections carried out by it leading to restoration of trust of the people in electoral process and ultimately strengthen democracy.

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. The country has a checkered history with a few interludes of democratic rule during the sixty eight years of its existence.

The first Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was adopted in 1956 which was abrogated just two years later by the martial law. During the first eleven years, eight successively governments were formed and sooner collapsed. Unfortunately, the inconsistent democratic history continued till 2008, alternating between elected governments and long spells of military dictators since its inception.

Pakistan has travelled a long distance towards its march on the path of democracy. The parliamentary democracy collapsed four times primarily due to mismanagement, disproportionate development of institutional matrix and the mounting political ambitions of the military generals. The military dictators have always sabotaged political development and mainstream political parties; and have advocated religious, ethnic and tribal politics to legitimize their regimes by rigged referendum. Over the years, the support to religious and ethnic groups has led to underground nurseries for breeding of extremism and terrorism. During military regime there was considerable economic development and prosperity, however, Pakistan democratic institutions were crushed and country had to endure two wars with India. On the other hand elected politicians have not much contributed towards democracy rather have been involved in incessant cycle of corruption, dynastic politics, nepotism and money laundering during the short duration they were at the helm of affairs. The fruit of democracy – good governance – albeit remained a dream.

With the outcome of general elections 2013, it was for the first time that a politically elected government successfully completed its tenure was replaced by another democratically elected government. However, the credibility and acceptability of these elections remained questionable by some parties in the opposition, till an “Inquiry Commission” comprising Supreme Court Judges which declared the 2013 elections were in large part organized and conducted justly and fairly in accordance with the law and reflection of the true mandate given by the electorate. Even now, the people of Pakistan have to undergo a long way in quest for the thirst of true democracy, leading to ultimate goal of good governance.

The phenomenon of electoral violence is a major issue in nascent democracies of the world. In order to curb electoral violence, a multi-pronged approach is adopted all over the world which includes transparency in preparation of voters’ lists, delimitation of constituencies, freedom to vote without any extraneous political, social or economic pressures, transparent polling and result compilation process and a fair and swift electoral dispute resolution mechanism. The trust of voters on the transparency of these processes leads to a higher level of acceptability of the electoral process which itself is a mitigating factor for violence. As elections represent a contest for power, the very process is adversarial in nature. The intensity of this ingredient aggravates where political systems are not yet fully mature, literacy is low, people lack trust in electoral process and tribal, communal, religious or social pressures prevail over political ideologies. Resultantly, people resort to violent means due to lack of trustworthiness in the legal recourse. In order to offset such sentiments and ensure confidence of voters in the electoral exercise, the basic prerequisite is a strong legal framework supplemented by an effective administrative and enforcement mechanism.

In Pakistan, the existing legal framework for electoral process for general elections is enumerated in ‘The Representation of People’s Act, 1976’. For Local Bodies elections, almost same provisions have been incorporated in respective provincial local bodies’ laws. Besides ensuring transparency of the electoral process, the said laws also contain provisions to check electoral violence through delegation of magisterial powers to Returning Officers (RO) and Presiding Officers and placement of all executive authorities of government at their disposal. It has, however, been observed that despite provision of a reasonable legal framework, the recurrence of repeated violence in elections in Pakistan at all levels has been common. Though the culture of using violent means to ascend to political power is deeply entrenched, the same can be curbed if the legal framework is further strengthened and is effectively implemented.

The lynchpin in the electoral process is the RO and if his/her regulatory role is further strengthened, he/she can be an effective check on violence. The primary tool at the disposal of RO to curb violence is the local administration including Police authorities. Though in theory, all the executive authorities of the government are at the disposal of RO, practically it’s the district administration which calls the shots as they have under their direct command a trained field force with personnel, logistics and training to handle law and order. On the other hand, RO is temporarily placed for a short period of electoral process and is considered to be superimposed on the hierarchy of district administration and is dependent upon them. This dependence and short term appointment practically relegates the position of RO vis-à-vis district administration, making him/her less assertive in carrying out his duties particularly in maintenance of law and order. This situation puts no responsibility on those having resources and burdens those having practically no such resources under their direct command and control.

In order to rectify this anomaly, the maintenance of law and order should be the exclusive domain of district administration. There should, however, be stronger checks on them to offset the apprehension of interference in elections by the incumbent government to its advantage, especially in case of Local Bodies elections as the district administration is under its direct control. These checks may include provision of a quantified weightage by the RO in the relevant district administration officer’s annual Performance Evaluation Report on the basis of his/her performance. On the same lines, RO should have the authority to penalize the political party and individual voters who are proved to be involved in any incident of electoral violence. The penalty in such cases may include stripping an individual’s right to vote for life or a certain period of time, depending upon the nature and intensity of offence. Simultaneously, the political party or candidate whose activists are found involved in violence may be penalized by reduction of their votes by a certain number or percentage or even banning a party or a candidate from participation in election for a certain period of time in the said constituency, depending upon the nature of offence. These penalties may be in addition to the criminal proceedings under the existing laws. A set of legal changes to this effect may reinforce the authority of the ROs who in turn will have a better control of executive authorities of the government at their disposal. Moreover, the strong deterrence of penalizing the right of franchise and participation in election by political parties and individuals may force them to refrain from violence in the electoral process.

The primary pillar of democracy is the electoral process. For the same to be transparent and credible in true sense, people must have a free and fair opportunity to elect their representatives without any extraneous pressure. Any attempt to compel or force the people to go against their free will through extreme measures, particularly by use of physical or psychological force, is termed as electoral violence. In other words, the use of forcible means by an individual or a group to change the course of political will of an individual or a group of people during an electoral process is called electoral violence. The phenomenon of electoral violence is directly related to the social norms of a society. The social setups with low literacy rate, lesser political maturity particularly on part of political leadership, and weak administrative and judicial systems are more prone to political and electoral violence as compared to the societies who have a higher rate of literacy, developed political systems and greater political maturity.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of those countries where political systems have failed to mature due to intermittent military interventions, thus impeding political growth of the society. The major fallout of this has been lack of political maturity among the people as well as political parties leading to a culture of intolerance. Though political process has started taking roots, but the ingredient of tolerance and respect for people’s mandate is still lacking. The same emanates from top political leadership and stands true across the board for almost all political parties. The same is evident from the electoral processes till recent past wherein bitterness beyond parameters of decency among political leadership of various parties permeated to the lower tiers, leading to frequent incidents of violence during elections. In the recently held local bodies’ elections in Punjab and Sindh on 31 October, 2015, a number of people were killed including a single incident of violence on the polling day in Khairpur resulting in 11 casualties. Prior to this in the local bodies’ elections in KP, about 09 people were killed in a single day in May, 2015.

In order to eliminate the growing phenomenon of violence from our political and electoral system, the political environment needs to be raised to a higher pedestal of tolerance and mutual accommodation. The major responsibility for the same lies with the top political leadership as they are the main driving force to regulate political temperature in the country. The dominance of tribal mindset among the political leadership as well as general public which considers electoral defeat as loss of honor is the biggest factor of electoral violence in Pakistan. The same has trickled down from top political leadership to the lowest tier of political system wherein leaders in the heat of moment resort to rhetoric which charges the political environment leading to violence. In order to curb electoral violence, political leadership has to show maturity through an accommodating attitude and acceptance of people’s mandate as well as criticism within the parameters of decency. Simultaneously, the judicial and administrative setups dealing with electoral issues need to be more transparent and efficient as it’s the lack of trust in these systems which forces the people to self-adjudicate through violent means. In addition to these, the concept of elders’ committees at Union Councils comprising notables of the respective areas needs to be institutionalized to act as alternate dispute resolution bodies, particularly in case of electoral conflicts.

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. Media with an inch-deep interest in issues seldom does research and paddles the pro tech approach to elections.

In my view e-day technology alone cannot ensure transparency in an electoral process. It is rather susceptible to rigging including fraud malpractices and systematic manipulation; it is an aid rather than a replacement to human adjudication. There are several examples from western world like California, Quebec, Italy and Germany that has forego electronic voting machines (EVM) due to lack of transparency. Regarding BVVS Ghana and Venezuela are two good examples of what to do, and what not to do. Former faced failure while the latter met with massive success. There were many reasons behind the success like series of pilot projects, several tests, stakeholders’ consultation and acceptance, voter education, training of election management bodies, cost benefit analysis, contingency plans, risks mitigation strategy and last but not the least, that is of immense importance, is citizenry’s confidence on its electoral commission and electoral systems. Although election technologies makes systems fast, ballot counting accurate; curtail the possibility of multiple voting and voter impersonation on e-day, it would limit the ability of polling officials to facilitate multiple voting and voter impersonation. It is difficult, “though not impossible”, to tamper with the machines. Machines are opaque devices that cannot be fully observed; in contrast a manual system i.e. a balloting system instead of an EVM is more transparent and observable on e-day by anyone.

Point to a fact that the use of e-day technologies is a high cost, high risk undertaking whose benefits sometime fail to match the high expectations thus ending up in resolving numerous post-election complaints by election tribunals like happened in Netherlands where in 2008 EVM, having being tampered, were banned. It was the result of a group of activists and civil society (CS) who successfully demonstrated that the EVMs being used at that time could be easily tampered with.

In Pakistan’s context the CS should way out all options before advocating implementation of e-day technology. Pakistan is not the first country to implement election technology. Most of the western world has reverted to paper based traditional systems after experiencing huge failure with e-day technology (black boxes) having incurred huge losses with money and credibility.

NGOs can also play a substantial role in raising awareness about different countries’ experiences with the e-day technologies. Another way is to include global practices in elections in the curriculum and higher learning institutions can commission researches around the future election technologies.

Additionally those suggesting the use of e-day technologies must also take in to account the cost factor including not only the first time cost but cost incurred on maintenance, storage, software update, configuration, security etc; the state money which should instead be spent on the basic needs like health and education.

While there is a pressure by the opposition parties to adopt financially and otherwise unfeasible e-day technologies, the ECP can only resist such pressures if the CS makes informed decisions and supports the commission.

The advantages and disadvantages of using e-day technologies vary from country to country, as the challenges and issues faced by the existing system in elections. Therefore, there is no one answer on the appropriateness of using e-day technologies. In broad terms, the more complex technology is employed the more risk is inherent.

Think twice and look around!

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.
Broadly speaking it is a system which starts at the grass roots and after building a strong base, goes on to construct the structure above.
The concept of democracy is based on the theory of sovereignty of the people. The effective realization of this principle is possible only if the people have the right to express their views and judgment. The system of democracy creates the political consciousness among the people by giving political education to them through referendum and initiatives. It promotes patriotism and infuses the sense of responsibility and dutifulness in the people as they are closely associated with the law making process. People of a democratic country automatically become more respectful to the laws, which are made by them.
Indeed the basic system on which the Pakistan is established in 1947 was democracy conceptualized by Quied-e-millat, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. However after that democracy in Pakistan was imperfect and was never been allowed to function, because of political cold war’s and political instabilities termed as democracy killers in all times of Pakistan’s political era.
Until 2013, Pakistan did not experience even one democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government that had completed its tenure to another. Because previous democracies have been interrupted by military actions. But now the people of Pakistan realize the real power of a democratic state. They become aware of their responsibilities and rights to vote. This the turning point for the Pakistani democracy uplift and also for the rise of the Pakistani nation.
Wishing all of you Happy “INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY”. Always vote with the open eyes its not a ballet paper…its our future.
FAWAD AHMAD KHAN HOTI

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 in Pakistan faced a host of difficulties which did not let the democratic principles, institutions and processes develop firm roots in the polity. Pakistan started with the parliamentary system of governance but the legacy of institutional imbalance and authoritarianism, problems encountered in the setting up of the new state, the external security pressures and the fear of the collapse of the state adversely affected the prospects of democracy. Other factors that caused the problems for democracy included the crisis of leadership in the aftermath of the demise of Jinnah, failure of the Muslim League to transform itself from a nationalist movement to a national party, fragmentation and degeneration of the political forces and the rise of the bureaucratic-military elite. Long before the first military take over in October 1958 the dominant elite were talking about the unsuitability of liberal democracy for Pakistan. Intermittent constitutional and political breakdown, the ascendancy of the military to power and the efforts of the top brass of the military to introduce a political system that protected their professional and corporate interests made it difficult to create participatory political institutions and processes that could command the voluntary support of the diversified political interests. The military elite employed the democratic principles in a selective manner and their policy of co-option of a section of the political leaders and exclusion of others accentuated polarization and jeopardized the prospects of political accommodation and consensus-building.

The experience suggests that democratic institutions and processes stabilize and mature if their natural evolution is not obstructed by partisan considerations. These must function in their true spirit over time, offering all citizens and groups an equal and fair opportunity to enter the political mainstream and compete for power and influence. This helps to build support for the political institutions and facilitates their sustainability. In Pakistan, periodic breakdown of the political order and repeated military take-over or attempts by the top brass to shape the political process to their political preferences did not ensure political continuity and the competing interest did not get equal opportunity to freely enter the political mainstream.

Democracy and the autonomy of civilian institutions and processes has been the major casualty of the expanded role of the military. Whenever Pakistan returned to civilian and constitutional rule, the quality of democracy remained poor. It is a case of democracy deficit. The long term endurance of the political institutions and the prospects of democracy faces four major challenges in Pakistan: the non-expansion of participatory opportunities for those viewed as adversaries by the military dominated regime, the poor performance of the elected assemblies, failure to build consensus on the operational norms of the political system, and a drift towards confrontation, religious and cultural intolerance and extremism.

This does not mean that the people have given up on the primacy of the popular will, participatory governance, accountability of the rulers and governance for serving the people. The ideological commitment to these principles persists which will continue to question the legitimacy of non participatory and authoritarian governance and political management.

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?
There was a time when Pakistan was considered a respectable country. Today, our politicians are famous for getting loans and literally asking for money from other nations. The value of Pakistan’s green passport is standing in a line that is manifested with hate and remorse. The countries that follow Islam as obediently as the Pakistanis do consider us as animals that would bark and bite all the time. Why is that a few politicians who have no respect of their blood, their family, their nation get to shape the image of Pakistan.
The answer is democracy, in Pakistan this democracy is made up by the most vicious people, for the ignorant people and of the inhuman people. Since the past six decades, crime grew, justice reduced, the elite got rich and the poor commit suicide. Can people not see that it is this democracy, which has brought the people of this nation to their knees on the commands of a few bullies? These bullies are made by the people of Pakistan, under influence or ignorance remains a mystery. This nation was built on the basis of Islamic Law, after more than 60 years we don’t even have democracy let alone the blessed law of our Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

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. The country has a checkered history with a few interludes of democratic rule during the sixty eight years of its existence.

The first Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was adopted in 1956 which was abrogated just two years later by the martial law. During the first eleven years, eight successively governments were formed and sooner collapsed. Unfortunately, the inconsistent democratic history continued till 2008, alternating between elected governments and long spells of military dictators since its inception.

Pakistan has travelled a long distance towards its march on the path of democracy. The parliamentary democracy collapsed four times primarily due to mismanagement, disproportionate development of institutional matrix and the mounting political ambitions of the military generals. The military dictators have always sabotaged political development and mainstream political parties; and have advocated religious, ethnic and tribal politics to legitimize their regimes by rigged referendum. Over the years, the support to religious and ethnic groups has led to underground nurseries for breeding of extremism and terrorism. During military regime there was considerable economic development and prosperity, however, Pakistan democratic institutions were crushed and country had to endure two wars with India. On the other hand elected politicians have not much contributed towards democracy rather have been involved in incessant cycle of corruption, dynastic politics, nepotism and money laundering during the short duration they were at the helm of affairs. The fruit of democracy – good governance – albeit remained a dream.

With the outcome of general elections 2013, it was for the first time that a politically elected government successfully completed its tenure was replaced by another democratically elected government. However, the credibility and acceptability of these elections remained questionable by some parties in the opposition, till an “Inquiry Commission” comprising Supreme Court Judges which declared the 2013 elections were in large part organized and conducted justly and fairly in accordance with the law and reflection of the true mandate given by the electorate. Even now, the people of Pakistan have to undergo a long way in quest for the thirst of true democracy, leading to ultimate goal of good governance.