Trump is in news everywhere
whether it’s print, electronic or online media and from traditional political
discussions in streets of Pakistan to the global stage. World seems to be
shocked on “unexpected” win of Donald John Trump in U.S presidential elections
and debate on outcomes of this result is still hot. Some Americans dismayed by
the results organized street protests, and college students walked off
university campuses. A fresh wave of “Exit Movements” is seen as Californians
are calling for withdrawal from the US federation. Similarly, pro-Texas
independence organizations are coming to a single platform “Texas Nationalist
Movement” to seek a peaceful exit. Online media once again played a pivotal role
in motivating public since Calexit campaign sprung up and quickly gained
traction in the digital world. On the other hand, Trump had announced to issue
forceful “exit permits” to immigrants during his presidential campaign.
Uncertainty is prevailing among immigrants and they are under a constant threat
of deportation. A week before elections, many Americans had declared their
intentions that they would flee to Canada if Donald Trump won. It proved to be
true when Canadian and New Zealand’s Immigration websites got crashed due to a
significant increase in the volume of traffic from U.S on the same night that
millions of votes were pouring in for Trump. Muslims are concerned about what
his presidency may bring, though newly elected president eventually stepped back
on his vow to implement a complete ban on Muslim immigration.
Despite unexpected and stunning electoral results, developing nations like
Pakistan, had many lessons to learn regarding electoral proceedings like use of
advanced technology that provided citizens right to choose their candidate even
when they were in space, about 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. Shane
Kimbrough is the latest US astronauts out of many who have been able to vote
from space since 1997.
It’s an agony that, in U.S, people are casting votes from space since 20 years;
on the other hand, campaigns to develop a mechanism for overseas Pakistanis to
use their right to vote are not being taken seriously since long. Similarly,
there is no easy way for government employees to cast their votes. This is also
a reason that in our whole electoral history, turnout has never crossed even 60
per cent which definitely has affected the process of choosing right people as
our leaders. Consequently we were left far behind in a fast paced world.
According to 16th U.S president Abraham Lincoln, democracy is “government of the
people, by the people, for the people”, which proves that participation of
“people” is of utmost importance in electing a democratic government.
Unfortunately most of Pakistanis usually do not vote because they feel that one
vote does not count and it makes no difference if they vote or not. However the
truth is different, because each vote counts in many ways, your choice to vote
or not will make an impact on lives of millions of your fellow countrymen. Law
makers, elected through public ballot, legislate policies and laws that affect
public for years to come. If everyone used an excuse and did not vote, we shall
blame each other for government we shall have.
Although if we try to convince public to make a difference through vote, it is
equally important for people in power to take practical steps to make electoral
process transparent, fair and peaceful which is the only way to build and
restore public trust in balloting. But the irony is our politicians do not seem
to have any serious intent to make this happen. Especially no significant
development has been made to facilitate voters so far. Some of the reforms are
most crucial to be implemented in coming elections.
Terrorism has hit Pakistan so frequent that people are afraid of going to
crowded places. Maintaining a peaceful setting is of vital importance to build
public trust and bring voters to polling stations. For this matter of grave
concern, government needs to revise its (hidden) policy of keeping provincial
police departments weak to use them in tempering electoral results and as a
power-tool whenever needed. Calling army every time to conduct free, fair and
peaceful elections is not the real solution, strong police departments can
better do the job. Practically police is closer to public than other law
enforcement agencies because they are always in a constant interaction. We also
have seen betterment in this regard, like KPK Police is said to be free from
political pressure, similarly, Punjab Police has proved itself a lot more
capable in context of excellent security arrangements for recent events like
visits of foreign delegations, security of foreign experts working on CPEC,
Ashura and International Cricket Matches. They also have maintained state writ
against protestors without using a bullet and have fought terrorism as front
line force. They deserve to be strengthened to work more efficiently. Now is the
time to take realistic steps towards making institutions powerful.
Turnout in 2013 general elections was 55%, which is considered to be one of the
highest turnouts in history of Pakistan. But with a little more effort, this
turnout could be increased by manifolds. Election commission of Pakistan should
establish or allocate more polling stations near to home to voters for general
elections 2018. Polling stations on walking distance will not only increase
women participation but can also make the process transparent, as no candidate
will be able to influence the voters by providing them transportation. Proper
facilitation to the special persons and facilities of drinking water, waiting
place, easy ways to approach polling booth for general public will also help in
achieving the goal of maximum turnout.
About 6.7 million of Pakistanis are living abroad and have no right to vote
according to the constitution of Pakistan. In the absence of any law on the
subject, neither the ECP nor the SC is in a position to take any steps. In a
recent statement, the ECP said it was sincerely taking into consideration the
matter of the basic right to vote of expatriates holding Pakistani citizenship.
Anyhow the successive governments have tried to introduce amendments in the law
in order to let Pakistanis around the world cast their votes. The issue has been
pending with the Supreme Court since 2010. An ordinance to this effect was
promulgated two days before the May 2013 general elections, but it served no
purpose because the matter required a lot of work, including the mode of voting.
The ordinance lapsed after four months. Different options to facilitate voting
by Pakistanis living abroad through postal ballot, internet and in-person voting
could be considered.
The idea of postal ballots appears to be a top priority in recent discussions,
but modalities for this would have to be worked out for making the process
transparent and avoiding any misuse and manipulation. The need of the hour is to
expedite the process through standing committee on electoral reforms, so that by
2018 general elections, we have a solution on this issue.
In recent General Elections of 2013, about a million public servants performed
their duties far from their home station, where their vote are registered. To
facilitate to exercise their right of vote, ECP invites applications for postal
ballot from government employees. But unfortunately only a few of them exercise
their right to vote because others don’t give this social responsibility any
importance and the awareness level in employees about this privilege is very
low. The ECP should make it sure that all personnel deployed on election duties
get appropriate information about using their right to vote.
Pakistan has the lowest voter turnout in South Asia. Lack of voter trust and
education has been identified as two of the primary reasons behind this
indifference and lack of participation.
In order to make the election system successful in Pakistan voters must be aware
of the importance and value of their votes. It is the awareness, which will
enable the voters’ to choose a correct candidate and to make him accountable.
Voters’ education should commence from enlistment of their names in voters’
lists up to the casting of votes in polling booth. ECP needs to launch a massive
campaign before GE 2018 to attract voters to come to the polling stations on
Election Day and cast their votes. Special strategy should be designed to engage
youth voters, as the make a major portion of the total population and vote bank.
Lack of power and independence of the ECP has always been in question by
political parties in Pakistan whenever the electoral reforms are discussed. It
is the key institute responsible to organize free and fair elections and should
be autonomous, powerful and out of influence of any person, political party,
government or any other institute so that our voice could be heard more loudly
and more clearly through polling.