Democracy is another name for true representation of the masses. Indeed it may prove to be one of the best forms of government with a built-in system of checks and balances at all levels. What is the single factor that makes any democracy flourish with progression and accountability? What is it that makes the voices of the public be heard? It is called “VOTE”. Our vote is the one thing and the only thing that can change the fate of our beloved Pakistan.
Voter turnout is one of the most important statistics which, historically, has been quite dismal. The highest ever voter turnout recorded was 55% in the 1955 elections. This figure has been ranging from 35% to 45% during the elections of 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008.
2008, being the most recent election and historic ones as the government formed after these elections was the first ever in the history to complete its term, deserves an in depth analysis of voter turnout, which stood at 45%. “PakReport” has done a tremendous job by producing this interactive map based on 2008 National Assembly data. This map provides location-wise details of registered voters and percentage votes casted. The percentages are alarming! The only few places in Sindh which had a greater than 50% turnout include Qambar Shahdadkot (53.7%), Sanghar (51.13%) and Tharparkar (64.64%). No, Karachi is not one of them where the turnout was recorded at 47.68%. In Balochistan, places greater than 50% turnout included Jhal Magsi (77.46%), Dera Bugti (52.23%) and Barkhan (50.66%). Punjab recorded the highest number of places with greater than 50% turnout which include Attock (55.82%), Islamabad (50.01%), Mianwali (52.27%), Chakwal (57.22%), Khushab (60.32), Bhakkar (65.99%), Layyah (61.12%), Mandi Bahauddin (55.09%), Hafizabad (62.26%), Nankana Sahib (55.11%), Gujrat (52.26%), Sialkot (53.94%), Narowal (55.25%), Sheikhupura (50.68%), Kasur (54.52%), Jhang (50.96%), Faisalabad (52.90%), Toba Tek Singh (60.35%), Sahiwal (56.72%), Pakpattan (56.89%), Muzaffargarh (50.62%), Khanewal (59.23%) and Lodhran (61.37%). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nowhere was the voter turnout recorded at higher than 50%.
These figures raise a serious question. Democracy, in the simplest terms, is defined as the rule of majority. How can the governments claim to have a mandate of 180 million Pakistanis is simply beyond comprehension. Perhaps this may explain why the issues of masses are conveniently ignored as those in power have historically almost never represented the masses.
There can be various reasons attributed to the low voter turnout, one of them being a voter’s wish or will not to support any of the candidates in the respective constituency. In the recent past, Election Commission of Pakistan considered a “None of The Above” option on the ballot paper which was raised by a Yasmeen Ali, a renowned lawyer and a teacher. “None of The Above” (NOTA) met with serious criticism, specially by political parties but was indeed a welcome gesture by many citizens. While the reservations of the political parties were quite understandable, award winning journalist/anchorperson Asma Shirazi labeling it a “conspiracy to derail democracy” is simply beyond understanding. Yasmeen Ali, amidst much support as well as criticism attempted to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of NOTA in order to ensure that we, the public, understand the concept in its true spirit. Nevertheless, it is indeed a good sign that such suggestions by the common citizens of Pakistan are reaching the authorities, are considered and discussed.
All in all, the overall voter turnout cannot be emphasized enough and it is of utmost importance that we, the Pakistanis, take charge and take part in the electoral process. This is the key to ensure that those at the helm of affairs actually represent the masses and all actions/ legislation, etc., are aligned with the public and national interest.
A serious recommendation would be to make registration and voting mandatory. It is simply not an option anymore to sit back and watch. Time has come to be at the forefront and take part in the molding and structuring of this beautiful country which has always given us a lot and has gotten almost nothing in return.
Pakistan, vote and take charge or hold your peace!