The year 2024 heralds a global wave of elections, with approximately 49% of the world’s population in more than 64 countries preparing to vote. However, it is not just the act of voting itself that distinguishes this election from previous ones. Rather, it is the process that leads to them and the subsequent results that set them apart.
Historically, Pakistan’s electoral process has always been marred by allegations of irregularities and a lack of fairness. However, in recent times, the advent of social media and technology has revealed the darker and uglier aspects of this process to the 55 million young voters who are already wary of the entire democratic process.
In Pakistan, the youth constitute an important segment of the population, with enormous potential to drive positive change and shape the nation’s future. However, disillusionment with the existing democratic process has led many young, educated Pakistanis to seek opportunities abroad, undermining the country’s ability to harness their talents and energies.
Brain drain trend
As mentioned in my article last year titled Capitalizing on Human Capital, recent years have seen a remarkable trend of young, educated Pakistanis migrating abroad in search of better livelihood opportunities and a more conducive environment for personal and professional growth.
According to recent figures, over 860,000 Pakistanis left the country to seek better job opportunities abroad in 2023, the highest number since 2015. The most striking feature of this trend is the exodus of highly skilled professionals who have failed to secure a decent living there is no trust in the system to deliver.
Dealing with disappointment
The flight of young, educated Pakistanis underscores a deep disenchantment with the existing democratic process and governance structures. Perceived corruption, a lack of transparency and a disconnect between elected representatives and the electorate have eroded confidence in Pakistan’s democratic institutions, leading many talented individuals to seek opportunities elsewhere.
To reverse this trend, it is imperative to restore faith in the democratic process and demonstrate that meaningful change is possible through active citizen participation.
Reading: Youth, women come out in numbers
Most mainstream parties rely on the so-called “electables” to ensure their success and are unwilling to risk the new generation. Central to the revitalization of Pakistan’s democratic landscape is the active involvement and participation of the youth.
By empowering young people to participate in electoral processes, political decision-making and community initiatives, we can harness their energy and idealism to drive positive change.
Initiatives such as voter education programs, youth advocacy campaigns, and grassroots mobilization efforts can help foster a culture of civic engagement and instill a sense of ownership in shaping the country’s future.
The key to restoring confidence in democratic institutions is to ensure transparency and accountability in the electoral process and the formation of a new government after the elections. This implies strong mechanisms for electoral supervision, including independent monitoring of voting processes, verification of ballot counting and adjudication of electoral disputes.
In addition, elected representatives must be held accountable for their actions, with mechanisms to monitor their performance, deliver on campaign promises and address the concerns of their constituents.
In the digital age, technology presents unprecedented opportunities to democratize governance and enhance citizen participation. By leveraging digital platforms for voter registration, election monitoring and public participation, we can promote greater transparency, efficiency and participation in the democratic process.
Using the long-term electronic voting system and voting rights for overseas Pakistanis (mostly youth) will give them a sense of connection and belonging back to their homeland.
Renewal of manifests
Ahead of the 2024 elections, the political landscape was littered with promises, manifestos and rhetoric aimed at capturing the hearts and minds of voters.
But as revenue collection declines, economic growth stagnates and Pakistan faces tough conditions under an IMF program, the promises made by political contenders look increasingly out of step with the challenges. These empty promises cannot appeal to the youth who are well aware of ground realities and demand a more realistic approach to reforming the troubled economy.
In this context, it is imperative to engage young people in the democratic process, instilling confidence in their ability to effect meaningful change and holding representatives accountable for their actions.
Let’s adopt these strategies that have worked globally to empower youth participation and ensure transparency and accountability in the coming democratic transition, thereby ensuring inclusive and sustainable development.
The author is a financial market enthusiast and is attached to Pakistani stocks, commodities and emerging technology
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12u2024.
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