‘Student union revival to strengthen democratic process’

Speakers express concern over low turnout of youth for voting


Our Corresondent November 25, 2022
File photo of student activists holding a demonstration for the revival of student unions. (PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS)

KARACHI:

Civil Society and youth representatives raised concern about the lack of student unions activism and critical issues of low youth voter turnout in Pakistan at an event organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Pakistan.

Expressing his views on Absent Young Voters of Pakistan, Regional Election Commissioner Karachi Nazar Abbas said that student unions were instrumental in gaining political education and empowerment but the unions remained banned for decades.

“Now that the Sindh Students Union Act has been passed, higher education institutions should work towards bringing them back,” he added. Abbas said that student unions not only build youth leadership but also encourage young people to vote.

On the role of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to improve youth voter turnout in elections, ECP Outreach Wing Director Quratul Ain Fatima discussed barriers to youth’s electoral and political participation.

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Fatima mentioned the ban on student unions’ being a detrimental factor to students’ growth along with delays in Local Government elections.

She said that 500 sessions have been organised in schools, colleges and universities under this programme.

The election commission has also conducted sessions for YouTubers and vloggers to highlight the importance of voting for transgender people.

Sindh government representative, Minister Universities and Board Ismail Rahu highlighted the years of work that had been undertaken by the government to empower the youth and increase their voter turnout.

He commended Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) effort in bringing back student unions in Pakistan by passing the Sindh Student Unions Act, and soon progress will be made to establish unions in universities as well.

Present on the occasion, former MPA and PILDAT Board Member Mahtab Akbar Rashdi said that enhancing voter turnout is not just the responsibility of a singular organisation, but rather the responsibility of every government institution, political party, civil society organisation, educational institution as well as the voter.

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On the occasion, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) MPA Arslan Taj encouraged the youth to break the status quo present within all political parties that prevent them from rising to the challenge and taking leadership positions within society.

PLDAT chief Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said despite the majority of Pakistan's population consisting of youth, the participation of young voters is low.

He stressed on teaching Civics at middle school level so that the children get aware of legislation process.

There is a need to highlight the importance of voting in schools, colleges, universities and villages because reforms can be made only through the education system.

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On improving the participation of the youth in the electoral process to strengthen the democratic system in the country, Ahmad Bilal Mehboob said that it is important to promote the participation of the youth in the democratic process of the country because it is necessary to involve the youth in politics and legislation. It is the right way to build democracy in the country. If the youth are not guided on the democratic path, they will be under the threat of development of extremist tendencies.

While comparing Pakistan and India in the presentation, he said that in the 2018 election, the total voter turnout was 45 per cent, with 31 per cent of the youth, while in India, the overall turnout was 69 per cent, while the youth was 61 per cent.

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