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> Electoral Violence and Electoral Dispute Resolution Focus Group Discussion with Youth

July 31, 2006


PILDAT as part of the UNDP supported regional study on Electoral Violence and Dispute Resolution in Asia and Pacific carried out a study on Electoral Violence and Dispute Resolution in Pakistan. A special Focus Group discussion was held with Youth representatives as a part of the study on July 31, 2007 at Islamabad.


The discussions sought to probe factors that help determine youth’s perceptions and behaviour patterns related to electoral issues, in particular electoral violence and dispute resolution issues. They also sought to develop an understanding of their hopes and expectations from the existing social, political and economic systems in the country. The discussions focused on perceptions of youth on five broad areas of electoral issues. These five areas of discussion included youths’ awareness, knowledge and participation in electoral processes; their perceptions on electoral violence; their views on importance of electoral violence on elections; their insights on electoral disputes and mechanisms; and the general view of youths’ involvement and role in the political and democratic processes in Pakistan.


Discussions revealed that although youth are generally aware of their right to vote, with many being registered voters, majority of them are not interested in taking part in elections in the country. Many of those registered as voters chose not to cast their vote or voted only due to influence or pressure of family, biraderi or other links. Majority of them also thought the general and local government elections in the country to have been rigged and not conducted in a free, fair and credible manner. They felt that there is no transparency in the election process. Some also expressed that it was difficult to judge fairness of election, however they stressed that elections are not perceived as being free and fair. Few pointed out that elections could only be fair if there were more specific rules enforced for their conduct. Working of the Election Commission was seen by all to be influenced and controlled by the government and thereby reducing its credibility as an independent body. This further contributed to their lack of interest and participation in the electoral process in the country. One of the reasons for the disillusionment of youth was highlighted as the continued involvement of the military in politics and to some extent the credibility of the political parties and politicians in such processes. It was also felt that holding of credible elections in the country was not something they saw happening in the future. There was lack of advocacy programmes for informing the public on electoral processes.


Very few youth had any knowledge of any dispute resolution mechanisms in the country and those that did know of any existing processes, felt that they were too lengthy and ineffective, thereby discouraging parties to reach out to them for dispute resolution.


The overarching view on youth’s involvement in the electoral and political processes in Pakistan was the disenchantment of youth with politics, politicians and political parties. Majority of the youth felt there was a need to get them more involved in the system by mainstreaming their role in politics and society and providing them with a platform where they can unite and share their concerns. It was strongly expressed that leadership in the country needs to mentor the youth to bring about change in their social behavior, thereby contributing to their empowerment. Some also expressed that there was no orientation and training of youth for participating in politics within the family. Being involved in politics was not perceived as a positive activity. This, many opined had resulted in a polarization of youth from the state. Over 90 per cent of youth noted that they did not discuss politics or electoral issues when they were having discussions among themselves. However, it was encouraging to note that they felt that motivation and mobilization can impact on them and make them more active players on the political front in the country.