January 25; Young people should come and vote for their chosen parties on Election Day was the message given to the youth at a PILDAT briefing session for media on the issue of Missing Young Voters.
Initiating the discussion, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT shared that despite representing a significant portion of registered voters, young Pakistanis (aged 18 to 35) show a turnout that lags behind the national voting average. In 2023, young registered voters aged between 18-35 make up 43.85% of the total registered voters. Despite the youth being a significant part of Pakistan’s population, the gap between overall voter turnout and youth voter turnout has been ranging from 7 percentage points in 1993 to 27 percentage points in 2013, showing an increasing trend with the only exception of the 2018 General Election when this gap narrowed to 16.5 percentage points. PILDAT has estimated that the average youth voter turnout of the past eight elections, from 1988 to 2018, has been an abysmally low at 31%, which is 13 percentage points lower than the average overall voter turnout of 44% in these eight elections. Average Youth voter turnout (31.5%) was even lower than women’s voter turnout which in 2018 stood at 40%.
Mr. Mehboob underscored that engaging young voter and restoring their trust in the political system is necessary for the success of any democracy. Young people’s scepticism about the electoral system has been exacerbated by witnessing economic challenges and the peak of terrorist activities making them resilient but still sceptical about the effectiveness of their participation in the electoral process. PILDAT believes that outlining and implementing practical strategic measures to actively engage young people to vote must be adopted by key societal pillars – political entities, media outlets, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Concluding the discussion, Mr. Mujib-ur-Rehman Shami said that young people should recognise the power of their vote and actively engage with the political and electoral process in order to remove its weaknesses. Young people are missing from the political landscape because of lack of interest in them by political parties. He said that democratic system would remain incomplete without activating a functional and effective system of local governments.
Discussants belonging to various media organisations joined the briefing and shared their views and recommendations on the subject.
Sharing her recommendations, Ms. Benazir Shah from Geo news said that the experience of India shows that the ECI engages celebrity power to influence young people about the power of voting. Pakistan’s Election Commission should consider doing the same in order to capture the attention of young people. She also highlighted that since more and more young people prefer to get their content from social media platforms such as TikTok, the ECP and parties must use such platforms to reach young people.
Mr. Salman Ghani from Dunya News said that political parties have focused only on taking from voters and have in-turn, gave nothing back in terms of job opportunities and quality education for young people. Lack of students unions have also disenfranchised youth from the political process.
Lack of faith in the quality of democracy and electoral process was highlighted as key reason for young people’s lack of voting. That political parties have failed to meaningfully engage with young people in the political process was identified as another reason.
Various discussants also highlighted the need to groom and train youth and to inculcate in them the culture of tolerance. The steep cost of contesting election was highlighted as another reason for youth’s lack of participation as candidates in the electoral process. Many highlighted that in the current electoral atmosphere, security agencies are busy highlighting the threat of terrorism to discourage people from voting while infrequent availability of internet would also affect access and transparency on election day.
Earlier, Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT, opened the session and highlighted why there is a need to activate and influence young people to vote in the upcoming election. Youth needs to realize that it is only through active voting that they can change and reform the weaknesses of the existing political and electoral process.
List of Participants from the briefing event are Mr. Hamid Waleed, Reporter from Business Recorder, Mr. Rizwan Naqvi Senior Reporter from Suno TV, Mr. Hassan Awan, Reporter from Aaj TV. Ms. Irfa Naz, Reporter from Geo TV, Ms. Zunaira Azhar, Analyst from Ek News, Mr. Imran Gillani, lawyer and Political Activist. Syed Badar Saeed from Press Club, Lahore, Syed Zeeshan Aziz, General Manager from Urdu Point, Ms. Durdana Najam, Journalist from Express Tribune, Mr. Muhammad Waleed Producer from Duniya News, Mr. Salman Bhatti Producer Duniya TV, Ms. Deeba Mirza Staff Reporter from Daily Pakistan, Mr. Arslan Bhatti, Bureau Chief from GTV News, Mr. Suleman Chaudhary Reporter from Public News, Mr. Mehmood, Senior Reporter from Daily Jang, Mr. Kashif Suleman Senior Journalist from Neo News, Mr. Khizer Hayat Gondal from Jang Lahore, Mr. Atta Ullah Staff Reporter from Jang Lahore, Ms. Uzma Nauman, Programme Anchor from Suno Tv, Mr. Sabir Awan, Staff Reporter from Daily Jang Lahore, Mr. Adnan Munir, Producer from Duniya News, Mr. Adnan Bhatti, Reporter from GNN TV, Mr. Makhdoom Akhtar, Senior Producer from Hum News, Mr. Asad Farooq, Producer from Duniya TV, Mr. Arshad Ali, Reporter from Samaa TV, Mr. Umer Daraz, Reporter from Neo News, Mr. Noor-un-Nabi Jafri, Worker of Jamat-e-Islami, Mr. Rab Nawaz Khan, staff reporter from Daily Jang, Mr. Rizwan Mumtaz, Analyst, Mr. Nazir Ali Bhatti Senior Reporter from ARY News, Mr. Sajid Ali Director Programme from SDF, Hafiz Mubeen Ahmed from Duniya News, Mr. Asif Siddique, Senior Producer from Duniya TV, Mr. Abdul Rehman from Hum News.