Consultative Session on the Importance of Youth Participation in the Electoral Processes of Pakistan at University of Peshawar


October 11: A consultative session with the students and faculty of the University of Peshawar was held at their Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum (SSAQ) Hall. Dr. Saifullah Khan, Registrar University of Peshawar, presided over the session. Mr. Saeed Khan, Regional Election Commissioner Peshawar and Mr. Shoaib Khan, Election Officer represented the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at the consultative session.

Dr. Saifullah Khan welcomed the participants and thanked PILDAT for organizing the session on the Importance of youth participation in the electoral processes of Pakistan. Highlighting the role of the youth in the electoral processes, he stressed that the youth to keep a close eye on the manifestos and policies of the political parties and exercise their right to poll diligently and responsibly.

Mr. Faheem Ahmed Khan, Senior Projects Manager PILDAT, welcomed the participants and introduced the panel members. The panel members included Mr. Ali Imran, Department of Journalism, University of Peshawar, Mr. Saeed Khan Regional Election Commissioner Peshawar, Mr. Nabeel Ali Khan, Youth Representative and Ms. Saba Shah, Youth Representative.

During his presentation, Mr. Faheem Ahmed Khan, Senior Projects Manager PILDAT discussed the demographic distribution of registered voters in Pakistan, highlighting that 45% of the total registered voters belong to the age group of 18-35 years. Additionally, he provided a comparative analysis of the voting behaviors shown by the young populations of Pakistan and India. Notably, the youth voter participation in India surpassed the overall voter turnout seen in the most recent Indian elections. The panelists agreed that low youth voter participation was a genuine problem, not a myth. They gave explanations for the low voter participation, one of which was that young voters did not trust the electoral system and hence,  did not participate in the electoral processes. Concerns were raised about the lack of confidence among young voters in the voting system. In addition, they emphasized the fact that young individuals had little knowledge of the procedures involved in registering to vote or casting a ballot.

Ms. Saba Shah, Youth Representative, in her comments, put the onus on the political system and said that the youth did not trust the electoral system due to the role of the establishment in the electoral process and hence, did not want to be a part of the electoral process.

Mr. Nabeel Ali Khan, Youth Representative, raised questions on the transparency of the electoral process and expressed that since the elections are perceived to be rigged, the youth tend to stay away completely and do not even vote.

Mr. Saeed Khan, Regional Election Commissioner Peshawar, addressing the participants explained the efforts made by the Election Commission of Pakistan in order to create awareness amongst the youth about their voting rights and the importance of their vote. He explained the voting process in detail and explained how the whole process is kept transparent and fairness is ensured.

Mr. Ali Imran, a Professor Department of Journalism, highlighted the need to revive student unions in order to educate and better equip the students with the electoral processes and democratic norms.

The session was attended by a total of 61 students out of which 17 (26%) were young women and 44 (74%) were young men.

Following the panel discussion, students enthusiastically participated in a mock polling exercise and cast their votes. The students were eager to experience the democratic process firsthand and engage in meaningful discussions about the topics presented during the panel discussion.