Youth Engagement in Pakistani Elections: A Consultative Session at Islamia University, Bahawalpur


October 24: With reference to the MoU signed with the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) on August 16, 2023, the Department of Political Science of the Islamia University, Bahawalpur, in collaboration with PILDAT, the Election Commission of Pakistan, and UNDP organized an activity titled “Importance of Youth Participation in the Electoral Process of Pakistan” on October 24, 2023 at the University’s Auditorium, Faculty of Arts. The event started with the Holy Quran Recitation and Naat-e-Rasool-e-Maqbool.

After the formal inauguration of the event, Mr. Faheem Ahmad Khan, Senior Project Manager PILDAT presented the brief review of the organization and statistics of voter turnout of different segments of the society. The prime focus was on ‘Youth Participation’. The Presentation was followed by a Panel discussion which included the panelists from the Election Commission of Pakistan, Regional Election Commissioner Mr. Mian Muhammad Shahid, and District Election Commissioner Mr. Muhammad Qayyum. The panelists from the Department of Political Science included Prof. Dr. Mussawar Hussain Bukhari and Youth Representatives Ms. Sumaira Manzoor and Mr. Shahnawaz, both PhD students of Political Science. The panelists were asked questions regarding the importance of Youth participation in the electoral process of Pakistan and the factors that are undermining youth participation in the electoral process. Afterward, the house was opened for a questions and answers session.

The Youth Representative, Ms. Sumera Manzoor, highlighted the reasons behind youth disengagement from the electoral process. She emphasized the lack of civic education and the urgent need to create awareness among young people to exercise their civic duties including participation in the electoral processes.

Mr. Shahnawaz, the Youth Representative, pointed out that the lack of youth participation in the electoral process stems from their perception that they aren’t considered stakeholders. Moreover, he highlighted how political apathy disrupts the engagement of young people. He was of the opinion that the Youth do not view politics as a viable career option in their lives, contributing to their disinterest in political activities.

Mian Muhammad Shahid, the Regional Election Commissioner of Bahawalpur, shed light on the significance of youth voters. He provided a comprehensive explanation of the electoral process, emphasizing its transparency. Additionally, he underscored the proactive efforts undertaken by the Election Commission of Pakistan to motivate the voters in general and the youth in particular to participate in the electoral process. Mr. Shahid discussed strategies to bridge the trust deficit among the youth, aiming to boost their participation in Pakistan’s electoral process.

Mr. Musawwar Hussain Bukhari, Chairman of the Political Sciences Department at Islamia University Bahawalpur, emphasized the crucial role of youth in the electoral process. He pointed out that many young individuals lack awareness about their rights and responsibilities, stressing the need for education in this regard. Dr. Bukhari also highlighted the significance of student unions and explained how the university actively engages youth in politics at the university level. Additionally, he strongly encouraged students to actively participate in the country’s electoral process to foster a culture of informed and responsible citizenship.

At the end, Prof. Dr. Rubina Bhatti, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences addressed the audience and presented a vote of thanks to PILDAT and ECP for arranging an informative session. She stressed that such sessions should be conducted more frequently.

The session was attended by a total of 127 students out of which 18 (15%) were young women and 109 (85%) 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.