Pakistani Canadians residing in British Columbia are currently in a state of emotional discomfort as the general elections in Pakistan and provincial election in British Columbia are hardly three days apart.
Those voting in Pakistan general elections cannot return to Canada on time as many hours of flight time and jet lag would most probably disable them from becoming active enough to participate in the election process in British Columbia on May14.
Similarly, the British Columbians of Pakistani origin cannot elect any politician to the provincial and national assembly of Pakistan, as no system is in place to allow distance voting from abroad.
On the contrary, many people just don't bother voting as they are devoid of the needed political sense. It’s the “political awareness/will” that makes much of a difference for sake of common national interest.
The ignoring attitude towards politics is one of the factors responsible for keeping the turnout lower.
The past experience shows that the voter turnout tends to be lowest among the youth, the illiterates and the poor.
When the contestants are of no integrity, and the political parties fail to persuade the potential voters with their platform or manifesto, the turnout is bound to be low. Eventually, ‘trust deficit’ develops due to non delivery by the politicians during their tenure in public office. This scenario keeps the voters away from casting their ballot.
Nevertheless, low voter turnout is good for the insincere and inefficient politicians. That simply means the flawed democratic system doesn’t reflect the interests of all citizens. And, the low turnout cannot be other than some kind of political strategy where the political parties intentionally keep the voters away from ballot boxes using negative ads against the opponents.
The practice of demoralizing through criticising their leaders is meant to change opinions of the potential opposition supporters (voters).
In fact, some stakeholders are interested to control the media, and they also finance the political parties of their choice just to carry on with their dirty politics of fear aimed at dividing the electorate.
The fact is election does provide an opportunity to the people to voice their free opinion and make their needs known under the law and the constitution of the land. Truth is our vote is our voice, thus we must be heard, loud and clear.
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Indeed, the youth of today are more knowledgeable and better connected regardless of ethnic background. They are also more adaptable to progressive change. Surely, they have a positive role to play for their better future.
Using the election route is the best opportunity to filter out the rogue politicians and pick up just the good elite only. Obviously, the cheaters/repeaters stand no chance as they are rejected through free and fair ballot process. But if the crooks still make it through the lack of vigilance on the part of voters or through using pressure tactics, then they have their own hidden agenda instead of serving the constituents.
That’s why; the voters must reject the dishonest candidates without fear of reprisals.
The dirty politicians can’t be allowed to play racial ethnicity or using religion in order to create confusion or otherwise manipulate the voters.
The people, wherever they are, they must use their “democratic vote power” to oust coercion, manipulation, discrimination in any form including Islamophobia and the dirty politics.
Just the honest and capable candidates should be voted in to allow a healthy democratic process at all levels including provincial and the national ones.
Since the youth of today are leaders of tomorrow; they must come out and exercise their right of vote.
An overhaul of the flawed system can address the issue of lower turnout.
Unfairness towards Pakistanis expatriates: It’s extremely frustrating that more than four million forgotten patriotic Pakistanis (expats) have to live abroad for economic reasons. Despite their marvellous economic contribution through remittances, they are excluded from the electoral process for no fault of theirs.
In this regard, the supreme court of Pakistan recently pointed out that the Pakistani community based overseas was extremely eager to vote.
A three member bench headed by the CJP Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry heard the case pertaining to giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote. The ECP has already unanimously decided that the federation of Pakistan would propose the required legislation to give overseas Pakistanis the right to vote, adding that it was not possible to provide the facility for the upcoming general elections. (Pak Channels).
Of course, many expats take keen interest in Pakistan; they donated generously during times of floods & earthquakes. They support Pakistani charities and make the national economy running through remittances. If such is the case, they deserve to be entitled to vote too. Unfortunately, the expats cannot vote in the upcoming election without a temporary legislation in place.
The ground reality about Pakistan is “the rising election fever grips Pakistan, so does the terrorism.” Under the circumstances, many potential voters would prefer to stay indoors to avoid risk to their lives. The election commission of Pakistan (ECP) says, “The candidates should be provided with an atmosphere in which they can conduct their campaigns without any fear.” The ECP is concerned over the attacks on election offices and candidates. The expected Poll Day violence poses serious threat to the voting public.
As expected, the presence of Pak army troops would encourage a high voter turnout and that can easily produce a good legislature in the federation and in all provinces as well. The expats may contribute further by convincing their loved ones back home to fully participate in the electoral process on May 11, so that the people friendly governments and the legislatures are formed.
It’s about time for the British Columbians and for the Pakistanis to keep awake and be vigilant when it comes to holding the candidates accountable through vote on May 11 (Pak elections) and May 14 (B.C. elections) respectively.
A positive environment consisting of educated and politically aware people is a must to generate the best voter turnout.