Pakistan Elections!

Pakistani Polling Stations – where the literate and the illiterate become equal!!

Abraham Lincoln said and I quote “Democracy is a form of Government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Believing the above fact, I always talked against dictatorship or feudalism and in favor of democracy. It was no sooner than May 11, 2013 that I realized that a globally accepted system of democracy cannot be beneficial to every community. The story hitherto will suffice…

Pakistan has recently conducted General Elections and for the first time in history we see a smooth and lawful change of command from one party to another. Getting 22 this year, it was the first time I casted vote for my political party, after carefully reviewing the party’s mandate and performance history. Although the party for which I voted lost, I respect the results of Election Commission. p1

After casting my vote in a local polling station, I tuned into the news channel to see election reports in other corners of Pakistan. The Electronic media was playing a footage showing Chief Justice of Pakistan casting his vote. “Whom would the Chief Justice be casting his vote for?” I intriguingly asked myself considering the vision and high intellectual understanding of the Chief Justice. “He definitely would have the right knowledge as to which party deserves to be our leader”. I added. And in no time a weird but true thought hit my mind. “Does it make any difference in our system? Certainly NO!” Let the chief justice vote for party A, and in a wink of an eye another man who does not even hold a primary school certificate would cast a vote for Party B equalizing the visionary and intellectual vote of Chief justice. Is this what democracy mean?

p2 According to the 2009 census, literacy rate of Pakistan was 57%. The literate was defined as a person who can read a newspaper and write a simple letter in ANY language. Total number of registered voters in Pakistan were 86194802. This means that 37063765 voters that were to decide the fate of Pakistan did not even know how to read or write in any language. So how do they cast vote? This brings us to another interesting monopoly game set by our leaders. They create party symbols like lion, arrow, kite or bat to assist these illiterates. I myself saw my uncle on the Election Day showing his son’s bat to a maid and asking her to stamp on a similar symbol made on the ballot paper. Looking at the ballot paper with dozens of different pictures representing various parties or candidates, in no way matches to the standards of a nation with an Atomic Power.

So far I have only discussed the literate and illiterate according the above definition. Is being able to read and write enough to suffice the threshold required to cast a vote that can bring a positive change? I don’t think so. As of year 2009, Pakistan faces a net primary school attendance rate of 66%. A figure quite below the estimated world average of 90 per cent. Only 7.6% of Pakistan’s population holds a secondary school certificate and 6.3% hold a graduate degree. Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world, and the lowest among countries of comparative resources and socio-economic situations. The system of democracy is not meant to be applied in a country like ours with such low literacy rates.

p3religion -Islam- has always emphasized on the equality of mankind. It orders us to refrain from gender, race or color discriminations. However, it never says that the literate or illiterate are equal. The only parameter that should be kept in mind while ranking individuals is their level of knowledge; might be religious or worldly. I believe that the government should take steps to fulfill these holes in our electoral systems. There should be equal awareness in the society so that one votes for the correct leader after reviewing their mandate carefully. This can only be possible if the government pays considerable attention to the education sector of Pakistan. Although it is a long process and might take decades to bring up a change, but it is the only way forward. Our electoral system can never give us good leaders if we do not strengthen our education sector. And as an immediate action: the government should remove the party symbols from the ballot paper and only print the name of candidate. At least the literates would be able to vote in this case!