People of Pakistan have shown great resilience to sustain their democracy and they genuinely expect that it must deliver good governance. However most of their efforts in the past had been to reclaim democratic space. In 2013 the nation will go to polling booths and it will be first civilian-to-civilian transition in the country. These elections are of significant importance as they will have consequences for the future of democratic consolidation in Pakistan.
The framework for an independent Election Commission has been improved through 18 and 20th constitutional amendments. Efforts have also been made to improve and computerize Electoral Rolls. The Supreme Court in June 2012 has also directed the Election Commission to keep a check on excessive use of money and the role of independent private media.
Pakistan signed International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 17th April 2008 and ratified it on 23 June 2010 with certain reservations. However it withdrew many of these on 20th September 2011. The Election 2013 will be the first after ratification of the ICCPR. The Covenant establishes following bench marks in its Article 25; that reads:
- (a) Every citizen shall have the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
- (b) Every citizen shall have the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors
- (c) Every citizen shall have the right to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
All these developments inspire confidence in future democratic processes. However, the country has a history of troubled elections characterized by abuse of incumbency, role of intelligence agencies, influence of money, electoral violence and numerous other forms of manipulations. Therefore vigilance by civil society is of vital importance.
The Centre considers it an appropriate opportunity to facilitate the citizens to make their voice heard during the democratic electoral processes by producing focused and well researched information/knowledge products that contribute towards informed choices on the polling booths. The project also intends to initiate a communicative dialogue between the major political parties and citizens in the pre-election phase. During the election phase the Centre will focus on monitoring of use/abuse of money, comparative analysis of manifestos/political platforms and advocacy among citizens especially, youth women and minorities to exercise their right to vote. While in the post election phase the Centre will report and reflect on the entire process and highlight lessons learnt at its annual conference.
- To increase citizens confidence and participation in democratic electoral processes
- To monitor electoral campaign finances
- To evolve recommendations for future electoral reforms
The Centre for Civic Education Pakistan with support from the National Endowment for Democracy will implement these ideas.