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Thursday, February 15, 2024

An “App” that can revolutionize Voting & Elections in Pakistan

Pakistan's electoral process is flawed and no efforts are being made to revamp the structure. The author puts forward an idea for an app that can revolutionize the voting process in Pakistan that is not only beneficial for the people in terms of finding and selecting the best candidate based on their priorities but also hold them accountable for any misdeeds.

Opinion |

Every country around the globe has something in common that stems from the very common of nations. In this case, its political parties and the representatives, chosen by them. According to the Constitution of Pakistan, after every five years of the term, a general election must be called. In which all the political parties registered under the Election Commission of Pakistan are to contest those elections. The important thing to note here is that unlike in the modern democracies of the Western world, Pakistan is a country that lags behind in the very delicacy of voting and elections.

In Pakistan, one can find hundreds of examples where voters are being bought, traded, and in some cases forged. That is why up till now; the UN and other such organizations while cooperating with the institutions of Pakistan have been spreading the message of the importance of the vote. Another important factor and perhaps the main reason behind many flaws in the voting processes emanates from those who are illiterate. In 2008, the literacy rate in Pakistan stood at 58%, thus what is the problem when only 42% of the people in Pakistan are illiterate.

The very people with just a mobile App away will be able to keep a check on them. Promises i.e. politicians and their claims will easily be traceable thus accountable to the public

It is pertinent to note that literacy measuring factors and the variables used in order to drive the results are debatable. For starters, there is a reason like, the connection between many of the literate and illiterate people who cannot comprehend the importance of the vote altogether. Therefore, in Pakistan during the election season, one can easily find and realize awareness campaigns being held in universities and colleges.

The problem, without generalization of the above fact, still remains intact and is because most of the people who can read and write have no idea of the political parties or persons contesting in their constituencies. The only cognizance they receive is either from paid banners, advertisements, rallies, or from the person himself making public appearances with big promises of charm and change.

Resultantly, some people fall for the words said; banners seen or posters read. While the others, who think they can see past it, end up staying at home choosing not to vote. There is another dilemma to ponder about, whether the promises made by the person in one’s constituency had been true and meant, and should be trusted. Thus, what are the parameters that could help people to judge those promises and keep a check on them, too?

Read more: “New Elections” without “Electoral Reforms” will be meaningless: Why?

Before diving into the suggestions, lets see what has been done so far elsewhere in the world. Europe has taken a few steps and made some efforts to overcome such problems, mentioned above in order to help people make a better political choice. Voting Advice Application or Voting Aid Application (VAA), Election Compass, and Vote Compass are some of the web applications that can help people find a candidate or party similar to one’s preferences.

There is also another website “whichcandidate.ie” that has a large database made by the University of Limerick. It holds all the desired information in order to help people decide for the vote in Ireland. It has also purposefully served people in the local as well as general elections. Other similar initiatives, also can be found everywhere in the West with an ever-growing appeal.

Recently Pakistan, under premier, Khan, announced ‘Digital Pakistan Vision’ and to lead the initiative, PTI-led government convinced the Google Executive Tania Aidrus to take the steering of it. In hindsight, Pakistan has not made any progress in the Election process in making complex voting choices simple. For that reason, I would like to call for the attention of Pakistan’s government on digitalizing the information on all the political parties, their manifestos, and candidates contesting elections.

The awareness campaigns could be entirely concentrated on the promotion of this initiative – similar to that of Pakistan Citizen’s Portal

An application could be developed in this regard with the collaboration of the ECP of Pakistan, taking into account multilingual translations of updated information into primarily spoken regional languages. Not everybody in Pakistan can read or write English, but most people are better able to read and understand the regional languages that they regularly speak. Bearing in mind Tania Aidrus’ inauguration speech and roadmap, this app will revolutionize Pakistan’s electoral processes.

The purpose of the app should not only be limited to storing information on contesting parties or participants but also profiling them and maintaining a record of their performances. It will need to be linked with the Public Sector Developing Program (PSDP) and the Planning Commission of Pakistan too. As mentioned earlier, now the politicians making big promises of charm such as, if chosen (elected), will build a new university, or hospital.

Perhaps promises of new roads, schools, potable water, and provision of electricity. The very people with just a mobile App away will be able to keep a check on them. Promises i.e. politicians and their claims will easily be traceable thus accountable to the public. For each and every candidate contesting elections will have their profile on the App. It will provide every piece of information on them, the projects they have approved, the funds received, the execution period and current progress status updates. The database should hold complete information on every candidate from the very start of his career.

Read more: PTI presents its long-awaited police reforms package: will it work?

This does not end here as I propose a bit more to it. The same app could hold the very candidate of any constituency accountable to its people, with something like a sort of digital petition. Where anyone can initiate the petition simply by going over the candidate’s profile if the applicant of any constituency does something wrong. Thereby, everyone registered on the App, of the same constituency, will get notified about it.

However, after a certain amount of people, depending on the demography, signing the petition will get it legalized. Consequently, the government will be compelled to look into the matter. Perhaps, the Election Commission could also bar/disqualify the candidate over fraud, lies, or forgeries. Look at the recent example of former PM Nawaz Sharif being disqualified on the basis of not being ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Amin’, truthful and honest respectively.

If something like this can become a reality in Pakistan it is going to help bring about a revolutionary change in election processes and voting choices. The awareness campaigns could be entirely concentrated on the promotion of this initiative – similar to that of Pakistan Citizen’s Portal. The public representatives will always have a check on them, from their constituencies, and will be easily held accountable. Ultimately, it will encourage the public to vote and provide their voice on an efficient platform too. They will realize the importance of their vote when given the power to question the representatives and get them disqualified – for their vested interests and deceiving promises.

Read more: Pakistan Citizen Portal: #PMHazirHai

The nation would not feel denigrated like the votes they have been casting concurrently. It is just a compendium of the broader idea. Such as, any improvements like the subscription of every person on this app will be renewed after the realization of every general election vote. In this fashion, the app while compelling people to vote will also incentivize them. Nonetheless, I do not claim that the idea is perfect since I am not an expert on the subject, but if properly studied, it can certainly be revolutionary progress that anyone would like to experience. Such an initiative fits well within the priorities set by Digital Pakistan Vision and in words of Tania Aidrus, it will be an effort for Pakistan to leapfrog too.”

Mujeeb Jan Talpur is a lecturer in the Institute of International Relations in Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur Mirs. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.