Faisalabad: January 17, 2012. (PCP) Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE) and Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) in collaboration with Peace and Human Development (PHD Foundation), Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), PACE, DOST, CARE, POWER, LDO, ISB, AWO and YWS organized a people's convention titled ‘Vote for a Social Change' held at TMA hall in Faisalabad on January 11, 2012. The event was attended by over 300 Muslim and Christian participants including political workers, social workers, lawyers, students, teachers, labourers and representatives of civil society organizations. Khalida Mansoor, Samson Salamat, Naseem Anthony, Shazia George, Arif Ayaz, Sajjad Haider, Latif Nazar, Nazia Sardar, Abdul Qadar Mushtaq, Iftikhar Ahmad, Gurmeet Singh and Tuheed Chatha were among the panelist of the event.
At this juncture, the participants raised questions from the representatives of political parties asking them to share their party's policy towards electoral process, eliminating corruption and nepotism, alleviating poverty, women and minority rights. A theater performance highlighting hurdles to transparent and impartial polls was also part of the convention. The purpose of the convention was to bring together the huge amount of general public, political parties, civil society and state machinery at one platform to identify the hurdles to democracy and responsibilities of each group to combat obstacles, to address the challenges to democracy particularly credible electoral process, to jointly work for the free and fair electoral process with a multi-dimensional approach.
Khalida Mansoor (M.N.A) said, “The election commission has to be independent institution free of any kind of influence, whereas chief election commissioner must carry characteristics i.e. credibility, integrity, reputation and impartiality to deal with the obstacles in the way of electoral process.” “Unfortunately, the democracy could not take its roots deep enough to make the country a durable democratic state, because the military influence and external forces have been creating hurdles in the way of smoothly run democracy, and restraining the successive democratic government to complete their tenure,” she added.
Samson Salamat (Director-CHRE) stressed the need to erase the aberrations created by the military rulers and to return to M. Ali Jinnah's vision of a social welfare and democratic state. “A transparent and credible electoral process is the key for any democratic governance, but unfortunately the electoral process in Pakistan has mostly been controversial due to multiple factors, mainly due to militarily influence and external interference, ineffectiveness of the Election Commission of Pakistan, buying and selling of votes, religious, gender and ethnic biases and meddling of the state institutions,” he added.
Naseem Anthony (Executive Secretary-AWAM) said, “The civil and military bureaucracy's vested interests choked democracy in Pakistan, therefore the political parties and other stakeholders must observe democratic norms and values during the electoral process, whereas the public must play their role to bring about a positive democratic change, and to make the elected representatives accountable by using their power of the vote, as it decides the future of the nation and the country.” “A flourishing democracy established through free and fair polls can provide a sound basis for the progress and prosperity of any country,” he added.
Shazia George (Coordinator-AWAM) condemned the practice of illegal ban on women's vote casting and use of terror or violence during polls in Pakistan. She said, “Personal preoccupations are given priority over national imperatives in Pakistan, therefore majority of the people cast their votes on the basis of sect, caste, language and egoistic interests and remain indifferent to the importance of their vote.” “All eligible voters especially women should cast their vote independently and on merit without any influence of family, feudal lord, caste, creed and ethnicity,” she added.
Arif Ayaz (Workers Party Pakistan) said, “Public should cast vote in favour of those candidates that have good reputation, interest in community problems and roots in community rather than criminal record.” “The army, the bureaucracy and the politicians should play their national role in strengthening the foundation of democracy. They should work for the betterment of the public rather than safeguarding their vested interests,” he added.
Sajjad Haider (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) said, “The current government does not have intention to remove corruption and take stern actions against corrupt elements, even it does not have the competence to combat with extremism, political instability, internal and external threats, social inequality and economic crunch.”
Latif Nazar (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) said, “The political parties must exempt middle class from depositing party fund and fee for the ticket to contest elections in order to ensure the presence of real public representatives in the politics.”
Nazia Sardar said, “Following the basic principles of democracy including; rule of law, free and fair electoral system and process, equality, non-discrimination, and respect and tolerance for religious, cultural and ethnic diversity is imperative for the prevalence of democracy in Pakistan.”
Prof. Abdul Qadar Mushtaq said, “Unfortunately, majority of the politicians hoodwink the ignorant public by making tall promises and hollow slogans while canvassing but after winning elections they turn a blind eye to the wellbeing of the masses and development of the country.” “The voters ought to reject politics of inheritance and the elements using caste and province as a trump card for political gains during the election campaign, and should use right to vote after comparing and analyzing the manifestoes of all political parties,” he added.
Iftikhar Ahmad said, “The media should play a constructive role to inculcate patriotism and create public awareness about culture of democracy. It should also extend its helping hand to other three pillars of the state i.e. the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, in resolving national issues instead of further complicating them for selfish interests.”
Gurmeet Singh said, “The religious minorities are not treated equally due to the dominance and promotion of a single faith in Pakistan, therefore there are biases against them in the curriculum, constitution and society, which needs to be removed for a better Pakistan.”