The Election Commission of Pakistan’s efforts have primarily centered on providing Voter Information through traditional print and electronic media, commencing shortly before electoral events and ending immediately thereafter. However, as mentioned earlier, low voter turnout in previous elections highlighted the need for a different approach. To improve participation in electoral processes, the Commission is now moving away from merely disseminating Voter Information to developing more holistic Civic and Voter Education programmes.
The Voter Education Plan 2012-2013 was developed by the ECP in consultation with numerous stakeholders and the Commission’s first national level VE campaign was launched on 17th October 2012, National Voters Day. Public institutions, private corporations, NGOs/CSOs, the media and other members of civil society, as well as individuals, have all been encouraged to participate in the campaign and help spread voter education messages. Moreover, the ECP plans to commence a Civic Education programme for students and youth in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, immediately after the 2013 General Elections.
The ECP’s Voter Education Plan 2012-2013 revolves around a district centred approach, where staff at district offices become important actors responsible for implementing grassroots level voter education activities. The overall aim of the VE campaign is to directly reach out to all eligible voters, especially the following target groups:
• Youth, both boys and girls;
• People with disabilities (men & women);
• Minorities (men & women);
The first four voter groups listed above are particularly important because of their number and historical marginalization in terms of participation in electoral processes. For example, the ratio of women to men registered on the Final Electoral Rolls (FER) 2012, is as low as 0.766, with over 11 million more male than female registered voters. First time voters, including youth, comprise over 30 million eligible voters. People with disabilities face special challenges in trying to register for a CNIC, getting themselves enrolled on the FER and then turning out to vote on Election Day. Ethnic, religious and other minorities often face obstacles from the dominant majority and others to exercising their right to vote freely. Finally, reaching out to male voters becomes important not only to encourage them to participate themselves but also because they often play an instrumental role in facilitating/obstructing the involvement of female, elderly, youth and other members of their families and communities in electoral processes.
As such, it is imperative that DECs use a variety of means to approach and educate different categories of voters. The methods provided in this Handbook include: District Committees; Trainings for School, College and University Staff; Community Voter Awareness Raising Activities; Elections Information Sessions at PEC, REC and DEC Offices; Development and Dissemination of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Materials; Public Service Announcements; Media Engagement.
Regards to civic education, it is integrated into the social studies/Pakistan studies and is taught in schools from grades four to fourteen as a part of the social sciences. Little time is allocated on the timetable for civic education in comparison to other subjects. Even less importance is given to civic education in universities. Universities have a number of departments (women/gender studies, political science, journalism/media studies) that are related to the field of civic education. However, teaching in most of these departments is focused on knowledge acquisition rather than understanding of key concepts and issues in society. The exception in most cases is the women/gender studies departments that are relatively new and the curriculum of which includes the study of women/gender issues in Pakistan. In addition to the delivery of civic education in the formal education system, there are a very large number of CSOs providing civic education through the work they do with different groups of people across the country. Most of the work has and is being done with marginalized groups especially children (child labours, juvenile offenders, abused children), women (rural poor, victims of discriminatory laws and practices) and minority groups.
CSOs provide civic education while providing services (education, health, micro-finance). They also provide opportunities for citizens to become members or volunteer in activities they undertake. Studies undertaken by CSOs on different issues make information available to citizens that they can use individually or in groups to redress similar issues. They also serve to promote and practice human rights, promote peace and harmony between different groups in society and advocate for change in discriminatory laws and practices and for framing of laws based on human rights.
The civil society organizations that undertake voter education activities are as follows;
FAFEN, a consortium of 42 NGOs involved in both voter education and election observation in Pakistan (2013 elections).
Centre for Civic Education Pakistan is an independent educational institution that works to cultivate civic culture. The Centre is not-for-profit and non-partisan initiative. The Centre undertakes policy research, offers training courses and facilitates debate and dialogue. Its programs focus on fundamental rights and spirit of the Constitution, democratic development, tradition and institutions in Pakistan. These efforts are aimed at encouraging critical and creative ways of thinking and stimulating civic activism to promote pluralism, rule of law and good governance.
Handbook on Voter Education and Outreach, Election Commission of Pakistan
Research Report, The State of Civic Education in Pakistan Report written, Dr. Bernadette L. Dean
PDF : Voter Education Survey: Pakistan National and Provincial Elections 2007/2008 (The Asia Foundation: 2008)
PDF : Handbook on Voter Education and Outreach (ECP: 2012-2013)
PDF : Voter Education Handbook (Urdu) (ECP)
PDF : Transparency in Political Finance brochure (PakVoter.org)
PDF : Your Right to Vote: Constitution and Beyond (PakVoter.org)
The e-booklet elaborates the international, regional and national commitments for inculcating democratic norms in the society with granting citizens their right to vote irrespective of any type of discrimination. It also covers the constitutional provisions that grants Citizens of Pakistan, the right to vote.
LINK : Myth about Electoral System and Processes (PakVoter.org)
PDF : Voter Registration Guide (PakVoter.org)
PDF : Voter Education Campaign in Islamabad
PDF : Voter Education Campaign in KPK
PDF : Voter Education Campaign in Punjab
PDF : Voter Education Campaign in Sindh
PIC : How to Fold a Ballot Paper (ECP)