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PML-N’s Youth Policy


VIEW : PML-N’s Youth Policy — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Earlier this year the slogans of change were highly charged. The initiators constituted of ‘vibrant Pakistani youth’. The polling stations filled up, as the Election Day converted into a day of celebration for a nation weary of rampant corruption, fomenting extremism and uncertain modes of governance. The unemployed but educated youth also foresaw the amelioration of a country that provided them with lesser chances to excel. The younger population became a large chunk of the ‘electoral target’ for two mainstream political parties: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Convincing an emotionally driven segment of society tested the political acumen and persuasiveness of Pakistani politicians. At the end of the day, PML-Nawaz was triumphant. Not only did the majority of Pakistanis voted for the PML-N but also the majority of youngsters believed in its leadership for a better tomorrow.

According to a Gallup Pakistan survey, on May 11, 2013, among the new voters who took part in the general elections this time, 37 percent voted in favour of the PML-N, whereas 26 percent of them voted for the PTI. Regardless of complaintss of rigging and other electoral malpractices, the PML-N is now handling the affairs of the state and it also owes that to the youth that voted for it.

The PML-N remained cognizant of the possible consequences ensuing in case of resentment from the young voters. Taking the leverage of its’ government’s term in Punjab from 2008 to 2013, it took timely and strategic steps to garner support of younger population. The laptop scheme under the e-youth initiative of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif raised the popularity graph of the PML-N among students belonging to public sector universities. The Ujala Scheme (distribution of free solar lamps) and the extravagant Punjab Youth festival, which created back-to-back world records, encouraged more membership in PML-N’s youth wing. ‘Merit’ was a condition that had to be fulfiled by the students. The internship programmes also motivated the fresh graduates to earn and prepare themselves for professional life ahead. Foreign tours were arranged for outstanding students who scored the highest marks at matriculation and intermediate level. Regular visits were paid by the chief minister to educational institutes, which was even termed as ‘pre-poll rigging’ by his opponents, as the chief minister used to ask for votes from students. The Danish schools represented the PML-N’s volition to improve the state of education in Pakistan and to provide state-of- the-art facilities to the underprivileged students.

This incentive-based trend has continued and initiatives of such nature are again being introduced, now at the national level. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his latest address to the public, has briefed the nation about six new youth-centered programmes. He has promised the future architects with the provision of ‘youth training’, ‘loans’, ‘youth employment’ and laptops. To make things easier and accessible a website has been launched (www.pmo.gov.pk) that will be operational from September 28, 2013. It is a good indicator that the PML-N wants the youth to give its’ feedback about the new schemes that it can provide through the website and SMS service. However, it should be kept in mind that these schemes cannot continue for a long period of time. The younger population is more concerned about education and respectable living standards at home. Nationwide surveys show that most young Pakistanis list jobs, education and access to resources as their top priorities. For this, it has to be converted into a valuable human resource. On the other hand, the large number of young voters reaching the ballot boxes on May 11, 2013 also indicates that the Pakistani youth now wants to have a greater say in the policies that influence or govern the country.

Along with the continuation of support and development programmes, the PML-N has to accentuate long-term goals. Strategic and tangible measures are required to secure a reasonable future for the possible ‘youth bulge’. It is evident that political parties did realise the problems being faced by the Pakistani youth. The electoral manifestos of all political parties contesting the general elections 2013 did not and could not afford to ignore the word ‘youth’. In the case of the PML-N, the manifesto consisting of 110 pages, reiterated the word youth 17 times. Among a long list of initiatives that the manifesto promises, one is to “involve youth in governance at the local level and reservation of special seats in Union Councils and District Councils to prepare them for a bigger role in National and Provincial Assemblies.” This part of the manifesto seems to be unattended to date. Almost two-thirds of Pakistan’s total population is under the age of 25 and there is no way that this fraction can be excluded from political participation. The PML-N led government needs to declare and explain the plans for enhanced participation of youth in policy-making and governance. Legislative amendments and restructuring of state policies must be steered towards ‘inclusion of youth’ at all levels.

The writer is a student of Communication Studies at University of the Punjab and blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com. She Tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Pakistan Daily Times on September 30, 2013. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C09%5C30%5Cstory_30-9-2013_pg3_6

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Political Ticker

 

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Afghan Women after 2014


VIEW : Afghan women after 2014 — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in two girls who should go to school remain at home in Afghanistan 

The unwavering faith and intense struggle of Afghan women has continued since the civil war started in Afghanistan. As the only woman to this date ever to be crowned ‘Miss Afghanistan’ (Zuhra Yousaf) puts it, “War steals the very breath of life. Afghanistan stopped breathing and the little that was achieved by Afghan women came to a standstill.” The female gender in the land operating under the yoke of Taliban rule had always been striving to deny the gender role that was assigned to them. They had coveted the identity that was invaded by the feudal lords, bigots and warlords. An average Afghan woman, even today, in any part of the world, feels like a pendulum swinging between ‘Orientalist representations’ and ‘stereotypes of Islamic tradition’ imposed on her. All she is worried about is ‘what others think of her’. The promises of peace, security and egalitarianism for them seem to fade away. Even after a decade of bombing and NATO strikes, Afghan women are still searching for their lost identity.

The question arises: why?

After the twin bombing of the World Trade Center, which the world remembers as 9/11, the weakening of the Taliban and al Qaeda was being portrayed as the liberation of Afghan women. However, nothing ‘just’ seems to prevail in their homeland for them. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in two girls who should go to school remain at home in Afghanistan. One in five children do not survive long enough to make it to school. Women trafficking rose to unprecedented levels since 2001. Economic problems, enhanced poverty and problems such as forced marriages have resulted in the dramatic increase of ‘self-immolation’ among women. Although 25 percent of parliament comprises of women, honour killings are still executed at an expeditious rate. Despite tragedies and hopelessness, Afghan women are valiantly fighting for their rights. They clearly denied the gender roles being ascribed to them by the Taliban and now they are dissenting against the tags placed on them by the invading forces. Had the champions of ‘peace, equality and humanity’ kept their promises, the situation would have been a lot different. Now, even a baby girl born in Afghanistan would be a matter of concern for her mother who would be worried about her existence in a respectable way. In her own way and according to her culture, norms and religious beliefs, she tries to shield her from forced social control.

While directly relating the downfall of the Taliban with the emancipation and empowerment of women, the west has forgotten the state structure and laws in Afghanistan. It is evident that Afghans emphasise on state-imposed changes to women’s legal and social status. The reforms initiated from 1919-1929 were a consequence of constitutional amendments. During the reign of King Amanullah Khan, women were guaranteed equal rights under the constitution. Female students were sent to Turkey for higher education. Then in 1959, the policies of Muhammad Zahir Shah allowed women to unveil voluntarily and to find employment. By 1964, women even won their right to cast votes. All these changes were legitimised only through constitutional means.

Contrary to the above mentioned measures of the past, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the United States failed to devise any workable or long term strategy to ensure peace in the region. The devastation worsened due to drug cultivation, terrorist activities and the upward trajectory in crime rates. NATO forces made Afghanistan a battleground between themselves and the insurgents. The worst affected actors were the Afghan women. They were deprived of a conducive socio-political environment to institutionalise their legal rights such as education. This is the reason that women are still questioning their fate and future in Afghanistan, especially after the withdrawal of NATO forces from their country. Activist and author of A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, Malalai Joya has faced attempts on her life after speaking out against the oppression of women under the Taliban, but she is explicit in counting the US and NATO too as enemies of Afghan women’s (and men’s) right to live and learn in peace.

Entrenched in the mesh of uncertainty and trepidation, Afghan women are now looking forward to an alliance with the clerics. They are requesting pro-female Friday sermons. For them it is a hope to defeat violence and ameliorate the pitiful state of their rights. This campaign is likely to start in Kabul and would be implemented in all the provinces. However, there are 160,000 mosques in the country of 30 million people and this campaign will remain restricted to 3,500 government-funded mosques. With the withdrawal of the foreign invaders looming, Afghan women are now retreating to seek the support of traditional men who have always been represented as their worst enemies. Had the western analogy of ‘de-Talibanisation’ and ‘peace for women’ been correct or fruitful, the Afghan women would not have been left pleading for their fundamental rights.

The writer is a student of Communication Studies at University of the Punjab. She blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com and tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Pakistan Daily Times http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C07%5C20%5Cstory_20-7-2013_pg3_6#.UeojaMpqcYI.twitter

Tweets about Afghan Women after 2014

Tweets about Afghan Women after 2014

 

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Pakistani youth’s ‘decision making’ in the 2013 elections


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi is a student of B.Sc (Hons) Communication Studies at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Pakistan. She is an avid reader, likes writing on socio-political issues and is a campaigner on education with Ilmpossible. Fakiha serves as a freelance contributor for theDaily Times Pakistan and runs her own blog. You can follow her at @Fakiha_Rizvi.


Pakistan is a young and resilient nation. Ridden with terror, extremism and struggling due to a faltering economy, the people are despondent about the overall situation that their country is facing.

On May 11th 2013, more people lined up at polling booths than in any of the previous elections. There were a number of factors that pushed people towards the ballot boxes. Pakistanis, in general, have started to understand the significance of voting. Small scale campaigns and those on the media urged the masses to get their votes registered and play their part in ensuring the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country. It was for the first time in Pakistan that the ‘right to vote’ was viewed as a ‘social obligation’with all parties, including the rightists like Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (a conservative cleric who runs a religious seminary that trained many Afghan and Pakistani Taliban) convincing people to cast their vote. The same cleric referred to voting as a ‘religious obligation.’

In Pakistan, there are three mainstream political parties. They are:

The ‘youth factor’ can’t be ignored and stands out for the simple reason that never before did the country’s younger population take such a keen interest in the political set up that governed it. With large numbers of unemployed youth due to menaces like corruption and nepotism, the general election was seen as a possible turning point in the political sphere of Pakistan.


Imran Khan addresses a rally in October 2011

Pre-election

The younger generation seemed more enthusiastic in the election saga. After the grand rally of Imran Khan in October 2011, the Pakistani youth had mobilised to a great extent. It was being envisioned by some political analysts and media commentators that the young population might play a decisive role in the 2013 general election.

“…Pakistan’s bulging youth population could be influential in the upcoming election. More than 30 per cent of registered voters, or more than 25 million, are between the ages of 18 and 29, and many will be voting for the first time, the report said. Around 60 per cent of young people plan to vote, while another 10 per cent said they could still be persuaded to turn out.” – Dawn (April 4, 2013) [1]

“The addition of nearly 40 million new voters in the electoral roll, mainly comprising the youth, may prove to be a decisive factor…”  – The News (April 5, 2013) [2]

Most people, rather unfoundedly in retrospect, assumed that a substantial number of young people would stand behind the cricketer-turned-politician and PTI chief, Imran Khan.

“Mr. Khan, 60, who retains his youthful swagger and athletic physique, is particularly popular with young Pakistanis who form the core of his support and make up approximately 40 percent of the country’s registered voters. However, it was not clear how much of this adulation — which borders on the cultlike — would translate into electoral success.” – The New York Times [3]

He was equated to a ‘change maker’ who would prove to be a breath of fresh air in the political conundrum of Pakistan. After a huge rally in October 2011 in support of Khan, youth became an electoral target for all parties, particularly the PML-N who used their places in regional governments to introduce new initiatives such as a “laptop scheme, solar lights and foreign tours” (The News).


Post election

Undoubtedly and surprisingly the overwhelming participation of voters in the elections turned the entire electoral process into a moment of celebration for a country that was governed by dictators (time and again) for 30 years since its independence in 1947. The young, old and the middle-aged, all waited under the scorching sun to drop their votes into the ballot boxes. Social media came into play and everyone proudly updated their Facebook status after casting with photographs of stained thumbs covering news feeds all day.

The results made it plain and clear that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had won the most number of seats in the National Assembly. Nawaf Sharif became Prime Minister as head of the majority party, while Imran Khan joined the opposition benches.


The youth vote

It is interesting to note that majority of the youth also voted for the winning party, and not Imran Khan as predicted. According to a Gallup Pakistan survey which on May 11th 2013, among the new voters who took part in the general elections this time, 37% voted in favour of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) whereas 26% of them voted for PTI [4].  

PK election results

Demographic share of the vote across the three major parties

Though PTI’s support was indeed highest amongst youth, the results and voting behaviour came as a surprise for many who believed that the majority of the youth were blindly following Imran Khan.

“The mistake the PTI leadership made was that of a foolish army: it believed its own propaganda. On television, Khan advanced the complacent view that PTI would be swept to power by a wave of new young voters. No supportive data was furnished. Neither the media, nor Khan’s team, scrutinized the claim of a monolithic youth vote. In reality, young voters were divided.” – Dawn (May 28, 2013)

After the election, the rational conclusion that could be drawn was that the young vote bank in Pakistan was as divided as the entire country was. PML-N remained dominant in Punjab, PTI swept in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK), Sindh remains with PPPP and Balochistan will be ruled by PML-N with the support if its coalition partners. Youth’s inclination towards Imran Khan was over-stated and most of the urban elite favoured his party. Moreover, PML-N also resisted the influence of PTI on the young voters by launching timely e-youth initiatives, which included distribution of laptops to bright students of public sector universities. It must not be forgotten that majority of the Pakistani youth dwells in public sector universities and only a fraction can afford to pursue degrees privately.


A democratic future?

Though much of the debate has focused on where youth political support lies, a larger and more complex issue must be considered. A survey published by the British Council Pakistan [5] before the elections in early 2013 revealed that only 29% of youth even see democracy as the best system of government in Pakistan. This is trumped by 38% who view it as an unacceptable model of governance, with many of those supporting Islamic Shariah law.

Young people’s role in the 2013 election was historic and proved the electoral strength of Pakistan’s increasingly bulging youth demographic and the triumph of democracy over violence, terrorism and intimidation. At the next election, youth will continue to be an electoral battleground and young Pakistanis must be ready for such an opportunity.

But how will young people use their power to ensure the issues they care about are matched with decent policy and action? And how will they mobilise and organise themselves into an effective political force?  


References :

This article was edited by Alex Farrow.

Originally published at http://www.youthpolicy.org/participation/2013/pakistani-youths-decision-making-in-the-2013-elections/

 
 

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Will Nawaz Sharif Mend Pak-US ties?


VIEW : Will Nawaz Sharif mend Pak-US ties? — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Dependency on the US is inevitable as this is not 1999, and the post-9/11 scenario has knitted Pakistan in the nexus of the war on terror 

With the electoral results of Pakistan at the international and national display, the triumph of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is prominent. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is geared up to take his seat as the premier of the country for the third time now. His victory speech promises the execution of his reasonable and sound manifesto (based on three Es: Energy, Economy and Education). The activities of the party, after its huge success, exhibit the renewed commitment through which Mr Sharif wants to tackle the problems entangling Pakistan. He has received a warm message from arch-rival India, the terror-ridden Afghanistan and the United States has acknowledged his election campaign and the mandate of Pakistanis in his favour. The new government will have to confront multiple challenges ranging from terrorism at home and in the region, to the faltering economy, making the country more dependent on foreign loans. In connection to this, Mr Sharif might be using his induction in the ruling position to amend the oscillating Pak-US ties during the tenure of Zardari-led coalition.

Foreign policy, especially the bilateral relations with the US, is going to be a more complex and intricate issue for the third term of Mr Sharif. A bird’s eye view of Pak-US ties since the previous tenure of Mr Sharif reflects that he took credit for the country’s nuclear tests in 1998. Even though the focus of American diplomatic strata remained converged at the objective of dissuading Pakistan from conducting the nuclear tests. At that point, every single dollar being rejected to India could have poured into Pakistan. As expected, the nuclear explosions were followed by heavy economic sanctions from the US. Adding fuel to the fire, the Kargil misadventure deteriorated the image of Pakistan and brought it under international glare. There was a rift in relations with the US.

After General Pervez Musharraf’s coup, Pakistan was stigmatised for three reasons, broadly speaking: nuclear weapons programme for its suspension of democracy, and for its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the ambiance of alliance and amicability started after 9/11. This did not last long and Pakistan;s democratic transition brought Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) into power. Since then, major developments took place and Pak-US ties wavered.

The diplomatic immunity given to Raymond Davis gave vent to anti-US sentiments in Pakistan. The events following the success of the ‘Abbottabad raid’ never made a smooth road for the allies to tread on. The dwindling relations were further deteriorated by the attack on Salala check post by the NATO forces. The public reacted strongly with protests all over the country. To contain the resentment of the masses, government took measures adversely affecting the US exit strategy from Afghanistan, including the evacuation of Shamsi air base and closure of the NATO supply line. The Zardari-led ruling coalition did not leave a grazed field near the end of its constitutional tenure by initiating the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, which was not viable in the eyes of the US. Moreover, handing over the Gawadar port to China is not a good omen for US hawks.

;Original caption: Secretary of Defense Willia...

;Original caption: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (left) welcomes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of Pakistan, to the Pentagon, Dec. 3, 1998. Cohen and his senior advisors will meet with Sharif to discuss a range of regional and international issues of interest to both nations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senator John Kerry is likely to visit Pakistan as soon as the new government takes up the daunting task of ameliorating the socio-political set up of Pakistan. Mr Sharif has an intention to boost ties with the US. It is noteworthy that throughout the election campaign, the PML-N took a vague stance against drone strikes. Unlike its competing political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which even planned a long march against drone strikes during electioneering. The PTI has earned the confidence of the people of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the contrary, Pentagon has no plans to end drone strikes. US Assistant Defence Secretary Michael Sheehan has explicitly stated recently before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services that drone strikes may continue during the next two decades and war is where enemy exists (from Boston to FATA). Consequently, Americans already expect a lot from the next government of Pakistan.

The public opinion in Pakistan is antagonistic to US aspirations. According to the Pew Research Global attitudes Project, “Only 11 percent of Pakistanis express a positive opinion of the US.” Not only this, but “64 percent of Pakistanis consider the US as an enemy.” The report released on May 7, 2013, further explains that the US is getting extraordinarily negative ratings in Pakistan. Under such circumstances, maintaining a necessity-based friendship would be an arduous task for Mr Sharif and his cabinet. Dependency on the US is inevitable as this is not 1999, and the post-9/11 scenario has knitted Pakistan in the nexus of the war on terror. Islamabad will have to sustain a smooth relationship with Washington by using Mr Sharif’s prudence. This will be the most expeditious diplomatic move that Nawaz Sharif will have to make, while keeping in view the sentiments of the masses that voted for his party.

The writer is a student of BS Communication Studies at University of the Punjab and blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com. She Tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Daily Times newspaper http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C06%5C04%5Cstory_4-6-2013_pg3_4

 

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Punjab Chief Minister is the ‘Youngest’ in all Provinces


By Nauman Tasleem Khan 

English: Shahbaz Sharif

PTI fails to bring any young person for the KPK
CM slot and named a 62-years-old Khattak

The process of electing Chief Ministers (CM) in three provinces including Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa (KPK), Sindh and Punjab has almost completed and only one province Balochistan is yet to choose its CM. In the three provinces, Punjab has the youngest CM Shahbaz Sharif with age of 61 years while the Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah is the most oldest with age of 80 years. Whereas, KPK CM Pervaiz Khattak is 62 years old.

Interestingly, all the three CMs belong to three different parties with youngest coming from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and oldest coming from Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP). Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI), which has always talked about empowering youth in the election process, has failed to give a young CM to KPK and come up with name of Pervaiz Khattak. PTI chief Imran Khan has talked a lot about empowering youth in the election process and politics of Pakistan and in his campaign announced proudly of giving maximum tickets to youth has even failed to bring forward any young person for the slot of KPK CM.

Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif would be holding the office for the third time was born on September 23rd, 1951. He is the younger brother of would-be Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is only seven days older to KPK CM Pervaiz Khattak and who was born on January 1, 1950.

Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah’s exact date of birth is not available but according to his daughter Nafisa Shah, Qaim Ali Shah was born in 1933.

 

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May 11, 2013: The Big Day, Pakistanis line up in Polling Booths


I celebrate the inclusion of “true” multi-party system in the political arena of my country and the defeat of long standing notion that politics in Pakistan is mere partnership between individuals. It was the first ever vote of my life and I fulfilled my social obligation for Pakistan and not for individuals. 

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Apart from the quantified data and other post-election alliances, some manifestations are healthy for the poltical structure of the country. I don’t promise accuracy or precision, but being a student of mass communication and Journalism this is what I have deduced:

  • Regardless of who wins, PTI is the winner for bringing its leaders into National Assembly after 17 years of strenous efforts. 
  • Apart from MQM and other who deliberately banked on murky electoral malpractices, all other political stakeholders and the Army as an institution deserves a laud for conducting the elections. 
  • The role of citizens with regards to observation, following and participation in the elections has been unprecedented. 
  • The nation might have called for change, however, it has proved today that it covets for ‘democracy’ and ‘pluralism’. 
  • Media needs to be more vigilant than ever as reports about rigging and other untoward events were reported by the social media at a pace that left the mushroom-sized channels apart. 

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Media Spin and Elections 2013


Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 
JournalismPakistan.com
May 06, 2013

LAHORE: For the first time in the political history of Pakistan, dictatorial fists are not in a position to muzzle the press or media outlets. However, irresponsible use of freedom will be followed by a trust deficit between ‘watchful media’ and its consumers.

With the elections around the corner ‘voters’ education’ through the mediated messages of electronic and print outlets is gaining momentum. Where paid political advertisements flash frequently on the television screen, commentaries about ‘what next?’ are also surfacing at a swift pace. Voters are being sensitized politically and the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power carries precedence under the umbrella of various media organizations.

Undoubtedly, mass communicated messages have a certain impact on public opinion and voting behaviors of the people. It is a positive development, like other democratic practices, emergence of the watchdog role of media would turn out to be a decisive factor in the upcoming elections. On the contrary, if the media barons and analysts adopt a nonchalant attitude, then the struggle for indoctrinating democratic values will be abortive. Contextual manipulation or misrepresentation of political parties is a violation of the guidelines framed for the fourth pillar of the state (i.e the media). As devised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), rules should be followed by mass media, with ‘public good’ being its foremost priority.

Instead of cutting excerpts from the old speeches of politicians and joining them to depict an altogether different and misleading message, focus should be converged on electoral manifestos and election campaigns. Adducing electoral malpractices and projecting the transgressions of political parties during the election campaigns should be the primary goal of Pakistani media.

A report by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reveals that around 89 percent of the 49 ‘observed’ election rallies violated the rules set by the ECP. Rallies are fervently shown without any allusion towards the way they deviate from the rules and regulations. All the mainstream political parties including Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaaf, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, Jamaat-e-Islami and even Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam-F have jeered at the principles for conducting rallies, but the electronic media turned a blind eye to such violations or downplayed them.

In a country like Pakistan, where majority of the people are illiterate and depend heavily on visual communication, privately owned television channels need to be careful. The pliant or murky attitude of a relatively free media can have adverse effects on public opinion. There are a number of guidelines that conform to ethical reporting of facts and obligate each component of a particular television channel (ranging from talk shows to political advertisements) to be impartial. In line with this code, even the paid political advertisements of various political parties should get equal time, space and projection in the media. No particular party should be given the leverage of additional representation at the expense of other parties.

With a clear boundary demarcated to tap the potential of media, positively, there is no reason for broadcasting houses or other sources of information to deviate from it. On the other hand, in case of gross violation of the ethical code of conduct, the ECP has also directed to make corrections adequately, where required. The media has been granted the liberty to be critical of the policies and electioneering of political parties, but at the same time reminds it to distinguish between manipulation and constructive criticism.

It is an abysmal fact that some of the mainstream television channels are not abiding by ECP’s media code of conduct. As a result, the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), a global coalition of media professional groups and journalists, is purporting a ground-breaking monitoring program led by citizen journalists. Under this program, the performance of local journalists and media coverage of elections 2013 will be carefully scrutinized. The initiative – Pakvotes’ – comprises a handful of trained citizen journalists. It is relying on around 40 field monitors armed with smart phones in various parts of the country. The citizen journalists will report electoral malpractices, especially in conflict-ridden regions like Balochistan.

It is heartening that the incompetence of mainstream media outlets has rendered this ‘observatory role’ to be transferable. Citizen journalists, who usually work voluntarily and are often unpaid workers, will now be making a worthwhile effort during the upcoming elections. Apart from keeping an eye on the menaces of rigging and bribed voting, they’ll also keep a check on media’s performance. Reports that will be overlooked by the national media, won’t go unattended this time as Pakvotes aims to project them to social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Although their strength is negligible, in the future, their performance can help to frame a well-planned monitoring map for electoral campaigns after 2013.  In addition to this, campaigns of this nature provide a moment of honest reflection for the country’s media organizations. It would be a despondent embarrassment if the media fails to deliver to the masses and does not guide them in a reasonable and responsible manner for ‘Elections 2013’. ‘Media spin’ will tarnish credibility of journalists and broadcasters, something that isn’t a good omen for any democratic transition.
(The writer is a BS Mass Communication student at the University of the Punjab, Lahore and blogs at www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com. She is also
Editor-in-Chief – The Voice of Youth  – an online youth blog).

 

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