Pakistan's Voting Dilemma: Societal Pressures Undermining Democracy

Pakistan's Voting Dilemma: Societal Pressures Undermining Democracy
Voting in election is an essential tool that determines the destiny of the state. In the case of Pakistan, voting has been a lot more than personal free will. A number of societal factors play an influential role in voting. The Sardars of Balochistan, Waderas of Sindh, Chaudharys of Punjab, and Khans of KPK, all these feudal or tribal lords have an impact on a particular public. There also exists family pressure because of a traditional norm of voting a particular political party. Peer pressure also has an important role in influencing the vote of their closed ones. Those pressures can be financial, cultural, religious, psychological, and societal. All these voting pressures and failure of free will is a mockery of the democratic system of Pakistan.

The feudal elites of Pakistan have a particular public as their workers or laborers who vote with the will of their Sardar, Wadera, Chaudhary, or Khan. Because these people are highly dependent on these feudal elites for their household income and daily wages that they cannot prioritize or sacrifice their money for their free will of voting. For these people, the feudal lords are more important than the government because they support them financially. Except for the financial factors, there is also an element of fear to not go against the tribal leaders or feudal elite because as mentioned above, for them such tribal leaders or feudal elite is the government. Because of such public support, these feudal elites accomplish their political gains and personal interests.

Religion is the most influential tool to dictate someone’s actions in a religiously sensitive state like Pakistan. There is a prominent role of religious people like Sajjada Nasheens of different shrines which influence a particular religious public. Most of the people blindly follow what their ‘Murshids’ say to them. So, for them, manipulating and convincing a huge public of their followers to vote a certain party is not a difficult task. Because of the religious affiliation, the followers are motivated or pressurized to vote with the will of their ‘Murshid.’

The norm or set tradition of voting a particular political party is very common in Pakistan. Future generations are born in an environment which pressurises them to act in a certain way, vote a particular political party. This pressure can be based on historical interactions of the family with the party, any financial help, or sometimes because of strong cultural or religious affinity with such party. A major example of such family pressure for voting can be seen in the voting pattern in Sindh and such traditional affinity with the Pakistan Peoples Party. It could be witnessed that the most famous discourse in the political rhetoric of PPP is associated with the Bhutto family. So, the PPP cash that political affiliation of such families with the Bhutto family to exploit them and gain votes. The chants of “Naraye Bhutto, Jiye Bhutto,” can still be heard from the streets of Sindh and in political gatherings.

In the 21st century, peer pressure has changed from being a circle of friends that one hang around with, but now its friendship has been digital and so has been the peer pressure. Social Media can be the most important 21st century tool of pressurising anyone especially the friend to vote for somebody. This type of peer effect is most common in the youth of Pakistan. The youth is someone who feels a sense of legitimacy by following any trend. These actions help politicians to gain a free publicity. Such youth is also termed as “Keyboard Warriors” for motivation. In the case of PTI, Imran Khan and PTI has a huge social media fan following, but what happens is that some people in peer pressure or to follow the trend mainly for views, they start supporting the same and it creates a whole peer pressure of voting.

By analysing the mentioned social pressures on a particular human being while voting in Pakistan depicts the failure of democracy in the state. Free will of the individual is the major characteristic in the democratic voting which is unfortunately missing in Pakistan. Some of these pressures are not related to psychology of the people. So, overall, there is a need of awareness policies from the Government, Media and NGOS to highlight the importance of voting to the people of Pakistan. Also, the Government of Pakistan should take necessary steps to overcome the poverty, religious extremism, and feudalism to reduce these societal pressures on the decision-making of a voter.