People in Pakistan will go to the ballot box for a national election on Wednesday July 25. Image: iStock

Pakistani general elections are scheduled to be held on July 25. There are 272 seats in National Assembly and 557 in provincial assemblies. It is election season and one can feel it while walking in the streets.

Posters, banners are visible everywhere. Political gatherings, speeches, public rallies and processions are very common. The media are in full swing reporting on election campaigns.

Contestants as per tradition are busy trying to persuade the general population to vote in their favor. For their part, people during this year’s campaign are displaying not-so-customary behavior and demanding answers from contestants on their policies and plans for education, health, clean drinking water, the environment, jobs, the economy, law and order, justice, foreign policy, etc.

Today’s voter has become more aware and appreciative of a vote’s power. Voters, in urban areas especially, are vigilant enough to understand the current economic scenario and issues faced and decide for whom to vote accordingly. The general population remembers each candidate’s past behavior and recognizes the honest ones – the ones who genuinely care about the welfare of the people.

The general population remembers each candidate’s past behavior and recognizes the honest ones – the ones who genuinely care about the welfare of the people

Those candidates who have been part of past governments are facing a very tough situation as voters ask them what they have done for the country and for the welfare of the common man when they were in government. The public is blaming such candidates for the adverse situations faced by Pakistan today.

In the past, many candidates moved to big cities such as the federal and provincial capitals after being elected from far-flung areas, and seldom returned to their constituencies and met their voters. They focused on their personal gains and becoming rich, while ignoring their voters and their welfare.

Their contributions to the country was negligible as compared with their own interests. Now they are facing embarrassing situations while asking for votes in their constituencies.

However, there are some very good candidates who take politics seriously and always keep in close contact with their voters and consider their welfare the highest priority. They are relaxed and receive warm welcomes.

On July 25, citizens will cast their votes for the candidates they believe are hard-working and trustworthy. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is responsible for conducting elections in a timely fashion; it protects the public’s right to cast votes freely and fairly in accordance with the constitution of Pakistan.

There are a total of 120 registered political parties listed with the ECP. The preparations for this year’s elections are in place as all state organs actively function to make the electoral process transparent and just.

International observers and international media will be invited to act as unbiased witnesses to the process in order to maintain transparency. Furthermore for potential complications there exist appropriate comprehensive procedures and follow-ups.

Pakistan’s judicial system and law-enforcement agencies stand to support the ECP’s processes. The dismissals of two prime ministers in the last few years is evidence of the strength of Pakistan’s judicial system, therefore we can trust it to resolve possible election issues fairly.

Moreover, Pakistan’s media are playing a vital role in promoting a fair election process, especially through highlighting any unfair actions of any political party. The ECP and judiciary further inspect the soundness of any information circulated by the media and upon confirmation of such actions take necessary measures. The media thus relish boundless freedom of expression, ultimately facilitating the average voter in making a fair choice.

After interacting with various electorates from several constituencies in an attempt to gather voters’ viewpoints, I have come to the conclusion that the upcoming elections will be different from previous ones. A larger voting public is favoring reputable people instead of familiar candidates. Traditional winners who have been unsuccessful in fulfilling promises will not be allowed into the assemblies this time around.

Although the rural population’s views may differ, since I did not get a chance to speak with them, there seem to be optimistic prospects. Each election filters out the substandard politicians, and Pakistan’s democracy is moving at a slow but steady pace. I am confident today’s liberated voter will chose wisely and bring about a positive change in the country’s governance.

Pakistan has the potential to experience an economic takeoff. There is a need for visionary leadership to guide this immensely talented nation of 220 million.

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Zamir Awan

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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