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Representatives of the Dutch Embassy in Islamabad on Thursday held a meeting with civil society activists of Karachi to exchange notes on challenges related to elections in Pakistan and the experiences and observations of the civil society regarding over all political and human rights situation in Sindh.
Martijn Beerthuizen, political secretary and Josephine Frantzen, Dutch deputy ambassador in Islamabad, held the meeting with civil society activists at the Sindh office of the National Commission for Human Rights.
While the most important impression that emerged from the meeting was coming out of the increased voters’ awareness and use of social media to bridge the information gap.
The Dutch diplomats hoped that a large population of young voters with increased awareness and access to social media was a positive aspect of upcoming general elections that would contribute to the continuation of democracy in Pakistan.


It was observed that with an overwhelming majority of young voters in the recent elections, there was a great scope for a more engaged involvement and commitment to elections, which could have a positive impact on voters’ turnout as well as candidates’ accountability and post-election developments.
On its part, the civil society expressed apprehensions in the wake of recent measures aimed at curbing fundamental freedoms, especially those related to freedoms of expression and association. They were of the view that attempts at censorship of the media and influencing associations were seeking to negatively influence public opinion that might have deeper ramifications for transparency and fair play in elections.
They also noted with a concern open participation of banned outfits as well as controversial candidates that belong to banned outfits.
Participants shared with the concern their experiences of development assistance and working with international agencies and how the dynamics in assistance were impacting the operational support for local organisations.
Sharing of views on the current political situation, upcoming elections, and participation of voters, the civil society activists expressed concern over representation of minorities and women in parliament. “Minorities seats have not increased despite their population.”
Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network Coordinator Ali Palh, Aurat Foundation Director Mahnaz Rahman, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Director Karamat Ali, academician Dr. Riaz Shaikh, Maliha Zia of Legal Aid Society, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum General Secretary Saeed Baloch and others attended the meeting.

Courtesy | Daily Times, (July 13th, 2018)

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