Make matriculation/high school compulsory to vote

Published: July 23, 2018

A supporter of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) adorns an electoral sticker during a campaign rally, ahead of general elections in Karachi, Pakistan July 15, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

On July 25th, Pakistan’s fate, at least for the next five years, will be in its own hands. The future will come down to all of us as we make certain choices in that polling booth. Some of us will still be thinking, weighing pros and cons, measuring the benefits, and calculating the risks. But most of us would have likely made up our minds on who to vote for before judgement day.

The next day, Pakistan, a sovereign state since 1947, will see only the second successive transition in democratic power.

But I have a question: are all people informed enough to decide the fate? Are all voters equally aware of the choices they will make, and their repercussions?

Of course, not.

The only requirement is that you need to have a national identity card (NIC), effectively making anyone over 18 years of age eligible to decide the country’s destiny.

But if we were to add the requirement of having a matriculation/high school certificate at the time of casting the vote. Critics would argue this is impractical, and would needlessly eliminate a huge portion of the population.

The counter is that this need not be a requirement for the next elections. Make it a vision 2028 or 2033. Make it a long-term plan for the next 20 years, giving enough time for elected members to build schools in their constituencies, provide thousands of jobs to teachers, clerical staff, senior management and construction workers. Add to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) through more work for the construction, steel, and services industries.

Moreover, a matriculation only requires 12 years of education. I am being generous when I say give them 20 years. Take the extra eight for construction, enrolment and awareness.

Some would now say Pakistan doesn’t have the budget for such a programme. The country spends close to Rs700 billion on education, roughly 2% of GDP, on the sector each year. Still, the literacy rate in the country is no better than 58%. According to a report published a few years ago, largely due to the fact that education is not a widely reported topic, as many as 66% of children in Balochistan and 51% in Sindh are out of school, followed by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) with 47% and 34%, respectively. These are estimated figures, and by no means capture the scenario. The literacy rate of 58% is an astronomically exaggerated figure even by the definition of the ability of a person to read and write a simple letter with understanding in any language.

So where does the money go? If even Rs700 billion isn’t enough, I don’t know what will be.

If its falls short, open accounts in banking institutions. You want to crowdfund a dam. How about you crowdfund education!

Worried about getting teachers to go to far-flung areas? How about you use the same students who have recently passed or finished their education by offering them jobs as teachers in the same school. You have created jobs straightaway.

Never mind Pakistan’s millennium development goals or the sustainable development goals. Forget those. The country hasn’t met them, and probably won’t. But you put the requirement of a high school or matriculation certificate to casting a vote, and all election candidates vying for a place in the elections will look to increase school enrolment and literacy levels in their constituencies.

It may give current elected members a headstart, but increasing awareness through education means the voter can no longer be fooled by cosmetic measures. The voter is now a much more aware, much more educated, and a much more informed person before stepping into the ballot box.

The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees education to every child aged five-16 years, and you know what, it is free and compulsory.

But at the end of the day, Pakistan will never implement any step that would put it on the path of growth, prosperity and sustainable development. We will argue, fight, abuse and remain in misery. For this is our curse. We have lived it for 71 years, and we will continue to do so. We lack the will to sacrifice.

Some are fortunate, but remain oblivious. Several are less fortunate, but unaware. A few of us are just outright corrupt.

Samir Ahmad

Samir Ahmad

The writer is a business analyst.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abdulazizansari

    An extremely touching, thoughtful and very impressive,timely suggestion .
    Thanks to Allah (SWT) that my nation is blessed with thinkers like Mr. Samir.
    Its very practical and need to be appreciated by upcoming policy makers.
    At this moment of time, education remains paramount factor for our nation building and the writer has made it an automated self rolling package.Recommend

  • maaz

    Matriculation nor any other qualification required..My dear it is popular vote…think about it.Recommend

  • maaz

    The most important thing you ignored is that there must be a blank box so that the voter can reject all the candidates. this the spirit of true democracy.The current ballot has no such blank box and the voter cast his vote under compulsion which is against the true essence of democracy.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    This fundamentally anti-democratic sentiment is very common among the English-speaking class.

    Do you only become a Pakistani citizen when you pass a Matric exam? Voting is a basic right. We cannot exclude anyone from representation, *especially* those who cannot afford education.

    Plus, do you realize how many “educated” Pakistanis harbor sectarian, misogynist, racist, anti-Ahmadi, anti-trans ideas?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Bullpucky in triplicate. So sorry but this is claptrap. Nothing more.
    Education as a requirement to vote? That would be regressing.
    It has been done before. to prevent huge sections of population
    from voting. To control elections.
    In the US they had these types of laws on the books. In the past.
    In the 1900’s, 1920’s and 1930’s. To prevent the Black population
    from voting. Because the Blacks were underprivileged and could
    barely read and write, back at that time.
    So they would give the Blacks a page from a “German book”
    or a pamphlet in “Italian” to read. At the voting booth!!
    Obviously they could not read them or make sense of them.
    Therefore, they were not allowed to vote! Because they failed
    the reading test! Test given to Blacks only. Not to Whites.
    [Blacks could have changed the outcome of many an election in
    all those years, back then.]Recommend

  • Lalit

    Disenfranchising a section of society on the basis of a random educational qualification is absurdity to say the least.Every citizen has a right to choose his leader.You can criticise his choice but you can’t take away his right to vote.But why only high school ? Why not a Graduate ?Recommend

  • prabhjyot madan

    Crowd fund the dams in progress….crowd fund education is the new idea. Where does the tax payers money go ? Stop taxation !!!. Crowd fund the whole development in pakistan. It will be a statistical nightmare and a huge progress towards civil war.Recommend

  • just_someone

    This is ridiculously elitist and shows an incredibly poor understanding of democracy and its institutional-ism. Case in point is India where there is lower education than Pakistan yet democracy is strong.
    The sadness in our country is that the ones who are educated think that they are fundamentally better than the rest and they have rights that others shouldn’t. Such is not true. Human rights are human rights, regardless of education, social status, etc.
    You can never have improvements in a country unless everyone comes along in that progress and agrees with it. If you don’t, it will crumble eventually. History is ripe with examples of that statement and it will continue to reoccur until we think and understand our histories.Recommend

  • imrankhan

    It is a great idea and can be implemented in future.Recommend

  • Patwari

    A, currently, 60 year old Punjabi grandmother, living in a typical Punjabi village,
    working dawn to dusk, in the fields, in the house, plus taking care of her family
    and extended family, can still vote. She can spare the time to go cast her ballot.
    For the local feudal/politician she sees once every 5 years.
    And still have a stunted, withered hope, that maybe, just maybe this local political
    thug will get her some hybrid rice seeds, to increase her output.or that water hand
    pump, or that long promised gravel road to her village, or that….then she will turn 80.
    But 20 years from now, when she is 80 according to the blogger, she will not be able to vote. Because she will never have a matriculation certificate. Her life is an endless cycle
    of work. Let alone find the time to read newspapers, books, to help cast her informed vote,
    What a pathetic, ridiculous idea. Disenfranchising a big chunk of the older population.
    Should we talk about the grandmothers in Thar? Balochistan? FATA? They may not even
    live to be 60 years! Even their daughters may not live to the ripe old age of just 60 years.Recommend

  • What a disappointingly elitist and out-of-touch position to take. People are fully rational even without formal credentials from an education system. This malicious lie that an uneducated awaam are no better than sheep for whom a shepherd must be appointed from on high has long been used to deny common people their democratic and human rights. Unfortunately, it finds currency nowhere but in Pakistan!Recommend

  • Abdul moiz

    The non Matric folks sure won’t get the one five yearly visit and Mithai that they now get, after matriculation is made compulsory

    Other than that voting never has and never will change anything
    So a simple cost benefit analysis says let the uneducated have the voting power, as it will make them one dream and 1000-2000 Rs richer (200-400 per annum profit)Recommend

  • Ali S

    Then Pakistan would not be a democracy if the majority of its population has no stake in the political system and the vote only reflects the views of a certain urban class. This is the kind of short-sighted elitism that leads to mass protests. Feudalism, which the author rightly points out as the problem, cannot be abolished if the people who are worst affected by it are not allowed to have a political voice.

    The solution is to run grassroots awareness campaigns in rural areas to empower and educate the poor uneducated masses about their rights and how they can improve his life through the vote, not excluding them from the system altogether.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Were you trying to put across a theory? An idea? An issue?
    Not sure exactly what you are selling. Got lost in translation.
    If you don’t believe in HOPE, in progress, in new beginings,
    in right from wrong, in evil versus good, in human goodness,
    a positive attitude, and democracy for all [no matter how flawed]
    then you need to become a hermit. Live on a mountain. In a cave.
    The man with the Bloated Nihari Face, had escaped all attempts to
    nail him in the past. Yet they kept trying. Did not admit failure.
    Nobody thought Nawaz Shariff would ever be convicted. Or his daughter, or his son in law, or his two sons, or his samdhi, Ishaq Dar, the finance minister [the absconder was money laundering for Nawaz]
    Look how the mighty have fallen. And are in jail. Thanks to the goodness and bravery of ONE MAN. Chief Justice of Pakland.
    Zardari is next unless he absconds, and goes in exile to the Paris Chateau.
    Then Abbasi with the billions looted, in the Qatari LNG contract scam.
    Then Saad Rafique needs to explain why Pak Railways lost Rs. 40 billion
    in last 5 years… ONLY.
    So, do not lose faith. That is non negotiable, unacceptable.Recommend

  • Fatima Tufail

    This is the elitist mindset that is wrong with our educated, privileged class. We believe that since we are educated and more informed, we will make better choices. There are three major federal parties in the country, and all of them are supported by both formally educated, as well as uneducated people.
    Democracy means that everyone, no matter what have the right to vote and voice their opinion on who should hold the office and make laws for the country. It does not mean that a select educated, privileged class decides who should be able to vote and who shouldn’t be able to vote. Someone who has not received formal education will vote based on their own circumstances and they have an absolute right to do so even if that means that they will be fed that night of election! Getting a leader based on the choice of the so called educated and already privileged class will not provide the basic necessities to someone who is not educated and has less means to be fed, have shelter, healthcare, and employment.
    I have been working on education for the last 6 years of my life, and I would never support this narrative that formally educated people should have superiority over uneducated people in democratic process. Education is supposed to enable equal opportunities at an equal footing, not deprive people of their basic rights.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Goodness me………that was a terribly flawed proposition.Recommend

  • Saladin1Chamchawala

    Queen Marie Antoinette envy idea indeed but author beats her majesty to the punch.
    Any advice for minimum academic (or literacy) requirements for having children Mr. Ahmad? Or that task needs some other vocational and academic set of “skills?”
    Any more earth shaking ideas?Recommend

  • Abdul moiz

    Did the government force you to write this message of hope
    Was it some regulation, some legal requirement ?
    Would you have lost your marbles and went on a killing spree if suddenly the constitution disappeared or if Imran khan said he is Antichrist or CJP said he is Charlie Chaplin

    It is not the first time in history that saad rafiq’s and nawaz are brought down, transfer of power is as old as you might wish to go, but this transfer of power has never resulted in some utopian setup (and around 5000 years of recorded history is enough to predict) this one will not be much different

    I had an argument against these artificial democracies with faraz talat around 5 years ago, where i posed a scenario question that
    “If a mob of 100Million people would want to kill a person in a democracy,will the state give in ?”
    Faraz talat in his ideal fantasy world replied that he will be safe and the law would reign supreme, I Wonder if “Vote ko Izzat Do” (which is basically get out of jail free with a few million votes) has brought him back to reality

    I have hope in human goodness, in Autoregulation and not in laws and doctrines which are seldom (if ever) useful for the weak but always a toy for the strong

    People who are fit to be leaders never wish to lead, and those who wish to lead are thugs (Science and history bear witness to it)Recommend

  • Ashraf Hayat

    Education is a basic right .. so does a clean and safe environment to live, decent meal and you are stuck on a damn vote.

    And its very ironic talking about hatred being the one reducing the writer to an anti-democratic English speaking class.Recommend

  • JAI

    Don’t want to rant about this elitist piece. Just bear one thing in mind: Education is not equivalent to an informed voter.

    A classic example of uninformed ‘educated’ voters is the voter base of MQM in Karachi. They have at least matriculation, but have re-elected the most violent political party for 3 decades despite knowing that they are hurting the economics and peace of the city. More often than not, irrational voter is educated but votes on the basis of collective identity rather than policies, manifestos, etc.Recommend

  • Patwari

    You are not making any sense. But that’s YOU.
    It’ all jumbled and garbled. So will not waste time
    trying to decipher your rant.Write it down, read it
    slow and easy, then hit the ‘send’ button.Recommend

  • Mady

    Then people will get education based on their parents political affiliations and sooner we will be breeding voters of each party and not citizens.Recommend


    I appreciate the push for education, but the title is quite a painful and misleading one. Voting is a right and not a privilege – and historically, people have died trying to make sure that decisions about their lives are not taken only by a select group of elite (white) men.

    Dude. If you’re pushing for education, read up.Recommend