In the digital age, where information flows seamlessly and connectivity shapes the discourse, a recent report by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (Irada) sheds light on a concerning reality. Despite Pakistan being among the top 10 most digitalised societies, its political parties are struggling with the demands of digital political communication. This digital inadequacy raises critical concerns about the quality of democratic discourse in the country.
The Irada report paints a stark picture of political parties ill-prepared to engage with citizens who are increasingly digital-savvy. Shockingly, some parties lack official websites, leaving citizens in the dark about essential party information. This information blackout includes the omission of the party chief’s name on websites, hindering transparency. Failure to share party constitutions online deprives both members and the public of vital insights into internal processes, goals, and membership criteria.
The digital divide becomes even more apparent at the provincial level. While many parties emphasise provincial politics, half of them neglect to provide lists of leaders for their provincial chapters. This shortfall in transparency obstructs the public’s access to crucial information about regional leadership and diminishes the parties’ effectiveness in connecting with diverse constituencies.
A glaring consequence of this digital deficiency is the dominance of propaganda and hate speech in online political discourse. The report underscores that political communication is marred by these divisive practices, undermining the democratic principles professed by the parties. The findings reveal not only a lack of digital literacy among political leaders but also a worrisome trend where inclusive and pluralistic communication takes a back seat to inflammatory rhetoric.
As Pakistan approaches the 2024 elections, the report serves as a crucial wake-up call. To ensure upcoming elections are reflective of a truly participatory process, political parties must urgently address their digital shortcomings. Embracing inclusive and pluralistic communication strategies is paramount. Parties should prioritise developing comprehensive and user-friendly websites, sharing essential information, and fostering open dialogues with citizens.
In a democracy, where informed choices are the bedrock, such deficiencies erode the very essence of representative governance. The digital era demands political leaders to not only keep pace with technological advancements but also to champion transparency, inclusivity, and robust democratic principles. Only through these measures can political parties bridge the digital gap and contribute to a more vibrant, informed, and participatory democracy in Pakistan.