Reshaping Pakistan’s political world
Updated: Aug 18
Election season in Pakistan has always been a big deal; everyone’s fuelled by political spoofs and gossip, public rallies and fierce campaigns. Every family gathering involves the election discussion about who they are going to vote for; a new debate and meme on social media every 30 minutes. Yet things have always been different for the Deaf community. Due to the lack of interpretation accessibility, elections have always been challenging for them and their pleas to participate in the rebuilding of our country have long been ignored.
In the midst of election chaos and disaster, sparring political parties and candidate campaigns, 2018 Pakistani general election had a positive twist for the marginalised Deaf community. Until this event, Pakistan was yet to witness an election that was made accessible for Deaf people. By welcoming Deaf participation and seeking their involvement, we wanted for them to establish their political identity and encourage their engagement in the political world.
Through our Facebook page, we had already made voter education more accessible by sharing information on voter registration and how, when and where to place their vote.
By making an effort to connect the Deaf community to the political process, ConnectHear in collaboration with GEO TV News and NOWPDP – an NGO with a disability-inclusive vision – broadcasted live election updates in sign language for the Deaf community.
The transmission kicked off with a brief about the electoral cycle, and included interpretation of timely updates, debates and all political dialogues exchanged. On Election Day, we went live where watchers enthusiastically commented, appreciated Osama, our sign language interpreter, for his efforts and cheered for their preferred candidates in anticipation of the results.
Television announcements and radios regarding local and national politics have so long been inadequate to the deaf; voters with hearing loss have encountered difficulties, be it during the voting process or the interpretation of results. The elections of 2018, however, put a stop to this, where Deaf individuals not only participated in the voting process but also volunteered at polling stations.
“I volunteered on Election Day as a member of JI. Members supported me in the cause of Deaf empowerment. I stood at the voting booth and was responsible for verifying NIC’s and voting numbers on sheets,” said Osama Riaz, a Deaf student volunteer when defining his political experience.
As advocates of the local Deaf community, we are trying to actively undo the defining struggles that this community has faced for decades. By easing and supporting their political participation, we hope this is a step towards an all-encompassing society in the future.
Interpreted version of the blog: