A lot has gone missing in Pakistan since last night – and no it is not just common sense. It is a whole lot of people who were against the feudal dynasties and family politics. It is a bunch of commoners who wanted to be free of previous affiliations; a group that staunchly wanted an end to status quo parties and most of all, a nation that believed that voting can make a difference.
Where many people have sat back and accepted the fate of yesterday’s polls, I am not sure I can do the same. I still haven’t been able to vote – therefore, I still have the right to say it loud and clear that these elections were not free and fair. I am perplexed at everyone who says they were but more than anything else, I am astonished at the complete failure that the Election Commission of Pakistan was. Not answering help-lines when people called to complain is one thing – not arranging staff and ballot boxes at polling station is a bit too much. By the time night came, it seemed clear who would win – the soon-to-be had given his victory speech already.
Pakistan woke up to further confirmation of the previous night’s hunch – Mian Nawaz Sharif seems to be back. PPP is trailing way behind – an outcome we all predicted after the disastrous past five years. But the true winner of these elections seems to be the PTI chief. He may have not managed to win the elections, but he managed to turn every non-voter into a voter – that, itself, was one of the biggest achievements.
PTI supporters eventually realised that filling their social media feeds with pictures of green and red flags won’t be enough – they had to physically vote to make their leader the winner. And with that realisation in mind, they went on a spree – convincing anyone and anything that came in their way that Imran Khan was the way forward. Staunch opposers of Khan, too, decided that the only way to make sure he didn’t win was by taking their fight to the polls and voting for a competing party. And in the process, Pakistan saw a 60 per cent voter turn out yesterday – perhaps one of the reasons why people are calling the elections a success. Real success would have been if every voter who set out yesterday to cast his vote, was able to do so, without delays, without pressure and without fear. That did not happen.
It seems bizarre how people ranging from my own grandparents in Karachi to strangers in my neighbourhood supermarket in Lahore all seemed to be vouching for the bat – and how they couldn’t manage to succeed. It seems bizarre how most of NA-250 which seemed more like multiple PTI jalsas than polling stations, never got a chance to successfully cast their votes, and instead may head to re-polls. More than anything else, it seems bizarre how everyone is congratulating one another today when thousands witnessed foul play at their respective stations yesterday. Perhaps no one complained to the ECP, perhaps the ECP didn’t really care. Either way, we have a leader for the next five years picked for us (by us I mean, I suppose but I can’t seem to believe that just yet) and must make sure we don’t allow ourselves to become as apathetic and as apolitical as we were five years ago.
Sharif has a multitude of challenges ahead of him and must realise that this is not the same Pakistan it was back in the day when he was king. This Pakistan is drowning in corruption and is riddled by militancy. This Pakistan has children as young as 10, stating their political preferences and a media with immense freedom. A large portion of this Pakistan does not believe the way forward, in terms of militancy, is through dialogue and understands very well that expertise in urban planning and infrastructure will not feed empty stomachs.
Good luck to Nawaz Sharif, if within a few hours he is declared the prime minister of Pakistan. He has his work cut out for him and he will most likely end up facing a stubborn leader of the opposition who is supported by a very large chunk of relentless Pakistanis who don’t plan to give up on him. ———————————————————————————————————————————————— The writer is the Deputy Editor at Dawn.com ————————————————————————————————————————————————
Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.
She tweets @ShyemaSajjad
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