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Go out and vote

May 11, 2013

Go out and vote. Yes, I will go out and vote. No, I cannot take you guys to the mountains. Not even to the park. Not today. Why? Today, I want to go and vote and then visit other polling stations with my press pass to watch others voting. It will be a great sight.

I wish you were old enough to vote. That would have added three more votes to this house. Three more votes for Pakistan. No, I would not have asked you to vote for my candidate. That would be your decision.

Yes, I am your father but that does not give me the right to ask you who to vote for. It is between you and your conscience. It should be your decision and nobody else should ever be allowed to force you to vote for or against someone. Not even your father.

I would have only asked you to make a pledge to God and to yourself that you would vote for the person who you, not others, think is the best.

You cannot imagine how long I waited for this opportunity to vote. I am not the only one who had to wait. The entire nation waited for this opportunity for generations.

No, this is not the first election in our country and I hope it will not be the last either. But it is important. Very important. For the first time in more than 60 years, we are going to replace one elected government with another.

Why is it important? You will understand why when you are old enough to vote. I hope you do. I hope you do not let your votes go to waste because you had to go to a concert, watch football or simply because it’s too hot or too cold to vote.

I hope you do not vote for someone because your friends asked you to vote for or because he or she has a cute face. And I pray that you are not coerced to vote for someone as many in this country are.

Who will I vote for? I will vote for Pakistan. How can someone vote for an entire country? You always vote for your country because those you elect, run the country.

If you vote for good people, you get good rulers. If you vote for bad people, you get bad rulers.

There are other ways of changing a ruler too but those are beyond my control. Those methods have been tried many times in this country but never worked.

Besides, I do not have the powers to change things by any other means. I have only one power, the power to vote and I want to use it.

You want to come with me and see how I vote? OK. I do not know if they will let you go with me but I will take you along if they do. I want you to see how this sacred ritual is performed.

I want you to remember me as someone stamping a ballot paper and then putting it inside the box. I do not want you to remember me as someone throwing stones at the police. Evading police’s batons. Braving tear gas. Running down the street to escape arrest. Chanting slogans against or for someone.

We have done all that but that should end now. No need for young people to die to bring a change. No strikes. No long marches. No sit-ins. No hunger strikes. No hangings. No floggings.

I now have the right to bring a change through peaceful means and I want to retain that right. That’s why it is so important for me to vote.

I want to vote because I love this country. Why I love this country? Remember, one of you once said to me: “Dad, I love you because I love you?” So, I love this country because I love this country.

I love it now and I loved it then. I love it when I lived in a small quarter with a friend, Anjum Rashid, and we had no food and no money to buy food. I remember how delighted we were when a grocer loaned us some rice and potatoes.

Another friend, as hungry as we were, joined us and we had a feast. We loved that rice. We loved that grocer. And we loved the country because we could borrow money rice and potatoes to feed ourselves.

I loved this country even when I only had two blankets and I had to share them with your cousins, who were visiting me. It was so cold that we cried. Yes, tears rolled down our cheeks but we thanked God that we had two blankets and were willing to share them with each other.

I loved this country even when a friend, Taher Khan, and I had to sleep on a bench in Karachi’s Hill Park and in the morning washed our faces with tap water. And then we had our breakfast at a friend’s place. We thanked God for being born in a country where people shared food even though they had little to share.

No, I never thought of not loving this country. I loved it then. I love it now. That’s why I want to vote for it.


The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.