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Karachi’s mandate

May 16, 2013

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Last year, we organised a ‘Draw Me Democracy’ poster workshop on behalf of Posters4Tomorrow in Karachi at the Visual Studies department of Karachi University. During the workshop, we had a discussion with the students and attempted to convince them about how to spread awareness about people’s right to vote. Many students believed that the politicians were corrupt and it didn’t really matter whether they cast their vote or not because they would either be forced to vote at gunpoint or someone else would cast their vote on their behalf. Most importantly, why should we put our lives in danger to go and cast our vote because the results are not going to be any different? It took us a good deal of debating to convince the students that it was their right to cast their vote and they must use it before it is used on their behalf without their consent. That they must come out of their homes in any case and use their right to vote. Not only do they have to understand that but they carry the additional responsibility of persuading others through the potential motivational qualities of their posters. If you can be productive alongside using your product as a tool to enlighten people about their rights, then not only would it profit you but it will also benefit your country and improve your people’s future. Convincing them about this was indeed an arduous task but the final result rekindled our spirits. This workshop was held in 15 countries across the world. Contrastingly, the posters designed by our children were in line with the social and political conditions of Pakistan and therefore, completely different from the posters made by the participants from elsewhere. Additionally, the posters were also effective in spreading awareness amongst people about how their right to vote is important and why it is crucial.

-Posters by Mariam Fatima Quli, Muhammed Osama and Yasir Mehmood Shah.

My vote was registered in NA-250, we thought that we could easily cast our vote early as the people of Defence and Clifton would prefer to sleep in until noon on a holiday. But there were long queues of women on one side and men on the other at our polling booth early in the morning. The voters were present but the ballot papers and boxes weren’t. An elderly woman who, like us, had thought the young ones would sleep in until noon discovered at the polling station that the youth had been in line since 7am but were now beginning to go home to wait until the ballot boxes arrived. We followed suit, planning to return later when the polling began.

-Photograph by Khuda Bux Abro.

We soon discovered that the situation was the same everywhere in NA-250. Probably those who always succeed from here had discovered that NA-250’s educated residents were planning to cast their vote this time. So there were no ballot boxes in most parts of the constituency. It felt as though if we stayed home and didn’t cast our vote, we would be committing a crime. Finally we heard that the ballots had arrived. So we got ready and arrived at the polling station, where the polling began after 2pm. But there were polling stations where the voters stood in queues for 10 hours with no signs of the ballot boxes ever arriving.

-Photograph by Khuda Bux Abro.

The old, the young, the sick, the disabled in wheelchairs or walking with the aid of a walking stick all knew only one thing: that they must cast their vote. No matter what happens, they must stand their ground. They hadn’t been brought there by force, but because they wanted to without caring about the blistering heat, their swelling feet and their scorched skins; their sole concern was to be responsible for their own vote. So it didn’t matter anymore whether any ‘change’ took place on May 11 or not, the elite class had finally discovered the vital importance of voting. Elsewhere in the city too, people had come out to vote in resistance.

-Photograph by Khuda Bux Abro.

The people standing in the queues shared food and water with each other without any divisions, without caring who was voting for whom. I’ve never seen such compassion, sincerity and discipline. There were all sorts of people there who stood in line without any religious, ethnic or linguistic divisions and awaited their turn. The queues increased as the day passed. In some areas of the country, women weren’t allowed to vote but the women of our new generation – whether they were daughters or grandmothers – were only worried about casting their votes. I felt proud watching our new generation showing such sincerity to their country, possibly as much as those other claimants. To be honest, I did see change occur on May 11. It doesn’t matter who we vote for, the right to vote lies only with the people. The claimants of Karachi’s mandate should let free and fair elections happen for once. If they win, then they are welcome to rule. But they cannot usurp Karachi’s mandate through threats and chaos. This time we thought that if the elections were in accordance to the procedures adopted by the Election Commission, then the election would definitely be free and fair. But those who fear the people distracted the process. How much longer are they going to deprive the people of their rights? I for one, don’t believe for very long. The people of Pakistan have spoken. And if this election hasn’t brought change; at least the journey towards it has begun.


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The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.