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Will Pakistanis celebrating Sadiq Khan vote for a non-Muslim mayor?

Updated May 11, 2016

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Sadiq Khan. — Reuters
Sadiq Khan. — Reuters

Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London has sent Pakistanis into a celebratory mode but amidst the bonhomie, some questions have emerged.

Many on social media have pointed out the rarity of such an event happening here in Pakistan, causing seemingly-emancipated people to go a delicate shade of mottled purple; the contention being that people from humble backgrounds are also making it big in politics in the motherland so there is nothing special about London voting in a Muslim Mayor.

Can Khan's gradual and steady rise in the echelons of power be compared in any way to the meteoric rise of the usual suspects in Pakistan?

People here who have come from similar working class origins and reached the pinnacle of political success have usually left a corruption-ridden trail.

Surely, a tad unfair to compare Khan’s hard work and grit to this motley crowd.

Comparisons may be odious but they are being drawn between the two countries as a means to justify the absence of pluralism here; the argument being that the cultural history of England is old, while Pakistan's is still new since it was birthed only about 60 odd years ago.

See: After Sadiq Khan's win, the internet points out hypocrisy on Pakistan's part

Needless to say, can there be any parallel between UK and Pakistan where civil discourse, democracy and egalitarianism is concerned?

And it's not just because "they are older than us as a country". We come from an ancient culture, one that we have forgotten in our giddy race to be Arabs.

Despite a divisive campaign led by the opposing candidate Zac Goldsmith (roundly supported by Imran Khan), Londoners chose hope over fear, as Sadiq Khan put it.

In our part of the world, however, it is just easier to succumb to fear.



The election of the Mayor of London is not a victory of a Muslim but the victory of a secular society to elect an individual to that post without any regard for religion, race, sect or national origin.
—Ishtiaq Ahmed, Historian

While some incensed Britons, averse to Muslims, contend that, “it’s the Muslim mafia here which voted in Khan”, perhaps they are unaware that the percentage of Muslims in London is approximately 12 per cent. Hence, it was an enlightened electorate which voted on merit and political issues.

To underscore how he will be a Mayor for all Londoners as he has claimed, Khan's first engagement was with the Jewish victims of the Holocaust at the Yom HaShoah event.

Why is it that a reality check causes most people in Pakistan to get supremely defensive and violently offensive?

Hearing a dissenting opinion has become an increasingly bitter exercise for the enlightened moderates who take it personally instead of reflecting.

Examine: Identity politics?

A constant refrain for such intellectuals is the rallying cry of civil society which has emerged Hulk-like to take on Pakistan’s issues.

With due respect to the few noble souls struggling against the rising tide of apathy with all their might, what is there to stop the majority from asserting its rights?

Let’s take a recent incident as an example. At a popular superstore in Pakistan, humongous cars are parked right in front of the entrance with headlights on and patrolling armed goons in a clear violation of rules.

The crowd at the store consists of liberals, intellectuals, kids, conservatives, drivers, housewives in abayas, kurtas and jeans, men in shorts, boys in t-shirts, etc. yet, not a single person objects to the impeding of space, inconvenience and breaking of the law.

When a staffer at the store is questioned as to why these cars are being allowed to park in such a lopsided manner, he points to an aircraft-sized car and says,

"Hum kya karein? Yeh Minister hai, jab aata hai idhar, aisay park karta hai. Hum kaisay kuch kahein ussay?"

What can we do? He is a Minister, whenever he comes here, he parks in this place. How can we say anything to him?

Who, amongst the milling crowd, will challenge a minister and tell him to obey the rules?

Why are we not acknowledging our flaws? Because it is far better to parrot the soft image of Pakistan and let the sores fester. At least it will make us look good in the eyes of the Western world which we scoff at.

This rising wave of strident nationalism, misplaced patriotism and whining victimhood is suppressing our perspective, objectivity and critical thinking.

With the increase in the persecution of religious minority communities in Pakistan, forget about electing a minority bus driver's son as a Parliamentarian, we can’t even be bothered to engage with photographers or waiters at swanky parties or glittering weddings — the class lines are drawn and they are getting more defined with the passage of time.

Let's face it, as the son of immigrants (a bus driver and a seamstress), a minority, and a vocal LGBT supporter, Pakistanis wouldn't have given Sadiq Khan the time of the day.

He's lucky to be living in UK and he knows it. As he said in his acceptance speech:

"Thank you London for making the impossible possible."