Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist or maybe I’m just plain delusional: for a moment there, I really thought I would wake up to a “Naya Pakistan” (New Pakistan) on Sunday.
From the minute the polling booths were supposed to open for the 2013 elections, like so many fellow OPs (Overseas Pakistanis), I trawled the internet for updates. My heart sank every time I refreshed my Facebook newsfeed, which was filled with accounts of rigging, reports of people queuing up for hours outside polling booths and of voters being intimidated. God bless the kind souls who took to distributing food and water to people waiting in line. Rigging and intimidation aside, it seemed that the whole city had come together. That a whole country had come together. Something had changed.
And yet, nothing really had. Everything yielded the usual results involving the usual suspects. Punjabis voted for the Punjabi (PML-N), Sindhis for the Sindhi (PPP), Pathans for the Pathan (PTI), and Mohajirs for the Mohajir (MQM). Has anything really changed?
A journalist friend of mine drew my attention to something the Pakistani journalist, diplomat and government adviser Mosharraf Zaidi wrote on the subject: “There is a magical connection people have developed with politics. If there’s one man who can take credit for this, it is Imran Khan. Khan Sahib is the Pakistani Superman. He evokes such raw and deep emotions that it is hard to fully grasp just how deeply embedded he is – as an image, an idea and an ideal within the Pakistani psyche. But there is a more important reason why I don’t think it is time yet for Pakistan to have a PTI-led government. When the PTI does come to power, unlike the PML-N or the PPP, or the PML-Q, or the MQM, or the ANP, the PTI cannot afford to fail. It actually has to deliver on every promise it has made, not because we must hold the party to a higher standard, but because the future political infrastructure of Pakistan, cannot afford the disenchantment of the young PTI supporter.”
The same friend, the journalist Sabin Muzaffar, argues that today’s PTI is ill-equipped to deliver on the rhetorical promises it has made. “A little time in opposition will help weed out some of the traditional hangers-on in the PTI. A cleansed and more experienced PTI will be a much better candidate for future national and provincial government than the compelling but flawed PTI of 2013,” she says.
Whatever the rationale, I feel we have been cheated out of the “Naya Pakistan” we were promised. Perhaps we have cheated ourselves out of it?
I strongly support PTI and everything Imran Khan promises and stands for as a leader and as a person. But at the same time, when it came to putting my money where my mouth is, I did nothing. I didn’t make a trip to Pakistan to cast a vote. Why? Is it because I’m too jaded to think my vote will actually make any kind of a difference? Is it because it’s too big an investment for a very questionable return? Is it because – when it comes down to brass tacks – I’m not as bothered as I thought I was about being an active part of “change” in a country where I don’t think I will ever go back and live?
There are too many questions – and not enough answers. As another friend of mine said, it sometimes takes generations of struggle to change a country that is so broken from the core. If there’s one person who can drive this change, it is our captain – if not as government, then as opposition.
The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi living in Dubai
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