25th July 2018
Let’s talk politics – never before done on this platform. Let’s talk the election campaigns, manifestoes and stances on the two most prominent candidates standing on the 25th of July 2018.
All the memes, punchlines and comic strips aside, let’s talk serious. This election has torn the nation’s newly cultivated voters into three distinct categories – the Imran Khan followers, the Nawaz Sharif sympathisers and the Undecided, mind you, with a capital “U.”
The first group, with their righteousness in the big-hearted politics perpetuated by their impassioned leader, allow their vigour to shine through in their vast protests and their preference of the Peshawari chappal (a metaphor that may or may not be used later on). PTI’s policies on the environment, education, healthcare and youth are worthy of laudatory acknowledgement but it can be said with potent clarity that there are gaping holes in their overall stance. The desperation to win over the religious vote is so obvious that it has led to the acceptance of the blasphemy law alongside the narrative of marginalizing the minorities in Pakistan. This is problematic because if a party could go to such a length that would cause its voters to believe that such a future for Pakistan is not only condoned but ideal is repugnant. For the sake of the religious vote, which our politicians and our government continue to give power and authenticity to, leaves the chappal soulless (pun intended – see above).
If you thought this was a pro-PML-N/anti-PTI rant, you were wrong. The tiger has been jailed, and as cringe-worthy as that analogy/metaphor was, you would think it’s the sad reality for the PML-N voters. Unfortunately, it’s being treated as yet another vote-granting incidence. Nawaz and Maryam in jail on grounds of corruption, off-shore accounts, money-laundering and much much more, has not been enough to dissuade voters. Why? Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz have been treated as separate entities of the party and Shahbaz Sharif on the front lines is the party’s saving grace. In what world does that logic apply? In a country that has been fuelled by nepotistic politics? This same country that suspended Benazir Bhutto on countless occasions during her time in office because of her husband Asif Zardari’s corruption allegations? If we can treat a husband and wife as one, we can treat two brothers (and a daughter) the same as well. This is the same Bill Clinton-Hillary Clinton narrative we saw in the American election almost two years prior, only in reverse.
But perhaps the saddest part of this stalemate, this struggle to choose sides, this war in politics, is the violent repercussions we have conveniently overlooked. The blast in Peshawar that killed ANP leader Haroon Bilour – a politician who worked for the wellbeing of the citizens of Peshawar among others and the terrorist attack in Mastung, Balochistan. It is not a matter of being numb to the consequences as we so heartlessly have become when we casually dismiss 123 lives. We do not realise that our politics fuels violence, our greed for money sacrifices innocent lives, deprives us of the solidarity we cannot stop striving for.
I invite you to step out of your echo chambers and your shiny, priveleged bubbles you call Mercedes (a reference to the desire for better infrastructure for some), to look at the bigger picture. We control our politicians, we have power over their narratives, we create their policies and choose between the best ones in this injured Republic, not the other way around. We need to reclaim our politics, reclaim our affiliations with our fellow citizens and our responsibility towards them above all else. This is not a Spartan ordeal that requires blood and grief, but an empowering journey to betterment of politics and politicians alike.
Your vote isn’t your pride, it isn’t an achievement, it isn’t the end of the world. But how you talk about it, how you treat people with different views without prejudice, how you study the facts and not the family tree will be.
May you all have a pleasant election this 2018.
By Manal Mohsin