I stood in line for 10 hours last Saturday to exercise a fundamental right as a citizen of Pakistan. There were hundreds of others there with me, in fact make that a 1000+. We were all there to exercise our right to vote. This wasn’t going to be like any of the elections of the past where even if we did turn up to vote we generally did feel it was more of a paper exercise than anything else. This time was different. This time there was a feeling of a difference that could be brought about. A change that could come. So that’s why for 10 hours, bearing the sun, the heat, the long line we all stood there to ensure that we cast our vote.
This changed feeling brought about by Imran Khan, PTI and a more energized and involved youth was further validated by the Election Commission after the elections when the estimated voter turnout was announced to be around 60% – the highest turnout in the history of the country. A change was almost certain now. Perhaps not the one we thought but the one we needed.
To give a background: as mentioned Imran Khan and PTI were largely responsible in mobilizing the urban populous in going out to vote and in all probability most of them did so in their favor. However the key word there being ‘urban’. Anyway this transformed into a social media wave which intoxicated the youth and first time voters with a lot of excitement and gusto. There were talks of the PTI sweeping the elections and a Naya Pakistan was almost guaranteed. The more experienced voter who wanted change also voted but perhaps with a more realistic expectation. He did focus on the urban bit. In fact one fellow voter said he is voting for PTI, that he knew they would lose but still he will vote for PTI because they deserve it. They deserve every seat they can manage to win and have a voice in the NA.
Come election night all people were glued to the TV as the Geo Election Band Wagon got into high gear. The votes started coming in… and a sense of disappointment was soon showing its ugly face. The realistic outcome was crushing the idealistic romanticized tsunami of Naya Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif aawaaye aaway indeed. And eventually it was confirmed – unofficially (as GEO could not stress enough) – Mian Nawaz Sharif was returning to power, to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the 3rd time. As it stands – PML N has 124 seats in NA and an overwhelming majority in the Punjab Provincial Assembly with 204. PPP was wiped off the central map and managed only to retain its sindh stronghold. MQM retained Karachi and the few seats that they get in Sindh. ANP was completely eradicated from the face of the 2013 elections. And Imran Khan’s PTI claimed the top spot in KPK to earn themselves the place of the 2nd/3rd biggest party in these elections. But that wasn’t enough to be a tsunami.. the tsunami that the social media popularity promised the voters had halted abruptly at Islamabad/Rawalpindi. What happened? Well the urban voter did go out and he did vote …. but Mr Khan and the proponents of change will have to wait before the old ways in which the larger vote bank is set can be changed. Punjab voted in the same jageerdar, landowner and power politics philosophy that it usually does. And Sindh voted in the same feudal manner that it does. As for Balochistan, they still remain detached with lower voter turnout and with a complete mix of seats between different parties. It will take quite some time for all of this to change.
But here is the thing – people who have been getting disappointed about the outcome and frustrated that nothing will ever happen of this country should not lose hope. For change has come. And it is important to stay positive for this to continue and transform into the grander scheme of things to come.
First of all the Voter turnout is a huge change. There were a lot of first time voters. People who just weren’t interested in voting before because of a lack of faith in the system went out to vote. Going from 40-42% to 60% is a huge win not for any party but for Pakistan.
Second – the way the youth have been involved in this election has been fantastic to see. Yes they have much to learn in order to broaden their analytical horizon beyond just the idolization of one man but the enthusiasm was phenomenal. They have raised their voices. They have voted. They have actively volunteered to facilitate the voter on election day against the heat. They have rightly protested against ‘rigging’ in various constituencies. Some have even gotten directly involved in the politics (Example: Jibran Nasir who was an independent candidate for NA 250 and PS 113 in Karachi). The youth are the future and such energy levels to be seen in them is great. The key is now for this to be maintained.
Thirdly – and this is specifically for PTI Supporters – PTI has firmly established itself as a 3rd political force in Pakistan. They may not have won the elections but going in properly for an election for this first time and winning 30 odd NA seats and the majority in one province is a huge achievement. And once the final results are out one should see the number of seats that they have come second in. That furthers the fact that PTI have established themselves. They have the opportunity to run the state of affairs in KPK. This is wonderful. They can prove themselves there and come next election that will transform into many many more seats! Also it is not clear at the moment but two things can happen: one Imran Khan will want to be leader of the opposition but that seems a little difficult as they are a couple of seats behind PPP. Plus MQM will probably support them in the center in return for being part of the setup in Sindh. So with PPP and MQM joined in the center will not leave enough support for IK to be nominated to that position. However Mian sahib is mulling giving IK the PAC Chairmanship which could be another good way of tackling issues.
Point is a lot of good things have come from this election. The incoming government cannot take it easy. It is no longer a case of musical chairs where just 2 major parties keep taking turns at power. We have successfully transferred power democratically. They will have to perform or else be accountable in front of the huge mandate of the public.
Lastly on rigging – yes there was rigging. There always is. But that said I don’t think it would largely affect the overall outcome even if there is repolling at the alleged constituencies. I am not saying that repolling shouldn’t be done. It should. We have voted and it is our right to get assurance that it was not misused. That it was counted. That it wasn’t tampered with. That we were not cheated out of our fundamental right. So all those who have to go out and vote again PLEASE DO! Don’t get frustrated in the system and not show up. Give these things time. They will improve. Just don’t give up. Go and vote again. I have to as well and I will!
Continue being the change. Pakistan Zindabad.