It doesn’t matter, unless you vote

Do we have the right to criticise our rulers when most of us do not even step out to vote during elections?

Omar Shahid December 06, 2010
WikiLeaks has proven that the US is more involved in our domestic political affairs than we are. The hypothesis that no one can form a government in Pakistan without US support is correct.

The released documents also show that the most powerful institution in Pakistan – the Pakistan Army – also seeks the approval of the US before manipulating the political scenario in the country. These ground realities, however, do not fit well with the description of democracy – a political system that PPP’s leaders claim to have brought back in Pakistan.
“Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

These are the words of former US President Abraham Lincoln, but I believe in Pakistan’s case, these words can be revised to Democracy – of America, by America, for America.”

After all, we have borrowed the democratic form of government from them, just like hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot of people in Pakistan are already unhappy, rather angry, with the policies of United States and I’m sure their blood pressures must have surged after reading about these reports.

But before we start criticising the US for its increased involvement in our domestic affairs, we need to ask ourselves one pertinent question: could they have interfered without our explicit or implicit approval? And by “our” I’m not referring to the political figures of Pakistan; I’m referring to the people of Pakistan.

The voter turnout ratio in Pakistan is 45 per cent and more than 75 per cent of that figure belongs to the rural areas. It means that less than half Pakistanis actually vote in elections. When more than half of the country has voluntarily given up its right to decide who rules their country, what gives them the right to criticise those who are ruling this country?

If we don’t want to have our say in who runs this country, why should we have a say in how this country is run?

I have seen people voting for parties that their father or grandfather voted for and it baffles me! I believe that we all should vote for the person who is better for our electorate. We need to remember that the character of the person we are voting for is far more important than the party that has issued the ticket to them. It is possible that a party has issued the ticket to a crook but just because I support that party’s manifesto, should I also be voting for the crook? By voting for the crook, I’m basically asking him/her to shred me.

An excuse I’ve heard from a lot of people is that “voting is not going to change anything”. In order to contest elections, one needs to have a lot of money and no one from the middle class can afford to pay for the election campaign. Thus, only those who have money can contest elections and become members of the parliament to vote on decisions that determine our fate.

I concede that contesting elections requires a lot of money and no one from the middle class can pay for it. But not all those who contest election are crooks; some are educated people, capable of doing good things.

We should vote for them. It doesn’t matter if the candidate we vote for wins or not. What matters is that if we cannot defeat the crooks, we should make it a tough fight. Let’s show the crooks that gone are the times when they could win with an overwhelming majority; the narrowed winning margin is our way of registering our protest. Remember: it doesn’t matter unless you vote!

Acknowledgment: The credit for  the line “it doesn’t matter unless you vote” goes to Waqas Qamar.
Omar Shahid A business graduate who iworks at a marketing research firm. His interests include discussing socio-political affairs, networking and reading.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


sajad haider | 13 years ago | Reply @Syed Nadir El-Edroos: Nadir has a principled view. However,not a solution. Politics in Pakistan have traversed the crooked path since Liaquat Ali Khan and his spurious, Maudoodi injected Objectives resolution, in a society devoid of sincere,honest and adept politicians. The space created by the void was grabbed by religious bigots,opportunists and those our Quaid-e-Azam referred to as quislings. Today, those dynasties are in control of Pakistan's fractured destiny. Even more reprehensible has been the conduct of Election Commission of Pakistan and the politicized bureaucracy since Ayub era. They have acted as vassals of the rulers and committed serious crimes against ethos of democratic elections through partisan, foul and coercive methods. The EC has inextricably capitulated to and support the ruling mafia ; the feudal class, Industrial Mafia(Punjab and Frontier) and the phenomenon of moronic sons of dictators like Ayub, Zia and his coercive arm (Akhtar Abdur Rehman) and the new land lord class of Generals turned politicians. Resultantly, there is no space for genuine, competent, honest, educated and visionary men/women to even participate in the raucous roughshod and tumble farce of elections. Only about 10-12 % vote in any election and compelling factor is almost never for a better Pakistan but out of sympathy, emotional frenzy, hate based, or from fear of coercion and retribution. Pakistan has reached a critical mass in existential democratic ruse. There are no institutions left except a judiciary which too is caught in a Catch-22 syndrome. This is an Oligarchy run mafia style under political patronage with the help of corrupt parliament, Selected Senate and foxy incompetent bureaucracy dependent upon political patronage since ZAB destroyed its stature and structure. YOUR president, PM, Interior monster and law immune Awan (with False PHD) are first, shameless, second, pathologically corrupt, third, inept and vision-less, fourth, semi educated-but think they are invincible. Pakistan to them is a landmass of opportunity for how long it lasts; Pakistanis are mere numbers they boast about qualitatively (170 Million) as their subjugated masses albeit, without human dignity and courage to stand-up. So, what to do?. No, you do not need a charismatic leader!! None of the present lot have broad vision so it has to be you, them and us and perhaps one day Fatima without the Bhutto dynastic emblem to start struggle for change. French did not have a leader nor the Thais. There never was Aung San Suu Kyi, nor there will be one in Pakistan. We only contrive martyrs even out of living criminals and who died in struggle for power and not Pakistan. Let us be clear that the only political martyr in our history was THE QUAID. Here is a suggestion; Like the Thais,a silent protest en-mass for three months to put stops to all Govt. and political function. If that works like it did for many, the future election commission must be placed under a Justice Cornelius or Kiyani re-born.There are such jurists of integrity right now and serving. There should be a column in the ballot paper giving choice of "None of the above candidates". That choice to constitute a negative vote for all candidates on the ballot paper. That will be choice of the silenced class who must get out to vote en-mass to demolish the crooked candidates. Leaving a blank form would be a bonanza for the election staff, the powerful returning candidates and their touts, men and women. They will buy in and fill in the blanks. I have personally witnessed similar misdemeanor by PML (N) roughs in an election. Piplias are equally and historically capable of the same. The media has a pivotal role in a future Pakistan. They have to dump the entire present lot, men and especially screaming female banshees filling the screens and news print with their obese characterless diatribe and touting and defending their leaders whose very names exude stench of corruption, coming right out of the print and screen. Media mavericks have to research and give the nation bigger and better choice of leaders at various tiers. How to make a start? Media has to take the initiative, show some guts and be Pakistanis first second and third for the sake of present and future gens. Money should become secondary for the Czars before the cookie jar is empty to the bottom.
Maddy | 13 years ago | Reply @Omar (Author): Couldn't agree more with your thoughts. Now is the time for protest rather its a high time. And if we are lucky enough that heartless ruler is gone with our efforts as a nation, A fair election devoid of rigging will succeed under the supervision of Army or whosoever. BUT the question remains "who will be the successor?". Whom to vote?. You are absolutely right in your argument, but my concern remains that we have just limited scale of politicians, unfortunately those too corrupt to teeth. Ironically we don't have a choice :(
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