Election 2013: I flew 4,000 miles just to vote, I'm sure you can too!
Pakistan is my identity and the ECP ruling can't take that away from me just because I work abroad.
“Are you crazy?”
This was the reaction I got every time I told someone I was going to Karachi for two weeks to vote in the upcoming general elections.
For months, all overseas Pakistanis have been closely following the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Supreme Court rulings on whether we’ll be allowed to vote or not.
The official decision is now out.
Like many overseas Pakistanis, I am extremely disappointed that I cannot vote for my country just because I work abroad.
Though I work overseas, I am a Pakistani citizen and hold a valid Pakistani passport. Not only do I work hard in promoting Pakistan every chance I get, I also send remittances - which I am told are appreciated by my nation and vital for my country’s survival.
“Pakistani” is my identity and no ECP ruling can take that away from me.
I had decided to go back to Pakistan and vote. There was no way I was going to let my vote go to waste. And so, here I am, back in Pakistan just a few days before the elections. There were four blasts on Saturday and my friends and family everywhere in the world called me to stay safe and more importantly, to “stay indoors”!
Concerned as I was, I still decided to go out with my family to do what we as a nation love doing the most – eat!
What shocked and pleasantly surprised me was what I saw on the same roads and streets, that just a few days ago were wreaked in havoc! There were people all around. It was like they wanted to make a statement, as if to say that they were not going hide indoors or be terrorised; they were not going to let any terrorist take advantage of their vulnerable city. The bravery was remarkable.
The situation is bad and the security fears are valid, but nothing will improve if we all stay silent in our homes or do nothing about it because we are abroad. There is no point in complaining and moaning if we, ourselves, can’t be bothered enough to do one simple task - vote.
We are all very good at criticising the government and politicians but now is not the time for that! This is the time to make things right again, this is the time when we, the citizens, can choose and make a difference.
I have seen many courageous individuals out on the streets since I have been back. These people are bright individuals who clearly have no personal gains out of this whole process but are still standing up for what they believe. They are trying to make a difference in whatever capacity they can.
I understand that we all are busy dealing with our own lives and can’t be asked to spend any time on things that don’t affect us directly, let alone spend money on it.
I just want to urge you and reiterate again that this is not the time for silent support. That does not help anyone so please play your part!
1) I am flying 4000 miles to vote. For those in Pakistan, I hope you can take 30 minutes of your busy schedules on May 11 to come out and vote. Voting for any party is definitely better than not voting at all.
2) Overseas Pakistanis – please call/email/Skype with your parents, khalas, mamoos, cousins, friends, acquaintances and everyone else you know and ask them to vote. Explain to them the importance of voting regardless of the party you vote for.
As a friend or family member, they are likely to be more receptive to you than to a random party supporter knocking on the door. Also ask them to talk to their friends and family to vote. Help spread the message!
3) If you don’t have time for any of this, at least donate whatever you can to the parties. This is a crucial need for democracies to work.
At the end, all I have to ask you is, what would you do if your parents were unwell? Would you travel back to them? Would you send some money? Would you call on other family members to keep an eye on them in your absence or would you do nothing at all?
Pakistan is your country, your nation, your baby and I really hope you play your part in relieving your country from the illness that pervades it. I don’t know who will win the elections, but I am satisfied that I am doing whatever I can in my capacity to shape the future of Pakistan. I hope you appreciate that if you decide to do nothing, you will have no moral grounds to complain and moan about the state of affairs in Pakistan.
Quoting my friend Jibran,
“Your ignorance is worse than any drone, any terrorist attack and any corruption”.
Follow Zawar on Twitter @zawarmas