Why I am not voting in the Pakistan elections
Don’t ask me who I support, or what I think of Imran Khan. I am undeserving according to you.
Pakistan is having a moment. It is a moment similar to the pre-Obama days in the US. The furore of fantasy is building and hearts are beating wildly. Everyone is joining in this frenzied support for PTI.
Perhaps, it is the mob mentality we as a nation are susceptible to, perhaps it is simply fashionable to join the many that have picked Imran Khan to represent them. Or perhaps there really is something there, a real chance, a future. Change is in the air. There is movement, there is excitement.
I feel none of it.
What I feel instead, as I stand on the banks of this particular river, watching this procession of hope, is left out. I cannot join in, because I don't have a vote.
Let me clarify. I cannot vote, because Pakistan has decided that the religious community I was born into is not capable, or trusted somehow, to be availed the right to walk into a voting booth and walk out with a black thumb like any other citizen of the country.
To vote, I must first admit, by signing a piece of paper that gives me my identity, that I am not a Muslim, a fact entirely irrelevant to my opinion on whether Imran Khan is fit to lead the country or not. Ironically, I must give up one identity to gain another, to silence one voice inside, to be given the opportunity to speak up for someone else.
Or, I can vote, but as a minority, for the one seat that is “allocated” to my community, and waste my voice on a vote that neither counts, nor is relevant to anything that happens politically in the country.
Never has the symbolism of a black mark felt more ironic than now. Never have I ever sat back and had a moment of realisation this strong. This is what I know: It does not matter how passionately I love Pakistan, nor is it relevant what my opinions are on Imran Khan, the future, politics or laws. It does not matter, because I am not relevant.
Rejection has never stung so badly before.
I, too, have defended my country against labels, against tarnish, against abuse. I, too, have walked the streets singing “Dil, dil Pakistan” and have draped myself in green and white. I have stood on stage and given speeches on patriotism, waited for months for my father to return home from the border, wished I was a boy so I could have had the chance to defend my country in the only way that made sense to me—with my life.
Let me tell you that the moment one turns around to look back at the things you have loved with such passion, the essence of which you have held within your heart, and find closed gates, back turned towards you, is a moment of darkness.
For years, I argued that it doesn’t matter. I would not have voted for the confederacy of dunces that ruled for years anyway. But now that something seems to be stirring and there is a chance, that maybe, possibly, there is an awakening, I find myself caught between my love and my actual reality. I want to participate, but I can’t. I want to speak, but I have no voice.
So don’t ask me who I support. Don’t ask me who I would vote for, or what I think of Imran Khan. I don’t know because I am not allowed to know. I cannot, in any possible permutation of the reality, be asked to be an observer from the inside, to see but not do- to love, but not have.
My ancestors bled the same tears for this country, made the same sacrifices. And I will go so far as to say, that despite being treated like illegitimate children, my family and I continue to hold on to the values that we learned as Pakistanis, to the patriotism that runs as deep in our veins as yours.
You may have abandoned me, but I can never walk away. I believe in you more than you believe in me. For now, this is all I can do. And I will wait for the day that you awaken, give me my voice, and acknowledge that I, as a Pakistani, am no different than you. That I deserve to speak as loudly, disagree as vehemently, and love as wildly, as you do.
Follow Hananah on Twitter @Hananahzaheer