I have a friend. His name is Sadiq Ameen. But will he get my vote? Not likely, as he will not be running in elections. He prefers flying planes. I also know many others whose names may not be Sadiq and/or Ameen, but they too will not get my vote as they too shun politics and elections like a plague, believing it to be a ‘dirty thing’.
So come 2018, what are the choices I have before me? Precious little! This is especially so if I go by the definition of the Article-62 or Article-63 in the country’s constitution. Because it will be nothing but a wasted activity if I pick someone who does not fit the bill. See, what happened to Nawaz Sharif? He is reaping the rewards of refusing to repeal these clauses despite a ‘heavy mandate’ and support from the progressive parties in the opposition.
However, is the situation really that bad? I am afraid it is. Even the politicians who indulge in finger pointing because of the ‘qualifications’ listed in these articles find three fingers pointed at themselves. And, then bemoan the fact that only angels (farishtey) can lay claim to these qualities. Ironically, in Pakistan, it is usually the intelligence spooks who are called ‘farishtey’ so that in itself is problematic, given that they rule the roost anyway.
So then what? Who should I vote for? Should I vote for a person or a party this is the next question that bedevils me?
There are many good politicians…yes, there is such a breed…who have good values, principles, position on issues that resonate with me but they belong to a party with terrible track records. On the flip side, parties with some progressive elements in their manifestos have some terrible people in them, to be shunned at all cost.
Thus shutting my mind to the possibility of whomever I choose falling foul of the vague, overbroad and very subjective ‘qualifications’ enshrined in the Article 63, I am still left wondering about who do I vote for? My mind keeps going back to a very famous and humorous poem by late Dilawar Figar, on the same topic, ‘mein apna vote kis ko doon (Who should I vote for)’. He too could not come up with an answer.
Since I still am not sure about my choice, let me list down the things I am sure of and then whoever fits the bill, will get my vote. So let me work backwards.
I want to be able to vote for a person who thinks with the heart; without being emotional and letting the emotions cloud his or her judgement but as in, having feelings about Pakistanis and their plight. Their hopes, aspirations, deprivations should resonate with him or her. Financial and moral integrity is a must and past track record does matter. I do not care if Article-63 says that five years after the slammer you are kosher. Unless politically motivated cases were the reason for the arrest, the cause of imprisonment indicates a chink in the armour.
Financial integrity will mean transparency in transactions and taxation, and by moral, I certainly do not mean any optics but anything that does anyone else harm is immoral in my dictionary, whether through insensitivity or through outright discrimination.
Oh, and whoever is planning to rule over us (I am loathe to use the word ‘leader’ since I have not seen any around) had better be educated enough to understand that something is very, very wrong with the way Pakistan figures in various ‘lists’.
I am not talking of the ones issued by agenda-driven think tanks but by credible ones like country surveys. We are almost near the top where it should be good to be at the bottom and rock bottom in the ones we should have climbed up in these 70 years of our existence.
For instance, we are top in corruption, but bottom in areas like gender gap, maternal and infant mortality, education and health indices and so on and so forth.
And they should jolly well know about climate change and how Pakistan ranks amongst the most threatened countries. They had better have their head around measures that need to be taken to deal with it, globally and locally.
Although consensus has become a much-maligned term as it is considered akin to a sell-out, a little bit of humility please and acceptance and tolerance for the contrarians within their own party and when coming from the opposition would be good too. I have had it ‘up to here’ with the ‘my way or the highway’ types. They sure are not getting my vote!
And, my vote will go only to a bridge builder. No, no… not bridges of brick mortar and ‘sarya’ but bridges over the deep crevices and chasms in our society. Between provinces, between sects, between different faiths and social classes. This menace has been fostered by the ‘my way or the highway’ approach.
Now I will not be surprised if people snigger at my wish list. I know it is very idealistic, and maybe people think that I live in la-la land.
Nevertheless while at my age, when the blinkers are usually off, there are some things that I am not willing to let go of. One of them is my demand for a person to measure up if my vote is being sought. So there!
So, if by the end of this rant, my answer to the question of ‘who will you vote for’ is still the same ‘I don’t know,’ please excuse me if I am not willing to bear the blame for it. I am realistic enough to admit that the current crop of parties or individuals will continue to excite or disappoint me.
Be that as it may, I am willing to stay the course as that is the only possible course that allows for correction. Structural reforms in the system that allow strident voices to make themselves heard without the constraints of ‘party disciple’ may sound disruptive, but trust me, we need massive disruption. We will never have a new solution by trying old methods.
Unless there are sweeping changes in the way our political parties function where divergent views are tolerated and accepted, we will not have the ‘good’ individuals emerge and implement their ideas. And, since we have not gotten the democratic sieve of elections going for a long enough time, we will have to wait probably another generation for the jetsam and flotsam to be skimmed away, for now.
So come election time, if I have to make choices, they are going to be very selfish ones. Caving in to the theory of lesser evil is the biggest compromise people make. Will choose people who are going to be accessible, who will be clearheaded about their role to LEGISLATE, not be stuck in the politics of gutter repairs.
I have been warned that such thinking leads to hung parliaments because it cuts across party loyalty and makes the government dysfunctional. Well, I will rather have the parliament hung than Pakistanis!
Afia Salam is Pakistan’s first female cricket journalist. She now writes freelance on the environment, climate change, gender issues, and media ethics. She blogs at afiasalam.wordpress.com.