The first time I heard of the Ides of March was when the bard from Stratford-on-Avon wrote a play which started with an old codger predicting the assassination of a Roman emperor. I didn’t care too much for it in school, because it popped up in every end-of-term exam. In fact, I only started to enjoy that earth-shattering soliloquy when Marlon Brando had a go at it in the film — after his accent had been given transatlantic plastic voice surry. Mind you, I feel old Caesar still came out tops. After having been stabbed about half a dozen times in all kinds of places, he turned to his favourite senator and whispered sotto voce “Et tu Brute?” Now, in case you have completely missed the allegory and are still wondering what this clip of theatrical trivia has to do with the heading of this article, relax. It is to remind you that the Ides of May are just round the corner.
The choices appear to be pretty limited now that the returning officers of the Inquisition have tarred all surviving applicants with the spiritual brush. There are nine major parties contesting the elections. But the spotlight is now focusing on three. A couple of months ago, the contest appeared to be a straightforward fight between the two old rivals, the two major patrician clubs — Nawaz Sharif’s wing of the Muslim League and the PPP of the Bhutto-Zardari clan — both of whom have already had two bites at the national cherry. Most critics dismissed the tornadoes unleashed by Imran Khan because they said his marmalade was spread on only a few parts of the toast. Yet, last week, one well-documented poll showed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf going through the roof of the graph, with the PML-N foundering around the 40 per cent mark while all other parties were hovering around the 12 per cent spot. Another showed a photo finish at the winning post between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. One thing is obvious. It is highly doubtful that any party will obtain a complete majority. A coalition government appears to be inevitable.
One can’t do very much for the Untermensch in the rural hinterland. Despite the rhetoric of Imran Khan that the country is on the cusp of momentous change, and efforts made by Altaf Hussain to alter the feudal mindset, the yokels are afraid that if they don’t listen to their landlord, they might find a couple of buffaloes missing and that somebody has cut off their water. It’s a little different in the urban setting. There are people who belong to the category that has really given a lot of thought to the issue and is now totally committed. There are still some who belong to the tribe that doesn’t vote ‘because the same old gang of assorted patronising toffs that make promises, which they have no intention of keeping, is going to come back to misgovern and loot the country’. But if you haven’t yet decided, it’s time you did some serious thinking. Check the candidate even if he is from your party. And remember, the charming story of Arbab Khizer Hayat, the politician who changed party loyalty 14 times, about whom Nawaz Sharif recently quipped “And how long do you propose to stay with us this time, Khizer Saheb?” This is, in many ways, a crucial election. It will set the pattern for the future. Your vote is valuable. It might just make the difference between those who care for the country and those who care only for themselves. It might be our last chance.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2013.
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