A time to pick and choose | Pakistan Today

A time to pick and choose

  • And why not stay calm and carry on during elections

Elections are upon us and being a fun loving lot we are really, really, really excited. Since elections provide an opportunity to sift friends from foes, draw new battle lines, revisit old loyalties, side with the right while taking a stand against the wrong in a frenzied atmosphere who can dare not to like them. Already, daggers have been drawn, alliances are being fostered, election campaigns are religiously undertaken and in due time symbols will be allotted. One can hear speeches brimming with cliches, empty words and devoid of any meaning or substance delivered at every nook and cranny of beloved land, saturated with wild allegations, peppered with abuse these verbal harangues paint political opponents as Satan incarnate.

Still we love ‘em elections, dear reader.

With only a month and a couple of days left till Election day, the cozy, warm sense of purpose has already engulfed us as we are convinced of being part of something massive, something meaningful, and something historic this time around. May PTI wallahs, shers of PML-N, Mujahideen of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and other believers of righteous struggle find solace and success in what they struggle.

They, at least on the face of it, struggle and strive for the death of status quo. They, dear reader, perpetuate the rule and strengthen the hands of powers that be. Status quo is dead, long live the status quo. If only a single line could ever sum up our political, dilemmas.

It doesn’t require a genius to know that the common man — just another number, another statistic — all of a sudden becomes an individual, a voter with unique identity (read ID card no one can snatch or replicate). In our first-past-the-post electoral system the candidate contesting general elections, local bodies polls or any other election need to bag more votes than his rivals. And to win the hearts and minds of voters, something a little more concrete than future prosperity, something to alleviate the present misery and something to redress the past wrongs has to be offered. That ‘something’ is offered and accepted. No points for guessing what that ‘something’ is. It could be a petty job, a bike, few thousand rupees cash, a gas connection, a road and in many cases some food and a ride to polling station.

Now, they vote for a candidate who enunciates what and whom he stands against (Remember TLYRA and Master Rizvi’s Vision)

Factors like irrational love of some mighty, charismatic person, bonds of caste and biradari, peer pressure and craving to belong, massive groupthink, herd mentality, an innate desire to please a friend or family member override the basic reasonable consideration of choosing the lesser evil. An individual voter, barring few exceptions, knows for a fact that his vote is an instrument for petty, short term gains. And those who dabble in electoral politics know this fact very well and steer them voters accordingly.

With democracy outliving its dawn and well into its twilight, fewer and fewer believers in high and lofty ideals of democracy remain. After the Brexit referendum in UK, rise of Right Wing fanatics in European and Asian countries and an unexpected win of Trump as US president democracy has been reduced to the status of a deplorable outcast in the very land where it was once considered inviolable and invincible.

The bigot and the zealot, once shunned and ridiculed, have become saviors of a world where everybody with a smartphone and social media presence is condemned to their own echo chambers and virtual bubbles. A world of appearances, a world where style beats substance nine out of ten times, a world where droves of charismatic folks in every walk of life believe that becoming a leader is an end in itself rather than a mean to attain an ideal through sweat, self-denial and sacrifice.

Elections are a mode to elect representatives. They are a tool, a mechanism to keep the greater ideal of democracy working. The whole edifice, dear reader, of democracy, it may seem, with all its bells and minarets, its glory and grandeur stands crippled beyond repair or redemption. All the lofty ideas, all the tall claims, all the hymns about all things nice and good are all set to dash. I’ve written it before and will reiterate it a million times again that in the sphere of politics the single most important ideal worth living for-and worth dying for-is democracy.

Alas, we love to hate it.

We, the good folks hooked on novelty, fixated on information and thriving on hearsay seek new things every minute. Once in democracies all over, folks voted for what a party and candidate stood for (Remember Roti, Kapra, Makaan). Now, they vote for a candidate who enunciates what and whom he stands against (Remember TLYRA and Master Rizvi’s Vision).

So, dear reader, the time to pick and choose is upon us. The choices we make, trust me on this one, makes us.

Hope you had a Blessed Eid.