- What Pakistanis hope from the elections?
The most awaited day of the year has almost come. On that day, Pakistanis would exercise their right to choose the person to lead their nation, or at least they think they would. On that ominous day, the future of Pakistan’s next few years would be carved. On that day, it would be hoped that a new era which aims to end misery and bring glory will usher in the country. However, we all know that it would take more than just wishful thinking for Pakistan to rise above the hurdles it faces today to reach its true potential. For the hurdles are many.
When casting the vote, what would each Pakistani be hoping to help address? The slogan or rather question of roti, kapra aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter) still remains unanswered. Undernourishment in Pakistan is estimated to be about 18 percent of the entire population, as stated in a review last year related to food security and nutrition, while in the year 2015, housing shortage in Pakistan had reached a figure of nine million units. With growing slums and street accommodations in metropolitan cities of the country, even without latest research available, one cannot possibly expect this figure to have drastically come down.
And when we talk of metropolitan cities, the former capital and now the commercial capital of the country, Karachi, struggles to receive its daily quota of drinking water. While Karachi’ites continue to pay the government tax, what they receive is water from a mafia of private tankers which is used for mainly washing and cooking in exchange of an exorbitant charge. For drinking purpose, in most cities bottled water which is supposedly spring water is purchased from the market. This luxury is available only to those who can afford, which means the masses, i.e more than 20 million Pakistanis do not have access to clean and safe drinking water.
And talking of water, how can we forget about the shrinking reserves of Pakistan, with the country expected to go dry by the year 2025, if current situation prevails. It has taken a charity drive to raise some hopes for two dams to be built, when the requirement for many more has remained an issue for decades. This means that the citizens of Pakistan are paying taxes as well as contributing charity towards a project which is primarily the state’s responsibility. This means all the governments which have been coming and going in between, did nothing more than deliberate on the issue. As a tax paying Pakistani citizen, I would expect that the next such project is taken up by the democratically elected government, chosen by the people for the people.
For many, the smooth rides of impressive infrastructure may still be a magnetic pull, for others there is no gravitational effect when the rides lead to dead ends, with new inroads leading to vacant schools and non performing hospitals
As a Pakistani, I would like to see more freedom for women; in terms of their rights to education and employment, but above all, for the right to live and express freely. I would like the women in Pakistan to live without fear of harassment, violence and honour killing. I would want to live to see the day when the female population of our country makes her own decisions for life: about marriage and motherhood, about lifestyle, about mobility. Can I hope that the next government would take serious steps towards feminist issues?
And can we all hope, that the next government would also work to bring the minorities in the mainstream? Our fellow Pakistanis, the Hindus, the Christians, the Sikhs and also the Ahmadis, can they also be treated as Pakistanis more than their identity of faith? Can we, some day, rise above the politics of religion and look at each other as human beings first? Can we hope, that sectarian violence, extremism and victimisation on the basis of one’s belief would cease to exist in our country?
Can we expect the next democratically elected government to allow us our constitutional right of freedom of speech? Can the category of ‘missing’ persons vanish from our vocabulary? Can we, as journalists, freely ask questions and get at least a courageous and open hearted attitude to answer in return?
Many still doubt the authenticity and reliability of the whole exercise of elections. The shadows and fears that they would be rigged, just like they were in the past or are engineered to produce desired results persist owing to the fact that allegations of rigging arose after mostly every election in the country. Many think that the key events shaping the country’s present political scenario were in fact, controlled and created by some in such a way that a populist belief resulted naturally.
But there are still many who beg to disagree. Besides the doubt, there emerges a renewed faith that this time, performance and not empty promises would prevail. For people have started questioning traditional players about what contribution they actually made while in power. For many, the smooth rides of impressive infrastructure may still be a magnetic pull, for others there is no gravitational effect when the rides lead to dead ends, with new inroads leading to vacant schools and non performing hospitals, as many of the next generation continues to be born on the streets and more of the present succumb to death while waiting to get some medical help.
My wish list doesn’t seem to end. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. But then beggars can’t be choosers. We choose from what is offered to us. So, we elect the next government among those who are willing to rule us. But we have the wisdom to judge right from wrong. For each candidate, we have the past and present to compare. The choice remains ours and it is us who would make or break our future. For some, this is also wishful thinking.