“I have strong political opinions, I dislike them all!” This was my standard comment in the days and weeks leading up to the 2018 elections in Pakistan. When I woke up on election morning, however, something was different.
I could be paranoid but the air just seemed fresher, the grass greener and the sky bluer. Perhaps it was the promise of change, led by us, and with it a sense of empowerment, a flutter of hope and a rush of optimism.
And while I was not invested in any single candidate; in fact, I disagreed grossly with all at some level, I remained glued to the screen. Trying to make sense of the band at the bottom of every major news channel depicting the number of seats each party was winning – I participated on and off in the familiar background political banter/battle ranging from the accusations of rigging to the echoes of ‘Naya Pakistan’.
By 2 a.m. the political tide had settled on Kaptaan and the rhetoric had shifted to the distribution of power in the provinces. I, too, had calmed down slightly but into a strange kind of limbo – a part of me was excited about the new face looking back at me from my television screen, promising a much-needed change – but another part of me remained sceptical.
A week on, I was being chauffeured around the unfamiliar streets of Lahore (I recently moved here) in search of uniform shops to prepare for the new school year, when I suddenly noticed the stalls of green paraphernalia that dotted the landscape. Not quite being able to contain my squeals of excitement, I urged my driver to stop at the closest one. My heart was exploding green as my eyes took in the familiar badges, stickers and hundreds of flags in all sizes! My sons, too, began jumping with joy as we attempted to squeeze one of the largest flags we could find into the car!
Smiling ear to ear on my drive home I re-examined my sentiments regarding this ‘Naya Pakistan’ that everyone had so much to say about. My thoughts flittered from Hero the donkey and the savages who heartlessly enjoyed torturing him, to the gentle souls who rescued, cared for and comforted him in his last days.
I recalled the blast in Quetta on the day of the election but along with that distressing thought, I also remembered the record high numbers of senior and disabled citizens who came out to vote this year; my mind reeled between the murders of Qandeel Baloch and little Zainab; and, finally settled on the news that intense public pressure to arrest the culprit was instrumental in the unprecedented search by almost all law enforcement and secret service agencies which carried out questioning and DNA profiling of over 1,100 people – until finally, the suspect was sentenced to death last week.
And all these thoughts brought me to one conclusion.
That, yes we are sceptics and rightly so, given our history. We have heard the same political rhetoric time and again with little to no change. But the truth is that the only way to bring about ‘Naya Pakistan’ is through us – the puraanay loag.
Look around you and within you…there is so much promise in each one of us! Let us not wait for someone else to lead us to victory. Let us lead ourselves.
Don’t break that traffic light but do break your silence because together, whether the Sher wins or the Balla – jeet humaari hi hai!
It may be Pakistan’s 71st birthday but in many ways, it is the country’s re-birth. At least, I hope it is.
It’s all up to us, now.
Always and forever, inshAllah!