A nation hold its breath – Pakistan’s 2013 Election

“People started caring, and that’s an accomplishment for Pakistan.”

A nation holds its breath.
The scene, Pakistan’s polling stations. The players, Pakistan’s citizens. The men, women, the young people, the old. The rich upper-classes and the poor citizens. The famous stars and the ordinary public. The story, Pakistan’s day of elections. Landmark amounts of voters crowd by the thousands, queuing up to enter dusty huts, busy polling station, hot, crowded offices and buildings to give their votes. Scenes of voters, politicians, news broadcasters, are on everywhere on television, it’s almost as if the World Cup is playing. But this is a different game, Pakistan fights for its new motto ‘Change for Pakistan’ being echoed everywhere. Voters everywhere proudly hold up their insignia – purple ink on their thumbs to signify their votes, and show how they have done their part to make tomorrow a memorable day.

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Why this buzz? What makes this election so different, so full of tension?

Because the change is being campaigned for by the charismatic Imran Khan, former Pakistan cricket captain, currently a politician, party leader, philanthropist and a man described as “Pakistan’s favourite son”. It can certainly be said that he has won a the nation’s heart, or at least, half of it, as the other half seems to be pushing for his opponent. Yet in such a critical stage of Pakistan’s state of affairs, where the previous President Musharraf is currently on the run in exile, over fears of Taliban’s involvement of affairs, and where corruption appears to  be the norm, Khan represents the beacon which goes against all these. It’s no wonder, then, that he has won the hearts of so many in Pakistan so easily, he refuses to conform to the usual money-grubbing politics of his predecessors, and instead looks to making Pakistan a better places – so far he has campaigned to build hospitals for the poor, gained the love of the ‘bluejean- and T-shirt-clad youth of the country’ and has taken advantage of the discontent that is forming over the political elite.

I first became aware of Imran Khan’s mission to ‘change Pakistan’ from his manifesto, of sorts, entitled Pakistan: A Personal History, which pushes for a new way forward, and speaks of wanting to re-unite founder of Pakistan’s Jinnah’s ideals with the idea of a new Pakistan, through the medium of his own political party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice). Khan has since risen through the ranks, becoming more visible in his bid to equalise the rich and the poor, and has particularly charmed the young people.

I was not born in Pakistan, nor do I understand a lot of its politics, I regard myself as Pakistani nevertheless. I have not been to Pakistan for several years, and I would not be able to name all its provinces, rivers or famous landmarks, but this does not mean that I don’t feel a connection with the country, or that I cannot see it’s beauty. My parents are from Pakistan. I have friends from there. I maintain an interest in the country’s affairs, even if I don’t know it as extensively as I may understand British politics. It is easy, then to understand the love for the belovedly-named ‘Skipper’, and the feeling of anticipation which have been growing in the last few months, or even couple of years as Khan’s political party, PTI, has been gaining momentum.

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A nation holds its breath.
The tension, excitement and anticipation has been growing for weeks. It feels like the buzz is everywhere. It’s even seeped into fashion, literature, social media, television, charity events. The ‘I K Kurtas‘ have been showcased on catwalks, and are sold out. Twitter is ablaze with comments, pushing for change, pushing for a ‘naya‘ (new) Pakistan, pushing for a shedding of the old. Rallies follow Imran Khan and his party, who makes a point of appealing to the young, to the poor and to the unfortunate who have previously been ignored.

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A nation holds its breath.
On 7th May 2013, Imran Khan falls from a lifted platform. The result, he rises even more in star-dom, in the nation’s sympathy, and in the polls. While I question how much of the resulting scenes was manipulated to his advantage – Imran Khan woos the voters while on his hospital bed – it certainly has had the desired effect, in that single moment, the undecided voters seem to be following the Khan supporters. Bloggers point out how Khan lies on an ordinary bed surrounded by six other patients (while his opponent, Sharif, is flanked by expensive bodyguards and demands private care), news-broadcasters show images of the public crying and kissing Khan’s posters, and Khan himself humbly excuse himself and proclaimed that the deciding power would be with the people:

“I have done whatever I could do for my country and I did it because Allah blessed me – but on the 11 May decide your destiny. It is time for you to take the responsibility to make a new Pakistan.”

A nation holds its breath.
I don’t often write (or read!) about politics – it’s messy, complex, and depressing. But this has been hard to ignore. Live commentaries have been running on the voting polls all day. My parents have been following avidly on the Pakistani Channel GEO, friends have been regularly updating their Facebook and Twitter statuses to show their support for Khan, and acquaintances who live in Pakistan are giving a blow-by-blow account of their day as they elected. I find it interesting that friends who previously had no interest in Pakistan politics are just as gripped as their Pakistani counterparts in the outcome of today, and supporting Imran Khan avidly. It helps that we can identify with him – like us, he too lived in the UK, like us, he married an English woman, and like (some of) us, he is returning to his roots. Certainly I can say that I am more in tune with my heritage now than I was ten years ago. It helps that we see Imran Khan as ‘one of us’, he is the iconic representation of East-meets-West, and perhaps even of Pakistan finally coming to terms with itself and settling its unrest.

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A nation holds its breath.
A momentous day in the country’s history, however, it not un-marred – there have already been several reports of violence, voters have been speaking of their frustrations of not being able to vote cleanly, and there is already uncertainty about whether Imran Khan really does, as his followers has been insisting, ‘have it in the bag’. Imran Khan’s work finally has come to a momentum after nearly two decades, months of campaigning, years of bidding, weeks of rallies and a final, tense few days of a message – ‘Change for Pakistan’. No one knows what the outcome is yet, as votes are being counted and polling stations are now closed.

The final question, really, is: Will Pakistan be able to change even if Imran Khan does not win the election? How much of this was part of the campaigns, and how much will his fall, both actual (from the lift) and the potential (from politics) affect the country? WIll the public eschew the idea of change and go for a tried-and-tested means of leadership in the opponent, Sharif? Nobody knows yet, and will not know until the resulting after the election.

All I can say now is, whatever the verdict, I hope that the people of Pakistan can continue the chain of hope and change witnessed over the last few months. There have been stories of kind acts, jubilation over the strength of Pakistani’s spirit and dedication, and an amazing amount of involvement from the citizens, the famous celebrities, the students, the poor and of course, the over-seas spectators.

For now, we are all holding our breaths.

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Also submitted as part of the Weekly Writing Challenge post
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4 thoughts on “A nation hold its breath – Pakistan’s 2013 Election

  1. Wonderful post little sis. As an Imran Khan supporter and well-wisher, we didn’t get the result we hoped for, but I am hopeful that the new prime minister can still make an improvement on current conditions: no electricity, limited gas and petrol, sectarian violence, terrorism, high crime, unprecedented inflation. The two Sharif brothers have done lots of good in the past, hence their massive following in Punjab. I wish Pakistan well and pray for its people and hope that this election means a page is turned for the country after the horror of the last few years

  2. Anonymous

    Really good post, I think you captured the essence of this event wonderfully. I pray that Imran Khan, even though he didn’t win, will continue to have a much needed positive effect on Pakistan and it people

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