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Aasim Zafar Khan
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
From Print Edition

The one word to take away from Elections 2013 is ‘burger’, because allegedly, these upper middle class yuppies, aka burgers, decided to come out of their centrally air-conditioned homes and vehicles, wearing their expensive clothes, branded sunglasses, and sunblock of course, to vote for their leader, the supreme double patty beef burger, Imran Khan.

Do we finally have a definition of what constitutes a burger? Not really. Burgers are much more intricate: they drive snazzy vehicles; use gel in their hair; smell good; have expensive smartphones in their hands; live a vibrant virtual life on Facebook and Twitter; converse in English; are susceptible to high temperatures and humidity; are often seen at fashion shows and the latest eateries; and occasionally travel abroad for leisure as well.

But that doesn’t make them any less or more Pakistani than anyone else. Their vote is as powerful or as powerless as the one owned by a farmer, a labourer, a rickshaw driver and a kiosk owner.

There are many things that the PTI and Imran Khan have done for Pakistan for which we must be grateful. Right atop that list is the political awakening of this upper middle class. It’s something no other party or leader has been able to do in Pakistan’s 66 year history. And just because they’re new, young and vocal, and voting PTI, they are being mocked.

How did Imran manage this? I like to believe that it goes back to his career as a cricketer, the World Cup win, and later his initial rounds to gather funds for the cancer hospital. Sport is a great equaliser, and cricket is no different. Imran became the role model of a very large number of people, the haves and have nots alike.

This support was galvanised with Pakistan’s greatest sporting glory in 1992, and later Imran went on a college and school tour across Pakistan to recruit young children to join his drive for the cancer hospital. A lot of young children managed to come face-to-face with their icon then, and from that time onwards, Imran’s name was permanently etched in their minds. Which is why, when his rallying cry for a new Pakistan was heard across Pakistan, people responded. He already had a connection with them.

But coming back to the ongoing mockery of this group, it is malicious to say the least, and will have far-reaching negative effects on the country.

Pakistan is already a most fractured country. We are segregated by religion, sub-religion, language, ethnicity, tradition, and culture. Members of one cannot stand the other, and some even believe that killing the other is justified.

And we just added a whole new dimension to this. This entire ‘burger business’ will create further fractures within Pakistani society at a time when we need cohesiveness and unity. Now, apparently, you can point out a PTI supporter and place him or her in a societal box by the clothes they wear and how they conduct themselves. Just like you can point out a member of the Hazara community. Is that a bad example? Not at all. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it bad.

It is most ironic that the one platform that played a vital role in the coming of Imran Khan and the PTI is now also playing its part in sidelining this segment of our society. The media should have refrained from allowing some hosts/guests of theirs from using terms such as ‘burger’, ‘mummy, daddy’ etc. They should have also not laughed when these terms were used. Such behaviour is unacceptable, and unbecoming of an institution the entire country looks up to. Is that the message you want to send out, that you mock the young generation?

Side note to the new voters: what good is all this education, and exposure, of yours if you’re going to behave like goons, using foul language and violence just because others don’t agree with your point of view? Rather than stoop to someone else’s level, it’s best to maintain high ground. Trust me, that’s the place to be.

Earlier this morning, I came across the following post by a friend on Facebook: “I am burger and proud! The next time anyone else claims they are not and walks around wearing a T-shirt, a vest, underwear, jeans sunglasses, non-desi chappals, shoes, drives a motorised vehicle, carries a mobile, uses the Internet, smokes a cigarette, or does anything that didn’t originate in the Subcontinent, perhaps they too will realise that they are burgers. Perhaps we are bun kebabs, because we are bilingual, chew on pan, eat parathas and kulfi, wear shalwar kameez, saris, burqas, understand words such as poondi and juggar or whatever other desi habit we choose. Please get over these pointless labels and start marching forward for betterment.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, burger.

The writer is a media consultant and trainer.

He tweets: @aasimzkhan

Email: [email protected]