Momentous things are happening in our national politics. The media is in a state of frenzy. There is euphoria, but very little cause for celebration.
There is a classic case of a person trying to help a butterfly in a cocoon by trying to slit it open to help it emerge. Though it is carried out with good intentions, this act actually damages the butterfly. The struggle of emerging from the cocoon is nature’s way of helping it grow and survive.
Such is the case of our democracy. Too many meddling hands don’t allow it to go through its natural struggle whereby it learns from mistakes and evolves. The stop-gap practices, shortcuts and interferences – albeit done with pure intentions – do lasting damage and confuse the electorate. As a result, with the election only days away, there is hardly anyone who can say with a clear mind and conscience that they support a certain party or individual.
Many people don’t even feel like going to the polls to cast their votes.
So much for finding leaders who are ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’.
The voters are in a state of confusion. Some are swayed by sympathy, others are rejoicing – but a little sheepishly because the political ground doesn’t appear to be fair. Many leaders have exposed their feet of clay. No one seems pristine enough to command open and unabashed devotion. No wonder the electorate is confused.
The tried and tested monarchies of the Sharifs and Bhuttos are clashing with the relatively untested Pied Piper in the shape of Imran Khan, who is unfortunately aided by the same old faces and turncoats. This is a classic case of old wine in new bottles.
How unfortunate is it that in a country of 220 million, the leaders on the horizon are such that we can’t even proudly admit that we are going to vote for them. I will celebrate when there are no ifs and buts when we choose a leader. When we don’t have to say: we should give him a chance because at least he isn’t corrupt. Or: he is corrupt, but at least his government has done much more development work than any other elected government did in the past. Or: they are corrupt, but their ideology is sound.
I will celebrate when politicians speak less and act more. When their actions speak for themselves and show that they have kept the promises made so lightly and carelessly during election campaigns.
It will be time to celebrate when men don’t use (or misuse) women to gain popularity, sympathy or for smear campaign. When men don’t depend on the ghosts of their women to win elections or defeat their opponents.
There will be cause for celebration when not one but all corrupt leaders are brought to book. When justice is dispensed universally and not selectively, then justice will look like justice, not like political victimisation. When a level playing field is provided for all aspirants and no one is sidelined by blasts, cases and below-the-belt tactics.
There will definitely be cause for celebration when politicians choose their partners on the basis of merit, competence, capability and a sincere desire to serve their people rather than greed for power and position.
There was a time when politics was not a dirty word. Men and women of merit and substance entered politics to try and lend a hand in nation-building. Now, entering this field is equivalent to exposing oneself and one’s family to all forms of vulgar attacks and accusations, which can ruin a person’s reputation. The damage is done before a person has a chance to clear his/her name.
How wonderful would it be to see people keep their eyes and ears open, and refrain from electing leaders who have let them down before? Wouldn’t it be better for people judge a candidate’s value by what he or she has actually done in a position of power rather than relying on a few empty promises he or she has made?
I wonder when we will learn to be less emotional and more rational. When will we realise that things aren’t so black and white? We have to learn to decipher between good and bad. We have to learn to appreciate all the good actions that are done and not negate or belittle them just because they were carried out by a person or party that we don’t like.
We have to learn that leaders are not demigods. They can and do make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to their genuine contributions. If nation-building actions are not recognised and appreciated by the people, leaders will cease to carry out such actions. There will be cause for celebration when each institution stays within its limits and sphere of responsibility, and allows democracy to grow and flourish. When rash actions don’t produce unlikely heroes among politicians.
Eating mithai and dancing in the street by a few stragglers is not real celebration. There is no euphoria. The untimely deaths of aspirants and their followers in terrorist attacks have cast a pall over the election campaign. Aladdin’s lantern hasn’t so far produced anyone who is sadiq and ameen.
The writer is the project coordinator for a Pak-German humanitarian organisation and a freelance writer.