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May 10, 2013

Independents: longing to serve with no strings attached

Top Story

May 10, 2013

Meet the political nobodies. They don’t belong to a political party and may have zero chances of winning, yet they are adamant that they will exercise their democratic right — the right to contest the general elections.
With a bucket as an election symbol, independent candidate Advocate Shafiq Awan, like a true Pakistani, smells controversy in everything around him, including his election symbol.
“All the good symbols were given to political parties. We were given a choice between a goat, sparrow, spanner, bucket and iron stand. I wanted to choose an election symbol with a deeper meaning attached to it,” he protests.
As many as 1,003 independents are in the race: about 432 are contesting for the National Assembly and 571 for the Sindh Assembly.
Dressed in simple shalwar kameez and a waist coat, Awan, a lawyer, has never joined a political party despite his passion for politics, because he thinks all politicians are secretly working for intelligence agencies around the world. “Be it RAW, CIA, Mossad, Saudi or Iranian intelligence agencies. This is why after 1970 nothing was done to resolve the energy crisis.”
The lawyer is contesting for NA-250 against stalwarts like Khushbakht Shujaat from the MQM, Arif Alvi from the PTI and Naimatullah from the JI, and he knows he doesn’t stand a chance. Yet he will contest.
“Winning and losing is part of the game, but at least I am part of the race,” he smiles.
He distributes his election manifesto, a yellow paper with his picture, mobile phone number and some pointers written in Urdu. The manifesto promises a minimum wage of Rs18,000, loans without interest to the needy ranging from Rs100,000 to Rs5,000,000, and free space of 12 yards for the living and two yards for the dead.
His campaign includes quiet meetings over tea at his office, for he is scared he will be attacked if he gets noticed. “You know how politicians are being attacked every other day.”
Then there is

Haji Usman Ghani in Ibrahim Hyderi, contesting for a provincial seat, PS-129.
For the fishing village where potable water is a distant dream and walls smeared with words like “give water, take our votes” is a common sight, he promises people clean water.
He goes a step ahead, and promises fishermen relief from the tit-for-tat arrests that India and Pakistan regularly make.
Only recently, on May 4, Ghani held a rally at sea — literally. He took 50 boats of fishermen, gave them lifejackets and addressed them while they bobbed in the sea.
Locals believe that Ghani might not garner more than 500 votes, but he’s hopeful nevertheless.
“God willing, I will sweep the elections. I have served my constituency well. For six years I have worked at schools in my area, imparted education to fishermen,” he says.
Ghani is contesting against candidates from the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and 15 other independent candidates.
Also in the race is Jibran Nasir contesting for PS-113 and NA-250 with a reindeer as his election symbol. He appears to be the most famous independent candidate in Karachi, with a reasonable social media presence.
“Vote Azad, Vote Jibran” goes the tagline of his election campaign which is steady. It involves meetings at friends’ houses or places like the T2F and using the social media. He has even come up with an election manifesto, which includes sub-heads specific to his constituency.
It includes working for a diplomatic enclave which will push consulates and embassies outside the city, pushing back the walls of the Bilawal House from the street it is located on, and stationing police at sensitive places like Korangi Road and Punjab Chowrangi.
With a degree in law from Lecole for Advanced Studies and Northumbria School of Law, he is passionate about giving back to his country. “Everything from the national anthem I sing to the parks I walk in, I owe it to my country,” he wrote in a blog post.

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