Thursday June 13, 2024

Burgeoning hope, looming uncertainties

Undying yearning to escape into comfort of another world is a theme that has attracted volumes of literature

By Raoof Hasan
January 26, 2024
A man casts his vote as a soldier stands guard at a polling station during the general election in Karachi. — AFP/File
A man casts his vote as a soldier stands guard at a polling station during the general election in Karachi. — AFP/File

“I am tired, tired of being enclosed here. I am wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart, but really with it, and in it.” – Emily Bronte: ‘Wuthering Heights’

The undying yearning to escape into the comfort of another world is a theme that has attracted volumes of literature. Through centuries, it has continued to attract people, even haunt them. They have lived by the hope that tomorrow shall bring in tidings of promise, delivering the suffering millions from the misery of today. Despite repeated frustrations, this hope refuses to die. It always manages to survive even if it were to do so in the tiniest of crevices it can find shelter in. It nurtures itself to stay alive.

We seem to be caught up in a similar interplay of hope and despondency, moving from one extreme to the other in quick succession. It is like a pendulum that always stays in motion to keep stirring people’s imagination for things to change for the better. This hope works like an ointment. It is a healer of countless incisions inflicted upon people by leaders who have come to rule this country. They have done so mercilessly, and they have done so remorselessly. Not a speck of compunction has ever been visible.

Through decades, we have also witnessed certain individuals becoming the receptacle of people’s hopes and aspirations. But these hopes have been quickly and cruelly dashed forcing them to start looking for another messiah. From one to the next, they have been caught up in a perpetual cycle of deceit on the one hand and agony on the other. Yet, somehow, hope has survived the rigours of multiple such inflictions.

Going by all past benchmarks, the hope and passion associated with the outcome of the February 8 election is unprecedented. It is as if the day has been coloured with good omens coming to people to transform their fate and light up avenues for them to tread to salvation. They are clinging to it ever so passionately, but ever so desperately also. While passion remains a natural sentiment, their desperation is born out of countless setbacks they have suffered in the past when promises made did not materialize, thus piling up further agony for them to endure. In the process, it is patience that seemed to give way to being immersed in piles of unthinkable eventualities. Yet the heart keeps pounding.

Ten days from election time, people are caught up in an interplay of burgeoning hope and looming uncertainties. While they are clinging to hope to finally chisel a path to their salvation, it is the latter aspect casting a shadow of gloom. The path lit up by hope remains immersed in piles of uncertainties to necessitate a reality check. And many real-time factors contribute to this interplay of hope and uncertainty.

The first and foremost is whether the election process is going to be free and fair, or if it is going to be mired by engineering to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others. This practice has always cast a shadow of pain in the past but, because of the realities, the level of rigging required this time to alter the outcome would be monumental. As the groundswell points to a landslide victory of one party over the rest, this factor, if employed to alter the results, may cause unrest which could spiral into violence.

But, by all indications, a free and fair election does not appear to be a possibility. The power wielders have become patently partisan which is reflected in every move they have made since the unconstitutional toppling of the Imran Khan government. From the arrest of the PTI’s chairman-for-life on the basis of fake and fraudulent charges to denying him his constitutional rights and systematic crippling of the party structure using the entire state apparatus at its most brutal, to the prolonged incarceration of hundreds of its workers, to the enforced disappearance of its leadership and their ultimate conversion to espouse new concoctions thrown in the field, to snatching nomination papers from its candidates to kidnapping their proposers and seconders, to denying a level-playing field to its workers to conduct political activities – every trick in their kitty has been tried to stop the PTI from participating in the elections.

But there is a factor that blocks the path of the manipulators: it is the passion of the PTI followers that refuses to die. Despite the harrowing treatment they have suffered, they are out there vowing their support to Imran Khan and the party. They are doing this when their houses have been raided and ransacked repeatedly in the thick of the night, their businesses destroyed, their accounts blocked, their near and dear ones confined in illegal custody for indefinite periods, and when there is a shadow of fear constantly hanging over their heads. But such is the passion that they don’t want to give in as they wait for election day to cast their votes to change the fate they have suffered through countless years and innumerable botched promises.

And Khan is leading them from behind his prison bars with an undying resolve. Having dented the hopes of his captors, he is rewriting the political history of the country in no uncertain terms. Those who thought that he would be forgotten once removed from power were not prepared to encounter a person who only lives by his ideals and whose vocabulary does not contain the word retreat. He is a fighter whose heart beats with the deprived people of his country and his principal charter has always been to bring relief to them. His poor-friendly schemes, be they part of the Ehsaas Programme or his refusal to clamp a shutdown during the times of Covid and depriving the impoverished people of their means to survive, remain a testament to his noble mission which he followed fearlessly.

He leads from the prison, but he is always present in the front, energizing his charges to ensure that they not only vote on February 8; they also guard its sanctity and ensure that no one steals it. That is how they will change the fate of the country, and that of their own.

Notwithstanding the looming uncertainties, it is the insurmountable passion of people that has become the driver to their destination. It is the power of their vote that they will use to gain power for themselves. The citadels of the arrogant are already wobbly with tremors of fear.

The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts @RaoofHasan