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Not asking for the sky

So the big day is here. The right thing to do is to go out and vote. Shelve scepticism for today at least. You`ll have five long years to rekindle it.

No, that wasn`t a cynical statement. Optimism abounds if you have been to political rallies and heard leaders speaking of hope, of a tomorrow pregnant with promise: promise of change, of equal opportunity, of good governance, of uninterrupted power supply. Vote for them. Those were, of course, the ones who were free to hold and speak at huge rallies and to campaign.

Then there were those who weren`t at liberty to speak but tried valiantly. Spare a thoughtfor the over100 people who were murdered by the Taliban for merely trying to exercise their democratic right to campaign, to canvass.

Vote for them. Salute them. You could also vote for the seemingly sorriest of the lot. The party with a populist past, a history of sacrifices which left its `jiyalas` orphaned, its cadres rudderless perhaps, hoping its current leadership`s ability to wheel and deal would compensate for its lack of interest in any public contact.

It would be in bad taste on polling day to talk of corruption and of rampant lawlessness in Karachi, the capital of its power base Sindh. For balance, the Benazir Income Support Programme should be referred to which helped some of the poorest in the country.

What if it delivers the votes` bonanza the party hopes for? Who knows? All the pundits, who in the past were eager to stick their necks out, are taking no risks, despite being prodded. Their final breakdown of seats is predicated on so many intangibles it leaves one none the wiser.

So, if you passionately wish your party to win or are cer-tain it will deliver on its pledges do go out and vote. This may be your last chance. Imagine, what`ll happen if talks with the Taliban fail. The talks the two major parties, fighting for a lion`s share of the vote in the Punjab, are calling for.

The rightward lurch in the country, which may have started in Zulfikar AliBhutto`s final days in office but gathered lethal momentum in that horrible, nightmarish long night that was the Zia era, may now be heading towards its logical conclusion.

If not checked it might devour democracy too. But shun all negative thoughts on this wonderful day and dream. Be filled with hope, be buoyant with optimism. Look around you at countries we so ardently revere, so attentively listen to, and you`ll realise that they are so bereft of representative rule it can`t be holy. Be grateful.

I am. For only democracy allows me to write what I want. Yes and unbridled freedom of speech allows us journalists the freedom to not only be objective but also to push and peddle our own agendas, biases. Like the imperfect democracy we have had, the media too will take time to learn.

Let`s hope that after the elections, after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan the party or parties in power candevelop a national consensus that our army seeks to crush the biggest existential threat facing the country today. Yes, the Taliban do represent the kind of darkness that threatens to make most of us forget loadshedding. Be optimistic that having lost over 3,500 lives of their own brave men all the defence forces await is a consensus to crush those who mock us, our Constitution and our democracy.

The Taliban may have spared some political parties their wrath, while targeting others, merely to drive a wedge between entities all of which believe in, and want to be a part of, the democratic process, but there is no mistaking that one by one they`ll target all. They have priorities, no friends.

The economy ails without doubt. But economic growth against the backdrop of a global recession can hardly be expected when terror stalks large parts of the country by night as it does by day.

Let`s hope we can sort out the mess so the economy can get moving, jobs are created, inflation dips. When the security environment registers an improvement we may also focus attention on multiple priorities. We need to.Itis desirable for thousands of commuters to have a system to carry them across huge urban conurbations.

You`d agree it is equally vital, for example, to have proper fire-fighting and rescue equipment and the ability to extract people caught up in fires in high-rises before we allow multistoreyed buildings with no sprinklers or, secondary fire escapes.

The elite seem to have long assumed that since they have state of the art medical facilities and because their children go to schools from where it is a short hop to the Ivy League institutions, there is no need to invest in health and education. We can only continue on this path at our own peril.

We all know the plethora ofissues that awaits the government the people choose. For the moment let`s celebrate a historic (not a cliché) election which will see a transition from one elected government to another; and not from a military regime to a quasi-military government.

Vote today so in five years you can re-elect those who have delivered or reject those who have let you down. Vote for new, reconditioned, dry cleaned or whatever you believe Pakistan ought to be but make sure that you deliver a riposte to those who question the merits of representative rule.

Most of all vote for peace, stability, sanity and a level playing field so that the next election is contested across the federation free of fear and not just in one province; so campaigns, candidates and voters call the shots everywhere and not terrorists. It is a big ask but try anyway.•

The writer is a former editor of Dawn. abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Abbas Nasir, "Not asking for the sky," Dawn. 2013-05-11.
Keywords: Social sciences , Political parties , Economic growth , Social media , Social issues , Society-Pakistan , Journalists , Taliban , Democracy , Elections , Loadshedding , Zulfikar AliBhutto , United States , Afghanistan , Pakistan