May 11th, 2013 – The Pakistani equivalent of Tahrir Square.
The preceding election campaign, however chaotic, has made me realise that at any point in life, you can do something valuable for your country, that even in this world of stringent customs and norms, you can do your bit. From Saniya Naz, a 26-year-old woman standing against tyranny in chaos-stricken Lyari (Karachi), to Bindia Rana, Pakistan’s first transgender candidate, we all can see how Pakistanis are moving forward. The media has mobilised voters like never before and it has been an adventurous pathway that Pakistanis had never traversed together. We sat together in front of our screens to watch jalsas, to sigh over motivational speeches, to pray for Imran Khan’s health, to bite our lips over countless streams of ‘breaking news’.
For me, today’s morning was reminiscent of Eid mornings, when my father and brother return from their Eid prayers and I hug them heartily, wishing them Eid Mubarak. At 8.30, my mother’s voice woke me up today; she informed while going out, “We’re going to vote, stay safe.” But I wouldn’t just doze off while they were away. I wanted to be as much a part of this frenzy, this josh and jazba as they were. So I sat in front of the TV, my eyes glued to the screen, watching people cast their votes throughout Pakistan. I sat there praying that all would go well at the stations, that everyone’s families would return home safely. And once mine did, I felt a surge of victory, the sudden urge to hug them and cry out, “Yay, we did it!” As my mother recounted all the neighbours she met there, plus old friends who had come from different areas to cast votes, I was proud. Proud of being a Pakistani, proud of being part of a nation that has realised that these elections matter, proud to say that the whole nation united to perform a national duty.
A reporter on BBC showed how a long line of women were waiting to cast their votes in a village outside Islamabad. She congratulated them, “Shabaash!” And when an elderly woman hobbled in, supported by a man and a cane in the other hand, the reporter herself was amazed by the determination and spirit that is running through Pakistanis. It is as if it’s the World Cup finale, we have entered the arena and we will make sure we win this time as a nation and show the world how powerful we can be.
Each one of us knows that these oncoming hours will reveal our fate for the next five years, let us all pray it is a good one.