I had the opportunity to interact with the media during a wedding gathering recently. My question to all of them was, “will we ever have an honest ballot in Pakistan?” Instead of an answer, a counter-question would repeatedly arise: “Why?” According to them, no one is interested in a credible electoral exercise as it brings real leadership into power that can then stand face to face with the forces of the status-quo. The Khakis, Baboos, Qazis and corrupt politicians sitting in assemblies get shivers when they even think of such an eventuality. Under prevailing circumstances, it is almost impossible to have a free and fair election.

According to them, the first and last honest ballot in 1970 caused the break-up of Quaid’s Pakistan. The establishment was unable to deal with credible political leadership and responded with guns and bullets to blunt the ballot. The Khakis had to surrender before the will of the people. Mujib-ur-Rehman emerged as the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) took control of what was left. Since then, the forces of status-quo have ensured ten manipulated ballots from 1977 to 2013. ZAB finally ended up in the gallows but his 1973 constitution lives on as a beacon of light and hope for the nation.

It is indeed interesting that when we, the students of the sixties and seventies decided to challenge the might of the first Khaki usurper, he published his autobiography with the title ‘Friends not Masters”. He wrote in the preface of the book, ‘No one gives you freedom you have to fight for it; no one fights for your freedom you have to fight for it’. The statement proved to be a teaser and stimulant and the young comrades of change came onto the streets chanting, ‘Ayub Khutta (Dog) Hay Hay’. The brute force of the state was let loose but we fought on. Like most strongmen, he too proved to be a bully. After an assassination attempt in Peshawar, he was gone in March 1969.

We the young comrades of change not only forced the first free and fair election held on the basis of one man one vote, but also assured the rise of untainted political leadership. Stalwarts like Dr. Mubashir Hasan were elected. The 1970 house was the ablest ever. Two constitutions were framed by them (1972, 1973). ZAB’s cabinet was perhaps the ablest group of ministers to rule Islamabad. He even brought technocrats to lead the bureaucrats. Technical Ministries were headed by professionals, not Baboos. Finally the forces of the status-quo regrouped and ZAB was toppled.

Ayub Khan was right: one has to fight for freedom, it cannot be taken for granted. For another honest ballot, the comrades have to come back to the streets. Kaptaan is getting ready to regroup his tigers for a final assault on the citadel of the status-quo which also includes ‘Takht-e-Lahore’. The battle for ‘Naya Pakistan’ will now be fought on the streets of this historic city, this heart of Pakistan. By dispensing timely justice, the Election Tribunals can prevent a showdown. Otherwise it is bound to happen.

It is indeed unfortunate that the first generation of Pakistan and perhaps the ablest has been consumed with fighting the forces of status-quo. From the first ‘Lathi Charge’ in 1968 outside the GPO on the Mall followed by the brutal use of force on March 15th, 2009, it is an untold story of resistance and activism. We braved four martial laws, ten manipulated elections and four constitutions and are still ready to fight on for the motherland. Our parents struggled for freedom while we have stood up for democracy and rule of law.

In 1970 when we forced a free and fair election, the young comrades of change were relieved thinking that their mission for a democratic Pakistan had been accomplished. The 1973 constitution provided the beacon of hope and light. The very first elections under the new order in 1977 were rigged by a few and the entire nation had to pay a price. A.H Kardar advised ZAB to go for immediate re-election as his popularity was intact. Instead, the PM relied on the brute force of the state against his own people. The evil forces of the status-quo were united against the Quaid-e-Awan. He was not only toppled but physically removed through judicial murder.

And so, what has now brought all the political parties on one page? The answer is the survival of the status-quo and its corrupt practices. Kaptaan has not only been isolated to fight the giants of corruption but even his party ranks have been infiltrated by Lootas and Luteras to reduce his chances of victory. PTI remains a party of change. The rank and file is committed to building ‘Naya Pakistan’ which is in fact the ‘Asli Pakistan’ as envisioned by the founding fathers, a constitutional democracy where leaders emerge through an honest ballot to serve the interests of the voters.

Kaptaan is his own person, honest and bold. In the past, he delivered against the odds. From cricket grounds to health care to academics, his mettle to fight and prevail is proven. He has the unflinching support of the masses, especially the untainted youth of the country whose future is at stake.

In 1970, a similar struggle took place and Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered. In 1977 the establishment was able to regroup and corner the democratic order. ZAB’s party was infiltrated by “Lootas and Luteras” similar to PTI in 2011.

Political battles are fought and won by ideologues, not turncoats who gyrate to greener pastures when the going gets tough. For the Kaptaan and now aged comrades of change, this may be the last ‘Marka’ as it is called. For the sake of the unity of Pakistan, we seek an honest ballot to move forward and then change the life of the common man. The status-quo has outlived its utility and must give way to change. At the end of the discussion there was consensus that only the Khakis can ensure an honest ballot if they so desire as was done in 1970. PTI can prevail without the manipulation of the electoral process. It seeks a real, not tainted mandate like the corrupt politicians sitting in the assemblies and working in the interests of classes and not the masses that they are supposed to represent.