If there was one slogan, during election 2013, that politicians used it to their heart’s content and people bought it with all their heart, it was ‘change’. No one asked and so no one explained the nature of this much sought after ‘change’. Thus, the agenda of change stayed very nebulous and murky. However, that did not matter. People came out in record numbers, braving the threats of terrorism, to vote. Now that the elections are over, let’s review if anything has changed, what should change and how. What has changed? I would say that at the most fundamental level - not much. Democracy under capitalism is just a façade to make people believe they are running the country. In reality, control, strictly and firmly, remains in the hands of a small elite group. As political system is subordinate to economic system, democracy was simply created in response to the decline of feudal and rise of capitalist modes of production. Democracy was exported to and publicised in the neo-colonies to serve the imperialist interests. In this system, a small elite group is cultivated in each home country with great care and planning to promote imperial interests. And, thus, if anyone raises a voice against the system, she or he is branded as enemy of the people, opponent of democracy and advocate of totalitarianism. However, I think there are a few clear positives that have come out of this election, giving us reasons to be optimistic for future. Firstly, the defeat of many old families and politicians in this election, for example Gilanis, Khars, Asfanyar Wali, Manzoor Watto, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Amir Muqqam, Bilour, Ghous Ali Shah and many others, gives hope that no one is invincible and warns those who were still able to hold on to the reins of power that same fate awaits them if they do not change their behaviour. Secondly, the defeat of PPP and ANP, which were the ruling parties at the federal and provincial level respectively, was most likely due the perception that they took corruption to unprecedented heights and their total disregard for the well being of common people and problems facing them. Parties that were seen to be “performing” through their highly visible and well advertised projects, like PML-N, won. Thus, voters sent a message to the newcomers that they should at least appear to be ‘development and people friendly’ or they will be shown the door next time around. Thirdly, not only the rise of PTI as the second largest party by popular vote, but also its ability to mobilise a large number of urban, educated, middle class youth - the segment of population which, for decades, has been completely aloof from politics of the country - was a new phenomenon. The question is: why did they become so much involved now? I believe changing geopolitical realities after 9/11 were responsible for it. This class was, more or less, always shielded from the severe deprivation, which has been the fate of the working class in this country. After 9/11, terrorism threatened life and hopes for a decent employment declined due to worsening economy. At the same time, dreams of moving abroad evaporated, as Pakistan became known as a terrorist breeding state and worldwide economic meltdown of the capitalist system reduced the available opportunities in the West also. So the only choice they had was to fight for what they have in this country. Imran Khan just happened to be at the right place and moment in this historical epoch. The heightened political consciousness of this young and energetic class can be a positive force for the future if their energy is channelled in the right direction. This makes it important to analyse why was PTI not able to win like it expected to? I believe the main reason was that its appeal was limited to only urban middle class youth. It was not able to connect with the rural youth and oppressed segments of the society, which constitute majority of the population and whose problems are simply food insecurity, healthcare, and decent shelter. Thus, they went for the traditional powers connected with their economic and other interests. So, what would be a meaningful change? The real change will be when there is real democracy, which means that the will of the people is asserted. But unless there is equality of all human beings regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity and nationality, there cannot be real democracy. The essence of equality is economic equality, which is every person’s equal rights over what is produced or contained in this land and what is made in this world. It means all people should have access and right to all the wonders of science and technology, quality education and state-of-the-art healthcare, nutritious food and decent shelter, means of transportation and communication. And all people are treated with equal respect and dignity. Answers to the following questions will serve as a metric to measure this change in Pakistan: will some people continue to get paid in US dollars, while others have to live on minimum wage or even less in Pakistan? Will human trafficking continue due to poverty? Will the factory owner continue to make millions, while the factory worker can barely afford food? Will some people continue to live in multi-million dollar mansions, while most do not have even a single room? Will the elite fly abroad to state-of-the-art hospitals, while majority cannot afford to buy even simple medicines? Will families continue to be bought and sold into bonded labour? Will people of other religions continue to be discriminated against and deprived of their citizenship rights? Will women continue to be killed and maimed in the name of honour? Will I continue to be afraid of what I want to say? When answers to these questions are in negative, we can be proud of the change we have brought about and serve as an example for the rest of world. In part two, I will attempt to address the questions of where do we go from here and how to bring about that meaningful change.

nThe writer is a practicing physician and resides in Florida. She is a founding member of Rise for Pakistan and International Youth Movement. She is a founding member and was the chairperson of the Human Development Foundation, and has served on the board of PAKPAC. She is also a life member of APPNA.