Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would witness what is now happening. Many years of being alternately ruled by military dictators and corrupt politicians had left us numb and resigned to our fate, but thanks to the apex judiciary, a credible Election Commission and the army’s desire to stay within its constitutional fencing, we are now seeing the impossible happen - corrupt members of Parliament and liars treated as common criminals, being sent to jail and made ineligible for sitting in Parliament.
While this culling process in going on, a nagging question is raising its ugly head - what if the political entities that have been tested and found wanting, return to power? What if conventional wisdom and sagacity are devoured by kinship, tribal and ethnic affiliations and greed?
The good news is that while this disturbing possibility does exist, we may yet see a change because for the first time in our history, the young Pakistani appears to have decided to exercise his right of adult franchise and in many cases is courageously breaking traditional practices.
Disconcerting - yes, but perhaps done out of the newfound enthusiasm to ‘cut the high and mighty to size’ are the questions that the returning officers are reported to be asking candidates. One needs to curb this particular trend of irrelevant and in some cases irreverent queries directed at candidates, as if they were being tested in school.
Returning officers need to understand that the applicant’s proficiency in religion, geography or general knowledge is not under scrutiny here and as such their line of questioning should be designed within the ambit of Articles 62 and 63. Whether by design or in good faith, by straying outside this ambit, the concerned returning officers are putting the whole election process in jeopardy.
Elections in Pakistan are characterised by remote candidacies. This implies that a candidate files his nomination papers for a seat to which he or she is totally alien. If the said candidate had been a product of that particular community and area, he would have developed a deep understanding of the needs and issues confronting the people there.
Nonetheless, individuals do file remote candidacies and win because of the party they represent. It would be nice, for a change, if these ‘outsiders’ were rejected by the electorate on the logic that they would not have the same passion, insight and empathy with the voters and their problems that a locally born and bred candidate would perhaps manifest.
Another characteristic that stereotypes our ballot is that of candidates filing nomination papers for multiple seats. While this ensures the person’s presence in Parliament, it means re-election on the seats vacated by him, if he wins more than one constituency.
This, in turn, implies additional expenditure by the Election Commission on setting up facilities for by-elections. It would, perhaps, be more feasible and pragmatic to impose a restriction on the current practice and disallow participation from multiple constituencies in order to stave off additional funding.
And now to the lighter side of the elections. I recently heard this from an eyewitness, who attended a public meeting held by a prominent leader somewhere near Wah, during the last elections. This particular constituency is bisected by the River Haro and had been promised a bridge by this candidate in past election speeches. On this particular day, for the fourth time running, the politician’s ‘to do’ list included a bridge across the river. This proved too much for a doughty old man, who suddenly stood up and asked the speaker if the proposed bridge was to be made after demolishing the three that had been made earlier or a new structure would be provided at another crossing site.
And then there is the story of a politician, who clasped both hands of one voter and told him that he had met the young man’s father and had been impressed by his loyalty to the party. The man looked at ‘his’ leader in a confused manner and then managed to mumble that his father had been dead and buried for the last 10 years.
Election results have profound reactions from candidates, depending on whether they have won or lost. Some individuals are so confident of their victory that they prepare for celebrations in total disregard to fate that has a flair for playing ironic pranks with people.
One candidate arranged a beautifully decorated arena in anticipation of his election success, complete with a sumptuous meal for those that were expected to arrive at his residence with congratulatory gifts. The spot was aglitter and abuzz with people, who appeared to be in an upbeat mood. Unfortunately, this person lost the polls with a substantial margin and driving by his house early next day, I found the area deserted and in mourning. So much for optimism!
I am wondering rather impishly, as to what would happen if the members of the middle gender opposing some mighty names in Punjab turn out to be the dark horses. Frivolous as it might appear, the idea is nonetheless amusing and a naughty, but befitting finale to this week’s column.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.