In Punjab PML-N remains unbeatable not because of its deeds rather due to its misdeeds. Its manipulative mechanisms are well entrenched. Recently, while buying fruit I had an interesting interaction. I asked the vendor whom did he vote for, prompt came the reply Imran Khan but he lamented that his customer friend who was also present there was a die-hard PML-N worker. On this I commented that in a free and fair election PML-N will be cut to size. It will at least lose half of its seats, I was shocked by the reply: “With devoted workers like me there can never be free and fair elections, as a party we are untouchable.”

It reminded me of Ayub Khan days when he was projected as the invincible saviour of Pakistan. So blatant was his ‘Thana Politics’ that we as students took to the streets. His political party PML (Convention) was perceived as a threat to democracy. Darbaris (courtiers) were unable to save his regime. Elections were held in 1970, which were free and fair. Dr. Mubashir Hasan a first time candidate polled the highest number of votes in West Pakistan while PML (Convention’s) heavy weight Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain had to forfeit his surety bond and so did others like him.

Unfortunately PML-N is now a threat to democracy and rule of ballot. In the sixties we were young and energetic, our protests were forceful now we have experience and wisdom to take on the force of status quo. Sanctity of the ballot has to be restored at all costs.

Unfortunately our national institutions have let us down. Instead of service to the people, their exploitation has been the norm. For the will of the people to prevail very institution has to play its role. Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has to be neutral, the administrative support staff it inducts has to follow its directives. NADRA has to keep the voters lists updated. Recently the Lahore High Court (LHC) issued restraining orders against the Interior Minister instructing his not to interface in the working of an autonomous organisation. Judiciary and bureaucracy cannot take sides it is bound by the constitution and rule of law. Finally after four futile attempts the Khakis have decided on a hands-off approach but with no process correction leaving behind intact the roguery of parties like PML-N and MQM. General Musharraf’s NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) was pathetic and un-necessary, it was a disservice to the nation and democracy.

As a nation we must take the PML-N election challenge seriously as we did in the sixties. The 1970 free and fair election is the hallmark of the struggle of our generation. The people of Pakistan have to take charge. No institution or political party seems interested in electoral reforms as it will take away their leverage. President Trump is right the establishment has exploited the masses by usurping their rights. He has opted for a major shake-up to shatter the status quo and introduce the much needed change. In established democracies at least the ballot is not manipulated whereas in nascent democratic states ballot boxes are stuffed at will to produce desired results as has been the norm in Pakistan.

Those who enter the corridors of power, riding Khaki jeeps, cannot be dislodged by the ballot. The struggle for democracy that started in the Bazar of Athens around 325 BC has continued unabated since then. In the 20th century Hitler was a major encroachment. Once elected he destroyed all institutions and became ‘Fuhrer’ or omnipotent ruler. In his last stint in power Mian Nawaz Sharif wanted to become ‘Ameer-ul-Mominen’ or Khalifa. The 1973 constitution came to the rescue. The bill was defeated in the senate due to the efforts of Comrade Aitzaz Ahsan.

Punjab has to be liberated from the clutches of PML-N otherwise Quaid’s Pakistan will continue to suffer. But this time it should be a constitutional battle through a free and fair ballot. Khakis, Qazis, Baboos and ECP should get together to determine the will of the people through another indisputable electoral exercise. In the 21st century the country needs rule of law and ballot which have been denied since long.

Democracy has its own dynamics, which cannot be manipulated or controlled. Lahore is where the journey for Pakistan was started. It propelled Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) into power and then brought him down as well. Mian Nawaz Sharif was first introduced as a provincial minister and then became chief Minister of the Punjab. IJI (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad) was another brainchild of the establishment that launched Mian Sahib as Prime Minister a position that he has now managed for the third time exceeding the two time constitutional limit. Mian Sahib’s political journey has defied the constitution and rule of law, his party goons have even attacked the Supreme Court and now they threaten the rule of the ballot. Enough is enough; Lahore has to rise to save Quaid’s Pakistan. Democracy is the best revenge but only if it is allowed to function otherwise it becomes a farce. Let the ballot decide the future course of the nation. PML-N election challenge should be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly otherwise the menace will continue with dire consequences for the nation.