First time voters of Pakistan, you have been cheated! Your mandate has been stolen through rigging in the May 2013 elections. You came in hoards and stood in queues to exercise your right to vote and when the results did not tally with your expectations you spontaneously hit the streets in Lahore and Karachi. It is your battle and future for which we are willing to change the citadels of stagnation.

The three darkest days on our democratic journey were Oct 27, 1958, March 07, 1977, and May 11, 2013. Ayub Khan’s martial took away our right to vote for which we the students of the first generation of Pakistan came on the streets. It took us ten years to get rid of the first usurper and the first free and fair elections were held in 1970 on the basis of one-man-one-vote. The 1973 constitution was formulated by this elected assembly. The second elections were held in 1977 under the 1973 constitution. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) and his Pakistan Peoples party were clear favorites to win; yet they indulged in rigging resulting in the Zia’s martial law in July 1977. Every election since then has been manipulated (1988, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013). In 2007 once again we challenged the fourth usurper and forced elections in 2008. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto brought PPP to power which completed its term in 2013 and elections were held under a care taker set up. PML(N) was favoured to win yet they too got involved in rigging and thereby under mining the entire democratic transition.

In the election of 1970 I was fifteen years old and could not vote. My first opportunity to vote came in 1977 but unfortunately the ballot was rigged once again. On the insistence of my father who was one of the founding fathers, I voted in every election. According to him the right to vote must always be exercised. Even during my stay abroad he would facilitate the process for me to vote. Despite the manipulations we did not give up and kept the struggle for democracy alive, which continues till today.

What is the way forward for the first time voters of May 2013 elections? Unfortunately they have been denied the guidance of role models of our generation by the propaganda of the state. Their heroes have been reduced to zeros while the zeros were projected as heroes. The struggle for democracy must pass on from generation to generation to be effective. We the first generation of Pakistan fought against the hegemony of the evil empire. Neither the dungeons and torture cells of the Ayub regime nor the lashes and rigorous imprisonment of the Zia era could dampen our resolve. Today the media judiciary is relatively free with a vibrant civil society. The battle hardened and battered comrades of change are with you but it is your struggle that will determine the course of Naya Pakistan.

Without free and fair elections there will be no “Naya Pakistan”. For the first time since October 1958 the Khaki demon producing factories have been shut down but the demons remain in the arena. While our struggle was on multiple fronts against several forces of status-quo (judiciary, media, administrative strangulation, vested interests, financial exploitation etc.) your battle is mainly against the ‘Demons of Democracy’ who continue to deny the much-needed change. The unanimous 1973 constitution is our beacon of hope, which must be followed in letter and spirit; only a few Zia amendments remain which should also be removed.

Kaptaan is leading the charge for Naya Pakistan. Soon there will be fresh elections in which you must exercise your right to vote. Manipulated/rigged elections will not be tolerated. From 1977 to 2013, nine elections have been controlled with disastrous outcome.

The PPP–PML(N) show must come to an end. So far the politics of interests are holding on while the forces of change are knocking at the gates. Their days are now numbered. Marchers are not going to leave till they can win back their right to vote. Amongst the marchers the majority is of the first time voters and they are determined to follow the ‘Kaptaan’. With this kind of ‘Jazba and Junoon’ the future of Pakistan looks bright.

Our struggle for democracy remains un-reported. While we drew inspiration from revolutionary poets like Ghalib, Faiz and Faraz and then followed the chromatic leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Kaptaan is your leader. Imran Khan brings honesty and integrity to politics, which has been missing for decades.

PTI represents an ideology of change and not of interests as has been the norm. Despite the ‘Lota Infestation’ within the party Khan Sahib remains untainted. One by one the ‘Lotas’ will be weeded out when their interests will come in the way.

Kaptan has been compared with both the Quaid-e-Azam and Quaid-e-Awam. All of them led from the front with unflinching support of the masses. ZAB was more seasoned than the Kaptan mainly because of experience as federal minister in the Ayub Cabinet. His grasp of management and paper work was exemplary. Most analysts believe in his brilliance but doubt his intellectual honesty. My father participated in the Pakistan movement and praised the Quaid and Suharwardy for their honest hard work and abilities.

Kaptaan’s vision is clear, Quaid’s Pakistan has to be handed over to the next generation. It is the original Pakistan, the first Islamic democracy of the world, which produced brilliant leaders like Quaid-e-Azam, Suharwady and ZAB. It is the right of the first time voters that was denied to us for which we struggled and sacrificed. The future of the motherland is bright once the rule of law and ballot guaranteed, our rise in the comity of nations will be un-stoppable. Finally the comrades of the first generation of the country may go home in honour to tell stories of their struggle to their grand children while their children assume leadership through a free, fair and honest ballot. Our struggle for the motherland though un-recorded should not go in vain.

The writer is ex-chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.