I was a young man in Lahore when the general elections featuring two major candidates, i.e. Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, were held. These polls were based on the votes of an electorate composed of basic democrats and although there was nothing wrong with the concept, it was the wheeling and dealing by the party in power that created serious doubts as to the veracity of the results.

Ayub Khan’s party, known as the Convention Muslim League, was represented by a ‘rose’, while the Opposition with Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister as its nominee bore the symbol of a ‘lantern’. Election fever was high and had risen to such a pitch that families stood divided.

In my own house, my father was canvassing for the great lady, while the rest of the family was rooting for the suave army man. It was often that my father and a close friend (who was later to become my father-in-law) got embroiled in heated debates that had to be arbitrated and cooled by my mother.

The major chunk of Lahore’s student community stood united behind Ms Jinnah and these young and highly charged individuals were growing restless and agitated as government backed Convention League cadres began using all and every means to influence the elections. Many of my school friends were part of the student groups that were doing door to door canvassing and maintaining vigils at one of the Opposition Election Office located in Commercial Building on The Mall.

It was in the height of this scenario that I was invited by one of my former schoolmates (who later joined the Foreign Office and rose to prominence as our Ambassador in many countries) to see what was going on. I can never forget the sight that met my eyes - the road in front of Commercial Building was full of young men wearing the ‘lantern’ badge on their lapels and distributing pamphlets.

As I mounted the stairs, I confronted an atmosphere that appeared to be charged with electricity, commitment and passion. No one appeared to be idle and the whole premises gave the impression of a ‘beehive’.

Elections in the days of yore had their lighter side too. There were occasional candidates, who stood up for reasons unknown and added a bit of humour to the whole event. There was one gentleman, for example, whose name was the vernacular version of the word ‘lizard’. I must give him credit for bearing the brunt of remarks thrown in his direction and not giving in. As expected, this gentleman lost by a huge margin.

In Faisalabad, a house owner started a new trend to secure his boundary wall from election graffiti, by painting a disclaimer, which said that his family and friends formed a substantial vote bank that would not be available to any candidate that resorted to defacing the wall. It is needless to say that this particular piece of masonry remained in pristine condition throughout the election campaign. I was amused to see this strategy being put into effect by two house owners in Lahore during a recent visit to the Punjab capital.

I am currently experiencing a state of déjà vu, as I watch the party workers and voters gird themselves for an election that has the potential to change the course of our history.

I have seen the same fire in the faces of the young men and women, who brave the risks that public rallies carry in the dark days of terrorism to see and hear their ‘captain’.

I have seen undiminished loyalty of the jiyalas, who move around cities floating huge banners and I have seen commitment in those that see the benefits in voting for the party that proclaims its intention of turning Lahore into a modern metropolis. In my reckoning however, change will come when Pakistan comes out to vote in numbers not seen hitherto fore.

    The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City.  His forte is the study of History.