I have just returned from a visit to Punjab’s capital, Lahore, braving multiple bands of cloudbursts that created zero visibility on the motorway. My hurry was fueled by the desire to fulfil a national duty –casting my vote. The visit to Lahore was partly to see the arena myself, where one of the biggest ‘battle of the votes’ was likely to be fought and dig out some grist for this week’s piece.
Unlike the previous elections, PTI appeared to be focusing aggressively on Lahore to prove a point. By the time this column is published, the Pakistani nation would know if “change” was in the offing or did they want to continue with their daily lives under a delusion of grandeur. During my stay in Lahore, I hobnobbed with political workers and voters on both sides of the divide. It was during this interaction that I confronted notions of political leanings that far surpassed the established laws of logic and intelligent reasoning. I found this trend prevalent amongst PML-N and PPP supporters, while PTI voters appeared level-headed and rational.
The supporters of Sharif family were mostly bereft of independent thought. A group I spoke to vehemently acknowledged that Nawaz Sharif had misused public office and consorted with the enemies of Pakistan, but said that they would choose the ‘lion’ because it was a family tradition. I am usually lucid in my discussions with people having had a long instructional experience, but I failed to deliver a counter-argument in the mental chaos of discovering sense and logic (perhaps even patriotism) behind the notion that these people expressed. Another group stumped me by saying that they did not doubt that the former PML-N head was guilty as charged, but he was not a dacoit. I moved on in a state of utter confusion at the conflicting statement, which in my opinion was best left to the diagnostic skills of some expert psychologist.
Conventional wisdom tells me that whatever makes our Eastern neighbour apprehensive with reference to Pakistan, must bode well for the latter. The spate of discomfort in Indian media on the possibility of PTI emerging successfully from the polls, when viewed in the light of the notion mentioned above gives me satisfaction as a Pakistani. The inability of PML-N cadres to draw the same deduction raises many questions, some of which may even challenge their loyalty to the State.
The role played by the US Media reinforces many doubts about that country’s nexus with the enemies of Pakistan. Recently, a US television (that has official sponsorship) interviewed two independent NGOs that monitor our elections. The interviews were so formatted that the responses hostile to our institutions were aired following the ones that were objective and credible. It may be pertinent to point out that any media content read, viewed or heard in the immediate past is subliminally imprinted in mind and that this technique is a favourite tool in any information related agenda.
Of interest is the question being raised by many political gurus regarding the sense behind Shahbaz Sharif contesting the seat from Rajanpur. This decision would have appeared logical only if PML N had the unstinting support of all Leghari Chieftains in the area. This, however, is not the case, since one of the latter is fighting the elections on a PTI ticket. Has this been a political error, which Shahbaz may regret at the personal level or is there a ‘method in the madness’ (the latter being very much a possibility given the fact that the younger Sharif is a canny individual).
I am not surprised at the discovery and arrest of the polling staff, who were exposed (thanks to an independent media) in a blatant pre-election manipulation of the postal ballot in Sindh. One can assume that the activity was perhaps a sign of panic in PPP, at the wave of empathy generated by the GDA coalition, which is challenging Bhutto’s legacy in rural Sindh.
And last, but not the least, I must acknowledge the clockwork precision with which the security elements carried out their deployment in support of the Election Commission during a single night, providing us with the comfort that we could continue to sleep soundly in the knowledge that our Armed Forces were awake and ready.
The writer is a freelance columnist.