It saddens one to realise that from among all the parties contesting the upcoming elections, there are at least three that are definitely being targeted by the extremists, who are, unabashedly, claiming responsibility for the attacks on them. It definitely puts a damper on the spirits that fellow Pakistanis are being deprived of full participation in the run up to an awaited election.

However, it also infuriates the citizens of Karachi that the MQM, one of the targeted parties, brings the city to a complete halt for one whole day every time it is subjected to an attack, which is sometimes twice in a week. How can shutting down everything and depriving people from a day’s income be justified?

With each terrorist attack, however, it becomes clearer that we have no option, but fresh elections in order to get out of this mess. And if life has to move on, the exercise of elections are inevitable whatever the circumstances.

The 180 million, whatever the party affiliation, are pushing as one for change. There is a final realisation that unless things take a drastic new turn nothing good will happen and that we will remain mired in circumstances that are beyond our control.

Wars for reasons quite alien to us are being fought in our proximity and we are, sadly, so intertwined into the weaves woven far away, for reasons which have nothing to do with us, that it is going to prove difficult to begin anew. Even as we rue policies of the past that brought short-term benefits to the country, it is apparent that stepping into an altogether new direction will take a whole paradigm shift.

After having said and while acknowledging that there are some political parties under constant threat, I still feel that the major portion of the election campaign is being conducted on the electronic media through the debates and advertising campaigns, so the parties under pressure have absolutely the same opportunities available there.

Each party is selling its achievements and its promises. All with one exception. The PPP is still relying heavily on the martyrdom of BB and one is subjected round the clock to the mass display of shocked grief that was seen at the time of her tragic assassination.

While this does tug at the heartstrings, it does nothing to allay what we have seen of the PPP in power for the last five years. The populace is led up to believe that they still have a card up their sleeves vide the Benazir Income Support Programme and the vote divide between PML-N and PTI. I do hope they have no serious illusions because if they do, it is going to be one rude awakening.

Nonetheless, the concept of the original, liberal PPP remains intact and the party can recover a lot of its lost ground once new, non-family, charismatic leadership emerges from it. It is also the only party whose second ad talks about the promises its competitors could not keep. No mention of the two Prime Ministers that were at the helm and no achievements to show for them either!

The other two parties that are trying to get enough seats in the centre to form a government are the PML-N and PTI. The Sharifs have several members of their family in the contest and their campaigns, made well with sound concepts and technology, are trying to affect those who are undecided. They are selling hope by projecting the good things in their track record, but when in conversation with TV anchors, one can sense the slight nervousness and a shade of insecurity.

Pakistanis would like to hear heads of both PTI and PML-N debate issues on TV, as is done elsewhere in the world. But Mian Nawaz Sharif has decided against accepting Imran Khan’s invitation and that is being perceived negatively. While the different survey polls are so far predicting a neck to neck fight between these two parties, the edge that PTI has are the self-motivated ‘Tabdeeli Razakars’ (TRs) or ‘Volunteers for Change’.

The TRs are working feverishly in so many cities - putting up posters and going door to door to convince people to vote and telling them how to do it. It is a silent movement that may well make the ultimate difference to an election that is still being perceived as open.

The PTI ad campaigns ring with the fervour of youth too. The energy and excitement that Imran Khan manages to ignite in them is self-evident. They seem to have an abiding faith in both his incorruptibility and his ability. From the PTI platform, the words ‘Naya Pakistan’ have taken on an almost magical quality. Because it is what Pakistanis, across all divides, yearn and pray for. It is most certainly an exciting election.

Postscript: Finally, Islamabad is going to have a Literature Festival of its own on April 30 and May 1. After reading and hearing about the phenomenal successes of similar events in Karachi and Lahore, we are all so looking forward to one in the capital city. Many well known names of the literary world have been invited to attend it. A mushaira with a number of illustrious poets and readings by the inimitable Zia Mohyeddin are also a part of the itinerary. It is still glorious spring weather here and the event will afford a much needed respite. The majority in Islamabad, much like other capitals of the world, perhaps, spends their time calculating what benefits will accrue from making which acquaintance and in the extremely limiting pursuit of getting attention from the inner circles of power for personal gain. The timing of the event could not have been more perfect for the so inclined. It is happening during the brief interlude of the ineffective caretakers. So, dabbling in literature for a couple of days will be considered quite ‘OK’, before a new government is sworn in.

    The writer is a public relations and event management professional

    based in Islamabad.