‘Khooti Rahi Bur Thalay’ means “the donkey remained under the tree.” the first time I heard this Punjabi proverb was in a meeting of Karkunan Tehreek-e-Pakistan, this was a group of old boys of the Pakistan Movement led by Nawab Zulfiqar Mamdot, my father Nazir A. Malik was elected as the Secretary General of the group. In one of the meetings a disgruntled, outspoken worker called ‘Muhammad Hussain Bombas’ of Ichara narrated his experience on the eve of independence on August 14, 1947.

The title of ‘Bombas’ was bestowed upon him as he was given the task of disrupting anti Pakistan rallies of Jamaat-e-Islami whose headquarter was in Ichra, Lahore. Most freedom workers are always tainted as disruptionists and traitors. Hero of one cause is usually the terrorist of the other. The thana in Ichra kept a close watch on his activities and was often summoned there. On the day of independence, he broke loose and surrounded the ‘Den of colonial control’. The SHO was in shock and scared so he apologized for his brutal behaviour in the past and promised to serve in the future. On that day ‘Bombas’ slept a happy, free man. The freedom proved to be short lived. Early morning on August 15, 1947 there was a knock on his door. On opening he found the same Thanedar in uniform who had come to get ‘Bombas’ by repeating the words that nothing had changed “Khooti Rahi Bur Thalay”. Within twenty four hours it was all over. Till today our heroes are projected as zeros while zeros are propagated as heroes.

Only four countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) have continued with the colonial system of governance that they inherited. In USA all files were burnt, a new constitution to preserve freedom was enacted. Singapore followed the same course. Recently in 1989 when China took control of Hong Kong, while Chris Patton the last governor was driven to the airport his mansion was converted into a Colonial Museum. No Chinese every got to rule from there. China won its freedom two years after the partition of the sub-continent yet it progressed by leap and bounds and is the second largest economy of the world today.

In seventy years some lessons should have been learnt. While we claim to be a constitutional democracy, there has been only one free and fair election. Political leadership has been imposed on us with disastrous consequences. After ten manipulated ballots since 1977, another electoral contest is being planned for 2018.

More than anything else, Pakistan needs another credible election to move the status-quo from under the tree where it has been stuck for over seven decades. On his own merit Imran Khan can emerge victorious he does not need support of the establishment. On the other hand PML(N) will have to face the ballot without the support of the ‘Patwaris’ and ‘Thana’ the very bane of its strength. It is in the interest of democracy that political battles are fought on political battle grounds with no outside interference as he been the case in the past.

As long as the “seasonal birds” remain in the political arena, free and fair election will remain a big challenge. A split mandate is being projected. Political parties can change the outcome by organising their efforts instead of relying on external crutches. The ballot has to be made credible to be acceptable to all the contestants. After a free and fair election the mandate must be respected and the winning party allowed to govern in the best interests of the masses.

Yes indeed there should be respect for the vote but more importantly for the voter for whom the show is organised. Democracy is strengthened through participation not exclusion. People stand by their leaders if they truly represent them and fight for their cause, individual interests are short lived both for the voter and the voted. In the end it is ideology which keeps the donkey moving. In USA the two mainstream political parties use animal symbols. Democrats use the symbol of donkey while the Republicans use the elephant. While the donkey is a beast of burden which serves the common man, the Republicans on the other hand believe in growth/wealth accumulation which is then expected to result in a trickle-down effect.

Unfortunately our donkey refuses to move, first the elections are manipulated then the contestants fight it out while governance suffers. Minar-e-Pakistan represents history of Pakistan. Jinnah stood here in 1940 to demand a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. In 1946, his party won the elections and earned the right to lead. In 1971, ZAB stood here as an elected leader. On April 29, 2018 Kaptaan used the same venue to announce his ‘Naya Pakistan’.


The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.