Freedom? Not Really

Millions gather together at the same place, at the same time, they cheer, they jump. They stand all day in the sun, nothing but excitement and revolution in their hearts. They stand hours, just for a few second glance of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. It doesn’t matter to them if her government was successful or corrupt, the intricacies of her agenda don’t matter to them. They believe in the woman with a loose white scarf on her head, they see the future with her. She is no more, but millions still can’t help but feel that they are betraying her sacrifice if they don’t vote for her ballot.  It is said that when Jinnah spoke at rallies, he usually spoke in English, most people did not know a word of English but still hung on to his every word, because they believed, they trusted. They saw freedom his voice, in his eyes, oh what a beautiful thing is freedom.

We are not free, we are constantly, throughout our lives put into shackles by society. Women are enslaved by the patriarchy, the poor enslaved by the owners of wealth, the rich enslaved by their status. Freedom means different things to different people, Pakistan meant freedom to the Muslims in India in 1947. Not a day goes by when the Kashmiris, Palestinians, the Kurds and millions of others don’t wake up as prisoners seeking freedom, to be able to call their land their home, to live and die in dignity.

We all go through different times in our lives, we all carry our chains with us, some with more, some with less. Everyone has their own unique struggle, unique battle to fight. Millions all over the world have it worse than many, that does not mean that the chains of one are any less important than that of another. We can not be free until there exists even one person in chains, allowing the enslaver to survive. Let there be no enslaver for there to be freedom. I write this as I am embroiled in turmoil as a student, I too am enslaved by this system of competitiveness of education as a brand versus another. The millions who seek to just steal a glance at the former Prime Minister, are not enslaved by her as they remain even when she is no more, they carry the chains of their belief and revolution. The leader is not the revolution, the millions in the crowd are the revolution. Theoretically it is not people from whom we have to seek freedom, it is the mindset.

The workers of the world did not lose their chains in 1917 or in 1959, they did have nothing to lose but their chains, but were they really prepared to lose their chains? Fayyaz Hashmi says that in this prison of time, there is life but only a few moments of freedom. We need to look for those few moments, we need to believe that such moments may exist or will exist, only then will we be prepared to lose our chains, only then will the spectre that surrounds us be within us.

 

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Our Flawed Perception of Democracy

One of Pakistan’s favorite past time is to sit in drawing rooms, sip tea and discuss politics. Many discuss how Imran Khan going towards his political doom by making unreasonable demands and holding protests which may not take him anywhere, some believe that Imran is taking Pakistan towards a revolution and how tomorrow when they switch the TV on, they will suddenly be living in a Utopian Pakistan where everything is Perfect, some critically oppose Imran and claim that democracy is being hurt and that Prime Minister Nawaz should continue to rule so that democracy lives.

While picking sides on who is right and who is wrong, we many times forget our own side, we forget the side of our own Pakistanis, we forget that democracy is there because of us and not the other way around. We become blind by in our quest to topple the government and live in Utopia the next day, we become cold blooded in our desire to save the Parliament and Government which we like to define as ‘democracy’. In this battle of “Revolution” vs “Democracy” we fail to understand its purpose, we only keep our eyes on the battle waiting for the victor and hope it is the side we support.

Most people in Pakistan agree to the fact that there was massive rigging in the 2013 General Elections, however many choose to accept it for the sake of stability, many term it as ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ and very few are enraged by this rigging. So what “democracy” do we stand by? What is our perception of “Democracy”? What is Democracy if “We the people” don’t decide who rules our country? What’s the difference between democracy and Monarchy when rulers are forced upon us by fake ballots simply under the banner of democracy? What is the purpose of democracy if not to ensure basic human rights for the common man? Where was democracy’s justice when people are killed and assaulted by the state? What’s democracy if critical media channels are shut down by force secretly to control the flow of information to the common man? Is this the democracy we defend? Is this the democracy we champion? It is not democracy which is flawed but it is our perception of democracy which flawed which has led to all the injustices in our country go unpunished. We see the battle in Islamabad as merely a battle between the state and opposition and a battle for the throne, we must not let it turn into a battle for the throne, we must acknowledge the importance of fair ballot. How can we trust those who cheated our right to vote that they will make sure that doesn’t happen in the future? How can we trust the very people who cheated us to protect us from being cheated again?

I was not old enough to vote in the 2013 General Elections, but i will be in the next elections, i certainly don’t want my vote being changed or disregarded, my vote may be different to that of the majority and may have no effect on the result but it will be mine, it is my right to choose and no one has the right to make that decision for me. I hope no Pakistani would want their vote to be changed or unfairly cast. That’s whats this battle is about, so that in the future my vote or anyone else’s is not cheated. No one wants to go down to the polling station and find the entrances sealed and guarded by armed men and fake ballots being cast inside. Regardless of where our allegiances lie, we should not stand by our vote being robbed even if the result remains unchanged. In our opposition to one side we forget where we stand and go all in to eliminate the opponent forgetting our own principles.

Whatever we may expect from this alleged “Inqilaab”  (Revolution), may not be realistic but we can hope that maybe tomorrow, our ballot will have some actual power, maybe tomorrow, there will be a sense of accountability within this system maybe tomorrow will be the first step towards a brighter future.