Monday 30 July 2018

Pakistan Election 2018: High Hopes

I first wrote about Imran Khan in 2011, here, when I came across one of his speeches, unfortunately I can’t find it now, but it was unlike anything I had heard from a Pakistani politician and just blew me away. 

I wrote again in 2013 of my disappointment when IK lost the elections in Pakistan, reflecting on what a tough decade Pakistan has seen – both the nation (terrorism, sectarian violence, no electricity, limited gas and petrol meaning industry and business has shut down, unprecedented inflation and high crime) and my family (a kidnapping and violence and extortion).

The massive changes I experienced as an outsider between one trip where Pakistan was secure, comfortable and becoming affluent and a second a few years later where life had become a struggle between electricity shortages and the unsustainable and devastatingly high cost of living.

In between I came across articles and think pieces describing Pakistan as a failed state with glee (like this one ).  Every time I would think: but if you knew how beautiful it was… if you knew how beautiful and generous the people are…if you knew how wonderful Lahore was…you would never say such a thing.

That doesn’t belie that Pakistan has serious problems.  I have always watched Pakistani politics, including my family’s various low-level involvements in campaigning or standing at a local level with utter confusion.  How do they vote in people who do nothing for their country and who oversee the suffering of the poor get worse?  How do they stand as candidates for parties that are clearly not going to deliver?  I used to be convinced that if any of those candidates stood in the West they would get their marching orders, although in recent times, having seen the state of Western politics, I have had to rethink that view.

So after all that, when election day rolled round and the people went to the polls, once more everyone was on tenterhooks.  Could IK get in, would this time be the election that makes the difference?  Dad-in-law sat up all night watching the news and refusing to move. He served in the Pak army and fought in two wars against India (in 1965 and 1971) and still remembers warmly how the returning soldiers were showered with rose petals on their return to Lahore.  He and his family are true patriots if ever I have met any.

Finally, the count started coming in and it looked pretty sure that IK’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement) had won the election.  Hubby, dad-in-law and the boys were out celebrating on the main street outside out house until midnight with the dhol players, car honkers and various overjoyed Pakistani’s. 

I was very happy for Pakistan and I am very hopeful.  But I didn’t feel too much like celebrating.  I prayed two nawafil prayers with tears in my eyes.  The task ahead for Pakistan feels insurmountable.  The change not only required from the top-down in every echelon of government and the country, but also in the culture of a country that has had to live with injustice for such a long time.

The hopes placed on IK are so very high, perhaps unreasonably high for one man.  I pray he can shoulder this burden and that Pakistan can start to see the prosperity, security and justice this beautiful country and its wonderful people deserve.  I hope my family can feel secure, can feel that they have a future and that their children thrive and find success insh’Allah.  I pray I get the chance to visit Pakistan next year and start to see good things insh’Allah.

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