One man, one vote.
And in Pakistan, that’s always going to mean PPP or PMLN.
Because Pakistan is not just the 5000-ish people sitting in Azadi Chowk, its 190 million people. Most of whom are sitting at home glued to the television, or at small roadside cafes, glasses of milky tea suspended in mid-air, trying to make sense through the static of Radio Pakistan on an old transistor radio. Most probably though, they’re asleep, under a thatched roof in a village somewhere, blissfully unaware of this pusedo civil war raging through their land. I say most probably because probability, like democracy, is a game of numbers. And one old time player seems to be trying to overthrow this numbers game under the very guise of protecting it.
Pakistan is never Utopian, not even in retrospect, but its never been as Orwellian as it got today. Sure we’ve had martial law, and totalitarian regimes aplenty, but never have we had such a bizarre, even comical, political situation on our hands. An ex cricketer, with good looks and great accomplishments, has declared our government unconstitutional and our elections undemocratic, and pitched camp outside the Parliament with his little army, refusing to move until the Prime Minister resigns (the insinuation being that he himself will then jump onto the vacated seat). So is a handful of people, in no ways a majority, laying seige to the house of the Prime Minister and the government, demanding they move over and let them take power, diplomatic? Is it a much needed revolution? Or is it an illogical, unlawful, desperate, and Machiavellian case of sour grapes?
What Mr Khan wants is not democracy. He wants power. And he thinks his merry little band of followers, high on his takeover soundtrack and also with the prospect of how many calories they’re burning with said playlist, are ammunition enough to take on the state of Pakistan. Tempted as I am by the idea of a younger, cooler government, with better English and clothes and dance moves, I know that idealism is only worth so much. Its also tempting to vent some more about the dancing skeletor aka Chief Minister Khattak, Mr Khan’s pitchy rhetoric, his fondness for brunch, his uncouth and flamboyant vernacular, his holing inside a bullet proof vehicle while his workers suffer for his vision, and the fact that he finds absolutely nothing ironic about claiming to be the best man to run a country when his own province has issued a no confidence vote against him. And while I’m on that topic, let me point out that he has absolutely no problems with elections in that province because he actually won there. So elections are free and fair as long as Mr Khan wins? Because it is so inconceivable for people to want to vote for anyone else? Ego issues, please to move away from parliament house and to a psychiatrist’s couch.
Democracy isn’t a means for electing the most suitable, or the most idealistic, or the most popular, or the most charismatic politician. Its a means for electing the one with the most people behind him. And Mr. Khan hasn’t even managed to get 1% of the population to show up at his revolutionary parade. Ever seen the Oscars? Thats around 3000 people. Mr Khan’s crowd, not more than 10000. Pakistan, over 190 million people. And sure, Mr Khan’s followers may almost exlusively be the liberal educated elite, idealistic university students, young professionals, all of who want to see Pakistan blossom out of this narrow minded, poverty ridden stage, and arguably are best qualified to pioneer this vision. But these people are not all of Pakistan. Most of Pakistan is an agricultural enterprise, with millions living on, off, and for a tiny plot of land. They don’t know about the constitution, or solar panels, or laptops. All they know is their land, and their land often comes with a landowner. These landowners have their allegiance, and their votes. And that’s what democracy is: give each man a vote, and each man will look after his priorities. Their priorities are clear, so are their allegiances, and so is Pakistan’s democratic future. For better or for worse, a country with as much poverty as Pakistan will never democratically elect a third party if they could, instead, elect their bosses. Now maybe if only the liberal educated elite were to vote, with no financial restrictions, and an eye for male beauty, they might possibly elect Mr Khan. But that would not be democracy. The masses get a vote too. To quote the man himself (quoting Tennyson without crediting him) are they children of a lesser God?
Now given that he’s having such difficulties in grasping the concept of democracy, I think its best to take a leaf out of his own book, and explain this in terms of cricket. You know he was a cricketer right? He was the captain of the team that won the world cup. You didn’t know that? Well, thats understandable, its not like he brings it up every five minutes.
Anywho, in one of his rivetingly flippant 8 pm broadcasts (Pakistan’s answer to prime time television: just as juicy, but with a much higher mortality rate), he told us that he never lost because he never gave up. And he sure isn’t giving up now. The problem is, this match was played a while ago, the results have been declared, the other team has marched of the field and have been sitting in their offices with a big shiny trophy for a year now. The next world cup is in five years time, see you then. But Mr Khan is still standing mid field, bat akimbo, petulantly stamping his feet and refusing to move on with his life until there’s a rematch. But instead of 11 men (captaining whom in a game consisting of grown men hitting a ball, and then running between two wooden stumps as if their life depended on it, is not sufficient qualification for running a country), he now had a few thousand. Instead of a bat, he has a microphone, which he uses to make statements that not only lack diplomacy, but drip vemon to the extent of closing all doors for future collaboration with the government. And instead of an umpire, he has television channels, agog for ratings, an army, poised for action, and an international audience, warily looking on as the government of a nuclear power is weakened from within, and the very institutions of Pakistan are called inconsequential. And instead of being laughed at and off the field, for poor sportsman’s spirit, the possible outcome of this little tantrum could be the declaration of Pakistan as a failed state, with either the army, or boots of an international variety, stomping over our land.
And all I can do is wait and watch. This doesn’t feel like a democracy.