This general election vote against ‘them’


By Mian Sami ud-Din

You, a citizen of Pakistan, are called upon to deliberate and vote in the upcoming general elections on 8 February 2024. This is your right to exercise a choice. A choice to elect your representative in the national and provincial assemblies and to form new representative federal and provincial governments. Out of all the rights you have in this country, perhaps this stands on the highest of pedestals. For its consequences are not the mere enjoyment of a particular right but it is the right on which all others depend. If you must live, then you must be free to choose how to live. If your children must be educated, then you must be free to choose how they will be educated. If you must be treated in accordance with law, then you must be free to choose those who will make the law.
The ability and exercise of making choices is what puts into action your free will. Free will necessarily entails free action. If you do not have a choice in any matter nor the freedom to exercise it, then everything else is meaningless – illusory. When your choices are either taken from you or made for you, then all other freedoms lose their value and are ultimately lost.
Universal suffrage, that is, the right to vote, ultimately represents your freedom to choose how you live and organise your life. Thus, the freedom to choose what and who determines and influences your life, regulates your affairs, affects your aspirations, or the like, is greater than the sum of all its parts. It is the right to have and exercise such freedom that is worth protecting first and foremost. And there is no better time to protect it then on the occasion to exercise it and assert it with full force. And no better way to protect it then to exercise it in a manner, which is most threatened. In other words, the exercise of a freedom must be directly and equally proportionate to the attack made on you and your freedoms.
So, when you do vote on polling day, how should it be? Which political party or candidate should you vote for? Decisions can be made, based on past loyalties, past performances, new promises, flashy packaged policies, and detailed manifestos. But this election, there is a bigger priority. The priority should not be to vote for any particular political party or candidate but vote against one singular idea thrust into action over the course of the last few years and taking the utmost force in recent months, that seeks to destroy the very basis of these elections. Simply having a choice from among a select few political parties and candidates allowed to participate is no choice at all if some choices are kept from you. That is no real freedom in that.
So, this elections, you must vote against an idea that is rooted in a false understanding and a total lack of respect of your ability, honour and dignity as a citizen of this country. You must vote against the idea which has historically seen you, a civilian, as incapable of governing your own affairs. You must vote against this idea and also against the actors that willingly or unwillingly subscribe to it and deploy it.
So then, vote against ‘them’ who act with force and arbitrariness. Vote against despots who hide behind thin veils of democracy. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Vote against ‘them’, those who defiled our Constitution in the past and continue to abuse it today. The Constitution, that does not simply represent a fictional social contract between us but represents a declaration of the freedoms which
inhere in you by virtue of who you are. Vote against ‘them’, who promise wealth and economic prosperity but secretly make empires of their own. Vote against ‘them’, who see you with suspicion, see you as corrupt, as unpatriotic, or even a terrorist. Vote against ‘them’, who spy on you due to their insecurity and lust for control. Vote against ‘them’ who rig and engineer elections to their desired outcomes. Vote against those who did it before and are clearly doing it again.
And while you are at it, also vote against unwilling or willing, intentional or unintentional, actors used by ‘them’. Vote against police brutality, enforced disappearances, and crack downs on peaceful demonstrations. Vote against officers of the district administration who are used as pawns. Vote against the cruelty, mistreatment, and disenfranchisement of minorities. Vote against the barrage of false criminal cases, and well-timed manufactured convictions. Vote against lip service to the level playing field that isn’t there. Vote against the taking away of an electoral symbol – a right of your fellow citizen, if not your own, to identify, to support, and to vote for their representatives. Vote against puppets, who have been selected to come into power, notwithstanding that this has happened before. In fact, vote against it, all the more.
And while you vote against ‘them’, it is my view that in this election this must lead you to vote in one way only. That is, for candidates which represent a singled out and dismantled political party, excluded from the choices you should be allowed to make freely. Vote for those candidates that have withstood the project to dismantle and destroy them and their party. Vote this way even if you do not subscribe to their politics or policies. Vote this way only to vote against those who are trying to engineer a pre-decided outcome.
Never mind those who say this would be to vote for those who were beneficiaries before of that which you now vote against. This is not about karma. This not the time for historical comparisons. This not the time for moral grandstanding. This is about breaking a cycle. A cycle in which we are caught. A cycle which requires us to vote in a united way to stop it from being perpetuated. That opportunity is now. So, this election vote first and foremost to protect your right to vote freely. Vote to send this singular message loud and clear. Vote, the way ‘they’ do not want you to vote. Vote precisely that way and no other way.
This is not an ask to vote against any person or institution. It is to vote against a dangerous idea which has persisted for far too long. This is to ask you to employ the immediately available and most opportune way, among all legitimate ways, to fight such an idea. An idea which underestimates the people of this country. An idea which fails to foresee, that the people of this country for whom decisions are being forcibly made, have the ability to take back their freedom to choose by asserting that freedom. And so, this election, you must vote against ‘them’.

The writer is a barrister. Tweets at @miansamiuddin.

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