Because as I see it, democracy has already won

Published: April 30, 2013
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We watched, celebrated, and hoped, but we crossed the bridge of indifference to a place where we feel something. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Bijli nahe hay, stability nahe hay, business nahe chal sakta, security nahe hay…Hum laaton ke bhoot, baaton se nahe maanain gay. Yahan democracy nahe chal sakti. We need a stronger force, a dictator to rule us.”

(There is no electricity or stability here, businesses cannot work, and there is lack of security…we can’t be talked into working, we need to be beaten to do it. Democracy cannot work here. We need a stronger force, a dictator to rule us.)

“But, we are new to the process. Har cheez main time lagta hay (everything takes time); maybe if we sacrifice today, our next generation might see a better future.

“Ya, go tell that to your driver who works two jobs to support his family and still will never get the life you have lived. And just the other day, weren’t you complaining about moving back as well?”

“But….”

This is a conversation that I have had with my father several times over the course of five years. Each time it ended the same way. His jaded wisdom and my newfound patriotism regarding the future of this country could never find a middle ground. It often felt like naiveté was the only way to love Pakistan and cynicism the only way to live here. You were either an idealist or a realist, because ideals’ turning into a reality was forbidden territory- a possibility that most of us never even considered if we were born here.

But in the past four months something changed. The conversation steered from what others had done to what we were going to do. We started listening, talking, exchanging views, discussing plans and the most dangerous of all, believing. We started talking about who we were going to vote for and why.

We saw candidates being dismissed because they misled about their educational qualifications. We witnessed army generals being tried in court, reinforcing our belief in the fact that power was never absolute, or eternal. We saw transgenders like Bindiya Rana and Sanam Faqeer entering the political domain and claiming their rightful position in society. We cheered because women like Hajiani Lanjo and Badam Zari contested for seats from areas where even men were afraid to defy the traditional politics.

We watched, celebrated, and hoped-some of us subtler in our expression than others. But we crossed the seemingly indomitable bridge of indifference to a place where we feel something. It might be too soon to term that delicate flutter of emotion as optimism, but it is a welcome change from that deep slumber of empathy that engulfed most for us for a long time now. And I am not denying that it is a scary place to be in – like every emotion, it leaves you vulnerable, with the possibility of being let down always looming like an ominous cloud. But at least we want to give it a shot, and that is the most important thing right now.

And it has not been an easy path getting here. I do not know how those who lost their lives, livelihoods or loved ones to the terrorism that has haunted this country for the past five years feel about the price we have paid for democracy, or the young man/woman who had to settle for something menial because they could not find the right job. Or the father who had to make the impossible choice between feeding his children or sending them to school.

I will not speak on their behalf because I find it disrespectful to even claim that I understand what they have been through. But I would like to offer my heartfelt apology and sincerest gratitude, because I owe them both. I am so sorry that you had to lose so much for us to gain perspective. But I am thankful because I have never felt more responsible and more accountable, to myself, this country and its people.

As for my dad, yesterday he graciously accepted defeat.

“Beta your daadi and the driver both want to vote this time. Can you please look at their CNIC numbers and help them locate their areas.”

“Of course,” I said respectfully while doing a silent victory dance in my head.

Read more by Sarah here or follow her on Twitter @sarahmunir1

Sarah.Munir

Sarah Munir

A graduate from the Columbia Journalism School and is currently heading the Magazine Desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets @SarahMunir1 (twitter.com/SarahMunir1)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.