It’s here. The day of elections that many warned would not arrive but it’s here against all odds. For a country like Pakistan where democratic roots are not well established, elections are and should be a big affair. Every instance of people coming out and exercising their basic right to vote is a step towards reinforcement of democratic process. This is only second time in 70 years history that timely elections are being held after peaceful and democratic transfer of power. This is a sign of political maturity and shrinking space for undemocratic forces. Although there have been wide spread allegations of political engineering and deteriorating security conditions have somewhat marred the traditional excitement of election campaigning but ultimately, it’s the people who will vote and elect next government.
For that to come true, they will have to come out and vote. Never mind the blazing sun, humidity in the air and long queues outside polling stations, this is your chance to exercise your right and change your destiny. Its time to move from ‘What will happen with one vote’ to ‘what can happen with one vote’. This is the only chance to prove that Pakistan has indeed become a democratic country. The dark on your thumb can brighten nation’s future. Voter enthusiasm for democratic process can be the first step towards a better polity, where both parties and voters challenge each other to produce better outcomes for the country. You may have many grievances with the governance structure but remember this is the only way to change that. There is no other way.
However, simply turning up to vote is not sufficient. Convince others around you to come and vote. Bring your family and friends along to polling stations. Give rides to those going to vote and try to participate in facilitating the polling process in any capacity. But most importantly, stay alert and vigilant. Be on lookout for any suspicious activity in and around polling station. Cooperate with security and polling staff and report any procedural mismanagement to authorities. This is a wholesome process that needs full involvement of every citizen. Think of voting not as a burden but a basic right awarded by the constitution of Pakistan and its exercise is crucial to preserve the sanctity of that constitution and strengthen it.
Along with the public who are primary stakeholder in this process, it is duty of everyone involved to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections in peaceful manner. Election Commission must do better to quell the reservations of various candidates and analysts of favoring one candidate over the other and must ensure its neutrality. Security forces’ role in providing a safe environment to voters and polling staff is crucial and they must do so with complete dedication. Polling staff is the backbone of this whole process and must work diligently to facilitate voters and ensure maximum participation and validity of votes casted. Independent polling observers are crucial to establish and maintain transparency of polling process and they must be allowed to work uninterrupted in a protected manner.
Last but not least, it falls on political leaders to maintain order during polling day and abstain from disrupting law and order in pursuit of votes. Everyone must respect voters’ verdict and accept the election results wholeheartedly. There have been many concerns of establishment’s interference in the polling process, but collective conscience of the people must be trusted. This is the only way to consolidate the gains made by two uninterrupted democratic terms and bring Pakistan to the comity of civilized nations in these turbulent times of eroding democratic norms all over the globe. Today is a very significant milestone in this journey towards a better tomorrow and your vote is the only fuel that can keep this country on track.