Days, if not hours, hardly pass by that I don’t see a sign that politics is a problem in this country.
First, a disclaimer: I have huge interest in parliamentary and electoral politics and follow every bit of it – be it the general polls, by-polls, defection, rallies, press conferences, and so on and have seen the general elections with interest since 1988.
By all means, politics remains unpredictable and this makes it an interesting sport as well as a problem. When I call it a problem, I mean like every problem, it needs to be addressed, just like load shedding, just like clogged sewerage lines, and just any extraordinary problem.
The most recent incident of politics obsession running amuck happened in the Punjab Assembly on Friday and then in the Supreme Court on Saturday. When the possibility that Chaudhry Parvez Elahi would become the chief minister ended in smoke with a ruling, and not by numbers, I felt that my hours spent in front of TV were simply wasted.
Once the ruling was passed, and Hamza Shehbaz started celebrations, I received a text from a dear friend, who wrote: “If Hamza wins – and he could – I will lose trust in mathematical calculations”.
“LoL (laughing out loud),” I wrote back. In reality, I was not laughing.
People argue that politics is such a sector where mathematical calculations are baffled, public support is manipulated and transparent elections could be dubbed sham. These arguments are true for the whole world. What can we say about India, which calls itself the largest democracy, but loses its mind when it elects a deluded, extremist conman, while the US elects reality TV show star its president.
What counts in politics?
I remember when I was in school our class teacher would conduct elections to elect class monitor and coordinators of different extracurricular activities.
I also contested elections, won a few and lost many, and every time accepted results with grace.
The class would never go for a bully student, and would stand against the elected ones who failed to perform.
These electoral activities should be made part of our school curriculum and part of college and university programmes. Most of the people, including parents, teachers and politicians, are against student unions.
That is so ironic.
They establish their arguments on the grounds that whenever union elections are held, violence is reported. True, whenever unions are restored and elections are held, different student groups fight against each other. They fracture the legs of their opponents. Occasionally they open fire at each other.
What is the cure to these ailments?
Ban on student unions? No way.
The cure lies in more student unions. The continuity of the process will inculcate democratic norms in the students, who are the future electorates, constituents and candidates for different elections.
When elections are held, the whole nation forgets everything from inflation to power outages. They only discuss elections, their favorite candidates and hostile parties. They take interest in candidates’ electioneering, posters, speeches, and media coverage. They come to polling stations in droves and poll votes standing in lines for hours. They stay at polling stations till the poll is done, ballot papers counted and results announced. After the result announcement, they celebrate and mourn the results, depending on the outcome of the count.
I started off this column with the problem called politics.
Yes, the problem with politics is that it is becoming like a tribal war among political parties. Politicians hardly discuss people, problems, issues, ideologies, future vision, and past performance. Instead, they discuss ‘what he says,’ and ‘what we say’.
A follow-up disclaimer:
I am a politics fan and will wait for the next election. In a way, I am also part of the problem.