May 11th is upon us. Pakistani all over Pakistan MUST go out to vote. There are great threats to lives, and security, but a safe democratic system is the only hope for a better tomorrow. If we fail to exercise our right to vote and have our voices heard, then we lose the right to complain of the tyrants that come to rule us. For the first time in many years, the nation of Pakistan has been mobilized to this great extent. People of Pakistan are rising to say enough is enough! There have been mass rallies; people have taken to the street without concern for their safety only because they want a prosperous Pakistan. My only hope is that this momentum continues today when it really matters and people actually go out and vote. I know there will be some who will get deterred and not go out. This is a form of complacency and is being apathetic. Apathy is NOT an option!
Every vote counts. If you think what difference would one vote make? Remember, change starts from the self, if each and every person took responsibility for their actions, justice would prevail. Here is why apathy is NOT an option. By not voting, or by making light of the right to vote, you inadvertently accept the oppression that is around you. You become a part of the system of oppression. You accept that you have no responsibility to your nation, to your children, and to your own future.
If you are a parent, you are to stand and lead by example. I remember being a child and eagerly waiting to be 18 so I could vote. The right to vote seemed very precious to me even at the tender age of 10. I may have not spent a long time of my living days in Pakistan, but for some reason I grew up with understanding the value of a vote. My grandparents were first generation immigrants to Pakistan. I grew up hearing of my maternal grandparents leaving everything behind in India, risking their lives, travelling to the now Pakistan on trains that were looted. I remember distinctly my grandmother telling me of her journey to Pakistan. While she was travelling on the train with a new born, a bullet shot through the train compartments grazing her as she held onto her baby. I grew up being thankful for the blood our ancestors shed so that we could have a free Pakistan. Perhaps, growing up with that knowledge is what gave me my sense of responsibility to Pakistan. I do not feel a sense of entitlement to a nation that was given to me by our ancestors. I feel we are lucky to not have had to shed blood or make many sacrifices for this country. This country was a gift, it is a debt to our future generation and we owe them at least being responsible enough to go out and vote.
Today, Pakistan is burning. The same sacrifices that our ancestors made are being made by my fellow brothers and sisters in Pakistan. The decision is ours, do we want our kids to grow up feeling thankful that their parents made the sacrifices for their future, or do we want our children to become the victims of a system of oppression and give the ultimate sacrifice in the shape of their own life and blood? Every parent’s dream is a better life for their child than the one they had. Please mothers and fathers go out and give your children the gift of a secure future by voting today.
The past few months have been a whirlwind of emotions, activism, violence, mud-slinging, defamation and absolute chaos in Pakistan. I have had the honour of being a mentor to two campaign managers in Pakistan who are working during these elections. One of them is a campaign manager in the Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan. He explained to me the threat of security to one’s life in that region, yet every morning this man gets up and goes to campaign in a region that is fraught with violence. His motivation is the betterment of Pakistan and not relenting to the oppression of the extremists. Similarly, I spoke to the other campaign manager who is campaigning in Dera Ghazi Khan. Even though, unlike Pakhtunkhwa, she has been able to canvass and organize relatively safely in Punjab, her biggest concern was the threat to life on Election Day and getting people out to vote. Both these brave souls are a few examples of the people who are on the front lines, putting their lives in danger, all because they want a better future for themselves, their families and their children. We may fail to be active political volunteers, rallying people around us to vote, but the very least we can do for the betterment of Pakistan is to get out and vote. I am unfortunate like many overseas Pakistanis who are unable to vote during this election, but those of you who are living in Pakistan, you MUST vote!
At Jummah Khutbah at my Masjid today, the Imam spoke about the darkness that envelopes one’s heart, which allows us to continue sinning. I couldn’t help but relate it to apathy. Apathy is a form of a sin; the sin of not taking responsibility, the sin of not speaking up against oppression and falsehood. If apathy was an option in Islam, then our beloved Prophet Mohammed SAW would not have risen against the falsehood of the time. Him and His Companions (May Allah be pleased with them all) would not have risked their lives to spread the message of truth. Yes, he was divinely guided, and none of us can dare to compare to him, but he is the example we follow. Our love for Islam and our love for the Prophet SAW dictates we rise up against oppression. Sitting idly and crying against a system will never change the system. Being a working cog in the system, and being a voice within that system is what will bring change. We MUST not let extremists stop us from our rights to a good government, a responsible and just government.
Pakistan, please rise today and vote. Here is another reason why NOT VOTING IS NOT AN OPTION. For every vote that is not cast, it is an open opportunity for the corrupt to go and cast a false vote in YOUR name! This HAPPENS in Pakistan. Unlike, the Western countries, where such fixes are almost impossible to do, perhaps not voting could be considered an option, but it is definitely NOT an option in Pakistan. Think of the worst possible alternate to the leader you would like to see in power and think of him as the elected official to represent you for the next five years, all because you could not be motivated enough to go out and vote. Do not let your precious vote go to waste by those who would misuse it. Remember, when you don’t vote, you leave the option for someone else to vote in your name and allow someone else to falsely speak on your behalf. Vote for Peace, vote for justice, vote for a Naya Pakistan!
Enough is enough! You must take the reign of your future in your hands and vote today. May Allah protect each and every one of you and may all of Pakistan defeat the oppressors who are responsible for hunger, for poverty, and for the loss of precious lives. May tomorrow bring a new beginning for all of Pakistan ameen.