Today, I voted for Pakistan.
The national elections of 2018, preceded by controversy and political heat, have aroused the spirit of democracy that Pakistan deserves. Observers and analysts will have their say, but I want to share three revelations from Elections 2018.
First, after working to educate first-time voters, including women, minorities, and people with disabilities, in an Asia Foundation program called VoteFirst, I am awed by the passion and patriotism of even the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society. Pakistani citizens deeply want to be part of the political process. In one district of Balochistan where we conducted voter-education workshops, an entire village became first-time voters. In our own office, a member of a minority group proudly prepared to vote for the very first time.
Second, the polling was gratifyingly organized and efficient. From the party workers verifying voter lists and the courteous and professional security personnel at polling stations, to the issuing of ballots, the voting in private booths, and the triumphal ink mark on the thumb, I saw how Pakistan can get it right. There was heartbreaking violence in Quetta, but polling continued amid strong demand from voters, showing that democracy can overcome our divisions.
Finally, I was honored to vote among other committed women. I watched with pride as my mother emerged with her marked thumb raised, having cast a vote, no doubt, the opposite of my father’s! At my own polling place, my octogenarian mother-in-law and several fellow party members were serving as poll workers. It was a privilege to vote in the company of so many women like these. I saw, once again, how democracy can make women’s voices heard. It was sad that many women in remote districts were prevented from voting, but if we continue to do so, they will, too, one day.
As the polls closed and the results emerged, this was clear: whoever forms the next government, Pakistanis are together, and together is how we will move Pakistan in the direction of unity, prosperity, and stability. So, although my mother and my mother-in-law have political views that differ from mine, we all voted for Pakistan.
Sofia Shakil is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Pakistan. She can be reached at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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