Thursday, February 19, 2004

Separate Destinies?


Pakistani bureaucracy has the elemental capability to shock you at regular intervals. Monday, February 16's Daily Dawn reported the Pakistan Election Commission’s reversion of their decision on separate electorates for Muslim and Non-Muslim citizens. With that fatuous announcement, the clock was turned back two years--the courageous resolution of joint electorate districts i.e., to see all citizens through the same democratic lens, was only made in 2002.

This disappointing news conjured up a vivid image in my mind. It is that of a car stuck in mud. The wheels are spinning very fast, but the car is not going anywhere. Then helpful people come to the rescue. They push the car with all their strength and manage to get it almost out of the slippery groove. And just when they think the revving engine can pull the car out, they let go their force and the wheels slide back into the mud. This is exactly how I feel about Pakistan, spinning its wheels in the bane of hollow religiosity. It took years, if not decades, of hard work on the part of the well-wishers of the country to convince the Pakistani administration that separate electorates are not a hot idea, and just when they thought the battle was won, the country slid back into the past.

Why is everybody except for the religious parties in favor of joint electorates? Because people living in a precinct—-no matter what their religious affiliation is—-share the same problems together. If there is no water, they all suffer together. If the power supply is in shambles, they all hurt. If their schools are in bad shape, they all feel the same pain. With their destinies conjoined, they want to influence the elected leadership together, on issues affecting all the voters of the locality. The system of separate electoral
districts will force the Christians of Multan and the Hindus of Jacobabad to vote for a person who may not even know the geography of either Multan or Jacobabad, let alone have an understanding of the local issues.

A sham argument that having separate electoral districts is in the benefit of the non-Muslims is presented by the religious parties, the force-majeur behind the farce. Real nonsense! Don’t you think that whoever is benefiting from this proposal should be enthusiastic about it? I don't see Christian, Hindu, Qadiani, and other religious minorities showering the Election Commission with confetti on this announcement. I can hear them boo.

Let's not fool ourselves. The only purpose of having separate electoral districts for religious minorities is to miff them; to highlight their existence; to antagonize them; and to convince them that the country they were born in, and feel an innate love for, wants to disown them. To minorities, it is an invitation to hatred: hate Pakistan because Pakistan hates you.

A cursory look at Pakistan's tumultuous history indicates that our country’s present courtship with the USA won't last too long. And when the going gets tough, you want the nation to be united behind the country’s leadership and not have livid citizens looking for opportunities to get even with you on past scores.

Save Pakistan, press the Government for joint electoral districts!