May 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Khan,

First of all, a big thank you.

Second, my commiserations. This truly-does-suck. I still believe that you would have, and you will someday, make an exceptional leader, and Prime-Minister of the Islamic-Republic.

Years ago, a few months before I left the US I was at the international-house pub, standing on the sidelines watching as not-yet-President Obama was waiting for the American vote count. This was, if my memory serves me correctly, a few months into President Zardari's ascent to Presidency in the motherland. A few months after President Musharraf had been rudely ousted out of government by a lawyer's movement and a somewhat-shady Chief Justice. And a few months after Benazir had been killed. Point is, much had been going on in the motherland while I had been sitting in Amreeka fighting my own demons, 'tsk-tsk-ing' at the political landscape in Pakistan and struggling to complete bloody-thesis.

I remember I was dragged out of my room that evening by friends eager to watch the making of American history a'la Obama. The election of the first African-American President, a President, moreover whose entire campaign had been based on only one premise: Hope. I remember getting sucked right into the breathless anticipation, glued to the TV screen in the pub watching as one by one members of the electoral congress were voted in by different states. Watching as miraculously, Obama did win, and then listening intently to his Presidential address. I remember that it made me cry. Then I joined a crowd of boisterous celebrators and walked out of I-House into the biggest party I've ever seen. There were miles of jubilant people, free drinks at every step, and so-many-musicians. Everyone was dancing down the streets, swaying to the beats of many-many drums, laughing, crying, joyful. You see, for them, it was hope that had won. And I jumped right in to the the party, dancing down the streets of Harlem to the beat of optimistic celebration.

And then it happened. A moment of crystal-clear-clarity, almost movie-like in that I felt like I was suddenly standing absolutely still while everyone around me was still dancing away. I realized, in that strange moment that I really had no reason to celebrate. My country was slowly falling apart and the corruptest regime of them all had ascended to power. Here I was, dancing to the beat of hope, while in my world there was none. I was celebrating as if my future was going to change, except it wasn't. Obama may have stood for hope, but it wasn't hope for me. That is the precise moment when happiness was completely overtaken and destroyed by the sharp, green, tendrils of incredible envy, and a deep-rooted wish that someday I would feel this same hopeful frenzy again, except this time it would be for me.

Fast forward five years to May, 2013. I had been on the fence for a long time wondering if your intensity, professed intentions and evident charisma made up for your naivete and political inexperience. Speculating if Nawaz would be able to keep this heavily disturbed country together instead of being a key ingredient in the recipe for the inevitable coup, as he has been in the past. Knowing that no matter what happened Zardari and the People's Party would - and should - not return to power to further fuck up. Eventually, a combination of reasons, some emotional and some practical swung my vote to you and and to the 'ballah'. A defining moment, for me, was when immediately following the brutal slaughter of the Hazara Shia's in Quetta, YOU were there walking down the streets, condoling the masses. While all the other politicians stood like incompetent idiots watching on the sidelines waiting for 'security clearances' that would allow them to travel across their own goddamn country,  you were rubbing shoulders with the victims, condemning the violence and basically doing what you could. That moment was for me a turning point where I realized that you symbolized something that I had been longing for ever since that historic dance down Harlem in 2008: Hope.

Hope that was miraculously shared by almost every category of person who I met, spoke or listened to at your final rally in Islamabad on May 09th. Possibly the largest ever rally of persons gathered for a political cause who had not been lured there by the promise of free food, or a day's wages. At that moment, standing in the crowd, cheering you on and wishing you well I felt as alive, as involved and as hopeful for a better future as I had all those many years ago. And that is what I want to thank you for: the gift of hope. The opportunity to remove, if only for a little while, the all-too-tight goggles of cynicism that most Pakistanis are wearing, and to really 'see' the vast crowd of people standing with you in this sleepy, apolitical city chanting for a change. It was electric.

As was the atmosphere yesterday at our polling station in Bangalore Town, Karachi (NA-252), where the voter turnout ranged from just-turned-18-year-olds to 80 year-old vote veterans. As an aged man standing next to me confessed, had been voting for 40 years now, and this was the first time he had seen so many people waiting to vote. I stood there in that super-crowded school for nearly 4 hours, where I traveled up and down the line talking to people, some who I knew and some who I didn't. Every one was patient, everyone waited and everyone was talking about you. It seemed almost as if there was no contest, every single person out there on the street who had made a special effort to vote, had done it for you. And no money had exchanged hands, no political pressure or familial obligation had made them do it. Just a strange sort of contagious hope that if they did this, if they stamped on that piece of paper, they might really be able to bring about a 'Naya Pakistan'.

This morning, ofcourse, it seems like 'Naya Pakistan' has to put up with the purana shit for another five years, and I'm sorry about that. As, I'm sure, are you.

That said, there is much to thank you for, and that is really is what this letter is all about:

Thank you for making me remember and rejoice in being Pakistani. Thank you for reminding us in the power of revolution and of belief in change. Thank you for making us a little less afraid to speak up. Thank you for bringing out more people to take part in the democratic process than have ever done so before. Thank you for making us believe that a better future is in our grasp and that we should stop dreaming of leaving this country and instead start dreaming about how to make it the best country in the world to live in. Thank you for pointing out that no matter what happens, our responsibility is to look after our own - and that our own are all those green-passported people who live with us within this border. Thank you for being a patriot through and through and for reminding us of who we are, and where we belong. And most importantly, thank you for being a leader. Now, more than ever, we need one.

While I'm disappointed, I also recognize that this is not the end. This is merely the beginning of the crazy movement that you have initiated. I hope that you look on what has happened as an opportunity to strengthen yourself, your party and your country in whatever capacity that you can. I rejoice that you have an entire province as your playing field, and I look forward to seeing what you can do in order to bring about peace, stability and prosperity in that troubled region. Here's to KPK, and seeing what you can make of it. As for the rest of the country, Pakistan will benefit from a strong and principled opposition, which I hope that you can provide. We, are our future. And we look forward to seeing you as the premier in 2018.

Until then, stay safe, stay strong and stay beautiful.

Thank you once again for what you have already done. For this apathetic, cynical, politically disillusioned country, it really has been nothing short of a miracle.

Much love,

A Reluctant PTI-ist. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love it,
During the first election between Obama and McCain, I was in awe that there are two leaders that people are so zealous about and debates that are at an intellectual level which have never been matched by and political debates in Pakistan - which is nothing more than a shouting match. Now we have a leader that gives us hope and a reason to use our vote, one leader who we feel good about. Hopefully next time we may have two IK's who can discuss their mandates at an intellectual level which resonates with people from every corner of Pakistan and the choice becomes harder for people not because they have to choose between Naya Pakistan (Change and Hope) VS purana Pakistan (Tribe and Ethnicity) but a choice between two leaders who we feel passionate about because they make us think at a higher level than roti kapra makan or Keema Paratha, laptops and metro buses.
Hey at least we stopped voting for a party whose leader died 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

this is beautiful brought tears to my eyes, and Yes HOPE has raised in our hearts. Stay put stay strong Mr. Khan we are all behind you. And a big THANKS for bringing the nation together.

x said...

That's so funny. I was (of course) at Ihouse Chicago in 2007-08. Even though that is supposedly Mr. Hope's stomping ground or power base or whatever, I don't recall equivalent excitement over his campaign. Maybe I'm biased, but I seem to remember the enthusiasm there being lukewarm, with the exception of some excitement over people's degrees of separation to Obama.

blood on the ground.. said...

apt.