Voting By Candidate

Source: thekooza.com

Source: thekooza.com

I have grown up hearing that you should always vote for the party and the ideology. Well, it makes sense too because with more seats, the party would possibly gain a majority and the people who remotely share a fraction of your political world view could become decision makers. But does that mean you should turn a blind eye to the candidates?

But thanks to our parliamentary system, this voting approach has a severe drawback. Particularly for undecided voters and particularly for people who are not voting for ideology. I guess there would be a lot of educated voters in the upcoming 2013 general elections in this regard.

To most people, the general elections for National and Provincial Assembly representatives are a substitute for Presidential or Prime Ministerial elections. They vote for Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan or Asif Zardari, rather than considering the candidates. Probably it is the same for the rest of the parties too.

I am even told by many that they would vote for a pole if it runs for the party or the leader of their choice. Others would vote for fly-over bridges and construction and development projects, which is a somewhat better approach, But obviously hardly anyone concentrates on their legislative stance and ability.

A lot of people vote for the legislature candidates as if they were voting for a councilor or a mayor, and that is the value they get in the end. But probably it is not their fault. We have a terrible parliamentary system prevalent in this country which only lets people vote for their representatives, but not for their Senators, Governors, Chief Ministers, Presidents or even Prime Ministers.

Furthermore, the 5 year term of a government is ridiculously long. I can hardly think of any better system than the bicameral US Presidential system which has 2 year terms for the representatives, though a long term of 6 years for the senators. But it is an electoral system which allows the US people to elect all of their representatives and even mayors directly. The parliamentary system seems autocratic in comparison.

Now they have even worsened this terrible electoral system in the 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution during the last term by introducing and unanimously voting for the Article 63 (A) about disqualificaiton on the grounds of defection. It is an article which requires every member of the legislature to vote according to the party lines or have their membership terminated.

How undemocratic is that. I actually find its passage hard to believe, and our politicians have the audacity of incessantly boasting about it. I can’t imagine a democracy without individual freedom and liberty.

How is this for treason to democratic values? At least it goes to show that there is no respect for individual freedom and individual opinion in Pakistan. Then why worry if the message is reflected at the grassroots?

This clearly goes to show that democracy has “not been able to work” in Pakistan because several provisions in the constitution are not democratic in the first place.

But when voting for a party is thrust upon you as a moral responsibility, you are hardly worried about factors such as these.

But when I look at a candidate, and I imagine whether I would want him or her to represent my constituency or not, I would really find myself responsible for the sake of spending public money the right way to assign the right person to the job. Well at least they must be able to read and understand the constitution, even if that means voting for a candidate who would get a total of 63 votes. I am mentioning that figure for a reason.

Malik Ibrar Campaigning - Source: Official facebook Page

PML (N) Candidate – Malik Ibrar Campaigning – Source: Official facebook Page

PPP Candidate Zamurd Khan campaigning - Source: pakistanleaders.com.pk

PPP Candidate Zamurd Khan campaigning – Source: pakistanleaders.com.pk

PTI Candidate Hina Manzoor Campaigning - Source Official facebook Page

PTI Candidate Hina Manzoor Campaigning – Source Official facebook Page

I need to vote in the NA-54 constituency where the major contenders are the incumbent Malik Ibrar Ahmed of PML-N, Zamurd Khan of PPP and Hina Manzoor of PTI, apart from other members from the JI, JUI (F), MQM, ANP and independent ones which are not expected to get much votes, like always. The candidates for the PP-10 Punjab Assembly constituency are much worse and picking the right canddiate would be an easier task there.

While I largely find myself undecided over the current constitutional and electoral mess, I would surely vote and I would try to vote by candidates. I am not saying there is anything wrong to vote by parties. Do so by all means. But I believe that evaluating the candidates is just as important.

While I am disechanted by the last parliament for unanimously voting for the controversial clause about Article 63 (A) in the 18th amendment, by the same rationale, I could just as well vote for just about any candidate not elected to the last parliament term.

But is that really the answer? Because provided our brilliant parliamentary system, any member you vote for would simply vote on party lines, regardless of what they want and how terrible the party stance is. Slavery could never have been abolished in the United States if they had such a constitutional provision. This largely destroys the purpose of voting for choosing the legislator for your constituency, because you are actually choosing no one, as rightly pointed out by some in my family.

I wish I could possibly not vote for gangs, because this is what political parties wearing the most civilized and democratic façade are acting like. And it is such a shame. Sadly, it is behavior like this that extremists and undemocratic forces like the Taliban would like to see, which in the end means that you have no choice but to stick to “lesser evils.”

That is why we need to criticize the autocratic legislation of our political parties loudly and clearly more than ever before if we are to ensure the establishment of true democratic values and principles in this country. But I know I must vote to send out a strong and clear message to those who do not want me and all of you to.

But it’s all really confusing and I would rather like to wait till May 11 to make up my mind.

Till then, I’d rather vote for the person I’d hire.

Bohr Masjid: No Protests for This Mosque

The Damaged Bohr Masjid façade

Not too far from where I live, Bohr Masjid, or the Banyan Tree Mosque, located in Churr Chowk, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi has undergone some drastic changes. The façade of the mosque is almost completely destroyed by the orders of the local government, operating in the constituencies NA-54 (Rawalpindi V) in the National Legislature and PP-10 in the Punjab government legislature, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board.

While in my opinion, this step by the local government for the sake of road expansion was completely unnecessary, apart from the general needlessness of the entire project of the so-called renovation of Churr Chowk Rawalpindi, where the inauguration stone of Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif had already been erected in March 2012 (If you happen to go around Churr Chowk these days, there is probably no other structure standing in its vicinity), what happened to the mosque only added insult to injury.

This project seems nothing else but the customary election year ritual of the reigning political parties of Pakistan, in this particular case PML-N, with their incumbent MPs Malik Ibrar Ahmed for NA-54 and his brother Malik Iftikhar Ahmed for PP-10, to gain sympathy of the voters by demonstrating that “developmental projects” are underway. I would have gone on to post the image of the ridiculously large and “vulgar” political hoarding thanking the mentioned MPs and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif and Mr. Nawaz Sharif for “fulfilling their promise of making Churr Chowk look like the Sahara Desert”, but I really don’t want to make this post sound like something political and targeting any one party, because I am sure that perhaps another party would be at it anyway.

However, it does concern politics anyway because the politics is ruining my neighborhood and my city. While a book can be written on how this project is being executed, the reason why I have chosen Bohr Masjid as its worst manifestation is because apparently mosques and religion are pretty important to the people of Rawalpindi, Punjab and Pakistan. I asked quite a few people about it, but they apparently considered the subject rather too unpleasant to be discussed much and it was something they were clearly willing to ignore.

Given the religious aspect of the damage to the mosque, the people of my city are apparently too peaceful or too lazy or too naïve to make fuss about it. However, to me, that mosque was a part of the city and a part of its culture and sights and sounds. It was heartbreaking to wake up one morning and see its façade gone just like that and what is worse, it is literally in ruins now, and it offers the view of a damaged structure in a bomb-battered warzone. A few images could offer a better idea of what has happened to the mosque.

The Debris of the Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

Source: Another View of the Destroyed Mosque façade

What I can’t figure out is this. Why are there no protests over this? Had a Christian or some other non-Muslim even spitted betel towards the mosque, the person would have already left the world for committing the crime. Alright that is a little exaggeration, but hey, we have seen colonies of Christians reduced to ashes for supposedly desecrating the Holy Koran in this country. The only reason why there are no protests I guess is because the mosque has been destroyed by an elected Muslim government, who have apparently done great service to Islam and humanity by doing this, as they are carrying out a road expansion that everyone would have done without.

The Banyan Tree with Bohr Masjid

What concerns me more than the destruction of the mosque is the fact that the old banyan trees that are synonymous with the mosque and are an important landmark of the area would go down soon as well. Already a number of irreplaceable trees have been lost for the sake of this mindless “development” project and I am not sure how many more will follow. Peshawar Road, at least its Westridge part, is one of the relatively pleasant parts of the city connecting the G. T. Road and apparently the government wants to turn it like the rest of the urban parts of Pakistan as well.

Barren, dusty, dirty, treeless and an eyesore.

The Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

I took these photos on August 2, 2012 and even visited the place today, on August 11. The mosque is still in the state that can be seen in the images and I expect it to remain that way for quite a while. No one knows how long will this gigantic “development project” will take to complete but I wonder if anyone would do anything to rebuild this poor man’s mosque. Surprisingly enough, it is the only building in the vicinity that has been graced by the authorities for its destruction.

Just a question for understanding the religious mind. If there is no outrage on the deliberate destruction of a mosque, a holy place, just for the trivial purpose of road expansion, why would you be raging on the destruction of a mosque claimed by another religion to be the birthplace of one of their human-gods? A much more important purpose. Maybe Muslims can destroy mosques themselves, but no one else can.

There is no connection of the two really as the attack of Hindu extremists was a violent and violating act in its own right, but why have different standards on the treatment of a mosque? Why not react to this deliberate destruction of a mosque, protesting against a Muslim government? No riots please, just concern on the loss of a cultural and historic building.

I find the apathy rather fascinating.