This woman won’t cast her vote

I recently critiqued a political party called PTI for giving a known rapist a party seat and celebrating it with garlands, handshakes and photo-ops. A believer in PTI was offended by this take on a party that, after all, promises an end to status quo. He said three things: One, that the criminal came from another established party, PMLN; that the criminal didn’t get an election ticket. Therefore I was technically incorrect in calling it out. Lastly, that if I had any fairness or credibility I would have also celebrated that a woman from FATA, the most neglected part of our country, had a woman electable from PTI.

In providing an answer to him, which I am making through this piece, I also explain to you, why I am not voting in these elections despite previously voting PTI. First, when a party calls for change, like PTI does, then fetching a winning electable from status quo parties should not be met with anything except humiliating shame. Instead, when Imran Khan, the Prime Ministerial candidate was told that this is hypocritical said that he is merely following the intricate and high-intellect “science of winnable elections.” What he meant was that candidates have to be men and they have to be men from the right caste, creed and power structure.

If a rapist, a known misogynist is given space in the party, and not an election ticket technically, how is that any less undignified. Why is it that when it comes to men’s reputations, humanity takes a back seat? Why is there deflection and so-whattery? Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.

Men and women from often call me a fake feminist, across the spectrum, but I am always called this especially when what I am opposing is powerful – Such as a political party with a charismatic leaders and lots of support from manufacturers of consent. My pieces have left out no party in either praise or criticism, that is why the accusations rotate on party-lines. My credibility and fairness is often questioned when I use my sharpened and caustic tongue on parties that claim to have mandates greater than my cause – change, religion, sacred values, traditionalism, culture and also menism. Notice how vague all these notions are. Notice how one can be so easily framed for violating them simply by existing or breathing.

The reason I am not celebrating a woman who was given a PTI ticket from FATA is because, and allow me t giggle while I explain this, women are mandated to be 5% of the allocated electable candidates in Pakistan under the 2017 Elections Act. This act was passed after years and years of lobbying from women’s rights groups. They begged for it to be at least 10%. Finally the only number everyone could agree on was 5%. They just left out a zero in front of it, in case they truly wanted to be representative, but that’s ok. Everyone gives zero damns anyway. Fact: 59 political parties have not issued general seat tickets to any women.

Also, FATA is one of those places, you give tickets to someone you are uninterested in leveraging. Sadly, that region, after finally integrating as part of KP province has been the barren ground for government priorities. So sorry, but there really isn’t anything worth rejoicing because the candidate herself is upset she’s been offered a constituency that she’s totally unfamiliar with.

So I’m not voting because I identify as exhausted. I am not voting because it is in an area in Samnabad Lahore where my vote is registered where I have to pass by the narrowest streets where men brush against me deliberately and if they don’t, they violate me with their eyes. I’m not voting because I am protesting that the party I did want to vote for in engineered out of the game.

I am not voting because, I wanted to think this through myself, and not have this thought on my behalf by the media. Both by omission and news agenda-setting.

Many women in Pakistan, almost all of those who vote in rural areas do so on the dictate of feudal power lords that tell poor men who to tell their women who to vote for. How is that different with the institutional power brokers determining for me who I cannot vote for? My morality is determined by my self interest and if I cannot come to that conclusion on my own, by my lived experience, then essentially the man is dictating to me and my to party’s losing science. So no, I’m opting out. The theory on that is every vote counts, but theory fails when cannon fire rings loud.

Women are not even an after-thought in elections. Those that make it in politics are shamed for something or the other – character and it’s billion auxiliaries, from dupatta size and color and opacity to how attractive she is or is not. Then they say: less talk more makeup. The agenda she brings is unimportant because the source is from a man’s rib.

This country is not ready to take instructions from a woman unless she is a powerful man’s wife, sister or daughter. Even then, visibility has value, and Benazir Bhutto was a pinnacle in women rights in the Muslim world that we lay claim too. Those times are gone. Now people defend rapists as change-agents because well, elections have a certain “science.” That science does not see things from a rape victim’s perspective. That is the bane of my decision not to vote for change that has already arrived. Change that says – get out of the way already.




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