My first time in Washington DC didn’t feel like my first.
It seemed like I had seen it all in House of Cards; where Claire went for her runs, the big black cars, the White House from within, all of it. My sister and I started discussing how House of Cards was surprisingly so similar to our politics back home. That sure we were sitting in the most powerful city in the world, but that behind closed doors, politics is, I suppose, equally dirty everywhere.
Except that in the US there are people like Alexandria Ocasio -- who went from bartender to educationist to the candidate that just caused the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm-election in the USA. This 28-year-old won the election against one of the most senior Democrats in Congress. An outsider to politics, having spent 1/10th of her competitor’s budget on her campaign, this victory says so much. And Alexandria isn’t alone, there is Cori Bush, Jess King - people relying more on enthusiasm than money to win political campaigns.
Obviously not all of them will win but it points to a shift. People want people like themselves to represent them. My sister and I discussed how that might be the hour of the need in Pakistan too? With many PTI supporters feeling rather jaded, and PML-N and PPP not standing for much anymore, maybe we need a Ms Ocasio too?
I got home. I was sitting with my uncle, who like all Pakistani uncles (please forgive generalisation), obsesses over Pakistani politics like he was a politician. Not just him, but everyone his age and gender has so much to say about what is wrong and how it can be fixed. So much. Wait, I would like to say it a third time. So much.
Yet not one of them has ever considered becoming a politician. Considered actually becoming part of the machinery to implement the ideas they have. I mean I am talking about an entire generation who plans on living here indefinitely, paints a very gloomy picture of our national future, yet... have limited their role in politics to that of commentary.
And it’s not just them, people my age, people younger to me. People who are still deciding careers, them too -- scrutinising every word that comes out of IK’s mouth, his choice of clothes and wives, but -- not one willing to say, wait a second, you know what, I can do this better and I will.
So I was like what the heck, I will run for office.
I have some ideas. I am educated. I have lots of experience handling people of all sorts and making them achieve something together, handling their issues while not losing focus of the bigger picture. I also genuinely like my country, am the proudest Pakistani I know and truly want to see it prosper. I can prioritise. I can ignore. I am not easily scared and can make a good speech. I think.
Yes I know I am missing a “political career”…
But I am divided on how I feel about that term. Whereas I understand that to be able to lead people, to work in a particular field, it is important to familiarise yourself with the reality on the grass roots, a part of me disagrees with that term, because politics isn’t necessarily an exclusive career. As I see it, anyone with a good intent, clear vision and some commitment to social reform -- regardless of their line of work -- should be a great political candidate. Sure, one needs to be popular too, to attract votes...
(Hey, Fawad Khan, are you listening?)
Paying no heed to the naysayers, I decided to give it a shot. I was told I had to decide whether I wanted to join a party or do it independently, decide on a constituency, file nomination papers, pay Rs30,000, go through some financial scrutiny and once I get nominated, run a campaign. I could do all of that. I would run independently (I no longer feel strongly about any political party), fight from my own constituency (NA 52) and financial scrutiny is easy when you got no money and own nothing but a car. I wouldn’t worry about a thing there.
Then the plot thickened.
My cousin, who is also like many other boys his age an expert on local politics, told me I would need a NEW LOOK!
He said my jeans and all wouldn’t cut it. I argued that Jinnah Sahib was westernised and had puppies, he said it is not Jinnah’s Pakistan anymore. It is Zia’s. I disagree, I protest. But… I decided this wasn’t a battle I wanted to pick -- it was a small price to pay to cause some greater good.
Here’s the look I came up with:
Hair in a bun, dupatta draped in an aristocratic manner and big sunnies. I tried exuding a Ms. Bhutto. I think I got pretty close. Ok maybe not that graceful but it fits the template.
Then I was told I need to learn Punjabi. Wait what? Jinnah? Englishman? Remember? IK? Benazir? Wait, BILAWAL? I decided to not take this requirement seriously AT ALL. I know Urdu that had to be enough. Sure I am no poet or orator, but no. I refuse to believe this is a requirement.
Third I was told I needed a campaign slogan -- a promise. A promise that attracts enough people to vote for me. But in a country with multi-faceted issues, how can I have just one promise? The promise to try and make Pakistan better -- and some concrete steps on how I plan to do it -- was going to be my slogan. And wait a second, I found myself hooked to the television the other day and I heard some politicians talk, and they weren’t talking of a promise. They were talking of Shahbaz Sahib running across a street and of Imran Khan’s wife/wives. Where is their promise? Why am I being asked to have a profound slogan when everyone else’s just seems to be “I love gossip!”
Anyhoo, with my look in place, my nil income returns and a campaign slogan, I thought I was all set. The same uncle came over. I told him my plan. He smiled. He said nobody will vote for you (discouragement = national sport). After a brief laugh that everyone except me enjoyed, he said he did know of one way I could win.
“Get a party ticket, from a party that needs a 'SOFT IMAGE'”, he said.
Wait, what? What is a 'soft image'?
“The things a political party or country does to hide its extremist ideologies and non-liberal views help create a 'soft image',” he clarified. I realised such a linguistically sophisticated term, could be best expressed through accessories. For example:
The uncle continued: “The more hardline the stance of the party, the greater your chances of getting a ticket. Everybody wants a soft image these days, a female-friendly outlook.”
Except obviously IK. Him - he is just a poster boy for the heart wants what it wants and the tongue says what it says. Somebody get him a PR Team.
So I am thinking what party could that be? With Maryam Nawaz as its big mama now, PML-N is scary to me. I am legit scared of that woman. Also, if somebody asked me to read out commas out loud during a session, I might just go into some deep irrecoverable depression. PPP? I couldn’t offer an image softer than Bilawal’s. It is just not possible. I thought Jamaat-e-Islami might want an image softener. I have also heard some good things about that party. But recently and ever since their shift from PTI to MMA, I think they need some time to decide what their image is -- hard, soft, semi? Give 'em some space guys.
Besides, I don’t think any of these parties want the “aam aurat” type candidate. Azaad Umeedwar it was going to be -- thank you Jibran Nasir for introducing me to the idea. Speaking of Jibran Nasir, he for sure is our Alexandria. He may or may not win but he sure is “hum main se aik”, and is setting such a great example of politics based on good intent and enthusiasm rather than power and influence. He is so nice, he would probably let me use his anthem too -- I would Photoshop my face over his (remember, no money?)
I was all set guys, I was all set. Until someone asked me who my spiritual guide was? I was told more than anything else, I needed a PEER -- (no, not a pear, a peer) -- that they all have one, that some have gone to the extent of getting married to them.
I have teachers and mentors and my mother, but nope -- that doesn’t cut it. In the end, it comes down to who is operating better in the metaphysical world. Feeling severely disqualified on this front, I have decided to sit it out for five years and look for Yoda.
This article is catergorised as humour/satire. Its contents are not meant to be read literally.