The Hobson`s Choice

Elections are around the corner and we all are gearing up for the 25th of July, wait, are we really doing that? In order to get an answer to that, I took my self to the streets of Karachi to gauge what our voters might be thinking, however, the response was rather unexpected. Perhaps we aren’t familiar with words like political ideology and manifestos as a nation. One cannot expect a street vendor to openly express about his political preference so I had to alter my questions that went something like this: On what grounds will you vote for a political party? Water supply, garbage collection, and access to roads, whoever affirms to provide those is Karachi`s next preference. None of the respondents were concerned about the primary role of a member parliament that entails legislation and representing their constituency on all relevant platforms. To what I presumed mayoral work was top priority for their MNA or MPA which is basically the local government`s responsibility, it doesn’t come as a surprise considering the provincial and local government relations in our country.

A rather mixed opinion was observed but the common phenomenon sounded something like this, who is the best amongst the worst? Are we talking about playing it safe? To what extent do we consider someone best or worst is for the voter to decide but do we have a predefined criterion to do so was not clear enough. As a new entrant to parliamentary politics, the former mayor was a preference for some while others had given up on the system after President Musharraf left.

As the effort was successful enough allowing people to open up about their political preference and the upcoming elections as a whole, the argument rather went ahead with a paradoxical question raised by the respondents. They were concerned with why should even one wake up early on a public holiday and face long queues to vote? After all, they haven’t seen anything that may be classified as an improvement over the years. The question was valid enough, particularly when we are in Karachi. Perhaps the only metropolitan city in the world which remains insignificant in forming either a provincial or a federal government. As in our case PPP bags, enough votes from interior Sindh while the ruling party needs to win Punjab and they can shift to the constitutional avenue with ease.

In its electoral history for the first time, Karachi has been deemed important enough for premiership with the likes of the late Bhutto’s descendant, the heartthrob captain, and the younger Sharif. The political choice to sail towards Karachi begs to differ, whether they actually care about the forsaken city or is it the political vacuum created by MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement). The Hobson’s choice for some may be PMLN in Sindh as they keep on admiring Lahore while many urban centers of Punjab would like to go with PTI this time. Similarly, Balochistan and KPK favor a mix of independents, the rejuvenated MMA and PTI as the majority of them have exhausted all of their options.

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If we compare this election to what we witnessed in 2013, the latter seemed to be more diverse in terms of options. After almost eleven years, we had PTI coming back into the political spectrum. PMLN was off to a completely new start with an anti-PPP rhetoric along with nationalists and ethnic parties luring in back to get a seat at the table. The upcoming elections are appearing to be a little old school, the change agents have recruited to whatever was left of the status quo however they still maintain the clean leadership label with the likes of Mr. Khan. On the other end, Pakistan People’s Party has finally launched Bilawal as a full-fledged politician but one still thinks whether he is in the game or not? PMLN has never been in such a position with the leadership residing in London and being deprived of its infamous electable in Punjab, I wonder whether they are the Hobson’s choice or not as Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has left his den for the first time in decades of his political experience while he clearly has the ability to prove a point.

Whoever becomes Pakistan`s Hobson`s choice should exert their maximum effort to make us democratic enough, equipping one with the ability to make a political choice with the appropriate and established criteria.


Shehryar Ejaz

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