When I was born, Pakistan was ruled by late General Zia ul Haq. I grew up in a household where General Zia was revered as a national hero. Abba ji (my paternal grandfather) was so devoted to him, that even many years after Zia's death, he used to go to Islamabad to pray at Zia's mausoleum year after year for as long as his health allowed him. We didn't understand politics at all, but just aped the political views of our elders. I remember me and my cousins chanting:
Mard e momin, mard e haq
Zia ul Haq, Zia ul Haq
(Man of faith, man of truth, Zia ul haq, Zia ul Haq)
We even shed dutiful tears when Zia's plane burst into flame. We were told it was a great loss for the nation, and we didn't question it.
My next 'political' memory is chanting 'Wazir e Azam....Nawaz Sharif' when I was with my side of the family, who supported Nawaz Sharif. While when we visited my cousin's nanhyaal, we chanted 'Wazir e Azam....Benazir". That was in late 80's. (Apparently lack of conviction didn't bother me much at the time). Benazir Bhutto won the elections and became the first ever female PM of the country. I felt a slight twinge of guilt, perhaps I had chanted 'Wazir e Azam...Benazir" with too much fervor?
Benazir was dismissed in 1990 on charges of corruption. Fresh elections were announced.
I am told (by an uncle) that I used to do great mimicry of Benazir Bhutto at the time. I honestly cannot recall any of it. The only crystal clear memory I have of the time is: my best friend and me praying religiously for Sharif's win. My friend even pledged 100 nawafils of shukraana in case of Sharif's win. He won and became the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the first time. I still remember my friend offering the shukrana prayer. We were a little over 10 at the time.
Since I have been a very 'apolitical' person almost my entire life, I don't recall many important incidents from the time after that. Another memory that stuck to my brain, which I recall with remarkable clarity now is a girl from our school commenting "Even since I have heard about Nawaz Sharif's corruption, somehow I don't have the same regard for him". We used to go to school in the same school van, she was younger than me. (Chotti, I wonder where you are now and whom do you support now!) My family was (and still is) a staunch supporter of Nawaz Sharif. The stories about his corruption perturbed me, but I was still in denial. They are all rumours to tarnish Nawaz's image, I assured Chotti.
Fast forward a few years and Musharaff packed Nawaz to Jeddah in 1999, during his second tenure. I remember feeling overjoyed at Sharif's ouster. Though I don't quite remember why I felt so happy. My family was still supporting Mr. Sharif religiously, and since I didn't have any political views of my own, I had merely towed the line so far. I think I was unhappy with how he handled the Kargil issue.
Throughout all these years, we had heard Mr. Sharif hurl all sorts of allegations (mostly true) about corruption during Benazir's tenure; about mansions in England and so on. Zardari (who later became Pakistan's president) was known as Mr. ten percent. So when Nawaz Sharif took a 380 degree turn after signing of NRO and 'Meesaq e Jamhooriyat', and began calling Benazir Bhutto 'my sister' etc. I was totally stunned and confused.
Later on, Zardari (Mr. ten percent,can you believe it!) became president of Pakistan after Benazir's assassination. Nawaz Sharif couldn't contest elections at the time, but Shahbaz Sharif bagged CMship of Punjab. I was surprised and dismayed to discover that Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif continued to support Zardari despite raising hue and cry that he was epitome of corruption. I asked abba ji why they weren't as vocal about Zardari's corruption now as they were previously. Abba ji said that if they create too much trouble in NA (national assembly) then they could be ousted from provincial govt. in Punjab. This didn't impress me very much. I was completely disillusioned with the Sharifs. I felt they were sacrificing national interest for personal gain. For a long time after that I remained completely apolitical. I wasn't interested in the politics at all because I felt all politicians were corrupt to the core, and politics was a cesspool.
My husband used to support PTI and Imran Khan (still does but that didn't seem to interest me much. Deep within me, discontent with the current political system grew. Back then I didn't even realize how frustrated I was. I recalled how patriotism was promoted so much in Zia's era. But during Musharaff's regime, many private channels sprouted up like mushrooms. Now the media was absolutely 'free'. So we even began to hear people debating whether Pakistan should have been created or not. Some even openly called partition of India and creation of Pakistan a blunder. This made me extremely unhappy.
In the meanwhile, inflation, unemployment, poverty, terrorism all became totally out of control. Law and order situation became a complete nightmare. I am no scholar. Nor do I rely on statistics to tell me whether Pakistan is progressing well or not. Lives of people around me were enough to illustrate one sad reality: Pakistan wasn't heading in the right direction. Corrupt politicians were systematically bleeding the country and common man had to pay the price. Yet, I stayed aloof. What can a poor soul like me do to right all the wrongs?
Then something happened in the year 2013 that proved to be the final straw on the proverbial camel's back. Just before election 2013, the Punjab Text Book Board published some Urdu course books, which had only pictures of Iqbal and Hali etc. on the cover page, but many of their great poems were removed from the course. This was a dismaying news for me. I was already displeased with all the changes in the books of Punjab Text Book Board. It's my personal opinion that the quality of their text books has deteriorated a great deal over years.
My husband used to listen to Imran Khan's speeches/interviews avidly. He used to tease me by telling me tales of Sharif's corruption,knowing fully well that my family supported PMLN. Suddenly I found myself researching about everything related to Sharif's corruption. I began to follow Imran Khan's speeches more closely and felt that he was speaking from the heart. Change was certainly in the air and I couldn't help being 'infected' with it. Since then I have become:
a) a die-hard Imran Khan supporter
b) very vocal about political issues
Imran Khan has politicized an entire generation. People are more aware of their political rights now and aren't afraid to raise their voice for it. He's made us realize that the power lies with the people and not with the corrupt politicians. If we want to change the country for better, we must change ourselves first. Each and everyone of us is equally important. It's also a sad realization that our disinterest in politics has allowed opportunist to manipulate the system to their advantage. Education system has crumbled, health facilities in state run hospitals are deplorable, there's no law and order, terrorism has enveloped the entire country; and while half of the nation is reduced to poverty our rulers shamelessly keep accumulating wealth through misuse of power. But it seems our nation has finally risen to the occasion. And that alone in my opinion is a clear victory for Imran Khan.
As I write these lines from the comfort of my home, Imran Khan and thousands of people from all over Pakistan are staging a protest in Islamabad, right in front of the Parliament of Pakistan. They have braved the stifling heat in August; have been tear gassed and fired upon; are currently pitted against the weather again, what with torrential rains and flood in other areas of country but they are not giving up because they are:
"Standing on the edge of a revolution
(Chorus) No, we won't give up, we won't go away
'Cause we're not about to live in this mass delusion
No, we don't wanna hear another word you say
'Cause we know they're all depending on mass confusion
No, we can't turn back, we can't turn away
'Cause it's time we all relied on the last solution
No, we won't lay down and accept this fate
'Cause we're standing on the edge of a revolution"