It’s 11 May, 2013, and I’m not in Pakistan.
Instead, I’m sitting in a dark lounge outside my friend’s dorm room, alternating between social media pages to try and get a better sense of what it must be like out there. Never in (my) history of the country has there been so much excitement about elections, with so many people venturing out to vote in volatile times.
It is the first time that a democratically elected government has completed its term, even if the faces representing it have changed. It is also the first time that people are expressing – and demonstrating – faith in the political process. The inky thumb is a statement: I voted, I matter, and you must too.
At the risk of contributing to the devaluation of the term, the sense of “change” is almost palpable. Here, there is reason to agree with the cynics – there is probably need to temper expectations with caution. No single party will be able to take on the complex issues of a fractured country and deliver security and socioeconomic progress overnight.
That being accepted, let’s take a moment to give a man some credit. Imran Khan, for all his faults, has come to stand for something far greater than himself. He has managed to reach out to vast swathes of the population, from the untamable KPK to my insulated Islamabad. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has presented the traditional players with enough of a challenge to fight for their political space. With the help of the media and a newly mobilized young generation, it has helped create a culture where questions are asked and answers demanded. Through consultation with qualified research teams, it has put forward concrete policies grounded in more than rhetoric. What’s more, by holding true to the promise of intra-party elections, it has already changed the distribution and perceptions of power in Pakistan.
It’s difficult to say what will happen in the next few hours, let alone the next few months. For now, I just want to savour this time of wakeful waiting, when anything is possible.