Tehrik-i-Insaaf has galvanized educated young adults in urban areas in the elections of 2013 like PPP had galvanized young men in the 1988 elections. Hope, change, out with the corrupt. The frenzied loyalty to see Imran Khan’s team kick out the old guard is unprecedented. This is the set that never contributed to the elections – the drawing room people who never stepped out of their houses on election day because oh, what was the use. Today, the entire family attends a rally in the rain, watching Imran Khan make promises he may not be able to keep. As I see it in every man between the age of 25-40, I worry about their hopes being dashed because after all, Imran Khan is a human, and that too a mere mortal with no political experience and very little capacity to lead.
Anyone in Punjab over the age of 40 is age is strictly pro PML-N. Mian sahib, the younger one, has transformed Lahore and earned a lot of well wishes for being a brilliant doer – even if his vision remains obscure and limited and heavily tied to government intervention. As a woman belonging to the urban educated class, between the age of 25-40 who would have voted for Imran Khan ten years ago because of his sheer charisma, I am at an impasse.
In the last 3 years or so, too many times have I seen Imran extend a hand of friendship towards the Taliban, Qadri and JUI. Whatever the motives and his followers passionate declaration that he is not aligning himself with the religious right, I am uncomfortable. My freedom in Pakistan, to work, to wear jeans, to stay out late at restaurants, to drive alone, to live alone is extremely new and very precious to me. I remember my school and college days and I cannot forget how women were put behind closed doors in the name of social values and morals. And I know even a whiff of religious right will take my vote elsewhere.
I remember the marginalization of women by the PML-N in their previous regimes (remember dupatta covered women on PTV?) and I know nothing will prevail upon me to vote for them. I talk to other women and they resonate my misgivings. PML-N seems to be living in the 80s where women is concerned.
The PML-N is known to have the smallest number of women in the workforce working in the mainstream in the Punjab Government. Majority of qualified women were marginalized in the last 4 years and encouraged to adopt dead end positions in special women programs, or removed from mainstream altogether. In today’s environment, when you ask them for a manifesto for urban women, they will still talk about segregated education programs, separate work environments, and special funding for women.
There are very few women office bearers and one cannot remember when PML-N last propagated a law that was for women. Unfortunately, for all their corruption the two people who encouraged women into the mainstream remain Zardari and Musharraf. From Hina Rabbani Khar to Sherry Rehman, Faryal Gohar to Maliha Lodhi and Dr. Fehmida Mirza, whatever the reasons, women flanked the workforce in their times like it was not a special handout. Under Musharraf, liberalization of media pulled Pakistan out of the oppressed subversive state where society started moving past gender inequality and considering it immoral for women to be in the workforce. Under Zardari, one saw the Sexual Harassment and Blasphemy Laws being addressed along with the Hudood Ordinance. Unfortunately, the two most liberal people in Pakistan today also lead parties that are considered
corrupt and destructive to the future of Pakistan.
So what is a women like me supposed to do? Just as women were torn between Hilary and Obama in 08, educated liberal women are torn between the right leaning religious rantings of Imran Khan and their dislike for how Musharaff’s term ended. If you talk to a working woman in the urban areas (none of them form an important voting block), all of them remain undecided hoping by some magic, Imran Khan would move away from the socialist right leaning alliances with Taliban to a more centrist position.
Will Imran or his sister Haleema actively work to address these women? Maybe, maybe not. And while we wait, some of us will remember how Imran Khan is still the most charismatic Pakistani alive…….. and we will pull out tapes from the world cup of 1992, and remember nostalgically how at Kinnaird College we watched him bowl to the kiwis – adoring the little bald patch in his head – and prayed for victory. Who knows, maybe I will vote for my childhood heartthrob after all.