*First posted on PakTea House.
There are usually, if not always, a certain set of characteristics and qualities that a people expect their leader to have. Amongst the numerous of honesty, integrity and dignity that Pakistanis seek in a leader, is also bravery.
With the elections approaching fast, the idea of bravery seems to have been accorded quite a role with populism at play.
A certain notion has been developed in political rhetoric plus social media and political discourse that equates bullet-proof shields and security for protection to ‘cowardice‘.
A number of statements and acts have sprung forth from different political sides either proudly proclaiming their pluck and fearlesness, that they declare only to be existing for the Creator; getting a security measure chucked publicly to testify that or pointing its continuance at rivals’ rallies to ’prove’ their chicken-heartedness.
Imran Khan who initially did the above-mentioned, had to resort to shielded containers at some jalsas, reportedly even Nawaz Sharif also ordered the removal of his bullet-proof shield at the jalsa in Jarranwala.
In recent years, Pakistan has been consumed into an abyss that has swallowed over 40,000 including countless political leaders and representatives. From the late Benazir Bhutto to Bashir Bilour, the onslaught has only expanded and continues to swell.
Extremism and terrorism have breached every inch of the country and the lives of its inhabitants.
With blasts ripping through different areas of the country, attacks on various candidates of different parties, their processions, offices and rallies, these elections have witnessed the resurrection of the electoral field in Pakistan as a bloody battleground.
This country can neither afford more bodies to bury nor more tragedies caused to orchestrate further instability, which is being referred to as the main means to subvert the link of completion in Pakistan’s first transfer of power from a democratically-elected government to another: the elections itself.
In these times, bravery does not lie in the removal of bullet-proof shields but the vocal, wholehearted and practical espousing of a hardline stance against all kinds, types, forms of terrorism, radicalism, extremism and terrorists; their wholehearted condemnation which doesn’t slip into selectivity; the involvement of public presentations of proper policies and plans designed to purge the country of this menace; pressure of demands on different national institutions such as the judiciary and the Election Commission for trying, barring and excluding extremists and terrorists from participating in all types of activities be it hate-mongering or elections instead of keeping mum over instances such as the recent (reported) allowance given to 55 candidates from Punjab, who belong to 10 different sectarian groups, to contest the electoral race.
For too long, the demonstration of this genuine valor has been staved off through its substitution by hollow and superficial displays of bravery.
And it must be realized today that the real test of courage lies not in the removal of bullet-proof shields but in the embrace of this sincere audacity for what truly is, Pakistan’s fight for its soul.
~ Hafsa Khawaja