We bought the T-shirts, donned the bandanas, waved the flags. We flew in from London and New York. We tweeted, face-booked and blogged ourselves into the world. We trolled like gangsta’s (and sometimes like jackasses, but hey, we’re new at this; we’ll learn finesse). We dragged our grandmothers out to vote. We clutched our hearts and cried without shame when the anthem reverberated through D-Block. Yes, Skipper. We rocked the voter turnout.
But at the moment, we’re in a little bit of pain. Because most of us don’t—uh—we don’t belong to KPK. As TV screens showed the celebratory firing on the streets of Peshawar, we felt a little left out. We also felt something else: slight unease We troll, yes, but—uh—we wouldn’t have fired AK-47’s at your victory. Most of us don’t own guns and the only turbans we’ve ever worn were chunri (on that one cousin’s mehndi). Our sisters wore the Karma-inspired kurtas (not a light blue shuttlecock burqa) to the polling station. And thrilled though we are that you won in KPK, we kind of want to know: Who voted for you there, Skipper? How did their vote count more than ours, when we love you no less? You couldn’t defeat the nihari-grubbing Shareefs but you plastered Bilour? You don’t even speak Pushto, Imran Khan-Niazi! How come MQM harassed Karachi voters but no bomb went off at a Peshawar polling station?
Don’t get us wrong, we love you no less. We’re reaching for the nausea bag when reading Sharmila’s tweets to Maryam Baji. We’re quietly bearing the peeli taxi and bullet train jokes. We’re biting our lip and looking away when, each time we leave the house, the gawandian da bacha sings “Shikari khud yahan shikar ho gaya”.
We’re sulking quietly but we’re wondering: What now, Skipper? Our cousins in Peshawar are taunting us with pictures of a glittering Dubai-esque skyline with the caption, ‘Naya Peshawar.’ Is that true, Imran? Will you really develop Peshawar till it rivals Dubai? Some of us are so tired of PML-N taunts that we’re ready to learn Pushto and migrate, if you are. But some of us (especially if we’re girls who’ve actually been to Qissa Khwani Bazaar) are worried. We’ve heard that you made a deal with the devil in those parts, that you think that the gardens of Peshawar will be rebuilt by talking with the Taliban.
Talib-e-Ilm to HUM hein, Skipper. Take a good look at your latest voter. Ok, maybe we’re a little scared of getting ‘garmi mein kharab’ but when we sit home under the UPS-fan, we cram for exam after exam. We’ve studied World History and Political Science. We know that Appeasement has never worked, not when Chamberlain tried it with the Nazis and not ever since. We understand that your win in KPK places a bigger challenge for you than the Shareefs’ win in Punjab places on them. Their motorways are built. Their Metro buses are running. Their niharis are flowing. But we’ve heard that the lights have stayed off in Peshawar for years now. We want to know, really: Can you switch them on again? Will trees be replanted? Will hospitals be rebuilt? Will girls be allowed to go out to school, the way their mothers were allowed to go out to vote?
Yes Captain, I see you weren’t expecting my questions, not after I gushed my school-girlish support for you a couple of days ago. This is Naya Pakistan and you’ve created a monster. You didn’t just create first time voters. You carved out a new quality of electorate, one that asks questions. New questions, harder questions, questions from more directions will spill out of the drawing rooms and into social media, into the streets, into D Block. We’ll ask more questions from you and we won’t stop asking them of the Shareef baradaran either. But rest assured, if you need our help to create some answers, we’re standing alert and attentive, wondering how to help. Don’t underestimate your voter in loyalty nor intelligence and initiative, Captain. We pride ourselves on being a new kind of party-supporter: we’re not peasants in rural areas. We don’t belong to just one province. We already have laptops.
We gave our loyalty to a party in 2013. We’re ready to learn how to help that party become bigger and better and stronger. For the next five years, we’ll be hunting the lion—for a flaw in its policies and its work ethic.
Count on us, Skipper. We aren’t going back to sleep.