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Monday, February 18, 2008

Voting: A Right or A Duty?

"There is no Compulsion in Religion", says the Qur'an ... so should there be one in Voting?

One reason why I have waited until the end of the Election Day to write this is that the responses, if any, will hopefully not be emotionally charged after the event. Another is that the matter has been already discussed in several other fora, including the popular ATP. Well, I did not vote! There. I've said it. And with no idiots screaming at me without even listening to my views. (Yes, I do have a point of view!). As I write down my thoughts on the subject, I am aware that some are probably a little more than loud-thinking. A few are well-formed; others continue to hang before me as questions that, perhaps, some of you will help me answer. So, please do comment. A request: Don't just tell me I am wrong, tell me why and where. The first problem I faced when trying to make up my mind about voting or not was to understand why I was voting. I mean it's not an act in itself that has to be done (unlike defecating) but what the process leads to, na? So I needed to analyse what the criteria would be for my giving my vote to someone, if I were to cast it at all. It was obvious that it was not the person whose picture appeared on the posters: after all in the case of some of the images on the banners, they were not even of the people who were standing ... for example, MQM's Altaf Hussain ... or PPP's Benazir ... or PML(N)'s Nawaz Sharif). This meant that I would eventually be casting my vote for the symbol that was assigned to a party or to an independent candidate. Naturally it did not depend upon whether I liked the Icon, itself, but what the party stood for. In other words, I needed to check out their manisfestos. Never mind whether they stood by these in practice; that's another track. At least I wasn't going to vote for someone whose very vision of Pakistan or the shrinking world was the antithesis of mine! So the manifestos, specially in some of the key areas - and on issues important to me - had to be clearly different among the parties. (When buying a house, one tries to choose the one that most closely meets one's needs ... which is not the same as 'choosing the lesser of the evils', a really stupid idea that seems to have been promoted by idiots! You can alter the house to some extent, later, but what do you do to the corrupt political rep you've placed in power? To use another analogy, when you marry, do you choose a person because s/he is the lesser evil or the best possible match? Is there no difference?) The manifestos (not all were easily available or, when found, even readable) had to be abandoned for another reason: They were being abandoned by the parties themselves! While coalitions between parties that think somewhat alike are fairly normal in politics, to see almost all the parties align themselves with any and everyone is nothing if not making a mockery of the voters. The PPP strikes a deal with PML(N) nationwide, but supports a PML(Q) candidate in Karachi. PML(N) - despite the ads put into newspapers today by PML(Q)'s Dirty Tricks Department - has decided to go with PPP, but how far? Asif Z has shown his willingness to work with Musharraf (who has been pointed more than one PPP finger at for possible complicity in Benazir's murder) and is anathema to Nawaz and company. Even more confusing was the course MQM took: Having conveyed the impression, only a couple of days earlier, that they could be allied to the PPP - that's how the press interpreted the MQM statement that it could strike a deal with any secular party - chose to team up with Maulana Fazl-or-Rahman and his obviously secularly named Jamiaté Ulemaé Islam. So whose manifesto would I be voting for, regardless of which candidate I chose? A secular, working, middle class party or a Taleban-supporting mulla and his insatiable greed? (Somewhere along the line my mind wandered off and I began wondering how supporters of Jamaaté Islami and Tehreeké Insaaf were supposed to perform their duty to vote, if their parties were boycotting the elections. And, if it is the citizens' duty to vote, shouldn't - by extension - boycotting the election also be considered dereliction of duty by a party?) The biggest source of grief to me is seeing the ease with which the term "free and fair elections' has become acceptable to people. The election of a candidate, to me, implies a whole process and not just the transaction that takes place on the Election Day in a booth. As Muneer Malik explained clearly to his T2F audience, just yesterday, this involves the right people in positions of relevance (EC and other related institutions), an unbiased government, fair acceptance/rejection of candidates, easy and non-coercive access to voting, correct transmission of untampered ballot-boxes to the counting team, an honest count and announcement of results, and a just response to any objections that opponents may raise. If any of these processes are disrupted by someone with vested interests, it would be done with the intent of placing soeone else in the victor's seat than the person the voters had chosen. So, if the process is not 'free and fair', how is it an 'election', at all, and not a 'selection'? An observation: Contrary to a view that seems to be popular among many, I believe that Elections are not the pre-cursor to Democracy. Elections have been held here before, and elsewhere, by Dictators and Despots ... with no sign of resulting Democracy except for a sham. It is Democracy that creates an environment which, in turn, makes Elections the method by which to place people's representatives at the helm of affairs. Finally, I come back to the aspect of Voting being a Duty (Farz). Even assuming it is, there's something else to consider: Do the choices (of candidates) being offered really provide you the opportunity to make a satisfactory and sensible decision? Think: If you had to choose a travel companion and all you had to choose between were a murderer and a dacoit, would you not consider postponing the trip? When duties are assigned, they are not unconditional. They are expected to be performed only if the conditions necessary for their performance are present ... or they can be safely ignored. After all, this applies even to duties assigned in the Qur'an: Surah 5 Ayat 6, for example, assigns Muslims the 'duty' of washing their 'hands' before prayers. Surely a man without arms (or with just one hand) would not be shunning his duties in not following it to the letter. 
"There is no Compulsion in Religion", says the Qur'an ... so should there be one in Voting?

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Blogger Teeth Maestro said...

bravo - I feel with you exactly - I choose not to vote as well - but panicked when late in the evening i heard of ballot box stuffing so I ran to nullify my vote - heck I truly believe no candidate was worthy of my vote let alone be worth to contest the elections - But lo behold my name was missing from the voter list.

;) If that is some constellation then Ill take it - at least there was no bogus vote on my name

Detailed post on my blog

19 February, 2008 03:01

Anonymous Zovc said...

This has to be one of the best blogs ive read lately. You totally make sense, Good work!

19 February, 2008 07:50

Blogger izuber said...

Right you are, it's one's decision whether. to vote or not to vote; election, votes and balloting is for a civilized environment, in this less than civilized environment where one cannot establish trust in a candidate, where the candidates after being elected forget all about the needs of the constituency and become overwhelmed fulfilling their personal needs and aiding their cronies by fulfilling their needs. Where honesty and sincerity is not mentioned, spelled or translated in their dictionaries.
The chaos we witness in today's so-called political field of our homeland is due to the lack of sincerity to the nation and the homeland and there is a per se state of chaos as I see it.
I like your comparison of voting with the two most important decisions one makes in their life, buying a home and find a life-mate; one goes to great extents to make sure that the location is one which suits their work-place, the surrounding neighborhood is of a class that suits one, are there schools, colleges, marketplace and other amenities located conveniently etc.
Similarly beyond chastity, mannerism and education one looks for appeal and match of taste when one looks for an appropriate prospective partner in life.
Most certainly the phrase "meeting of minds" comes to mind when concluding on anyone of these events in life, and in current day state of our nation what I see is hard to find in a candidate is "meeting of minds" since they appear to be so flexible in adapting other's mindset before being elected and after being elected to a position they appear not only to forget all their promises and rather contradicting all what they used to say prior to being elected.

I praise your ability to hold back your own decision of not casting ballot and limiting your decision to yourself instead of publicizing it and influencing others which is quite typical in the current times, you literally upheld the sanctity of vote by allowing others to make their own decision based on their intellect as opposed to Qazi sahib who I am sure must be regretting his decision to refraining from participating in electoral process however, “ab pachtaye kia howat jab chiriya'an chug gayeen khait."
Manifestos are only to satisfy the people that we have one, who has ever read the complete manifesto of their party, it looks good in presentations and is prepared by intellectuals in business of writing and NOT by the people of the party most of the time anyway.
Whatever is left to confuse is multiplied by the media which has been observed attempting to conveniently rig the elections from their own platforms.
There are several factors and components to this equation of election and when they don’t add up to give the accurate sum, the equation itself is flawed.
It is the misconception that our entire nation or should I say the majority of voters have been medicated with the concept that, the ability to cast votes once every few years is what the word Democracy means.
Once you have cast your vote your duty to democracy is over and it is up to the elected candidates to do what they find fit.
Voting in an election in my humble opinion is a civic duty and I believe it can only be discharged when the entire equation is civic, therefore I would say there is no compulsion requiring one to vote, except that it certifies one being a good citizen provided the citizenship is of a jurisdiction which again fits the description of Civics.
In the end I pray that May Allah SWT protect our homeland and the citizens within from all types of fitnah, internal and external, ameen.

19 February, 2008 10:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had you written this yesterday morning, I'd have been saved a futile drive to the booth where I found I wasn't even listed.

19 February, 2008 10:31

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I think there should be a 'None of these' option on the ballot paper/voting machine.

That should help tabulate the percentage of the electorate that found none of the candidates worth being voted for.


19 February, 2008 15:09

Anonymous shehzad said...

I agree with your point of view, voting is a right. by not voting you are siding with the majority of the population.

Indifference after all is an attitude in itself.

Your attempts to align your self with a party based on their manifesto is somewhat naive.(and some of the analogies are far fetched)Most of the people reading your blog, like me, are beneficiaries of the status quo, as such we do not stand to gain or lose significantly irrespective of the outcome, hence the lack of motivation to vote.

For those few who "want to make a difference"...Good for You! long live the revolution :)

19 February, 2008 15:37

Blogger bayl said...

Zak jee,

While I agree with your sentiment of not having any logical reason to vote and I definitely agree that a vote is a right and not an obligation, I still went ahead and cast a ballot for PML-N yesterday.

Now I know that Nawaz Sharif or his party leaders are not worthy of my time but he has promised that restoration of judiciary and the constitution is their top priority and for that reason alone, I'm willing to give the anti-establishment sentiment a chance. I'm slightly more optimistic about this because I think if we at least start on the path of liberating our law we may be heading towards democracy somewhere down the road. And that's why I voted. [Also because it was my first time voting :) ]


19 February, 2008 16:21

Anonymous rahmat masih said...

Starting and ending with the Koran, sir? You must be getting old :-)

Good piece.

Congratulations are in order to my ex-countrymen for sending Sheikh Rashid packing. That, alone, is worth the price many paid.

19 February, 2008 22:14

Blogger izuber said...

The politics of our nation revolves around personalities and not the national interest as evident by the writing on the wall.
Had our nation been sincere to the national interest of Pakistan, in these 60 years Pakistan would have developed several folds.
Revolving around personalities is the lowest category of politics and gets the country no where.
If one feels they way one feels it is worthy of praise that they don't invest their time to influence or convince others that everyone should follow the path they have chosen and perform as they wish, since voting is an individual's right and duty it is incumbent on individuals to examine the conditions present and take their decision as they wish, and, that is what democracy spells out in my understanding, where one is free to proceed the way they understand things to be as in case of whether to cast vote or refrain from it.
I think your decision is quite appropriate, even if there was a place to check that said "none of the above" I still would not have taken the chance to step out on the day of election and would rather elect not to elect.

20 February, 2008 08:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 February, 2008 01:59

Blogger Misanthrope said...

I agree with your views on the lack of viable candidates. However i disagree with your conclusions

Not voting, to me, seems to be voting for the status quo. I voted - in one case for a candidate who was obviously not going to win and in the other for a candidate who had already withdrawn.

So why bother?

Because its far better to cast a protest vote and participate in the process than help undermine the process.

21 February, 2008 08:00

Blogger izuber said...

When a statement begins and ends with a quote from Quran that means affirmation to Bible & Torah, but why do we resort to being aged when one follows the scripture from the Almighty? as a matter of fact remaining close to the scripture is rejuvenating, if, meant appropriately.

21 February, 2008 19:00

Blogger izuber said...

At the least we agree on something even though it is an agreement to disagree! after all it keeps a conversation ongoing and with mutual regard.

21 February, 2008 19:04

Anonymous samina b. said...

Hey guys ... Check out the ATP link at the beginning of this blog. The arguments for and against are still raging. Obviously things are not as straightforward either way.

Chastity, Monsiur izuber? Whoa. How fucking Victorian


21 February, 2008 23:15

Blogger izuber said...

Mohtarma samina b.
So you are one of those "who are what they speak" not my level of language and I wont place myself at the same level.

You exclaim at one and appear to be practicing the other(contrary to the teachings), the choice is yours, re-narrated in the words of our beloved Prophet PBUH:
008.082.799 - Punishment of Disbelievers at War with Allah and His Apostle - - - -

Narrated Sahl bin Sa'd

The Prophet said, "Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i.e. his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i.e., his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise."
May Allah SWT bless you with the right knowledge beyond Victorians, and may Allah SWT prevent you from becoming astray, ameen.
With best wishes.

22 February, 2008 08:29

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@izuber Must religious people always lack humor or indulge in personal attacks? Don't screw up this fun blog by crapping all over it, man! Show some civility.

23 February, 2008 06:44

Blogger izuber said...

Dear Anonymous
No dear friend, I would be ashamed to consider myself religious, I have a great love for humor, the only thing that gets me though is when we resort to street language, in as much as I admire this particular blog it would be the last thing for me to chose indecent terms. Further to that I find it to be my duty as a Muslim to see our sisters or brothers at a better level than myself which prompts me to include what is prescribed for "us" as Muslim ummah.
My only attempt is to convey to another individual the message of utmost "civility" and if that person is able to understand the message and follows in his/her life the right thing, do you see what I qualify myself for.
I hope you will fore go and forebear my humble advice to the person it was meant for and will forgive me for my shortcoming that caused you to feel the way you do.
Humor is always welcome dear anonymous and sometime soon I shall post something for you to admire even more, just remember that we should put our Holy theories into practice which is very important for us to regain the level once ummah had.
Do write back to tell me if you forgave me.
Best regards.

23 February, 2008 11:03

Blogger izuber said...

BTW here is a little something for you to laugh if you find it humorous
if you are aware of the complex culture of muslims from various lands, cultures and schools of thoughts.
Hope you enjoy this to offset your distraught caused by my posting.

This is humor that produced thousands of dollars in sale for help with construction of a Masjid and a Islamic Center in the shadow of Washing-Ton which I translate to be Dhobi Ghatt.

23 February, 2008 11:25

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@izuber and others:

While I realize that it is difficult to pinpoint the originators of this spiralling but irrelevant battle, I request you all to take it elsewhere and desist from adding to it here. I do not wish to delete all that has been published so far, although I am contemplating moving it elsewhere since it ruins the continuity of the original thread and has nothing to do with it.

Any more submissions that stray from the original topic (one that in any case of less immediate interest to many after the elections) will be deleted.

izuber has, in fact, managed to post comments on an entirely different subject that are, cumulatively, longer than the post :-)

He further states, "I find it to be my duty as a Muslim...etc" --- But what if people of other faiths (or those free of any such encumbrances) find it in their minds to try and get others to convert to their concepts of the straight and 'narrow' (which really means, more often than not, 'narrow-minded'). It's their right, too ... but, to all of them I say:

"Please ... not on this turf!" At least certainly not unless I post something that actually refers to that topic and calls for such a discussion. Hey, guys: Blogger and Wordpress cost nothing: Go get your own blogs and preach away!

Finally: I have expressed my views, sometimes through dissenting comments, on many ideological blogs by others ... but never entered a post on religion and started discussing Elections (including the Japanese version).

Sorry for this long-winded reaction but now my post plus this comment exceeds izuber's in length. This is called, in today's jargon, "reclaiming space", I think ;-)

23 February, 2008 14:49

Blogger izuber said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 February, 2008 00:16

Blogger izuber said...

Please do feel free to reclaim your space as I do not wish to trespass with my comments relating to "my" deen or the homeland, specially since the only thing I find that can separate me from remaining under the influence of the prescribed code of life is a visit by the angel of death. May Allah SWT bless all of us with the proper vision of deen-e-Islam and ability to practice accordingly.
I wish to submit my apology for having trespassed and having violated your space.

24 February, 2008 00:42

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was dead right about the lack of a sense of humor :) Didn't you notice zakintosh's smiley/winkey when he addressed you, izuber?

I read your other comment before you removed it. It was the wrong reaction and I am glad you thought so, too :)

To get back to the main topic (happy, 'tosh?), did anyone reverse their views or regret their decision after the elections?

25 February, 2008 08:17

Blogger Vic said...


You said: I think there should be a 'None of these' option on the ballot paper/voting machine.

That should help tabulate the percentage of the electorate that found none of the candidates worth being voted for.


Actually, in India, there is precisely such a rule (which makes me suspect that there is probably one in Pakistan as well).

It is section 49-0 of the Election Rules (the sub-section 0 is enough to make many think this is a sec 420 CrPC - or perhaps April Fool's - amendment), which provides for a properly identified voter to register a refusal to vote for any listed candidate in the constituency. The 'properly identified' bit is then detailed to the extent that a very manual process is spelled out, involving the voting officer's physical signature in a register etc (so no, the 'no vote' option cannot be put on the ballot sheet itself).

Voting machines were introduced in India some years back, and have become the norm, however, sec 49-0 has not yet been amended to reflect this fact, hence the voting machines do not yet have a 'no vote' button. 'No voting' still calls for a very public display of will, and arguably, a breach of the Constitutional right to vote anonymously.

Do find a copy of your Election Rules, I can't imagine it is starkly different from the Indian one, and in fact is probably a carbon copy of some old British set.

And yes, we also have many (all? well, maybe that should be a subject of discussion for my own blogs, not Zak's) constituencies ably served by candidates who shouldn't get what the cat refused to drag in, much less our precious votes.

25 February, 2008 11:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Zak is far above your level of humor, my reaction remains unchanged and for your reading pleasure here is the removed comment, with apologies to Zak for once again messing his turf, now I hope you will leave me alone with my sense of humor as I am not willing to use any of those words that appear to turn you on.
Sorry to have violated intended use of your space Zakintosh, I ll remember the rule of not posting to ever post to a site that relates to Pakistan, or Islam for that matter.
This was removed only due to a composition error that escaped editing, so enjoy it.

25 February, 2008 11:54


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