Silenced Voices: Reflections on Election Day in Pakistan
Today marks Election Day in Pakistan, a pivotal moment for the nation's future. As I scroll through social media, I'm inundated with posts from individuals expressing their sentiments about missing out on this significant day or voicing their distrust in the electoral process due to perceived rigging. While I may not be actively engaged in Pakistani politics at the moment, I can't help but reflect on the privilege inherent in these statements.
You see, for me, the ability to vote isn't a choice—it's a right that has been systematically stripped away from my community. As an Ahmadi, I am disenfranchised from the electoral process solely because of my religious identity. Since the 1970s, when the government unjustly declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims and intertwined religion with the state, we have been excluded from participating in the democratic process. And it's not just a matter of being excluded; it's also enduring relentless persecution and discrimination at the hands of those vying for power.
I spent my formative years in Pakistan, constantly striving to prove my patriotism despite being treated as a second-class citizen. While others took their nationality for granted, I was expected to demonstrate an even greater degree of loyalty. Yet, no matter how much I professed my love for my country, I was still viewed as inferior—a label compounded by the fact that I was deemed an infidel.
The challenges didn't end when I left Pakistan. Even in communities abroad, I find myself continually having to validate my Pakistani identity and Muslim faith, particularly within certain circles where prejudice against Ahmadis persists. It's reminiscent of the post-9/11 era when all Muslims were expected to become spokespersons for Islam, and wearing the hijab sparked contentious debates. Ahmadis have endured similar scrutiny and hostility since the 1970s, both in Pakistan and within Pakistani diaspora communities.
It's disheartening that speaking out against the persecution faced by Ahmadis in Pakistan often results in being branded as anti-Pakistani. Criticizing government policies regarding minorities shouldn't equate to disloyalty—it's an act of seeking justice and equality. Just as calling out US policies in the Middle East doesn't make one anti-American, addressing injustices within Pakistan shouldn't be construed as being anti-Pakistani.
To those who may not want to vote, I urge you to reconsider. While it's easy to take your right to vote for granted, remember that it's a privilege not afforded to everyone. Seize the opportunity to make your voice heard and exercise your democratic right. Don't let skepticism or apathy deter you—voting is a crucial step towards shaping the future of our nation.
As for me, as Election Day unfolds, I can't help but feel a sense of exclusion—yet again. But despite the challenges and injustices, my love for Pakistan remains firm. I wish for a safe and fruitful election, and I hope for nothing but prosperity and progress for my homeland.