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There is too much focus on saving the queen and losing sight of the king.

By Imran Jan | September 2022

If you want entertainment, fiction usually comes in the form of a story told through the meticulous and clever use of words. If you, however, want to know the undeniable and absolute truth, that comes in numbers only. Numbers do not have emotion, they do not have faith, and they do not have a spin. Numbers just do not lie.

On the other hand, politics is one field of human affairs that I can think of where most of the lies are found and fabricated. It is all about emotions, the manipulation of faith, and a tremendous amount of spin. I would have never thought of finding a similarity between politics and mathematics in my wildest dreams. Just like math, politics and democracy, to be very precise, are all about numbers.

If we look at the United States, where a lavish election campaign happens every 4 years, which has become an entertainment lately, there are lies and manipulation involved during the entire election circus. However, the goal of all those lies by the presidential candidates is to tame the numbers to their advantage. Every US state has a specific number of Electoral College votes based on the population in that state. Everybody uses lies to get to the ultimate truth of numbers.

Pakistani politics is no different. Even though Pakistani democracy has had a chequered history, the practice of democracy is not devoid of numbers. Every challenge has its hack. Pakistani democracy, and there is no denying that it is quite a challenge, has its hack as well. It is called Punjab.

When I was very young, there used to be a TV commercial ad for the Red & White cigarettes. In the ad, there used to be some men, trying to impress a beautiful lady by playing the game of snooker, without any success. Moments later another man would appear who would be handsome and well-dressed. He not only played the shots right but also convinced the lady that he was the one and only. The next scene was the lady walking up in her red shoes with high heels to the handsome man and they would share the screen with laughter while smoking cigarettes. As a kid, I always thought that victory came with smoking those cigarettes. That is what the tobacco industry want us all to think.

Thankfully I didn’t grow up to be a smoker but the Punjab is no different to Pakistani politics than the branded cigarettes’ insinuation to winning snooker and the lady, all together. To win, Punjab must be bagged. Punjab is the most populated province in Pakistan. Having an overwhelmingly large number compared to the rest of the provinces in the country, Punjab plays the dominant role not only in politics but in sports, army recruitment, showbiz, civil services, and so forth.

In the practice of what democracy should be, an informed citizenry must be present making informed decisions, devoid of any emotion, over serious issues, affecting their lives. In the practice of the democracy we have, numbers are more important than awareness. Like it or not, that is the system in place. In my university days, I was a student who questioned the accepted norms and the perceived notions and followed the true and genuine understanding of things. There were others who didn’t do any of that and rather thought that I was weird but they always made sure to memorize the right coursework to do well in exams. They graduated with a much higher GPA than mine. They had found and focused on the exam hack. Hack and learning walk in opposite directions. I graduated with the lowest GPA in my entire university. I treat it as a badge of honour, in case you are wondering.

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