Chitral: hindrances to diversity 

The dilemma of voters in Chitral

Naeem Khan (Booni)
Local government elections are expected to be held by the end of March, and the names of interested candidates are already in the air. Individuals from a variety of fields have started efforts to win over the severely factioned voters. While it is natural for the candidates to sense the pressure, the voters too are finding themselves tangled between innumerable options. For the sake of argument, this article divides the candidates into three categories: Relative-friend or clan member,  volunteer-cum-opportunist and the ever deserving, suitable candidate. 
Chitral, being a collectivist society, has been akin to one massive family in similitude where everyone has some sort of affiliation with every other. These affiliations are never more pronounced, and tested, than during elections. An individual with a far reaching social network, or having membership of a dominant sect or clan, is certainly the first one to run for the elections. 
The voters, especially relatives, zealous clan and sect members and friends, are expected to support him or risk being alienated from the relational bond or group membership. To add insult to injury, leading group leaders, especially those who are presented as the living embodiment of ideals, present rhetorics such as ‘an abode in heaven for a vote’ or ‘we must win or else we are to be overrun by such and such clan’, brainwash diehard members into submission. 
Subsequently, the prevalent voters, embedded with a sheer sense of loyalty, face their first obstacle in the exercise of their right. Most of the people drop down their mental defenses, and get tricked into supporting individuals whom they would have hardly known if it weren’t for the clan or group membership, which too, is extremely irrelevant in their individual lives. 
However, some voters do, indeed, move beyond the relational and clanship boundaries to face their next hindrance in the quest for finding the right candidate.
For those of you who have undertaken any sort of community work, you might have come across this guy who breaks the previous records of volunteerism and that too of his own. Be it the construction of a local channel, repairing of a power house or a mere protest against any non-significant mishap, he is everywhere. 
On the surface, all this points to the individual’s goodwill and self-sacrificing dedication, however, the existence of a malicious intend surfaces as soon as you see him portraying, and often times, exaggerating his endeavours, on occasions such as a party meeting, on social media and during normal conversations which hint at his attempts to cash in. The argument here is, that, volunteerism requires no condition, and certainly no reward. When people undertake volunteer work for the sake of attaining some future benefit, it’s more of an investment than volunteerism. 
Nevertheless, desperate voters take it upon themselves to reward acts, that in reality, aren’t that significant and life changing. As it happens  naturally to a Chitrali, the ,supposed, moral obligation hacks the conscience, which is already, preposterously, susceptible to such forces, and a major faction of voters are lost to the volunteer-cum-opportunist.
After weeks of a persistent barrage of, self-declared, potential candidates, a major proportion of the exhausted voters is won over. What remains, is a handful of intellectual stubborn, who fight tooth and nail to steer their way through an unforgiving sea of conventional candidates. With objectivity, and concern for the greater good, in mind, they long for the candidate who would fit their perception of a leader. CTV, a Canadian publisher, defines such an individual as someone, who has the knowledge of the state and local issues, having a clear mandate which motivates people rather than the age old technique of cashing in on relational ties and volunteer work. 
Such a person is a team player, and seeks to unite, rather than divide, the populace under one banner. He/she exemplifies in the moral values of religion and culture, and, is an excellent communicator. However, the most distinguishing feature of the leader from seasonal characters is the will and power to move forward, despite setbacks. ‘Fire in the belly’, is the term that best fits the description. While finding such an ideal character is far from reality, but every now and then, the ‘intellectual stubborn’ stumble upon a candidate who significantly, if not entirely, matches the above description. 
Notwithstanding the sacrifices of the few courageous voters, the conventional giant, almost always, devours the helpless idealistic. 
Sometimes however, a suitable candidate may come from a highly reputable clan and /or a dominant group, having a good reputation as a social servant. There is no rigid criteria or condition, on the emergence of an ideal candidate. 
Moreover, this paper doesn’t attempt to nullify, or degrade, any candidate’s reputation, but to describe the dilemma that a voter encounters in the face of sect, clan and friendship ties which befuddle the voter’s ability to distinguish between candidates. 
Therefore, respected readers, it is imperative, more than ever, now, especially for the youth, to open their eyes and ears and scrutinize their choices, in order to make sure that their decisions are their own, and not a result of any social, emotional or ideological pressure.

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