There is no way to phrase this nicely so I am just going to say it straight; taking political sides in Pakistan is stupid. Yes I said it, it’s stupid. Now before you go all insane and start fuming at that statement, relax and hear out my whole argument. I am making this argument because an increasing amount of people are starting to believe that taking political sides is somehow cool and it’s the right thing to do. These are people who are new to politics and genuinely believe in the sanctity of democracy and think that the system can be changed and that if ‘real’ votes are to be cast, all our problems would simply vanish.
Like it or not, politics in Pakistan like everywhere else in the world is dirty, messy and mostly ugly. People are vindictive, childish and in most cases very revengeful. What this means is that political parties and other such organizations, do not forget easily. So while they may shower their supporters with favors and special appointments, they go out of their way to screw over anyone who has ever said a single word against them. Biggest example of this is probably PML N who is famous for remembering those who forget them or betray them. And every time they come to power, the first order of business is to make sure that the lives of such people are made in to a living hell, in most cases this includes making unfriendly bureaucrats OSDs. This is not limited to one party, this holds true for all parties. PPP for instance would bully anyone who is not willing to bend to their wishes, case in point Kanani and Kaaliya as well as the Hashwanis, one of them is in jail and the latter is in Dubai for the last 4 years or so. So point is, political parties do not tend to forget stuff, and while they might give out favors to their own, they make sure that their opponents suffer in any way possible.
If that is not enough, the reality of life is that in Pakistan in order to get things done you need to be on good terms with everyone i.e. you need to be friends with all sides. Now you may be thinking well that is why the system is broken and that in a way is encouraging corruption, but thing is you try getting things done during a government that is not of your choice. Try getting transfers, postings and other simple things done on merit during the time of your opponents. Most people who talk about taking sides and go all Cultist on social media, have never had to actually do any of this. You might be saying well you know I can live without getting postings and transfers done for people who are around me, and you may be right. But try running a business, a proper business that has a scale under the government of your opponents and you will realize how magically nearly all government departments have a deep interest in your operations. Talk to most businessmen and they would tell you how they get harassed for being affiliated with one party or another.
And if all this is not enough, our general public cannot even begin to understand how nearly all major political families are related to each other in way or another. Pir Pagara alone is directly connected through family ties to PPP, PML N, PML Q and most leaders of PTI South Punjab. In numerous cases, half the family is one party and the other half is in another party. Classic case of this is Khokhars in Lahore. The family controls one National Assembly constituency and cousins keep contesting against each other on different party tickets just so the seat stays within the family. In other places like Faislabad, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Gujranwala, Khushab, Chakwal and so on, family members/baradari members contest elections against each other just to keep seats within the family. They side with different political parties to ensure they remain in power or more accurately one part of the family remains in power.
Given these facts, it is actually stupid to take one side. I mean come on, our politicians and our so called representatives are not sticking to one side and instead choose to look out for family/baradari interests then why shouldn’t we the people do the same. People often ask me which political party do I support and I reply I do not pick sides. And for some reason that is an odd answer to them, but to me it makes sense. I have good terms on all sides and that allows me to do things my way and have a long term perspective about things that I work on and invest in because I am not afraid that a change in government will hurt my plans. That is actually what most of the business people do across Pakistan. The whole point of this game is to grow economically and have an improved standard of life, and for that we require stability. That stability comes from being able to plan long term and work without constraints.
So while it may be momentarily cool to take sides and identify yourself based on your party preference, the truth is it genuinely does not matter. You can choose any side you want but know that they are all the same. The idea that our politics is based on ideology and principled stances is a myth. If that were true, we would not have the same damn candidate run for election from 3 different parties while never changing their beliefs even once. So, like I said in the start and based on all of this, taking political sides in Pakistan is Stupid.
Image Source: The National