The courage to vote

By, Aly M. Zubairy, Charter for Compassion Pakistan

To vote or not to vote? That used to be the question. On May 11th, queues formed at polling stations across Pakistan as voters stood in line armed with nothing more than their courage and National Identity Cards.

Women stand in line ready to vote for a change.
Image Credit:

Pakistan is the world’s fifth largest democracy. These elections were noted as the first civilian transfer of power following the successful completion of a five year term by a democratically elected government. At the end of the election, the election commission projected that more than 60 percent of the nation’s 86 million voters cast ballots for national and provincial assemblies—a number that, represented the highest percentage turnout since 1970. This significant increase in voter population was attributed to the sheer determination for a change by citizens. Some polling stations saw history in the making, as patients accompanied with their families and nurses left their hospital beds just to vote. To witness these patients voting was one of the greatest examples of Pakistan’s most heartwarming patriotic acts during this historic moment.

Flags and banners representing different political parties danced in the streets and hung from rooftops like a forest canopy. Unmistakably, spirits rose as high as the competition itself. In the midst of all this chaos we so proudly called the “election campaign”; people shoved aside their differences and instead united in the ideology of the importance of stepping out of the sanctuary of their homes and voting regardless of the uncertain and unfavorable city conditions. In essence, courage gracefully swept the nation and entered the mind and soul of every Pakistani.

In the past few weeks, Pakistani’s were forced to face a number of mixed emotions as the country confronted terrorist attacks, political disasters, and other unimaginably unfortunate events. Words like “revolution” and “change” were tossed around by every political candidate as if they were M&M’s. Politics were often reduced to a battle between egos. Fortunately, the existence of compassion is principally the only effective tool that can be used to resolve this dilemma. So, Charter for Compassion (CfC) Pakistan took this opportunity to set up its first ever “election campaign” focusing primarily on the element of – the courage to vote, which our brave nation developed and embraced during these dark times.

A camel jockey at Clifton Beach expressing his courage to vote.
Image Credit: Saira Shah. Communications Officer at CfC Pakistan

It was during this election campaign that we saw men, women and children get completely engrossed in efforts to truly bring about a positive and lasting change for the present and future of their beloved country. Altruistic work was executed as simply as breathing, when people went out of their way to spread awareness of the importance of voting regardless of distance and disorder in the country. Compassion was the key to this nationwide movement. Like snowcapped mountains, compassion shed on everyone directly and indirectly associated to the elections.

All of the candidates were also put to the compassion test when unfortunately, one of the contenders, Mr. Imran Khan, fell 14 feet and injured himself during a rally. This incident stirred up an inspirational compassionate action among other competing candidates to the point where all of them expressed their concern, along with one opponent who refused to hold his rally and instead chose to visit Mr. Khan.

CfC Pakistan felt compelled to do its part. Our small yet determined team decided to spread messages from courageous citizens with the help of social media over the period of 7 days. These messages were gathered from people from different walks of life. From camel jockeys to doctors, and high school students to school gatekeepers, there was one similarity in all the messages– their conquest of fear while cultivating a courageous environment.

Years from now, we can proudly say that we stood united even in the toughest of times because we believed in a better Pakistan, and it is that same belief which gave us the courage to vote.

The Charter for Compassion has enabled many like-minded individuals and institutions to voice their opinion. By signing the Charter their compassionate voice has been amplified tenfold. We invite you to sign the Charter in order to help create a future that we and future generations deserve.

Aly Zubairy is the Communications Assistant at Charter for Compassion Pakistan. He is currently enrolled as a BBA student at Greenwich University-Karachi while majoring in Marketing. Aly has worked with WWF – Pakistan, Shell Ltd., and Aga Khan University Hospital’s global pediatrics project funded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Note: The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent TED Prize.