For Rabia Ali, 20, and her sister, Alizeh, finally there is some good news.
“After months of depression caused by suicide attacks, bombings and violence, finally we are happy that there is something for us to celebrate,” she says. She confesses that she is excited over the prospect that Pakistan Peoples Party may form the next government.
“A lot of people tell me that it is too early for us to make that assumption but I am hopeful.” Rabia says what makes it worthwhile is that she voted for the first time and she feels she can “change governments through votes too in Pakistan”.
Despite predictions of widespread rigging in Monday’s elections, the results indicate that by and large the will of the people has triumphed. In this, there is a sense of relief. “There was always the fear that something would go wrong and this would be followed by violence,” said Athar Ali, a Karachi resident.
According to Anis Majeed, chairman of the wholesale merchants association, there was record purchases of essential commodities like flour, rice and food items in the days leading to February 18. In addition, it was reported that people also stocked up on guns — in Karachi alone there was a significant rise in the number of weapons purchased in January.
The results were welcomed by most quarters. “I think this is the best news that I have heard in a long time. Not just that elections were held peacefully but also that the mainstream parties have made a comeback. This is good for Pakistan,” said Syed Jawaid Iqbal, a political analyst.
There was dancing on the streets in most cities of Pakistan as results poured in on Tuesday morning.
“I don’t know what to celebrate more. The fact that the PPP has won or that the PML-Q has been trashed,” said Tariq Ali, a Lahore resident. He said that despite claims that the PML-Q was the most powerful party in the Punjab, it was “apparent that votes cannot be bought”.
Many marvelled at the voting trends and said the voting public had once again shown political maturity. “The people of Pakistan have not let us down. It is usually our leaders who disappoint,” said Fehmida, from Hyderabad. She said that she had voted to “show everyone that women too can push for change”. The results showed it was worth the effort, she added.
Many women voted for Benazir Bhutto. Others confessed that they had voted for Bilawal Bhutto. “Because he is so cute,” a twenty-something girl said.
As the mainstream political parties gear up for a round of celebrations, many people say that they do not know what they should celebrate more — the lack of violence or the fact that the most popular parties in the country have been able to make it to parliament.