The discussion on the option of ‘none of the above’ or NOTA, on the Pakistani electoral ballot is finally heating up. It is critical that this fundamental right granted to the citizens of Pakistan, is not viewed negatively by our society. NOTA, is in no way equivalent to not voting at all. On the contrary, in a country where the baradari system dominates the state’s democratic principles, it is imperative to better understand our absolute right to choose. When the constitution of Pakistan gives the electorate the fundamental right to vote, it does not restrict them from selecting from any and all the options available to them. The absence of a formal recognition for this fundamental right disenfranchises those democrats in Pakistan who will refrain from participating in the electoral process. This perpetuates the binary principle of choosing somebody to vote for, or staying out of the electoral process altogether. This is nothing more than a miscarriage of justice, in an already unjust society. The social contract of the state with its citizens must be strengthened and the introduction of this law will do exactly that. If we take a look at the multitude of problems facing Pakistan, we can clearly see that reforms haven’t been implemented quickly enough, leading to a stagnating political system. Certain issues need immediate attention and we need strong leaders that are not afraid to make the changes that they deem necessary for us to overcome our difficulties. As a true democrat, I will not be robbed of my rights. I will not be forced to vote for people I do not believe in, or for public representatives that continue to be voted into power, but disappoint every time they do so. Since none of the options presented to me seem viable, I would like my fundamental rights granted to me, and I, and every Pakistani in my predicament, should be provided with the NOTA option as well. I will not be robbed of my rights. I will not be forced to vote for people I do not believe in, or for public representatives who continue to be voted into power but disappoint their supporters In 2012, a petition to include NOTA on the ballet was ratified by both the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Supreme Court. However, only two weeks before the 2013 elections, it was mysteriously removed from the ballot, and now it is my sincerest hope that the ECP and the courts don’t ignore the rights of the people for a second consecutive election cycle. I seek no new rights. All I ask for are my democratic rights as a citizen of Pakistan. If NOTA successfully records 51 percent of the electoral vote, it will force the state of take action and implement reforms, within a democratic framework and result in a victory for all the people of Pakistan. It will encourage a larger share of the population to vote, and let their opinions be heard by those in charge. That is true progress. I am a resident of Islamabad but I have spent a considerable part of my life in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well. During my time in these places, I came across numerous constituencies where only a single candidate had been nominated. In these cases, the people of Pakistan are being denied the basic concept of choice, and their right to choose not to vote for the options available to them. There are eighteen countries around the world that have formally added NOTA to their ballot. In some instances, the law grants the citizens the right to write NOTA on the ballots themselves, and it is considered a legitimate vote. My prayer is that, not only should we be provided with this basic right, but that over fifty percent of the voting public select NOTA, in order to make their displeasure with the current status quo known, as well as to disqualify the current regime, and force a revolution on the political system of our country. There is no quick fix to our many problems. NOTA on the ballot is a very small step for the democratic evolution of Pakistan, yet it is an essential one. It is the best way for the common man to express his displeasure with the ruling elite and if it forces them into rethinking their recent policies, then that’s another step in the right direction. The writer is a human rights activist with a public policy background Published in Daily Times, June 15th 2018.