Once again, we have an opportunity to request the courts to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan to implement None of the Above NOTA as an option on the ballots in 2018. The question of what NOTA really is has been settled now. It is a fundamental right of the electorate in a democracy to choose to accept or reject the offered candidates on the ballot. The question of should NOTA be on the ballots remains symbolic or consequential is secondary. Whether NOTA garners the majority votes by the electorate in any constituency, or not, is a worthy discussion. Given Pakistan has never had NOTA on its ballots and now that the Sindh and Lahore high courts are considering it just as we near the elections, a few thoughts are required into the directives to ECP. Anything new requires time for the public to understand it and the consequences it might accompany. NOTA, currently, is not part of the Pakistani political lexicon nor is the electorate aware of its power and consequences. After the court’s directives, its inclusion time has to be given for information dissemination for the electorate and public to ask questions and learn about it. In the current environment where the media is extremely selective of what it deems news or information worthy for the public, the honourable court’s decision gives only few weeks for the people to potentially know and be made aware of the option. To make people know of the option requires dedicated targeted efforts, resources and most importantly, time. The reality of Pakistan’s electorate is that it is fed information on TV or via word of mouth. More significantly, votes are given on a group ‘biradari’ system rather than people exercising their constitutional right as an individual privately in a secret ballot. Hence, it would be imprudent to assume if NOTA is on the ballots in 2018, without a proper campaign, it will have any significant effect in terms of outcome or response on the ballots. On the contrary, as result of its inclusion without a concerted campaign about it may have negative implications. NOTA as an option on the ballots will legitimise any winner on the ballots because it does allow the electorate to reject the offered candidates. Therefore, I would pray to the honourable court that it instructs the ECP to include none of the above option on our ballots in 2018, but keep it symbolic, until we do see an increase in participation in the election process and a campaign informing the electorate about NOTA as an option on the ballots. An informed public on the implications and power of nota is equally important. For NOTA to be recognised, it must be symbolised so that the public recognises it just like it does when a certain party symbol is shown. We hope the media and social activists involved in deepening democratic principles and actions will discuss and inform the millions of disgruntled, effectively disenfranchised and frustrated Pakistanis that NOTA is an option on the ballots and that they can use it if necessary. Deepening democracy will take time and small steps in the correct direction are prudent than to regret any unintended consequences from quarters which undermine reform on a regular basis. NOTA will legitimise the candidates’ winnings in more ways than one given the electorate will, for the first time, have the opportunity to veto ‘electables’ which is an extremely powerful instrument. We need this information widely disseminated as we put NOTA on the ballots. Along with my case in the Lahore High Court, there is another case in the Sindh high Court which has also sought NOTA on the ballot which clearly shows there are people across Pakistan who are thinking about how to improve and strengthen our social contract with our political representatives within a democratic framework without ignoring “ground realities “of how the election process is managed. Pakistan is a pre-modern society where individual agency is not necessarily used nor is necessarily the basis on which decisions are made. Hence, keeping it in mind, incremental steps and options for the electorate must be introduced. But alongside such critical reform, it is imperative to raise awareness of this option. The electorate must be made aware of NOTA after it is on the ballots, as an option, for them and encourage them to use this fundamental right ,where they deem necessary. Participatory democracy strengthens our social contract with the state. It legitimises the candidates on the ballot hence an informed electorate is equally essential – that will take time. So one step forward is the inclusion of NOTA on the ballots. Symbolically.