In our country, diversity in thought and practice is promoted in different forms — some question customs and highlight taboos, some make art while others defy power structures. Women cycling on the roads, students challenging the ban on political debate and discussions in educational spaces, performing artists dancing in shrines after they are blown up- are some examples of our vibrant and fearless voices. Often times, dissent springs from here. I once travelled across different rural and urban centres of Pakistan wearing a bindi on my forehead and that simple and seemingly harmless act mapped the status for acceptance and tolerance in this country very well. The picture was rather bleak. In our religious-cultural sphere, deviating from the set path, can be life threatening. In our socio-political sphere, dominated by the military-mullah nexus, deviating from the defined protocols can be equally, if not more dangerous. Triggers can be pulled any time, and anyone standing against this power consolidation can witnesses their deadly strength. Dissent, as misunderstood as most sane things in the country is a nightmare for this nexus. It is a nightmare for actors using coercion to hegemonise power, governance and dialogue. It is a threat to the exclusions created by the monopolisation of high politics in Pakistan — and the consciousness of fighting and breaking this monopoly alone terrifies the establishment which reacts to dissent, every time, by means of censorship and propaganda. One resilient individual who has fearlessly and relentlessly stood against this status quo, realising the agency of the common Pakistani citizen is Muhammad Jibran Nasir, a human rights activist, lawyer and independent candidate in the upcoming general elections. In our part of the world, something as vernacular as the shrine culture — which stood for centuries as an open space inclusive to all irrespective of their background — has been exploited in the name of control and discipline by the statist “Auqaf” department. This and other state institutions reflect on the disconnect between our ruling elite and the ruled— the disconnect which is not only massive, it is tragic. It is reminiscent of Pakistan’s postcolonial legacy — leaving the citizens oddly disenfranchised where their will and freedom has been traded for convenient truths as a result of which they would one day sing songs of educating the terrorist’s children and the other day pick up bodies of their loved ones from schools, hospitals, courts and parks. While our cultural spaces are under moral surveillance, our political representation is largely contained in dynastic leaderships. The judiciary is rigging democracy when the military cannot — and the military is unwilling to give up its deep state war, the political stance of Jibran tries to break the monopoly of all of these privileged men and women — a task that is as crucial for the wellbeing of Pakistan as it is difficult to undertake. Jibran’s election slogan Hum Mein Se Eik (One of us) is a promise, nearly unreal, of standing for every Pakistani regardless of their religion, class and caste. Clearly, the politics of Jibran is not the politics of usurping power Jibran’s election slogan Hum Mein Se Eik (One of us) is a promise, nearly unreal, of standing for every Pakistani regardless of their religion, class and caste. On the one hand there are parties such as the PML-N, PTI, PML-Q and countless others that gained momentum in their times only by the blessings of the establishment and on the other is Jibran Nasir a voice that cuts right through their clutches and control. Clearly, the politics of Jibran is not the politics of usurping power. It is instead a struggle for empowerment — brought about in dialogue, channelling critique into effective reform and most critically in helping the youth overcome years of its depoliticisation. Figures like the (extra) ordinary Sabeen Mahmood, who were Jibran’s earliest supporters and guides explain his resilience and commitment to his cause as well. The homogenising rhetoric of Pakistani politics where everyone, a Punjabi, Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi is required, rather coerced, into believing they are an equal part of Pakistan’s fabric of empowerment and freedom, has failed. Dominance by Punjabi elite in every aspect of rule can no longer be denied and to believe so otherwise in the name of unity, is a blatant lie turning out to be highly problematic for the country’s stability. For the past seven years, Jibran Nasir has raised questions for the justice of all communities and in doing so unconditionally embodied qualities of a leader Pakistan needs — the qualities we as a nation have not witnessed in years. Fearless, sensible, compassionate — instead of selling faith on his sleeves — Jibran has been the voice of all things right for Pakistan. Not once exploiting religion for popular support, reasoning with every opponent and supporter on the roads, in universities, outside mosques, in front of the parliament and most importantly inside broken homes, have been Jibran’s endearing qualities. This candidate may be contesting from NA247 but his voice echoes throughout Pakistan. He has stood for the Hazaras of Alamdar Road, the Christians of Joseph Colony, the Hindus of Thar and the Shia’s of Parachinar. He stood for the targeted Pakhtuns, Baloch, Sindhi, the sexually abused children of Kasur, the transgenders, the heat struck poor of Karachi, the students targeted, conspired against and lynched for their freedom of thought in schools and universities, the seventy thousand who lost loved ones to terrorism, the ones who want Abdul Aziz behind bars and the ones who never thought they had a voice. Jibran’s struggle has, one can say, accomplished in a few years something rather profound; the act of humanising politics. Lastly, the events of July 2, where Jibran was illegally detained by security protocol of a high court judge does not come as a surprise for an ordinary Pakistani. Instead it simply shows that all citizens, outside of the exclusive circle of the powerful elite have next to no civic value or worth. It immediately and unapologetically strips a human being of his or her inherent worth. The persisting VIP culture, which Imran Khan had once promised to end, in blatant terms declares one human life superior than countless other human lives. And so yet again taking a stand against this elitism is Jibran’s great service to the democratic process of Pakistan — demarcating the dirty from the authentic, the struggle for power against the struggle for representation. Resisting by all means, standing for dissent against all odds. Making politics accessible to the ordinary men and women, in thought as well as practice, as it always should have been. His leadership is hope for the disadvantaged and the lesser privileged of this country. His politics is the balance, compassionate and strong, that this country has perhaps never before witnessed. It is the politics of truth — a sincere wish to bring this country out of the myriad of hate, insensitivity, intolerance and lies. The question now is — can the democratic process enable him to realise his dream for Pakistan? The author is a Lahore-based human rights activist and freelance writer Published in Daily Times, July 10th 2018.