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A single vote

PROSPERITY, development, and sustainability in Sindh are linked to the number of people casting their vote hopefully for someone who has a vision, a plan, and an executable strategy to deal with problems. Socioeconomic challenges, unfortunately, dominate the landscape, with poor education and health systems, water and food scarcity, and a dearth oflivelihood opportunities.

This begs the question: is it our vote winners who lack the skills and abilities needed to serve the people, or is it the voters who fail to comprehend the qualities a poll candidate must possess in order to ensure effective governance once elected? The value of a vote is neither taught well, nor comprehended clearly. With general elections scheduled for February, votes are needed to transform Sindh into a well-managed province by a qualified political leadership.

Of course, it is the number of votes that decides who wins and who loses. But what criteria should be employed to assess the likely performance of a candidate in Sindh, the kind of leadership qualities he or she possesses, and what constituency issues matter most to him or her? Undoubtedly, even a single vote has the potential to make a difference. For example, John F. Kennedy won the American presidential election of 1960 by the very narrow margin of less than twotenths of a percentage point. Democracy works only if people come out to show theirconcern by castingtheirvote.

Sindh is a poverty-stricken province hit by myriad problems including the impact of climate change. If one were to think of a `voting policy` for Sindh, what criteria should the electorate keep in mind? In fact, there are several elements informing well-thought-out voting choices. For instance, one could ask what sort of a plan the candidate has to address Sindh`s water woes. What does the candidate, if elected to power, intend to do about economic empowerment in the coastal belt, as well as sea intrusion in the Badin, Sujawal and Thatta districts? Does the candidate have a strategy to put an end to the barbarous practice of abducting girls? Does the candidate have a viable proposal for a state-of-the-art education system in his or her constituency? If elected, would the candidate be willing to take responsibility for a woman dying due to the unavailability of medical facilities in a rural setting? How will the candidate protect the rights of the minorities in his or her constituency? Such questions need to be reflected on by voters and be posed by them to thecampaigning candidates. If today`s voters want themselves and their generations to live a healthy life and have all the advantages of a modern education system, prosperity, and development, they need to think now. Only performance will count.

The general aim of elections is to bring to power a government which can make policies that benefit the people at large.

But the picture of previous elections shows that before and during elections, some voters are influenced or made to cast theirvotefor aparticularcandidate.

Sometimes, the carrot of Rs5,000 against each vote is dangled before them. If voteseekers can `organise` themselves to `induce` voters to cast their ballot in their favour, why can`t voters similarly prepare themselves to vote in the best, ie, those who would actually make a difference? For prosperity in Sindh, voters from Karachi to Kashmore, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Badin, and Tharparkar have to think of a `voting policy`, keeping in mind the challenges their respective constitu-encies face. For this, the role of social activists in urban and rural settings is pivotal. They must educate people about the importance of the single vote, and convince them thattheir vote should not be cast just to perpetuate a `legacy`; it must be cast for a prosperousfuture.The electorate should understand that their vote should go towards the fulfilment of their rights and the future of their offspring. The right decision today will positively impact the future.

Unfortunately, so far the votes of Sindh`s unaware masses have only enriched the vote winners who are past masters at playing with the rights of the destitute andilliterate.

At the end of the day, it is only voters who can change Sindh`s destiny. NGOs, civil society, school teachers, influencers in rural Sindh, and activists with deep knowledge of the importance of elections should act to create awareness, particularly in the province`s rural areas, so that voters have an understanding of what they should be looking for in those who want to represent them. They must be made aware that elections ultimately aim to seek good governance from the village unitto the provinciallevel.m The writer is a development expert furqanhyders