American Journal: Day Ten
By Shoukat Zardari, AWAZ-TV Anchor from Karachi, Pakistan
Chattanooga: My day started with a normal routine as usual but today was an important day for me because I had to visit the Election Commission with my News Director Derrall Stalvey. It is not just a professional exchange program here but it is a great time for me to observe U.S. elections this month.
We already had a thorough discussion regarding U.S. polls and even before reaching there Derrall told me more about democracy here. The very first things which impressed me at the election commission was keeping political agents and party workers away from the polling station and banners with different slogans of parties were also not allowed in the 100 meter premises of the election area.
When we reached inside there was no rush and everything was so smooth. Derrall told me that instead of going to vote for just one day, they have this liberty to vote early if they want to and this makes them feel comfortable to vote without wasting much time here by standing in a line for hours.
When I was there I was feeling good and bad, happy and sad both. I felt happy because I was in a country where democracy prevails with its soul but I was from a country where politicians every time call themselves democratic forces but they themselves are dictators in their own.
It hardly took fifteen minutes from parking a car to come back and sit in a car after voting. Means everything was well managed and I am really impressed with all this. I wish my country should have same system for votes and everyone should be free to decide their own will.
I told Derrall about the voting system in Pakistan and recently you may have heard or read somewhere that a former Army chief and former spymaster got convicted and I can tell you that they were charged for giving money to politicians of different parties to get elections rigged back in 1992.
In Pakistan our democracy has always seen leaps and bounds in the history and had never been enjoyed for a stable period. Even today when a civilian government is in power they are always afraid of a military takeover. In the era of free media and active judiciary in Pakistan, chances of military takeover are less but election rigging is still a big problem.
As I mentioned earlier about the polling is totally different in Pakistan. Especially in Karachi we see militant groups from different parties take over the polling stations and try their level best to harass people to vote for their own candidate. Somehow this practice was also observed in several parts of Pakistan.
As here, every presidential candidate has to inform people about his policies or future plans in Pakistan political parties just have a manifesto but nothing else. They buy votes, harass people, and just come into power. But here I saw a true and mature face of democracy.
Today I also recorded a show with Derrall Stalvey and Melydia Clewell for my channel back in Pakistan. In our show we discussed about fourteen year old Malala Yousafzai, her struggle and her health. We also thoroughly discussed the U.S.'s foreign policy towards Pakistan and the region.
I was happy to hear that at least my two fellow journalists were convinced about carrying drone strikes in Pakistan and in their individual perspective they thought there should be another way used to reduce innocent causalities in drone strikes.
At the end I will just say that as soon as days are passing it is becoming a moment of happiness and sadness both. I am happy that I am going home but sad that leaving behind many good friends and memories in Chattanooga.
Editor Note: Shoukat Zardari is visiting WRCB for the month of October to learn about U.S. media coverage. He is part of a foreign journalist visitor program supported by the U.S. State Department. WRCB is one of 14 American media organizations hosting a Pakistani journalist. Click here to learn more about Mr. Zardari's visit.