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Eggplant, bed, tongs: Bizarre election symbols draw ire, laughs

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : The upcoming elections scheduled for February 8 are getting spicy, and not just because of the political rhetoric. Bizarre symbols assigned to candidates by the election commission, including bowl, shoe, harmonium, chimta, hen, bottle, and pomegranate, are causing a stir, with some alleging deliberate attempts to undermine their campaigns. 

Eggplant: Aamir Mughal, a candidate for Islamabad and supporter of jailed ex-PM Imran Khan, is brandishing an eggplant, or ‘baingan’, to rally voters. Originally assigned this seemingly innocuous symbol, Mughal has turned it into his campaign mascot, even facing accusations of the symbol being suggestive. He claims the campaign has boosted eggplant prices!

“This symbol is giving me an extraordinary fame,” Mughal told AFP. “Everyone wants to look at it as they know the symbol belongs to Imran Khan’s candidate.”

Bed: Ejaz Gaddan, contesting from Bahawalpur, wasn’t thrilled with his symbol: a bed. While he initially saw it as symbolic of rest and finality, he now views it as an insult by authorities. Undeterred, Gaddan highlights the bed’s universality in every household and vows to fight on.

“This is not an election, this is cruelty,” he said. “My symbol is already available in every household. I don’t have to introduce it to my constituents.”

Bottle: Former minister Shehryar Afridi from Kohat city was fuming when assigned the bottle symbol, often seen as implying emptiness in the Pashtun culture or even alcoholism. Taking his case to court, he lost, but cleverly pivoted, framing the bottle as a vessel for medicine, symbolizing his ability to cure societal ills.

“A bottle doesn’t only represent alcohol, it also represents medicine,” he said. “That’s why we’ve transformed our electoral symbol into a medicine bottle — so that we can address all societal ailments.”

Other symbols that have put the respective election candidate in an awkward position include:

Salman Akram Raja from NA-128 with a ‘racquet’

Latif Khosa, the English letter ‘K’, for NA-122

Mehr Bano Qureshi ‘chimta’ (pair of tongs) for NA-151

Shoaib Shaheen has been given a ‘shoe’ to contest elections in Islamabad’s NA-46 constituency

Shandana Gulzar in NA-30 Peshawar with ‘piyala’ (bowl)

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan in NA-10 Buner with a ‘kettle’

Jamshed Dasti has been allotted ‘harmonium’ for NA-175

Moreover, other former PTI candidates now contesting as independents have been allotted hen and pomegranate as electoral symbols.

Election Commission Defends Choices: The Election Commission of Pakistan maintains that symbols are chosen from a list for independent candidates and are purely the decision of local officers.

Concerns and Creativity: These unusual symbols highlight concerns about potential manipulation by authorities and showcase the candidates’ creativity in turning lemons into metaphorical lemonade. With elections around the corner, Pakistan’s political landscape promises to be both dramatic and, well, symbolically intriguing.