For democracy and bijli, uninterrupted supply

18-hour power cuts have switched off most voters from India or Kashmir. Benazir gone, Zardari is a pale shadow, their angry son exiled to TV land. Nawaz Sharif senses power but beyond his tired tigers and a stuffed menagerie, he also has a headache called Imran Khan

WRITINGS on the wall is a metaphor that emerged from our travels across India, particularly during election campaigns (for earlier writings, see news/writings-on-the-wall/713872/). Writings on the wall, because as you drive across the countryside, your eyes open, it's what is written on the walls that tells you the story of what is changing, and what isn't. What is on top of people's minds, and what has been discarded. We have seen how India has moved on from grievance to aspiration, from mere roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothing and shelter) to bijli, sadak, paani (power, roads, water) and now to padhayee, sehat, naukri (education, health, jobs). We have also seen how leaders seeking the favour of these voters have altered their appeal and message accordingly. But would what works in India apply to Pakistan as well? Can you also read what is going on in Pakistani voters' minds by reading the writings on their walls, particularly when you are visiting that country after a full 11 years? And finally, can you do it when you cannot recognise a letter of Urdu?

You don't have to try so hard. Really. Nor do you have to look that far. Look out of your car window, walking around the street corners, the busy, typically subcontinental back-lanes of Lahore that could be a slice of West Delhi but for the donkey-carts and Urdu signage, the tri-junction where you turn for Raiwind, now famous for Mian Nawaz Sharif's 1,000-acre farmhouse, and most of the English acronyms on the walls would look familiar to you: BA, MSc, MBA and, somewhat less familiar, FA, the intermediate equivalent degree that used to be popular in northern India as well during our parents' times. So that, you would say, is not particularly different from India. But what is this other three-letter acronym, U.P.S. that stares at you from wherever you look? From the walls, poles, billboards nailed to trees, village bazaars, the rears of buses, auto-rickshaws, even horse-carts? For a while, you even lazily presume it is some kind of a professional degree that is popular in Pakistan.

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