EDITORIAL: Sometimes we find some of us committing acts that are so indefensible that one doesn’t even know where to begin condemning them. The egg and ink attack on the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, on the premises of the Lahore High Court (LHC), is one such example. Granted, Gill seems to have very few friends even in the ruling party and some people might and indeed do find his attitude intolerable, even insufferable, but none of that gives anybody the right to target him in this fashion. He had a few things to say about the incident in his own unique manner, quite naturally, but the fact that he ‘forgave’ the attackers finally brought a bit of good sense to it. And the LHC took note of it as well, just for good measure, and ordered a very quick investigation. But if only that was all that was needed to make sure that such things do not happen too often. Obviously, it was not to be. A similar incident occurred in Peshawar later when eggs were thrown at Capt Safdar (retd) of PML-N.
It turns out that the “hooligans”, as Gill referred to them, were armed with the black ink and eggs for what can only be described as a revenge attack for the manner in which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers roughed out some Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders outside parliament on March 6, when the prime minister sought the vote of confidence. PTI workers stung by the loss of Dr Hafeez Sheikh in the Senate election, and the need for the prime minister to seek the vote of confidence, physically pushed and “assaulted” PML-N leaders, including at least one woman party member, and there is also footage of a shoe being thrown at PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal. And it was none other than Gill that took to Twitter, and whatever other medium he could find, to praise workers for putting up such a nice show even as parliament itself expressed displeasure over the incident. But he didn’t seem to like it at all just a few days later when the shoe was on the other foot.
None of that is to say that the so-called revenge attack had any justification whatsoever, just that more often than not PTI workers themselves turn out to be the ones to light fires that they end up complaining about. There’s no doubt that our dominant political discourse has never been particularly pretty, and even people with short memories remember the kind of venom PML-N and PPP leaders have thrown at each other going all the way back to the so-called decade of democracy of the 1990s. But the overall atmosphere has clearly become a lot more toxic ever since PTI came to prominence. But now, with employment of sometimes objectionable adjectives making way for use of completely unacceptable actions, and the political climate so full of poison that each party likes to give back more than it gets, there is a risk of the political class degenerating yet more and incidents like the one at the LHC becoming far more common.
Gill has set a good example by ‘forgiving’ the attackers. One reason for such exchanges to spiral out of control is the unwillingness of senior leaders to step in and stem the rot, so to speak. We have often seen quite the opposite happen, actually, with mid-level party leaders openly indulging in such pursuits seemingly to win the praise from further up the food chain. In fact, the verbal duels and personal attacks that we are now so used to seeing on prime time television, instead of the kind of sophisticated exchanges that you would expect to see in rising democracies, is just another form of expression of the same behaviour.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021