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EDITORIAL: Did Ali Amin Gandapur really think that the people of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) would be inclined to vote for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) because he said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a “traitor”? Or that Bilawal Bhutto should “be a man”? It’s more likely that he behaved in the way he did because he thought it would please the boss in Islamabad. And even though Pakistan’s political landscape was never really non-toxic, nobody even pretends to deny anymore that Prime Minister Imran Khan and his band of admirers have taken confrontational politics to a whole new level. That is why he must have thought that it was a very smart idea to depute Gandapur and Murad Saeed to help the campaign in AJK. There’s no denying that they did just what they were expected to do, and if PTI is surprised that this matter got dragged into both houses of parliament, and once again House debate was dominated by poison instead of policy, then it is in very lonely company.

It’s not that the others are any less to blame. The opposition didn’t accept the Imran Khan administration from day one and made sure that it paid back any infringement of any boundary in full; and then some. So now, half way through the administration that was supposed to push us towards the Westminster model of parliamentary discourse at least, we’re at a point where everything from election rallies to National Assembly and Senate sessions is drenched in foul-mouthed venom for the other side of the aisle. And they never tire of doing it. For whenever anybody from either side is invited to talk, even on TV shows, about anything under the sun they begin their answers by ridiculing their opponents.

Such things lead to two very obvious problems, at least. One, when the country’s political elite displays such attitudes, it’s no surprise that debate and discussion at all levels in society also becomes just as toxic and unpleasant. And the people that are supposed to run this country for the benefit of everybody end up promoting utter intolerance and small-mindedness. And two, when government and opposition are at each other’s throats all the time, it’s only natural for the business of the state to get compromised. In the end Pakistan as a whole suffers because those that dominate its halls of power cannot even display the maturity needed to act like civilised human beings.

What is more, it’s not just the government and opposition that can’t stand each other. Ever since the disintegration of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) the main opposition parties are no longer very fond of each other either. So the entire election campaign in AJK is pretty much being run on talking down others. And the people there find themselves in the unenviable position of having to choose between candidates who are bending over backwards to make all the others, and sometimes even their ancestors, look bad.

That all parties involved can do with a dose of good sense, and good manners, is as clear as daylight. But nobody expects such realisation to set in anytime soon, because right now everybody is consumed with the AJK election and then they will simply set their sights on the next big target, the general election a couple of years down the road, and go right back to spitting fire at each other. And so we go round in circles, and the antics of our political lot spill over into public space, especially social media. It seems we are not very far from the point, if we are not there already, when anyone with even the slightest self-respect and respectable grooming would never even consider a career in politics for very obvious reasons.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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