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EDITORIAL: This past Sunday was the season’s hottest day as temperature rose by many degrees. Weather experts had made a timely forecast and life was expected to remain indoors. Amid a worrisome rise in mercury, however, there were four public meetings: two in Karachi and one each in Faisalabad and Gujrat.

And the messages delivered at these meetings shared the commonality of being extremely toxic, reflecting political polarization within the country that is getting worse by the day. The language used against the rivals increasingly flouted the basic norms of civility. The leaders at these meetings acted more as demagogues who seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational arguments.

It is increasingly clear that social media and a section of overtly biased TV channels have kept egging on them. Instead of informing the audience of their plans and programmes to take the country out of the woods, they were largely focused on their opponents’ private lives. Some call others ‘crooks’ and ‘thieves’, only to be hit back by epithets such as ‘fascist’ and ‘ego-centric’. And the crowds invariably cheer them by raising slogans and waving party flags.

At the end of the day, the message a discerning mind receives is that the entire narrative is not aimed at ensuring that Pakistan is run as a modern, liberal and democratic country; they are perhaps of the view that this country is nothing but a goldmine, which should be possessed by hook or by crook. And if a general election is a key to this ‘goldmine’, then so be it.

If post-electoral history of this exercise in the country is any guide, then it would be hazardous to believe that its outcome would be acceptable to the losers even if elections are conducted with the help of the much-touted electronic voting machines.

With the country’s economy appears to be nearing collapse while hunger is walking tall, the ongoing political polarization makes no sense to the common man. The common man has nowhere to look for. And his other option, democratic system — the government of the people by the people for the people — seems to be a receding mirage.

Left to the political leaderships across the board there is no hope of walking out of this thickening quagmire. We need to look for other options, but an unconstitutional intervention is definitely not an option. The options have to be exercisable within the confines of the Constitution, and these are there in the form of apolitical and competent state officials, an independent judiciary, a vibrant media and an assertive civil society.

By interactive assertion —clearly and forcefully — of their perspectives on national issues these organs of state and society can weigh in with their active participation and involvement regarding solutions to myriad problems and challenges facing the country. It is needless to say that genuine political discourse has disappeared.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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