When will hate politics end? In his first speech to Pakistan, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan should have addressed this questionand discouraged this toxic phenomenon. I hope that he will do so soon.
Since the inception of the political spectrum and its engineering, the repercussions of the hate-mongering attitude have been obvious. It disrupts and destroys the civilized domain of the intellect. This circumstance is not just in Pakistan. Leaders’ adoption of an aggressive attitude has been equally observed in politics around the globe—regardless of whether they are the politics of the Tea Party in the United States, the anti-immigration politics in the United Kingdom, the anti-Muslim politics in India and France, or similarly hateful politics elsewhere. All are on the same page: They promote the illusion that they can improve things by using aggressive slogans like “Make America Great Again.” In Pakistan, the same “change” is called for by all political parties, but from a different dictionary.
To bring change, is it necessary to play hate politics? Why can’t change take place in a civilized manner? In Pakistan, we are not just facing the dilemma of political irregularities in the communication channel. There are surely other extremes that are more dangerous, such as those in religion, which is used as a tool to defame anyone—anywhere. It takes just a second to blame someone out of context and put the person in the role of next-level extremist. Inciting people by emotional and psychological appeals, such misuse of religion is degrading the consciousness of the nation.
If political leaders become intolerant, then surely other people will become tolerant. This process is just a cyclic mechanism. We often forget the miseries of the past, as seen in military coups, and want to focus on the future. Currently in this race, Pakistan is often disregarded completely. It is true that our present defines our future, and building the latter requires some tolerance now. But this tolerance is being ousted from Pakistan’s younger generation. It is important to note that youths constitute the major portion of Pakistan’s population. Yet, to create the current chaos, hateful politicians have maligned and misled them in all possible ways.
Let’s start from the past. Pakistani Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq used religion as a tool to label all politicians as un-Islamic looters. In the 1990s, the Sharif brothers ran politics in Pakistan and defamed Benazir Bhutto in public gatherings. Disrupted by hate speech, the political spectrum interrupted the intellectual debate. The focus shifted from the manifesto of the party to how extreme a leader’s speech could become. This attitude started to pervade the mainstream media. According to that attitude, the anchor who is hard on guests becomes the real journalist, and the party representative who can supress others’ opinions by raising his voice becomes the great speaker.
Let’s return to the present. The social media debates among citizens are filled with defamatory phrases. The debates start so elegantly and end with abusive language. They leave no margin for political dissent, which is the main beauty of democracy. Diversity of opinions isn’t respected anymore. The culture is just “Might makes right”: Listen to us, call us right, and support our claims; otherwise, we will not listen to you. This way of communication has become so pervasive that it has reached the younger generation as a populist way. Check any student debate competition: The winner is the one who roars loudest. In this bumpy journey, the disruptive attitudes that Pakistani society has consequently adopted have driven Pakistan to become an extreme nation. And what about the future? It is blurred.
If you are still not satisfied that hate politics is ruining Pakistan, consider this: The disruptive attitude shown by the members of Pakistan’s prestigious Parliament on the day of the country’s elections for prime minister speaks volumes. The house where we presume the intellectuals to be seated—who are the representatives representing? Are they representing Pakistanis?
In case even that is not enough, let’s ponder another scenario: The debate of whether the speech of PM Khan was better than that of Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. However, criticism for the sake of criticism and encouraging the younger generation’s minds to follow this approach via marketing in social media is totally inappropriate—or, rather, dangerous. Why can’t we understand that everyone lives in his or her own way? Proper English or broken Urdu—for the argument, the way of speaking is not important. Had we not stopped using rational judgement, we would be using our mental faculties the way they should be used.
In an extremist setting, the protests and public gatherings form yet another face of this blurred future. Some people openly threaten the government and demand the resignations of the publicly elected officials. What’s the worst part? Their demands are considered. The law enforcement agencies are either silent or are silenced regarding the abusive language. It is open, circulating, threatening, and terrorizing. Furthermore, the issue that forms a lump in my throat is the way all democratic parties refrain from converging into a single platform to earn political ratings and instead watch each other facing the chaos. It is sickening that we are still unable to distinguish people by their particular extremist attitudes and to thus mainstream them into politics. I am far more concerned with what happened in the last elections, with people who have been involved in sectarian wars across the country asking for public support. It surely is a dark change for a “better” tomorrow, and I hope we won’t witness such an unfortunate tomorrow.
Let’s face another sickening reality. The young individuals who are uprising against such sectarian hatred and xenophobia in a political setting are equally threatened. Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a renown social activist, is now and then being questioned: “Are you Muslim?” That’s not all: The question categorizes him so as to force him to verbally abuse Ahmedi people to prove himself as a Muslim (the Ahmedi people belonging to Qadiani Religion, who call themselves Muslims but do not consider Prophet Muhamad as their last Prophet; they are often victimized by the extremist Muslims). Such questions promote the delusional picture of the people who are intrigued by hate politics. What will be the result? Tremendous consequences and a problematic future will follow. If this spree of hate is not stopped immediately, it will be impossible to stop the tyranny it will bring.
We have lost the patience that allows another person’s opinion to differ from our own. Everyone wants to be politically correct while assuming others are not knowledgeable enough. Because of the leaders whom we listen to and the mainstream media that we watch, the society is at the verge of an explosion: an explosion that will destroy all the moral and ethical values of the Pakistani society.
It’s a “great” change, isn’t it? Recognizing the lethal consequences of this change, I hope all of Pakistan’s public representatives will consider this issue as the foremost priority—before it is too late.
Hashim is pursing MS in International Relations. He is currently working as an independent journalist and researcher on international relations and politics. His work has been published in international journals and newspapers.