Uncivilised politics

THE quality of political discourse in our country has plunged to a new low. In the current climate of toxicity, lawmakers, ministers and prominent politicians don’t think twice before uttering profanities, striking one another and using disgusting language be it on the floor of the National Assembly or on the set of a TV talk show. The remarks of Minister Ali Amin Gandapur at an election rally in Azad Kashmir this week fall into this category of shameful discourse. Mr Gandapur’s vitriol and derogatory labels for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif show how far our political leaders will go to discredit their opponents. In our highly polarised political environment, criticism is no longer constructive. It is personal and nothing is off limits. Political opponents treat each other like enemies, and deliberating in good faith is increasingly becoming a rarity. Mr Gandapur’s words reflect the divisiveness that the current leadership has injected into politics. His words have triggered protests from the opposition parties, yet the PTI has largely fanned the flames, by either justifying the minister’s comments or embellishing them. Instead of trying to resolve this problem, the ruling party is reinforcing it — a trend that is seen among its senior leaders as well as less prominent politicians. The government must realise the cost at which this polarising politics will come. By using such tactics, and viewing politics as a blood sport, our leaders are letting down the people instead of rendering the public service that is required of them. Such antagonism against political rivals will promote intolerance within society as well, something we witnessed in the Daska by-election. With a general election scheduled in two years, the leaders of all political parties should know that hateful rhetoric and toxic speeches can trigger political violence.

Decency must return to politics, otherwise our already polarised society will continue its descent into political chaos. The ruling party must take the lead in setting the tone for mature politics, and base criticism of its rivals on substance rather than resorting to name-calling and personal attacks. It cannot continue to laud and reward such behaviour. By deploying these tactics, politicians appeal to their voters but do little to solve their problems. Healthy debates and criticism are hallmarks of a democracy. Sadly, there is no sign of either in our political discourse. Our political leaders should correct themselves before we reach a point of no return.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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