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Our political culture

Contempt of court proceedings have been initiated against Nehal Hashmi, who was earlier made to resign from his Senate membership. These actions came as soon as a video became viral on social media showing him issuing threats to those ‘grilling the Prime Minister and his family’ over the Sharifs’ business dealings abroad. There is a legal as well as a social aspect to Mr Hashmi’s statements that, according to him, were made ‘casually’ at a workers’ convention.
There are constitutional and legal restrictions on speech acts like those uttered by Mr Hashmi because a republic cannot survive a situation where citizens go about threatening fellow citizens or public officials with dire consequences for lawful actions.
The less straightforward social aspect of Mr Hashmi’s statements has to do with Pakistan’s political culture in general. This culture remains at odds with the cardinal republican principle of legal equality of all citizens enshrined in our constitution. This culture is a reflection of social and economic inequalities that remain rife in the polity. More specifically, it emanates from patron-client relations between political parties’ leadership and their base. This is best illustrated with Mr Hashmi’s clarification issued after his meeting with Senate chairman on Wednesday. He said that his statements were not unusual for gatherings of party leaders and workers. This kind of tone can only pass as usual in a setting where social status, charisma or economic power — rather measures of competence, knowledge, and skills — distinguishes leaders from workers.
This culture is not specific to the PML-N. Sadly, it is visible in most parliamentary parties including the relatively new Tehreek-i-Insaf and those doing politics in the name of religion.



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