Mind Your Language, Please


PPP has done the right thing by calling out its coalition partner and ruling PML-N member, also special assistant to prime minister, Hanif Abbasi for his rather unsavoury comments about former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed. PPP General Secretary Farhatullah Babar went so far as to call it “unacceptable” and demanded an apology because offering Rs50,000 to whoever brings Rasheed’s wig amounts to “fanning hatred, violence, lawlessness”. That’s a very valid point and the PML-N leader must see the error of his ways. Yet, given how toxic the political landscape has become, we’re barely scratching the surface here. And even this particular exchange was just one more pot calling just another kettle black and you can be sure that this won’t be the end of it.
It’s true that Pakistani politics has never been a terribly refined business but it’s equally true that recently, during the PTI years in particular, the mainstream political discourse descended to a level of poisonous toxicity never seen before. And it seems to be getting worse with time. Opponents, like Abbasi, now claim it as something of their political right to pay back in the same coin, so to speak since the verbal barrages are not without political costs in their constituencies. And so this circus goes on.
Now there’s also news of the old trend of compromising videos suddenly appearing to once again grip the popular debate. One thing such things always do, in addition to corrupting society, is shift the debate from policies to personalities and petty issues. And the people, at the end of the day, lose out because of it. Therefore there is an urgent need to put an end to this cult of hatred that has come to dominate Pakistan’s politics. But who’ll take the first step towards an awkward de-escalation? PPP has suffered more than most from such things in the past, even though it has compensated in other ways, so perhaps it is fitting for it to be the voice of reason here. And it’s a good place to start with its allies, especially since they are in government.