Political patronage of violence
Pakistan’s political arena was once again heated under the umbrella of so called democratic right to protest by the opposition and defense by the government. Both have been damaging the lives of citizens with their mishandlings. Undemocratic norms are followed throughout, justifying their violent roots. Vicious precedents are widely seen to be patted as an example of valor by the political leaders. One of the obvious examples is a recent brawl between a PTI worker and a lady constable when the government disrupted the PTI youth convention organised without prior permission despite the imposition of section 144 in Islamabad. What has transpired is that the offender (the political worker) is presented as an example of courage by her leader Imran Khan and the constable received a cheque of PKR 50,000 as performance award by the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar. The former may also win a reserved seat in parliament as a reward in future. Backing violence has always been denoted as part of extremist organisations; so how can it be justified as a political and democratic expression of the political parties and government?
The youth makes the majority of our country and political leaders like Imran Khan instigate them to mob violence by locking down all dialogues with the government, denouncing the elected PM of the country and violating the law, etc.
The spirit for call to a democratic protest does not lie in the unlawful act of threatening statements and slogans against functionaries of the country. Hardly any head of the institution, media maestro or mainstream politician is excluded from explicit defamation during jalsas and sit-ins of post 2013. The targeted individuals have earned their names and reputation through hard work and making valuable contributions to this country. Look at the case of Najam Sethi (caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab before general elections 2013), who was slandered with a famous idiom added to the dictionary of elections terminology: “35 punctures” (a reference to 35 constituencies allegedly rigged favouring PML-N). Others include bitter criticism and mocking of Fakhruddin G Ebrahim (Chief Election Commissioner during 2013 general elections), and Commission members (particularly from the Punjab): Anwar Mehboob (Punjab Election Commissioner), Justice (R) Khalilur Rehman Ramday (former Judge of the apex court), Iftakhar Muhammad Chaudhry (Ex Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan), Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Inspector General Police-Islamabad are few to name. This discourse further links to the most recent phenomenon when a political leader, head of a mainstream political party, Mr Khan gave his verdict-cum-judgment of calling the sitting PM and his allies thieves, dacoits and corrupt. Contrary to that, nothing has ever been proved on any relevant forum. His followers and allies take pride in the politics of lathi-charging, stoning, verbally abusing and disrespecting state and government. It has become a popular political narrative in the country among young population, which is alarming.
On the other hand the forces in this country (i.e political, military, civil society, citizens) are in consensus on the need for an emerging counter-narrative, a new narrative, which has to be a peace narrative. It is equally pertinent to know that peace narrative neither be blended as an alloo bukharay ki chutney, nor manufactured as packed honey bottles to be available to eat or gulp, or as a script that you can commission and get it written down. Peace narrative is our actions. It is the actions of our icons which will trickle down and affect our evolving narratives. For example, during most recent episode of political turmoil the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtukhwa (KP) gave a sweeping statement by saying “we felt as if we are attacked by Hindus” forgetting the fact that there is difference between Hindus and Indians. It may be news for people other than the Sindhi population that Hindus are the largest religious minority in Pakistan. They are natives and this country belongs to them in same way it is related to Muslims. Their existence and loyalty to their homeland could easily be hurt by irresponsible rhetoric of leaders. A Hindu friend Varun Kumar also pointed this out on social media that he felt “hurt and left out”. This is the narrative given by a political leader and provincial head, which equates to the derogatory statements of some religious leaders identifying IK with Jewish lobby for his past affiliation with Jemima Goldsmith. Simultaneously a debate on Punjabi vs Pashtun erupted on social media that really count out numerous Punjabi supporters who always standby in case of any discrimination to KP or Balochistan. It is also a narrative of hurting them and jolting their fight for the party cause. Another positive example of narrative can be quoted by a young political leader Bilawal Bhutto (Chairman Pakistan Peoples’ Party) who celebrates Diwali by visiting Hindu Temple every year. It translates a certain message to its followers.
I was once shocked to hear a youth representative commenting during a political gathering that “only abuse can make understand an abusive person”. His message was that in politics if any opponent party has brought the culture of verbal abuse and arrogance let counter them same way. Is this the message we are looking for in our youth?
We are a country of young population and we have to train and equip entire generation of youthful human resources to compete with highly advanced world of today. How can we take the risk of indulging them into abusive discourse and narrative in order to teach lesson to the opposing entities. We have to rather respond with caution considering larger interest of wider range of young generation and building their attitudes towards life. They are to live decades ahead. It is our responsibility to pave a constructive way for them to follow instead of treading through destructive passage.
We have to distinguish between the practices of extremist elements and our democratic expressions. We cannot take a road to prosperity unless we set precedents of respect to rule of law, procedural activism, amending the gaps of governance structure through process, building peaceful public pressure, asking right questions but avoiding wrong methods and connecting our youth with peaceful political activism. Only verbosity to create counter narrative will lead us to the dark alley, we have to stop patting ill practices of violence and abusive culture.
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