No matter how extreme political views are against one another, politicians should cooperate with each other to find a way out of problems. It is said politics is the art of the possible because matters are resolved and policies are charted out through cooperation. However, it seems, in Pakistan, the case is entirely opposite where political polarisation has become the norm.
Political polarisation refers to a situation in which political leaders and their supporters do not change their hardcore views. They use objectionable remarks against each other. And when you attack people aggressively and use derogatory statements against political opponents, you cannot expect flowers in return. Or, as it is said, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at other people.
Political differences, to the point of behaving like angry schoolchildren who don’t talk with each other when they fight over an avoidable thing, stop any country from making progress because of uncertainty.
In Pakistan, polarisation has always been there but in recent years, this trend has worsened. Now, leaders call each other traitors and anti-state. Who can forget the absolute deadlock among political parties following Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s blame of rigging of the election? The attack on Army Public School in December 2014 sent shockwaves across the country and pushed the parties to hold the All Parties Conference to combat the scourge of terrorism.
However, despite a renewed wave of terrorism, the government and the opposition have not decided to sit together to tackle extremism. The blame game has become even worse with both parties accusing each other of exacerbating the issue of terrorism. The coalition government accused the previous government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of not doing enough to control terror attacks. And of course, PTI would not throw laurels at this allegation and the response was likewise with the PDM government blamed for rising terrorism.
The political schism has not been alleviated in spite of the terror attack in the Peshawar’s Police Lines mosque that claimed more than 150 lives while injuring even more. Many victims were security officials. The lack of dialogue among the political parties is empowering the enemies of the state. More importantly, due to the blind following of their leaders, intolerance in citizens is pervasive across the political landscape.
The supporters of political parties have become subject to rising polarisation and they are unable to differentiate between facts and fiction. Many claims of political leaders can be recalled. As PTI chief said in June 2022, “if the current ruling government is not stopped due to the ‘Establishment’s inaction’, Pakistan would face break up into three parts.” That was an uncalled for and needless remark by a popular political leader. His supporters would, then, see other politicians as the enemies of the country.
The other side is as much to blame as the PTI. The current ruling government members have blamed Imran Khan for the mess in the country many times. He has been called ‘U-turn Khan’ by his political rivals. His wife also faced criticism when Khan was the prime minister. One member of parliament said that his wife is involved in black magic in the PM’s office. These were offensive remarks. Both sides are to be blamed equally for making the country more intolerant and polarised.
The way forward now lies in joint efforts to make the country more stable. For this, polarisation needs to be reduced in the already charged political environment. Politicians should not call each other ‘traitor’ and ‘anti-state’. There must be cooperation on policy issues. Pakistan is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and an effective solution and a credible answer lie in united efforts by the government and opposition.
Our politicians should develop the approach of “agreeing to disagree”. This strategy means that dialogue would not stall even in the case of disagreement over the step of the government. Only through dialogue and consultation can the government steer the country out of the harrowing economic crisis and unusual political uncertainty.