ISLAMABAD - National Party chief Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said yesterday an unending line of incapable leaders had transformed Pakistan into an intolerant country.

His comments came as intolerance has become a characteristic of Pakistani society with regular news of violence and crime - generally a result of prejudice.

The rulers have allegedly fuelled this widespread intolerance by employing vague terminology and heaping all the country`s problems on ‘non-state actors’ and ‘foreign elements.’

Survey reports suggest the people do not vote overwhelmingly for extremists but their ‘soft power’ continues to grow. Thousands have been killed in the past two decades in sectarian violence and the number is increasing with the time. Out of 180 million populations, three quarters of Pakistanis live in abject poverty and are disheartened by the inaction of the government to improve their lives at any level.

Pakistan spends a meagre percentage of its gross domestic product on education. Almost half of Pakistan’s population is illiterate. In many areas no government-funded schools exist and only the rich can afford an education.

NP chief Mir Hasil Bizenjo said the Pakistani society was going through a tough time which needed immediate attention for the sake of proper transformation.

“Successive incapable leaders have transformed Pakistan into an intolerant country where terror rules while there is no respect of law of the land and accountability,” he said.

Bizenjo said the country’s streets were filled with people who were perfectly capable of working but were forced to beg amid the ever growing divide between the rich and the poor.

Speaking at a ceremony here to pay tributes to famous progressive poet Khalid Alig’s book, “Guftugo Awam Sai Hai (in conversation with the masses),” Bizinjo said a country cannot progress where poets like Faiz, Jalib and Sipra are considered villains while murderers were regarded as heroes. The NP chief – whose party is an ally of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) - said there was growing realisation that extremism was becoming a major challenge for the country.

“Apart from its consequences on matters of law and order and security, which the country has been facing for over a decade, it has also penetrated the public discourse and policy formulation but steps to contain remain far from satisfactory,” he remarked.

Bizinjo said intolerance had a stranglehold on society and the space for free and open dialogue had shrunk, even in intellectual circles.

On the occasion, NP Punjab President Ayub Malik and others paid tributes to the deceased poet. Alig remained associated with various labour unions. He was imprisoned for taking part in such activities. He was known in certain circles as an ascetic who looked down upon the rat race and never compromised on his principles.

The late poet had never accepted monetary help from anyone throughout his life – even when he was in dire need. Until his death in 2007, he lived in his small and old house.