Chaos unravelled in Sialkot as PTI’s chosen location for its rally was objected to by the local Christian community. What could have been easily resolved through some communication ended in violent clashes between the law enforcement and PTI workers.
In a normal political environment, this would have been a small issue and after some tense moments, PTI did end up changing its venue. However, in this climate, where politics is being played in rallies instead of the parliament, and insults are being passed instead of bills, it is not surprising that both the government and opposition are eager to let tempers flare whenever the opportunity presents itself.
PTI will be holding many more rallies across the country, while the PML-N too, has announced a series of rallies in Punjab alone. The competing rallies by the political actors and the increasing polarisation are troubling indicators that more violence can follow, all the while as the country drowns in economic woes.
An environment where any interaction between the government and the opposition escalates into violence must be avoided. Especially, considering the current fiscal crisis, there is a requirement for a functional parliament, with a good opposition carrying out its job of oversight. By refusing to engage on the floor of the parliament, political leaders are ensuring that the cycle of polarisation and hate spirals into more trouble and chaos.
The country’s politics already feels like a poisoned well. Deep polarisation and acute partisanship are exacerbating the fissures in the society. The hatred and intolerance have seeped deep; the malaise is spreading like cancer. To stem the rot, there is an urgent and immediate need for political reconciliation and a grand national dialogue. The political leadership and important stakeholders need to go back to the drawing board and evolve a national consensus. It will not be an easy task given the fractured polity and competing forces vying for power. But such a grand national dialogue has become inevitable—and time is running out fast.