Democracy which arguably is the best system of governance functions and gains strength only when the government and the opposition forge a working relationship, respect and accommodate each other’s view point in spite of their differences on the political and economic issues and their actions reflect their commitment to serving the cause of democracy and promoting well-being of the masses. Unfortunately none of these traits and attributes of democracy are visible in the current political scenario.

The repeated ruckus in the national assembly is a very sad reflection on the democratic credentials of not only the treasury benches but also the opposition. The onus of running the house amicably mostly rests on the government. But the attitude of the government particularly the Prime Minister towards the opposition is hardly conducive to a productive interaction between them. Not only the language that the leaders from both sides are using against other but also the campaigns unleashed for each other’s character assassination would even put to shame the most condemned street urchins.

We have seen opposition parties protesting in the assemblies but the way the treasury benches reacted during the speech of the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif in the National Assembly was simply flabbergasting. Reportedly the instructions came from the Prime Minister not to allow the opposition leader to speak in the assembly. If it is true then one can hardly condone such an attitude. Democracy has no room for personal enmities. One has to look at the things from a national perspective. No matter what the Prime Minister thinks about the opposition leaders, nothing can be taken away from the fact that they are in the assemblies on the basis of the votes given to them by the people like they have given to the members of the ruling party including the Prime Minister. Trying to undermine that reality is an affront to the people those who have voted for them.

Unfortunately the culture of hurling gender insults, derogatory remarks against each other and creating scandals to denigrate the opponents has become well entrenched. Instead of issue-based healthy and productive debates in the assemblies what the people are witnessing is the crap of the worst order steeped in invectives and shameless mudslinging against each other. It would be an intellectual dishonesty on my part not to point out that this decisive down turn in the quality of political discourse in the country to a great extent owes it to the unrestrained fulminations against the opposing politicians and the government leaders by Imran Khan during his stint of agitation against the PML (N) government.

Equally condemnable is the campaign unleashed by the PML (N) leaders to vilify the Prime Minister. There is a need to defuse the heat and the PTI leadership is well advised to give up its combative approach. History is witness to the reality that the confrontation between the political parties and the politics of vendetta is invariably has given the justification to the third force to intervene and derail the democratic process which has done an incalculable harm to the Pakistani polity. The onus of reversing that tendency rests with the politicians.

In a democratic polity even when the ruling parties enjoy absolute majority, they require cooperation from the opposition benches for carrying out the legislative business besides their support on vital national issues. In the current scenario and the stalemate on the passage of the budget, the government needs across-the-aisle support. The confrontation between the government and the opposition sends very wrong signals to the outside world. It also triggers political instability in the country which can easily undermine the efforts to lift the economy from the sand-pit it is stuck into. The PTI government does not enjoy an absolute majority in the parliament and its ascendency in numbers over the combined opposition is dependent on its coalition partners which honestly speaking is razor-thin.

The PTI would surely require cooperation of the opposition parties even for the implementation of its agenda of accountability and reforms in the system of governance. Politics is the art of possible. You cannot do things single handedly. The compromises that Imran Khan has made by seeking cooperation of MQM, Chaudhrys of Gujrat whom he considered the most corrupt elements in Punjab and the likes of Sheikh Rashid whom he despised like anything just to clinch political power, has proven the authenticity of that maximum. Politics can have strange bed fellows.

The Prime Minister therefore should take respite from the rhetoric of denigrating the opposition and think about the ways of creating congenial atmosphere for winching the country out of the catastrophic situation it is faced with by building working relation with the opposition. He should also advise the hawks and the turn-coats who have joined forces with him to lower the tone and tenor of their tirade against the opposition. Let the state institutions charged with the responsibility for accountability do their job independently and with unruffled focus and the courts to determine the veracity of accusations against the opposition leaders. When the Prime Minister says I will not spare anybody and put them all in jails, it raises many questions about the fairness of the process and also provides an opportunity to the opposition to allege that their accountability was a government sponsored witch-hunt.

Imran has never been in power before and as such is free from any allegations of filching public money through corruption. I am personally prepared not to doubt his credentials as an honest man until something incriminating emerges against him. But at the same time do not agree with the modus operandi he is employing in regards to the opposition and accountability of its leaders. He needs to learn the art of politics and refrain from high handed methods which have the potential of pushing the country into a state of anarchy. No matter how honest he may be he cannot mitigate the challenges confronting the country single-handedly.

Using civilised speech, even while criticising the other side, is not only possible but also pragmatic. Power is ephemeral; today’s incumbents could be in the opposition tomorrow and vice versa. New circumstances may demand across-the-aisle compromises which previously uttered uncouth words and allegations of criminal wrongdoing can make that much more difficult. Also, in the absence of a decisive majority in parliament, the treasury benches often require cooperation from the opposition to enact legislation; the PTI government, which is looking to urgently pass the budget, has a razor-thin majority in the National Assembly. Moreover, politicians should consider how their mudslinging plays out in the court of public opinion. It makes them an object of ridicule, undermines their authority, and ends up discrediting democracy itself. Only anti-democratic forces benefit from this unseemly spectacle.