“The US wants us to protect their interests as a proxy, but Pakistan will protect its own interests,” said the Honorable Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Khawaja M. Asif, while briefing the press in Islamabad. Since taking office, his brave words have shaken the power corridors in the US and India. He is on a mission to restore Pakistan’s self-esteem in the global arena and make international powers recognize (and acknowledge) Pakistan’s sacrifices for world peace. However, a few hours later, addressing his own party’s convention, an act of lamentable embarrassment for the whole nation was witnessed in Sialkot when the same defender of Pakistan’s pride was attacked with black ink. Ironically, that black ink can now be seen painfully staining Pakistan’s pride.

Unfortunately, the past few days have seen more than one such incident. The Honorable Minister for Interior Affairs and three times elected Prime Minister have also been made victims of horrendous acts – both were thrown a shoe at. Perpetrators have so far hidden behind religious motivation. But there are some fundamental unanswered questions since the motivation at work here is stale. After all, only the Government cannot be blamed for the change in the Khatam-e-Nabooat Bill which included all political parties including PPP, PTI, JI, and JUI. The succession of these attacks begs to question the existence of an organized plan behind the curtains. Is it one last attempt at reviving religious fundamentalism in the last few months to make a blow at the popular vote bank? More importantly, have we seen the last of such attacks?

Furthermore, new precedents for political critique were set by opposition parties during the last five years. The use of abusive language and personal attacks so far have made insolent responses from the public commons, as social media connects more and more people. Opposition leaders have crossed all lows of mannerism. They have taught the public to pay no heed to morality and social etiquettes. All in all, such acts rarely achieve the real agenda, but their repercussions corrupt the social fabric. The critical question here is whether the opposition has made peace with this truth? Maybe after several such attempts at the PTI leadership, they have gone back to the drawing board to make the assessment.

It is about time, as a society, we ask ourselves whether we should be accepting of the rising intolerance and radicalization. To answer this question, we have to think retrospectively. Turning back a hundred years in history, in the backdrop of Khilafat Movement and the Montage-Chelmsford reforms, political leaders of the sub-continent, under the leadership of Gandhi, started a non-cooperation movement in February 1920 in high hopes of achieving “Swaraj” (Self Rule) by ousting the British rulers. It was a radical step and required the masses to “cease all relations of loyalties” with the British in all spheres of life. The movement played at the zenith of ideological clashes, one that in a façade of national unity would cause rifts in the building blocks of a society. Gandhi asked Muhammad Ali Jinnah for support.

The founder of our nation, Quaid-e-Azam, however, refused to support such extremist ideologies classifying them as politically unwise weapons that would not destroy the British but would instead appeal only to the illiterate and the inexperienced youth of the country and have dire consequences. Quaid-e-Azam believed that (ethical?) radicalization was an affliction that could not be contained in one sphere of life and would spread in the human mind; hence he chose to fight Imperialism constitutionally. Gandhi eventually, after hundreds killed and thousands arrested, had to call the failed movement to a halt saying, “Swaraj stinks in my nostrils”. Reading the history pages today one can imagine that Quaid-e-Azam’s help remained insufficient in achieving Swaraj in 1920, but he remained principled on the stance, standing in his time, to lead his people honorably, hence endorsing dignity.

Today we face this ill with poor comprehension of the impending disasters resulting from the current course of substandard political integrity. Political ideologies are based on principles; one can have a difference of opinion on a particular stand, but this difference of opinion should have moral and ethical boundaries of operation. While these acts of pusillanimity were condemned in public a sense of opulent benevolence was missing. It felt as if the grin of satisfaction was concealed for the camera; hence social media painted a different picture. At this point, Maoist Self-Criticism - discarding selfish tendencies and aligning oneself with ideological goals - is needed in our society.

Needless to say that politicians alone cannot be held liable for such horrid shepherding, some shame falls on the media and media personnel for their role also. Opinions should be heard and respected, but opinion makers have important responsibilities. With tens of thousands of followers, media personnel and opinion makers have the ability to create strong influences in the minds of the people. Sadly, some of our opinion makers are infelicitous with their words. When prime time talk shows do little more than aggravate feelings of antagonism, resentment, and frustration, the masses will react in an uncontrolled manner. Jesus was once teaching at a temple when a woman, caught in the act of adultery, was brought to him. He was asked if the woman should be stoned as required by the Law of Moses. However, for the crowd, if he told them to set the woman free, they could claim he did not hold to the Law of Moses, but if he told them to stone her, they could claim he was not the Savior. To this Jesus replied that she should be stoned but only, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

 

The author is a student of Politics and works with the Government on Research and Policy.

@aukniazi