The growing rivalry between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has always been fierce, but it has rarely broken out in violence- at least the kind of full-blown violence seen in Lahore. Two PTI workers were killed and seven others were injured as a clash broke out between PTI and PML-N party workers in Lahore’s Yakki Gate. There are injuries on both sides, and evidence of firearm use. The workers from both parties have clashed before – at Faisalabad in 2014, en route to Islamabad, during the by elections – yet this has been the most serious incident to date. If the leadership of both parties is not careful – and they have been guilty of being that often – then this conflict has the potential to spiral out of control.

Instead of trying to turn the incident into fodder for propaganda, the leaders of both parties must first fulfill their responsibility to the wider society i.e. the maintenance of peace. The recent hard-fought by-elections have left emotions raw in Lahore. If they are not pacified after this incident then notions of victimisation and conflict will start pervading the party cadres.

Pakistani cities have seen this pattern before. A political rivalry turns violent, leaders use the violence to milk votes, and within a short period of time ‘militant wings’ of political parties are institutionalised. Muttahida Quani Movement’s (MQM) criminal associations, the Jamiat’s reign in Pakistani educational institutions, “Wajahat Force” and its influence in Gujrat - all are borne out of unchecked political clashes. We have had enough of this. The Punjab, and Pakistan, does not need to see more gang wars, courtesy the PTI and PML-N.

The responsibility of the political parties is simple; placate the enraged party members, refrain from spinning the incidents into political gain, and let law enforcement solve the incident like they would solve any other murder case. This does not mean that the clash is swept under the rug. An independent investigation must be undertaken and the perpetrator should be apprehended, and eventually held accountable. Along with political control, a strong and deterrent stance is also needed by law enforcement.

The rising trend of political clashes between the PML-N and PTI does present a problem. Both parties – and especially their top leadership – need to reconsider the tone, tenor and language of their political speech. Perhaps the leadership’s inflated machismo is being reflected in dead bodies in the streets.