Politics of hatred – 13 Jul 2022

As we know, the skipper is both responsible for and sets the example for how his team conducts itself

The most recent example of regrettable political rhetoric seeping into everyday social interactions was resolved in a relatively amicable manner: the family that jeered Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal at a restaurant in Sargodha has apologised for their behaviour. Iqbal, who said the day after the incident that he would not pursue any criminal charges related to the harassment, accepted the apology and said people have every right to disagree with each other but should not let disagreements turn into hatred.

Earlier, he pinned the blame for increasing polarisation and hateful attitudes caused by political differences on PTI chief Imran Khan, noting that he had expected the cricket legend to teach his supporters good sportsmanship, but he instead did the opposite. But Imran seemed unapologetic about his supporters’ behaviour, even praising them at a recent rally for “telling the truth”. As we know, the skipper is both responsible for and sets the example for how his team conducts itself. It is thus unsurprising that several other PTI leaders and workers followed Imran’s lead or even tried to one-up him.

Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry went as far as calling on Iqbal to wear a burka in public if he wants to avoid such confrontations, while former ministers Hammad Azhar and Shireen Mazari had the gall to call the government “fascist” after serving in the cabinet of a man who was labelled a “Predator of Press Freedom” by Reporters Without Borders and checked several other boxes on the fascism checklist.

But again, taking the lead from Imran, they continue selling false narratives to captive audiences instead of opting for legitimate, but much less ‘replay-worthy’ criticism of PM Shehbaz Sharif and his government. One day, Imran, his allies and his opponents will lose relevance, but their ‘contributions’ to political discourse and society in general, much like Ziaul Haq, will linger on for decades. Unfortunately, there seems little hope that they will learn from the past and mend their ways.

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