The politics of hate


Following article by Azam Khalil is a cross post from The Nation newspaper. The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.

“Whosoever hateth his brother
is a murderer.”
– I John III

With about one week left in the general elections, it seems that Pakistan is ‘becoming a focal point’ of politics of hate. It is unfortunate that several politicians have been using foul language against their opponents during their election campaigns. According to international analysts, it looks like Pakistan is at war with itself. Thus, the politics of mudslinging that is currently going on must not be overlooked, since this attitude could ultimately damage the democratic process in the country.  Against this backdrop, the statement of the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, on Martyr’s Day at the GHQ in Islamabad, in support of the elections and about the menace of terrorism is, indeed, a wake-up call mainly for those who were saying that “the war on terror is not Pakistan’s war.”

Political analysts assume that the message was not only directed toward those who supposedly have a soft corner for the militants, but also the international community, which presumes that the next government will be formed by a rightwing party, creating more problems for the world and denting the efforts to eliminate terrorists and their networks.
On the internal front, the terrorists have attacked three main political parties – the PPP, the MQM and the ANP – that had taken a principled stand against the militants, who want to impose their own brand of Islam in the country.

Unfortunately, the whole situation is now virtually turning the political arena into a one-sided match, where at least the PPP does not seems to be seriously contesting the elections. For example, none of its top ranking leaders have yet addressed the workers in their election campaigns. While there may be a genuine threat for the PPP, the MQM and the ANP, it does not mean that they should abdicate from the democratic dispensation in the country. Some candidates of these political parties on their own are trying to rally the people in their favour. At the end of the day, however, this may not be enough for the parties under threat to perform according to their full potential. It would have been better if all the democratic forces had  united against those who are trying to disrupt the election process by sending a clear signal that bomb blasts cannot impede the journey of democracy in Pakistan.

It is unfortunate, however, that this has not happened. Rather the politicians are creating opportunities for the extremists to strike at will, which has led to fear and despondency among the people.

If not now, it is expected that may be after the polls are held, the politicians will find the time to sit together and create conditions where intolerance and hatred are discouraged. Having said that, it would be prudent on the part of the politicians not to allow the temperatures to rise to an extent from where it may become impossible for them to return to normal conditions.

It is also important to note that the Election Commission of Pakistan has so far performed in a lacklustre manner and failed to implement some of its basic regulations, which are essential to hold free and fair elections. The process of scrutinising the nomination papers of prospective candidates too was faulty, while some of the decisions taken by the courts were beyond the people’s intellect.

Finally, the mere fact that the election process is proceeding on a bumpy road is in itself no small achievement. This will pave the way for subsequent elections in the country, so that democracy and the people can prosper.