Growing intolerance in politics


THERE has never been any doubt that the society is facing serious threats at the hands of extremist and intolerant elements yet two successive unfortunate episodes of Saturday and Sunday have compounded the situation further. A day after country’s Foreign Minister was humiliated by a zealot who threw ink at Khawaja Asif during a workers’ convention in Sialkot, another went a step ahead in polluting the political environment by throwing shoe at former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the very next day.
Both the incidents are highly deplorable and it is a good omen that these were strongly condemned by all concerned. All the political leaders were quick in denouncing the acts and President Mamnoon Hussain summed up feelings of the people of the country by emphasising that when differences cross the limits of decency, the society becomes victim to Fasad fil Arz (mischief on earth) and that there would be no respect for individuals and institutions if we did not join hands to discourage this mindset. Differences and constructive criticism are always welcomed in every society yet differences should not be taken to such an extreme where these start hurting the society as a whole. Differences – be they among individuals, political parties or institutions – must remain within the bounds of the law, the Constitution and morality.
Those indulging in such tactics and acts are doing service neither to the country, not to their faith and class nor to their own persons. There are several issues involved in the two incidents. Both the victims were leaders of one political party and therefore there is reason to believe that these were deliberate and calculated moves to belittle, harass and bring the party into disrepute in the eyes of the people. The development occurred at a time when political activity was gaining momentum in the country because of the election year. It raises question marks about ability of the political leaders and parties to continue their legitimate and rightful activities without being targeted by such elements. Today, these are Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif but tomorrow any other can face a similar humiliation and this means no one would be able to express views without jeopardising his or her dignity and prestige. How political leaders would be able to maintain direct contact with masses and run their election campaign if leaders are targeted like this.
This intolerant attitude is gaining momentum in view of what we have been witnessing in the country during the last several months. Individuals are being targeted and institutions are being maligned and there is no indication as yet of sanity prevailing among all concerned. There should be no place for extremists in politics and the society as the country is already bleeding both on internal and external fronts because of what these rogue elements have been doing. While the armed forces are fighting extremism and terrorism on physical front, the entire society must get united to discourage and defeat the extremist mindset. We would not have faced this day if the whole nation joined hands in condemning those who occupied Faizabad for over three weeks but then some segments of the society kept silent just because of political score setting.
Both the dastardly acts were carried on the pretext of Khatam-i-Nabuwwat despite the fact that the issue stands resolved amicably but it seems some forces are bent upon exploiting the issue further ignoring the fact that this could be catastrophic in view of prevailing situation and bitter political environment. There is dire need for healing the wounds and not scratching the burns for petty self-centred motives compromising long-term interests of the country. All political parties and leaders have condemned the two incidents but these should also serve as a wake-up call for them and they must also carry out self-accountability and give greater priority to the genuine needs of people. If they do not realise what is happening to them, there would be no end to ignominy. They must work selflessly to earn respect from masses and initiative in this respect lies only in the hands of politicians and political parties. An APC of political parties should be convened at the earliest to discuss the downslide and a Code of Conduct agreed upon.