Thursday April 25, 2024

A dangerous divide

By Muneeb Farooq
November 04, 2016

Bigotry is a curse but it seems to have become a part of every debate and argument. It shows the most uncharitable instinct of human behaviour. This is what our debates and arguments are reduced to.

Not only this but the state’s narrative also has zero tolerance for defiance. Anyone who defies becomes a traitor and an unacceptable entity. The country has succumbed to a deplorable division in such a way that the sensibility of every debate and narrative is hijacked by intolerance. This intolerance has pushed Pakistan’s national politics and national security issues towards a dangerous divide.

The recent Cyril Almeida story created a lot of uproar in the power corridors. It has, so far, led to Senator Pervaiz Rasheed’s ouster as the minister for information. Rejected three times by the Prime Minister’s office, the story, despite its exaggeration, added a lot more to the ever-existing civil-military divide. The story was considered the ‘enemy’s narrative’ and a breach of national security by the GHQ.

What surprised me the most was that, apart from the narration of events, there was hardly anything new which hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream electronic and print media and by opinion-makers.

It’s an open secret that the entire world questions us about the duplicity in our approach towards the Afghan Taliban. The Haqqani Network continues to exist alongside Afghanistan’s border and Jaish-e-Muhammad’s head Masood Azhar lives in some part of Pakistan in a cosy environment. The list can be exhaustive.

We have all the reasons to agree that we aren’t conducting any proxy wars at the moment and that the policy has changed but then this subjects us to some very pestering questions. The world asks that if all these guys aren’t our assets then we might as well eliminate them.

The question is not about ours or the enemy’s narrative; rather it is about the right narrative. Do we, after having lost thousands of soldiers and civilians, know what we are being targeted by? Terrorism, extremism and sectarianism are the three evils – and we haven’t dealt with them the way we should have.

The National Action Plan has become more of a point-scoring game between the GHQ and the federal and provincial governments. Anyone who attempts to point out or highlight follies becomes persona non grata.

Likewise, a great deal of hatred and prejudice has been injected into Pakistan’s politics, and hence also the media. Even the most progressive politician is now too ready to declare the other a traitor just for short-term political objectives.

Healthy debate or argument has been relegated to the forlorn corners of the past. Aggression is what it is all about. Certificates of being ‘patriots’ or ‘sell-outs’ have become very common. For the sake of argument, anyone who slams Nawaz Sharif and supports Imran Khan is a certified patriot and credible journalist.

The division becomes even more ominous if one questions the politics of Imran Khan and praises Nawaz Sharif even on merit. The question that upsets many is why bigotry has penetrated so deep into our national character. Why are we not even ready to listen to an opposite view without naming it as that of an enemy or a sell-out?

The answers to these questions lie in our national behaviour. We are lagging behind in our intellectual growth as a nation. We need to do a lot more to be able to keep up with the world.


The writer works for Geo News.