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Friday June 21, 2024

Playing with fire

By Editorial Board
July 29, 2022

From invoking religious symbolism to holding his political opponents even worse than terrorist organizations, Imran Khan one again decided to further the political polarization in the country at a time when there is need to lower the political tempeatures in the country. In his latest speech on Wednesday, Imran insisted that while he was ready to talk to groups such as the TTP, and banned Baloch and Sindhi outfits which have indulged in political violence in the past, he was not ready to talk to ‘thieves’. The ‘thieves’ in this case are the PTI’s political opponents, the PML-N and the PPP – parties whose members have been elected by the people and which have ruled the country for decades. Imran and the PTI’s refusal to sit at a table and discuss issues has been holding back the country for months and indeed even did so all through the PTI’s three and a half years in power. The same attitude continues.

In the first place, using the much-misused ‘religion card’ has now become an even more dangerous tool of rhetoric: we saw the PTI’s stance during the oath controversy while the PML-N was in power the last time. We have also seen Ahsan Iqbal taking a bullet in May 2018 after a sustained misleading campaign. It is not as if the PTI and its leader do not know the consequences such talk has in a country like Pakistan. It is obvious they don’t care. Unfortunately, they have not been alone in this. In the past, nearly every mainstream party has indulged in the same dangerous game, and has ended up suffering when the other side counters with a similar attack.

In the second, instead of taking a step back from political rhetoric and finding a way forward, Imran is saying he prefers talking to those who have killed our children and thousands of innocent Pakistanis to talking to his political opponents. It is also odd that on the one hand the PTI has been sending signals about willingness regarding a dialogue with the government on important issues like an electoral framework for the next elections, and on the other Imran dismisses any such idea in such a belligerent manner. Taking U-turns may be the sign of a great leader for Imran Khan but taking a U-turn on this issue and then asking for fresh elections will not be taken kindly by the government either. With a flailing economy and a society barely holding on to what little civility it had, we need political leaders who are willing to accept that the ethos of democracy lies in sometimes reaching across the aisle for the greater good. And at the moment, the ‘greater good’ lies in political stability. While upping the animosity may help fuel a rally or two, the PTI must realize that the message it is sending out will not help the country. Neither will talking to terrorist groups.