The disgraceful behaviour of some parliamentarians in the budget session has overtaken another incident of reprehensible conduct by political leaders on live TV
The nation witnessed violence in the National Assembly during the debate on the federal budget 2021-22. Lawmakers, the elected representatives of their constituencies, felt neither hesitation nor shame in using obnoxious language, screaming, chanting slogans, scuffling and throwing books at one another.
Members from both sides are blaming each other for being the chief reason for this chaos and mayhem. Mohsin Dawar, a member of the National Assembly, rightly stated that “today was one of the lowest points of Pakistan’s parliamentary history”.
This budget session has overtaken another reprehensible incident that occurred a few days ago during the recording of a programme. A video of a squabble between Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the spokesperson of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Punjab, and Abdul Qadir Mandokhel, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member of the National Assembly made headlines with what started as a heated debate and quickly escalated to verbal abuse and eventually physical violence.
This is not the first time a PTI leader has been accused of being rude to opponent politicians. In fact, the nation has witnessed a steep rise in incidents where politicians display antagonistic, obnoxious and abusive behaviour that escalates to physical violence. So much so that, of late, calling opponents names has become almost a ritual. Unfortunately, the perpetrators feel no shame in doing so and the public at large appears to find comedic relief and amusement in such incidents.
“Undoubtedly, the last decade of Pakistani politics has [significantly] changed the morals of democratic system. A decline has been observed over the last three or four decades but this sharp curve emerged in the last decade. Surely, there is not one but many to mention who have disfigured the political system to their advantage”, says Prof Rizwan Safdar, a sociologist.
Talking about the reasons behind such behaviour, Safdar notes that there are several factors that enable or encourage it. An inability to regulate feelings of frustration is an important trigger.
“This frustration ultimately produces intolerance, anger, irritability, stress and depression”, he says.
For a decade or so, he adds, this is what the political atmosphere has been like.
Mohsin Dawar, a member of the National Assembly, rightly stated that “today was one of the lowest points of Pakistan’s parliamentary history”
Safdar believes that instead of resorting to volatile and disgraceful behaviour party leaders must play a significant role in upholding morality in the society and politics.
“Most importantly, it is the responsibility of the ruling party leaders to listen to critics more seriously. When the party leaders avoid listening to and addressing reasonable disagreement (even from within the party), the morality of the government starts going downhill”, he states.
Pakistani politicians are no different to others, says sociologist Dr Muhammad Zakria Zakir, the Okara University vice chancellor.
“They are morally and ethically frail, like [politicians] elsewhere; who are often engaged in name calling and finger-pointing on the weaknesses of the other party leadership or opponents and do not hesitate in using loathsome language – which is the lowest of the lows” he tells TNS.
He says that politicians caught up in mutual hatred, rivalry and infighting over petty matters get more public and media attention because the overwhelming majority of our society unfortunately feels entertained by such acts.
“In such an environment, one should not be taken by surprise when they observe an increasing trend of impunity, moral decay and people with certain blemishes getting political backing. It is because our audience is semi-literate and rough. Such an audience is shaped with the constant approach of not investing in the educational system – investing in education is still our least priority”, Zakir adds.
Unfortunately, the current reality of our political system reflects a lack of interest in selfless service, he says. In such a situation, when members of the treasury bench, the ruling party and the opposition cannot tolerate one another’s political ideology, the entire political landscape suffers. This damages the moral foundation of politics, Zakir concludes.
“Power tends to corrupt people, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, said John Edward Acton, the 19th-Century British politician. The term ‘corrupt’ entails more than just corruption in money matters and duty. The latest developments show an urgent need to reflect on corruption of character and morality.
The author is a staff member. He can be reached at