As if previous plethora of narrations for ridiculing his political rival was not enough, Moulana Fazal Ur Rahman has coined another one for his arch rival Imran Khan. While addressing to the charged public gathering at his so called Azadi March at Islamabad, he hurled a new insult by calling him Gorbachev of Pakistan. It was saddening to watch how our polity can endlessly reinvent its hatred to ridicule its opponents and charge the chanting public.

The trend is not an exclusivity of Moulana alone. It has rather been extensively practiced by the Imran Khan as well in the past throughout his drive to oust his archrival PMLN government. Moulana has always been one of his favourite targets. Opponents of Imran Khan other than Moulana have been equally generous as well to reciprocate by coining even more extreme and provocative narratives like “agent of Jews”, “protégées of establishment” etc.

This trend has snow balled over the time. Political differences have taken more and more provocative and offensive narration in our recent history. Sadly, it has become a new norm now. Social media offers an unchecked and free for all platform to utter and hurl any absurdity one can think of. Barrage of daily TV talk shows and typical formats of these programs studded with opponents are permanent digital battle grounds to practice variety of provocative and offensive narratives. Holier than thou is the end objective of all political participants coming from ruling or opposition parties. Whosoever can instigate and entangle the participants to a higher level is rewarded by ratings by the public and a chance to survive in otherwise a turbulent media industry.

Current trend of coining provocative narratives for the rivals is not new. It has been widely practiced in the past as well ; during 80’s and 90’s terms like “Security Risk, Traitors, Corrupt, and Mr. Ten Percent” etc. were common insults for each other’s rivals. Similar narratives were in vogue In 60’s and 70’s as well. Zulifqar Ali Bhutto had a special flair for his opponents in his public rallies by hurling many insults. Though he hardly spared any of his political opponents from ridiculing in public but Asghar Khan, then a formidable challenge to his political supremacy during 70’s used to be his favourite target. Asghar Khan didn’t obliged him with an equally befitting ridicule, however, he used to express his utmost desire to hang him publicly at Kohala (AJK) bridge. Media had a very limited outreach in those days; hence, these ridicules remained a “political thing” only.

Politics is selfish and at times brutal too. A common saying portrays politics as a heartless passion. Politics is a fierce game and is designed worldwide to marginalize one’s rivals, if not to extinguish forever. In matured democracies, politics has over the time been subservient to few basic restrains in terms of funding, organizing and campaigning. But, taking on one’s opponents with allegations and scandals is part and parcel of usual politicking.

In recent times, Donald Trump has created a tremendous following through his aggressive and abrasive style and instantly taking this to his followers through Twitter. In south Asia, Indian politics has witnessed very aggressive and at times abusive style of taking on one’s rivals. Dedicated social media crusaders then use and spread these hurls with more lethal and toxic blend of ethnicity, religiosity and other narrow but offensive shapes and shots.

Words and terms used by opinion leaders and intelligentsia have an impact on general public. Political debates and public discourse is shaped by these narratives. Pakistan has seen fluctuating economic fortunes throughout its history which has resulted in a fragile economy, ever piling public debt and a dysfunctional economic system. Quality of Governance has been an ever declining affair. Outcry for Reforms has always been a music to the ears but practically a political sloganeering only.

Society has gradually drifted into disunity, intolerance and now has ever shrinking space for a meaningful public discourse. Sanity seems forcibly edged out from arena of public discourse, thought process and discussions. Extreme views, ever harsher sloganeering and over simplified prescriptions are common in already a divisive political and public arena.

Flouting even harsher and offensive ridicules for one’s archrivals and routinely practiced at so called Azadi March at Islamabad and by Imran Khan at Gilgit on same day is continuation of our divisive and intolerant polity. This is sure not a good omen for a country having a fragile economy, burdened with internal and regional security challenges and a crumbling governance structure. One can only hope, though hoping for the sake of hope based on our past polity that sanity finds some space in otherwise fast spreading political madness.

The writer is a Lahore based political economist, writer and Urdu columnist.

Words and terms used by opinion leaders and intelligentsia have an impact on general public. Political debates and public discourse is shaped by these narratives.