The behavior of several government ministers and state officials in the last few weeks has been quite embarrassing.

There was a time when mocking people and organizations over social media was the sole purview of “trolls”; people named so because the loved provoking and insulting others from the relative safety of the internet. The practice was considered an irritating but unavoidable part of the inter-connected world; as long as direct meaningful discussion could be had between the stakeholders that mattered, the trolls who wanted to disrupt proceedings for a few laughs could be ignored.

What none of us expected was that dignified, serious and official channels would also take up the practice as part of their communications arsenal, so much so that trolling would replace a true dialogue and debate. Insults and empty mockery has replaced constructive criticism, and no one is more guilty of this that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.

The party’s official social media platforms – run by volunteers and young employees instead of seasoned politicians – have become almost a caricature of itself. Often indulging in childish whataboutry and crass mud-slinging the platform is setting a terrible example for its many young followers. It is not surprising when these same followers turn around and hijack all online politician conversations with their aggressive trolling, leaving no space for a serious debate.

Government Cabinet members – like Ch Fawad the Science and Technology Minister – have also been involved in online commentary that is undignified, non-constructive and beneath the stature of their designations. It is embarrassing to see state ministers stooping to juvenile humor just to mock opponents. This is not the standard of behavior we expect from our state officials, and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) must rein in their errant politicians.

The lack of civility and common round in political debates of today can be attributed to the normalization of mockery by serious politicians – this needs to be reversed.