“Traitor-smearing” has unfortunately become an increasingly common phenomenon in our parliament, where politicians pick up misstatements, slips, or even just honest admissions made by their rivals to shame them as anti-national. This tactic was used against Bilawal Bhutto during the aftermath of the India-Pakistan escalation, against Nawaz Sharif when he appeared to have good relations with Indian Prime Minister Modi, and now, in a twist of fate, against current Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has often been the initiator of such smearing.

The comments that ignited this round of outrage were the statements made by Imran Khan during his trip to Iran. Khan had taken an unprecedented step to improve the bilateral relationship with Iran by publicly acknowledging that terrorists had in the past misused Pakistani territory to undertake attacks against Iran. This statement did not go well with the opposition, and Tuesday’s parliament session was rife with confrontational speeches denouncing the Prime Minister’s move, with PML-N legislator Khurram Dastagir called it a “diplomatic blunder” compromising “national security”.

It is a classic case of the tables turning, and it is no wonder that the opposition politicians are pouncing upon Prime Minister Khan’s slip-up to avenge the shaming their own parties received at the behest of PTI. The opposition is justifiably angry that Imran Khan can say such things without censure while Nawaz Sharif and other past leaders were called traitors for the same behaviour. The flack that PTI is receiving should hopefully enable them to learn the futility of using this card to smear their opponents, and how it slows down dialogue on serious issues.

Yet in hammering home the hypocrisy, the opposition must not lose sight of what it is fighting for - that no one should be called “anti-national”, accused of “parroting India’s line” or being a “foreign agent” just because they point out the faults in Pakistan’s security policy. This smears shut down open debate about our foreign policy, leading to a situation where important security questions are not asked or dealt with at all. What Imran Khan said might have been misplaced but it was not endangering to national security, as neither were Nawaz Sharif’s or Bilawal Bhutto’s comments.

We hope this round of the blame-game and traitor-pointing will subside soon and both sides can get together to have a constructive conversation on our foreign policy with Iran. Yet we don’t have high hopes. This is politics, where the high road appears to be an extinct entity.