Clash of a nationArchive
SHOCKINGLY, looking back over the last week or so, I can easily be categorised as a closet PTI fan, acting as a PML-N supporter while actually being a PPP jiyala. And all that in spite of the fact that most of my friends and acquaintances are unquestionably aware of my view on democracy.
So how did I manage to become all that? Simply put, questioning certain assumptions relating to CPEC was sufficient to rile up the PML-N factions, pointing out that CPEC was after all a huge opportunity seemed to irk the PTI bloc, and challenging the assertion that CPEC was Punjab-centric was sufficient to fire up the PPP clan.
And of course attempting to discuss the various dimensions of the infamous Panama case irks everyone across the board and a wrong comment can even be fatal; no one has any patience to even listen to opposing views.
Believe me when I assert that during any tête-à-tête on issues having the slightest political tinge, no one was interested in any kind of debate, and everyone jealously defended their view with closed-minded stubbornness and senseless ferociousness. But then, I am reminded that this attitude is perhaps comparable to how most of our political elite behave on the idiot box every evening.
Thanks to negative campaigning, criticising and abusing opponents, mostly via false and unsubstantiated allegations, a key feature of electoral democracy the world over, simply to get votes, the nation seems to have been polarised to apparently a point of no return.
Worse, the underlying unwritten percept is that there should be complete unity in the ranks on party position, which ultimately nourishes an insufferable know-it-all attitude amongst the party supporters, unfortunately with zero knowledge and no wish to acquire any as well.
Mankind is innately egoistic and inherently competitive, and the political elite is especially well positioned to nourish these characteristics by aggravating conflicts amongst the masses over how things should be. And rest assured, every time the masses will be exploited for their one vote. Someday, and that day should come soon, the great gifts of democracy need to be revisited.
Let me draw a picture: at every social gathering, and not limited to the middle class, as soon as the discussions move towards domestic affairs, immediately lines are drawn and alliances made on the basis of party affiliations, implicit or explicit. Thereafter participants start loudly uttering what can only be classified as gibberish to defend their party positions while at the same time, rather rudely, attempt to drown out the other party; and obviously no one is listening.
All across, the support for respective parties is comparable with Pakistani cricket fans when the team is playing India; albeit in this case at stake is not a shiny trophy, it is the future of Pakistan. While in cricket, patriotism demands absolute, passionate verging on maniacal opposition of the other team, the same patriotism, in politics, demands listening patiently to the other side’s view, in the best interest of Pakistan, for they just might be right. But do we? Do we even want to?
What surprises me no end is that the so-called intelligentsia, who one would assume would have more sense, has also been sucked into the political battleground. What irks me no end is that everybody seems to have become an expert on the economy; an animal which even the economists fail at predicting every time — 99.99 per cent of those arguing that GDP will grow by more than 5pc, are clueless about what exactly is GDP, how it is calculated and why is it considered to be an indicator of growth; for my money it isn’t.
But unfortunately, most everyone that I have encountered believes they are the cat’s whiskers when it comes to discussing the GDP and the economy. I have been stricken off certain guest lists, simply because I begged to differ.
And the situation worsens; to quote from a popular television series, ‘winter is coming’. With a growing perception that the elections are around the corner, senior party members are at daggers drawn, and as time passes, these conflicts will become clashes; no one can control a mob.
Unfortunately, elections will further exacerbate this divide; the losers are not expected to congratulate the winner and sit quietly in their corner for the next five years. I for one am clueless on how to halt this clash within our nation; with due apology to Mr Huntington for rephrasing his book’s title. While the politicians and the media have a larger role to play for diffusing the status quo, perhaps the first step for us common men is to pledge from now to patiently listen to the other guy!
The writer is a chartered accountant based in Islamabad.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017