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Language, please

Updated July 19, 2018

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IT seems that a lot of people are talking at the same time at the top of their voices on stage and in television shows and corner meetings.

Barbs are flying, tongues are wagging and scandalous personal attacks against political opponents have become the norm. By the looks of it, we are in for the loudest election in this country’s history — maybe, the dirtiest as well. Almost everything that comes to mind is permissible here. At one meeting, a senior PML-N leader lost his cool. Apparently under pressure because of the tough competition from his opponent, the former speaker of the National Assembly reportedly blurted out deeply acrimonious words, dubbing those voting for the PTI as ‘beghairat’ — people without honour — reminiscent of the ‘jaag Punjabi jag, teri pagg noon lagg gaya daagh’ (Punjabi beware) slogan the Sharif camp had raised three decades ago in 1988 in a close contest.

The rashness comes in when parties and individuals are desperate for a win. Sentiments expressed with excessive intensity betray just how close the fight is. Emotions are better controlled when contests are one-sided. However, the language that has been used in the election campaign so far is shocking, given that inter-party exchanges are an essential indicator of just how mature and tolerant a society is and, consequently, how democratic. The ugliest part is that some of those who indulge in cheap and vulgar talk happen to be top-level politicians who have held important government positions in the recent past. Among them is the former KP chief minister who was so overcome by passion and his urge to retain power that he tried to ridicule the supporter of a political party, using appalling vocabulary. Whereas his uncalled-for outburst has led to some demands that the Election Commission pull up the loose-talking veteran politician, ideally, the rebuke must come from within the party. Except that no party has time for such niceties in the scramble for power.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018