THIS is with reference to the editorial ‘Deus ex machina’ (May 12), which rightly advised the opposition leader that “trials and arrests are a part of politics” and that “he should not expect special treatment” only because he is a former prime minister.

It seems our political parties and political maturity are two poles apart. The anarchy that the nation has been witnessing these days, especially after the arrest of the ousted prime minister in a corruption case, is a perfect example of the political maturity, or the absence of it, of the opposition party.

Although the repercussions could be disastrous, this political immaturity exists owing to a number of reasons. The fundamental problem with young, but gullible and impressionable minds is that a major chunk of them are desperate youth lacking in intellect, and with no knowledge whatsoever of the country’s political history.

This leads them to believe that whatever their leader is going through is unique, which is obviously not true. These legions of activists, supporters and sympathisers tend to follow the blanket narrative, or in some cases just reciprocate the ideas they hear from someone, especially parents, family and friends. This leads to a very narrow one-sided mindset. Later, these followers become radical supporters, even viewing their leader as some sort of a saviour.

Then we have these elitists and middle class pseudo-intellectuals who actually sell their irrational narrative of ‘us-versus-them’ — angels versus the devil — explaining and somehow convincing the masses why they are better than any other political party, presenting a ‘new’ Pakistan free of corruption and social evils, a notion which is ironic in itself. They present a false binary of ‘either with us, or against us’.

There are conflicting perspectives within the elite and the middle class, and this is where the problem comes in as the elite, from the comfort of their homes, incite the middle and lower classes, asking them to step out of their homes to save the saviour, while they themselves continue to enjoy the spectacle of fire and fury from the comfort of their ivory towers.

These are the same people who attacked and vandalised the General Headquarters (GHQ), residences of military officers, sensitive military installations and academy, a monument of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft, air force bases, public transport, and even mosques and ambulances, to display their so-called street power.

It was during the display of this power that we even saw horrific scenes, such as a crazed mob pelting stones at portraits of army martyrs, putting a Radio Pakistan building and hundreds of cattle on fire that left many a goat and sheep burnt alive. We also saw an enraged crowd burning a toll collection point built from the hard-earned money of the taxpayers.

They were driven by hate, and manipulated by the manipulators who were adept at engineering the masses for their political agendas. The bigger trouble, however, is the consequence of what happened on the fateful day (May 9). The mindset behind the whole scene was reflective of the unfortunate tendency of having a strong bias and dogmatic thinking. This, in turn, always leads to polarisation in society.

Such politics of violence and hatred can never help anyone return to power. Destroying public and state property is certainly not the appropriate mechanism; rather, advocating for institutional reforms is the right step, and the sooner we realise this, the better it will be.

Civil war and anarchy can never lead to a positive outcome, especially in a country that has a state within a state. Such violence may make our enemies merrier, but at home, the opposition party has damaged its own image. It was like shooting oneself in the foot. Is this the right political strategy to regain power?

Such violent politics and disorder have only antagonised the public and reflected upon the failure of the party leadership. Had there been some level of political maturity, the country would not have witnessed such a brazen display of violence.

It may take time to make the necessary transformation, but once this is done, the opposition would emerge as a better political party having a roadmap for the welfare of the people and the prosperity of Pakistan, which should be the actual objective of all political parties across all possible divides.

What the country needs is cooler, calmer heads. It needs harmony, not polarisation and toxicity in social and political environments.

Like every other Pakistani, I hope sanity will prevail over vested interests.

Muhammad Ahmed Kamil
Lahore

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2023

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