You are either with us or against humanity, peace, Islam and cute babies. That is the only level of debate we seem capable of. There can be no reasonable reaction to differences of opinion anymore. Maybe it is because of the growing instability in the days ahead and the anxiety this creates. Maybe it is because we hate your stupid face and wish we could punch it. Regardless, the entirety of Pakistani politics seems now to have subscribed to the George W Bush school of debating. Any dissent is seen as offence and if you don’t agree with the opinion being stated then may the suffering of future generations be your fault.
The PPP has been hurling this rhetoric about with machine gun-rapidity, putting both Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Zulfiqar Mirza in their cross hairs. The former was our foreign minister once, who developed a conscience during the fiasco involving Raymond Davis, and resigned. Davis was released and can now be found wandering the streets of America, punching people for their parking spots and bagels. What it was particularly about this one event that pushed him over the edge, we can never know. I rubbish all claims about his realisation that this was no longer the PPP that Benazir Bhutto had once led and how he could no longer reconcile himself with what it had become. The PPP always has been and always will be a party dedicated to corruption and illegal accumulation of wealth. The fact that it is doing so with more abandon and success now is not because the PPP of the past was better, it just didn’t have the kind of focus that it has now. Zardari has successfully removed all barriers that could have impeded the efficiency of the corruption. Indeed, Qamar Zaman Kaira has recently been quoted as saying that “the PPP was following the vision of Benazir Bhutto with full devotion under the guidance of President Asif Ali Zardari”. Indeed.
However, even more ridiculous than Qureshi’s claims, indeed even more trying than his current teasing performance as an Indian movie heroine trying to choose between her portly but well meaning ex-boyfriend and the handsome neighbour she just met, is the PPP’s reaction to him. Kaira also claimed that Shah Mehmood only got recognition and respect because of the PPP, which makes you wonder what kind of unknown scoundrel he was before and why they welcomed him to the fold back then. Firdous Ashiq Awan, meanwhile, has claimed that whenever anyone leaves the PPP they are “humiliated in the world and the hereafter”. I am open to that theory being scientifically tested by using as many PPP party members as possible.
The same kind of intensity of anger is being focused on Zulfiqar Mirza, with Zardari supporters attacking his supporters and the PPP threatening to do something strict about him. Which is quite amazing when you consider that they have not done anything yet. How is a party so tolerant of dissent with him and yet so intolerant with others?
The PTI, currently enjoying their first taste of political legitimacy, have also gotten into the habit of slinging rhetoric around. Convinced that backing someone who has been in politics long enough to be a politician while claiming to not be one is awesome, they have decided that anyone who hates Imran Khan hates Pakistan. Every supporter has declared that not automatically prostrating oneself before the Khan’s rippling upper body and pledging allegiance means you want to have Nawaz Sharif’s babies while wooing Zardari.
Choosing to leave the PPP is allowed, as is choosing to not vote for the PTI. The vilification of all who do not agree simply proves that the narrative of the next few years will be loud and monosyllabic. Just don’t expect any nuance.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2011.
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