Elections 2013: It’s my way or the highway

If you vote for a right-wing party you are an extremist; If you vote for a nationalist party, you are a separatist.

Farahnaz Moazzam May 01, 2013
In a politically charged environment with Pakistan’s most voter-aware elections just a few days away and sentiments running high, it seems even the most liberal among us have forgotten that agreeing to disagree is a basic tenet of a democratic set-up.

I may not be an absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech, but am certainly one who believes that we all have a right to peacefully express what we feel, whether in the form of a discussion at a chaai dhaaba, on twitter or in the form of my vote. And this right belongs to all — the right-wing, the centrists as well as the left-wing.

Yet, patience levels seem to be hitting an all-time low currently. And the mere mention of support for a certain ideology — may it be political or religious — has many people jumping the gun and assuming things that are far from the truth. Clubbed with the assumptions are buzzwords that irritate the other side even more.

Things heat up and very quickly everything stops making sense. What is left is a hot exchange of sarcastic labels and a misuse of buzzwords that are out of context. A widening gulf in an already polarised society.

If you are, for example, not voting for the three parties being targeted by extremists currently, you can quickly be labelled as a supporter of extremists, or worse still, an extremist yourself. If your vote is going to a nationalist party, you are branded as a separatist. If you vote for a secular left-wing party, you are labelled as anti-religion. And if you vote for a rightwing party, you are described as an extremist or a naïve rightist who is anti-minority rights and is on hunky-dory terms with militant groups.

We, as a nation, are becoming too categorical in our beliefs and try to proselytise others to our way of thinking, and that is simply not fair. And sadly, this behaviour is visible from both the right and the left, with a very shrinking percentage of those in the centre, who are at times tempted to just choose one side and give up on moderation because there is strength in numbers.

Pakistan’s, and this world’s, hope for peace lies in a middle ground, not in a moral high ground.

Read more by Farahnaz here or follow her on Twitter @FarahnazZahidi
Farahnaz Zahidi


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