“The ruling party’s most recent act of issuing a list of news media talk-show anchors, dubbing them pro-corruption, drives a deeper wedge into a polarised nation.”
It is no secret that the truth of national integration of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not just bitter but severely inconvenient. The fine line that separates diversity and differences among this nation has blurred so many times that it has almost permanently been reduced to a smudge. From the barracks to the parliament, sermons and edicts from atop the mosque minarets, political jargons from atop the containers and trucks, to the unending layers of multiple identities — divisions are the Achilles’ heel of this society.
Issuing a list of journalists, dubbing them against the interests of the state, vilifying them publicly was like shooting a nuke at this Achilles heel. Driving a wedge at the very source of information of the nation, the media, is creating the deepest division imaginable so far. In the history of deleted tweets in this country, these two might have very long lasting effects.
A ruling political party being unaware of this landmine or apathetic to the consequences of triggering it can potentially prove to be catastrophic.
73 years of age, sick, weak and drained it stood on shaky feet, running out of natural body resources, vitals dimming, surviving on one shot of steroids after another, scars of surgical interventions spread across the map of its skin and a plethora of side-effects from past treatments racking its existence. It had almost forgotten the number of doctors that had taken a shot at it, sometimes even without its total consent. Almost every one of those taxing prognosis left it more vulnerable and feeble. All of them focused on treating the symptoms and not the disease, worsening the illness.
It was almost as if they knew, but never disclosed that it was plagued by the uncanny Autoimmune Disease – an ailment in which the organs of its own body were at constant war with each other. It was almost as if they were intentionally not treating the disease because ending its ailment would end years of profiteering from its misery, and yet they all claimed they did everything to serve its interest. Or maybe decades of varying drugs had blurred its ability to separate those who sought to save it from those who added to its agony.
The story of Pakistan is difficult to pen down because it is hard to indisputably identify the heroes and the villains. Pakistanis to this day are even conflicted over autocratic dictatorships being good or bad. This is a country where coups were celebrated, even if by a significant minority. Its very inception on the basis of a presumed uniformity of a religion so deeply divided across sectarian lines was unsteady. The ethnic, cultural, political and ideological differences at its core, though dormant at the time, were highly flammable. While these divisions stayed buried under the unanimous rejected of Hindu subjugation, the fault lines under the surface started growing into visible cracks once liberated from the common enemy. This is why, ever since, the integration and unity of this nation has always been a function of hatred, fear and anger against a common enemy, rather than collective growth, pride and prosperity.
However, in times when an aggravated threat of a common enemy does not exist, Pakistan’s autoimmune disease starts tearing her apart and eating the core of the country hollow. For all these reasons, and more, the worst thing that can happen to this already fragmented and disunited country is fuelling more divisions.
From its campaign leading to the 2018 elections, PTI and its patron in chief Imran Khan has been extremely careless, if not intentionally exploitative, of this ability of the Pakistani polity. He went further than the usual practice of demonising and defiling his political rivals and berated their voters and supporters as dumb donkeys following their leaders mindlessly like zombies. At his massive public meetings he openly vilified news organisations that disagreed with him. The rants inadvertently led to mob attacks on news media offices and at times on journalists.
The ruling party’s most recent act of issuing a list of news media talk-show anchors, dubbing them pro-corruption, incites targeted and aggravated hatred against these journalists. But more importantly still, it drives a deeper wedge into a polarised nation. It impacts not just PTI supporters but the supporters of its political rivals as well. With the history of Pakistan and its behavior in view, this action will have consequences far more long-lasting than being perceived.
This list discourages openness to differing views and perspectives. It freezes the ability to question and challenge one’s hardened positions and clan-vote mentality. It encourages the dangerous practice of sticking to narratives that only feed people’s confirmation biases. It magnifies and glorifies selective perception. But more than anything else, it breeds generations of an ill-informed polity, with an ‘us-versus-them’ mindset for its own countrymen, incapacitated to vote a credible person into power, adding to the long list of bad doctors that would worsen this ailing country’s autoimmune disease and feed off its ailing semi-conscious body.