Pakistan, Polarised society and Political intolerance

Islamabad, Pakistan:

This wave of political intolerance has seeped into all segments of the public, often taking a violent form and has raised fear among the experts that the situation will continue to deteriorate amid increased use of social media, reported the Dawn newspaper.

According to experts, the situation is further aggravated as the political leaders avoid peddling negative narratives to their followers as people tend to be more attracted towards such sentiments.

Demonstrating this polarisation is the example of a seven-year-old girl Fatima Maqbool whose father Maqbool Ahmed told how in his daughter’s class, the followers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have started sitting separately.

“It was shocking for me that seven-year-old children have also been developing friendships based on political affiliations. I tried to convince my daughter that she should treat all her class fellows equally and not discriminate against students on a political basis, but all in vain,” the media outlet quoted Ahmed as saying.

Acknowledging the rise of intolerance in Pakistani society, psychologist Farah Zulqarnain blamed it on social media all kinds of information are bombarded and the people consume it based on personal beliefs without verification.

“I would blame social media for it as people have been receiving a plethora of information without understanding what is correct and what is wrong. Resultantly, people accept information that they consider correct and that matches their affiliations and beliefs,” the media outlet quoted her as saying.

“Idealising personalities pushes people towards ‘mental retardation’ and they stop using their minds. I fear this state of affairs will worsen in the coming days and lead to violence. I suggest leaders stop giving double messages to their followers as people get more attracted towards negative statements,” she added.

Further, a large number of people in Pakistan have started taking part in political debates which often become heated and lead to physical brawls. Verifying this is the example of a man who killed his friend over a political debate.

Meanwhile, human rights activist and senior PPP leader Farhatullah Babar blamed former prime minister Imran Khan for this intolerance, saying the biggest disservice the PTI chairman did to the society was promoting a herd instinct, cultic culture and intolerance in an already deeply polarised society.

“Worse still, Imran’s cultic culture is based on totally false narratives — ranging from bringing back the country’s looted money to the foreign conspiracy against [his government]. Our society is divided, both vertically and horizontally, and there are divisions among families, public servants, teachers and even school and college students cutting across other divisions in society. Cult followers refuse to see the other side; they are impervious to the patent falsehood of their leaders’ narratives and cock and bull stories. As a result, intolerance towards views other than those of their leader has increased enormously. There is nothing more dangerous than cultism and intolerance, which Imran is promoting,” the media outlet quoted him as saying.

However, PTI leader Ali Awan said that injustice is the only reason for intolerance in society.

“Unfortunately, people have lost hope in the system due to which they have been trying to take things into their own hands. People feel frustrated when they see a party that was embroiled in corruption a few months ago has suddenly become honest and clean,” he said, according to the media outlet.

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