It appears that amiability in Increasing socio-political divide spheres in Pakistan has disappeared for good. For a long while Pakistan was acknowledged to be passing through diverse processes of change having different connotations in terms of pace and having a positive or negative impact. It was expected that with the passage of time matters will fall in line as had been the case with almost all developed societies and most observers propagated political movements as harbingers of social change. They were probably mistaken in their contention as Pakistani political parties had a long history of poor relationship with popular public aspirations and this deficiency makes them subservient to the powerful military establishment. Popular movements particularly movements pertaining to rights of people play a role in promoting greater political and social awareness in society but the process is difficult and slow. The ostensible reason is that the power elites do not like them because of their demands of fair treatment and transparent distribution of resources.
Pakistan also is home to a prominent religious tangent with the society having outsourced a major chunk of education to religious institutions though the benefits of doing so are hotly debated in the country as this policy has given rise to blatant sectarian, religious and political differences. Once coming into play their economic interests clash with the element of cohesion in society and create fissures that are cumbersome to heal. Pakistan is experiencing all these forces of social change but the overriding concern currently is that this process of transformation is generating more frustration and less positive energy. This is the dilemma in which the increased socio-political polarisation is playing a very dangerous role. It is now becoming obvious that societal tempers have frayed to the extent that there appears hardly any venue for improving the social matrix. This is certainly a cause of concern that is of utmost importance for national policy makers.
The major factor of social disharmony is that the governance machinery has failed to properly utilise human and physical capital of the country. The situation is aggravated by almost never-ending government-opposition confrontations that consistently disturb any chances of harmony developing in due course. These unsettling factors also get exacerbated by persisting structural economic problems that no political dispensation has been able to satisfactorily tackle. Both these difficulties are equally responsible for undermining the evolution of democracy as well as economic and political stability. The national policies have become cyclical with sickeningly recurring policies and conduct of the governance elite further muddying waters. It is simply a detestable situation but the most worrying aspect is that it is fast becoming the new normal with many people taking it in a stride.
Such an attitude is the obvious result of fast developing socio-political polarisation that has profoundly divided people, society and families as never before along intensely partisan lines. The current spate of populist politics practised by the agitating political party that has recently lost power are driving a deep wedge between social matrix engineered by extensive use of mobile phones that have empowered common Pakistani to express his opinion openly. To the chagrin of many Pakistanis the public perception is proving to be disastrous to national harmony that is gradually spewing venom. The narrative of breaking down all resistance to a faultily structured argument is now considered the main problem faced by the country. This message is strengthened by regular agitating rallies in which nothing is spared including all segments of the country. The counter-narrative is taking time to materialise as the incumbent government is burdened by the burden of rectifying the badly managed economic situation of the country.
The current spate of intense polarisation is giving way to ferocious political warfare in which opponents have to be eliminated from the political scene in a terminal conflict and not competed with. This no-quarter-giving approach is taking the situation to a dangerously terminal course that would be very difficult to reverse. The toxic quality now present in the society has the potential to debase any effort aimed at bringing back rationality. It has now become clear that intolerance has become order of the day and people are unwilling to listen to any reasonable argument. The problem has aggravated to the extent that even senior people stick to the populist narrative despite being fully aware of the lack of veracity it is devised with. Provocative rhetoric and statements that routinely fail the truth test are made with abandon and with no regard for the consequences. The incendiary nature of socio-political debate is eating into the very fabric of public discourse. This is a frightening prospect as Pakistani social fabric is inherently weak and cannot bear the kind of strains it is currently experiencing and may soon break into fragments the country can ill-afford. TW