Deprivation, social media, incompetence of elite class termed reasons for polarisation in country

Our Correspondent
Monday, May 23, 2022

Speakers at a live Twitter Space hosted by the Habib University on Saturday night expressed concern on the political imbroglio in Pakistan.

The online talk titled ‘Political Crisis in Pakistan’ also discussed media issues and fragile economy of the country. Mosharraf Zaidi, founder and chief executive officer of Tabadalab, an Islamabad based think-tank, said the root cause of the recent political turmoil was technology and social media.

Globally, he said, social media had been impacting politics. “Its cumulative impact has been destructive,” he said. The technology had massively democratised the discourse which, he explained, had both positive and negative impacts, but, according to him, the negative impacts were more palpable.

The other cause of the political turmoil, he said, was deprivation. Commenting on the detention of Shireen Mazari, he said people were deprived of their rights which was evident from the way how a former human rights minister was picked up.

“Deprivation is not only the problem of economically-challenged individuals as it happens to be creating problems for the elites as well,” he said. The last cause of the political turmoil in the country, he said, was incompetence of the elite class and institutions.

Niloufer Siddiqui, assistant professor of political science, University of Albany-SUNY, said polarisation meant hardening of differences between different groups. She added that the same process was witnessed during the Trump administration in the United States (US). In studies conducted in the US, she said it was found that voters were ready to compromise on democratic principles.

Quaid-e-Azam University Associate Professor Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar said anyone trying to deeply understand the current turmoil in Pakistan must delve into the country’s history. The turmoil, he said, was also global in nature and until we had ascertained the basic reasons for the political crisis and underlying structural forces of it, there could not be any solution to it.

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi remarked that Pakistan was going through an elite capture and there was no stake of public in it. The political parties talked about the public till they were in the opposition but their attitude changed when they come into government, he said.

He added that democracy was being controlled in the country by non-political forces. Speaking on Imran Khan’s government, he said he was told it was a hybrid regime but still it could not run the country. Sadly, he said, we never tried to strengthen our economy and ran it on loans and the beneficiary of those loans were elites.

He lamented that unlike previous years, the current Senate had many legislators who had nothing to do with the policymaking.

The politicians, he pointed out, were never given the opportunity to assert themselves. He added that political parties repeatedly danced to someone else’s tune and they themselves lacked democracy.

The democratic process, he said, had to establish its base and then move ahead. The political parties needed to get over with their insecurities and establish their student wings, Zaidi added.

Lahore University of Management Sciences Assistant Professor Umair Javed said Pakistan had a history of political polarisation. The foundation of the country was because of communal and political polarization, he added.

In 1960s there was politics on ethnic rights and economy which later reflected in the political system and the scale of political conflict was massive, he remarked.

In 1970s, there were ideological conflicts and conflicts based on the nature of federalism which led to an insurgency and dismissal of governments, he added.