The eggs and rotten tomatoes pelted at Kashmir Affairs Minister Ali Amin Gandapur would have been the natural outcome of his tracks earlier on PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but they were a surprisingly strong reaction by PML(N) activists,who were suspected. The response of Mr Gandapur’s guards, of aerial firing in response, was perhaps natural, but it was dangerous. AJK elections centred traditionally around local issues, with the Pakistan government only figuring as far as its support for Kashmir is concerned. That the PML(N) and PTI have taken their rivalry to AJK is symbolised by the fact that they are congesting directly, unlike the PPP, which is technically contesting as the AJKPP. This hooliganism, verbal being transformed into physical, bodes ill for the 2023 general election in Pakistan. In 202 national constituencies of Pakistan, there may be more firing incidents, and it needs only one to produce a tragedy.
The problem is not just loudmouth politicos, but a leader like the PTI’s Imran Khan, who very often has used intemperate language against his opponents. Worse, there is a perception among followers that having a big moth makes one win the approval of the party leader. This is fatal to any chance that the politician might follow his instinct not to say anything that he would not like to hear. The problem has unfortunately gone beyond leaders merely setting an example. They now have to make clear, in so many words, that they disapprove of the kind of rising rudeness that degenerates into the sort of violence that was witnessed on Thursday.
The track on Mr Gandapur is reprehensible. However, it is for his party leader to do two things. First, he has to temper his own rhetoric, and try and display some of the parliamentary decorum that was not shown during the National Assembly budget session. Second, he must make it explicitly clear that any member of his party who makes remarks hurting others’ feelings will meet with his disapproval. Other party leaders must follow suit. The 2023 election is at stake.