It wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last. A collection of rowdy and aggressive overseas PTI supporters spotting and cornering a senior member of the PDM coalition on the streets of a foreign country, realizing they are without the protection of protocol that they would typically have back home, and hurling abuses and accusations of corruption in their face. This time, it was Federal Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb at the receiving end of such vile behaviour as she was making her way to a meeting in London. She must be commended for displaying an unnatural level of composure in the face of such harassment and provocations, letting the mob continue with its tirade of ill-informed nonsense inside a café where she casually and quietly enjoyed a can of coke with a confident smile on her face, unfazed by what was happening around her. Last year, a fight broke out between senior PML-N leaders and some PTI workers outside parliament house in Islamabad after the latter allegedly encircled Ms Aurangzeb. The Street facing Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence in London has become a staging ground for PTI protesters, chanting slogans against him and his family through loudspeakers. While predominantly a PTI-led problem, this unacceptable and condemnable behaviour is not exclusive to it; the PML-N has also held similar demonstrations outside the residence of Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan.
A concerning escalation of toxicity in political discourse has been witnessed since the PTI was voted out of power from the center through a vote of no confidence in parliament. This treatment is not limited to natural opponents; it now extends to the judiciary, armed forces and even the election commission and it emanates from the top leadership downwards. The primary objective of it all is to instill a fear of relentless character assassination within anyone who defies or disagrees with Imran Khan’s ever-changing narrative. What is most concerning is that his target audience consists of impressionable youngsters who make up the largest part of the population. The seeds of hate based on misinformation have been sown and violence is the next stage. One hope that better sense prevails and those encouraging and instigating this style of politics show some restraint. Otherwise there will be damage on both sides and of the collateral nature as well.