A well-constructed consensus in society is essential if a country is to thrive and prosper. If we are to ask James Madison about the advantages of consensus-based decision-making and social unity, the answer would be in terms of the country’s politico-social atmosphere free from extreme polarization or ‘violence of faction’. Extreme polarization results from (but is not limited to) and gives rise to division, hatred, unrest, and social violence – and therefore, it is right to be termed as a mortal disease. Nothing else but sticking to the constitutional values and norms provides the cure to the malaise.
It is needless to say that the country’s atmosphere is tightly gripped by emotions and opinions that lie diametrically opposed to each other – so much so is the prevalence of extreme polarization that even a naïve person can easily grasp it.
While the country’s political and strategic leaders pit themselves in poles opposed to each other, the prudence dies crying. Whether the events are as large as the unfortunate Arshad Sharif murder, the assassination attempt on Imran Khan, DG ISI’s unprecedented press briefing, rifts in the federation and its units, or as small as the resignation of Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, each day brings more confusion and poison. Though the differences are marginal and the country’s people have more in common, yet every passing hour reminds us of growing intolerance, repulsive extremisms, and radicalization of opinions.
The gruesome consequence of this unending extreme polarization is that Pakistan’s parliament and polity are failing to respond to the people’s hopes and aspirations. Democratic functioning is stalled, the country’s institutions are paralyzed, and the people are in disarray.
Being at critical crossroads, Pakistan needs to bring an end to the log jam of pervasive polarization. Bridges must be built among oppositely pitted groups, and social empathy and mutual trust must be given way to fill ideological gaps. At stake are the fate and future of the country and its people.