There is a grave danger that the ‘gutter politics’ is going to be practised by political opponents in the near future. From accusations of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income to character assassination of the leadership of rival parties, all are part of smear campaigns, which have become a hallmark of the local politics. Such a campaign usually starts a few months before the general elections but it has started much earlier between Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Tehreek-e-Insaf. The PTI has alleged that PML-N is using foreign technology companies to create ‘deep fake’ videos of Imran Khan to taint his public image while the former has termed it a pack of lies. A ‘war of words’ ensued between PTI leader Shireen Mazari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Twitter when the former accused the latter of using ‘morphed videos’ of Imran Khan. There is also news that certain objectionable videos of the PTI chief have surfaced on social media. Though the PML-N has been accused of using such tactics against late PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in the past, this would be a new low if such things appear before the general public. On the other hand, Imran Khan can, unfortunately, be singlehandedly held responsible for the plummeting of the political discourse to the undignified level of street-style abuse.
Monotonous, repetitive personal attacks, unproven allegations, frequent calls for army intervention, delusions of grandeur and a steadfast refusal to be self-reflective have been the foundational aspects of every single Imran Khan speech and the personality cult around him ensures that despite his lack of oratory skills he can whip up his supporters into a dangerous frenzy. His attitude may have prompted the PML-N to succumb to temptation and prove itself equally adept at muckraking, but settling a score through the creation of fake videos would be a new low. The entire blame game is nothing but a ghastly distraction and if this is the future of democratic politics in Pakistan, it is most unfortunate. The political parties need to be responsible and realize their crucial role in shaping the direction of the country. The position of a member of the parliament is inherently dignified so the use of any unfair means to tarnish the image of rivals is purely an immoral act. Unfortunately, the trend is setting bad examples and politicians are responsible for such an attitude. They are the ones who are indulging in politics of lies, abuses and wealth accumulation instead of relying on principles, honesty and dignity. We need to develop a culture of tolerance. It is essential to develop civilized and dignified culture instead of indulging in disrespectful practices against political opponents.