The US elections have shown us how dangerous a country divided is. It also highlights the risks posed when a leader, in this case Donald Trump, publicly speaks out for racists, fascists and others who hold extreme views.
The fact that Trump has been doing it for four years appears to have prompted those who hold such beliefs to express them publicly. Their prejudice, hidden for years under layers of deception and political correctness, has emerged in the emergence of groups that believe in various types of extremism, and in some cases, also violence. They include the all-white, all-male Proud Boys whom Trump mentioned in one of his debating speeches, as well as a mixture of neo Nazis, skinheads, fascists, and even remnants of the Ku Klux Klan.
The challenge for Joe Biden is to knit the country back together and bring it together. Whether he can do it is hard to say. It will take some time. It will take patience, it will take some effort and it will probably take a decade or more of changes and gradually returning to the older norm.
Trump’s example takes us back to our own country. Our prime minister publicly praised Trump as a man who behaved spontaneously and frankly. Imran Khan said that Trump and him have similar traits. This is all fine, but scary too. We asked because some observers said Imran’s Tiger Force was some kind of potential militia.
But, of course, the problem of division goes far beyond the existence of extremist groups. These have existed for many years in the US and include organizations such as the National Alliance founded in the 1970s by William Pierce, whose son later left the group and closed it after entering the complex on which it was based. There is always a danger that such groups can gain stronger and stronger power in Pakistan, where some already exist.
The real problem, however, is about divided countries. The US is currently divided – on the basis of race, on the basis of faith, on the basis of loyalty, and on the basis of the color blue or red, representing Democrats or Republicans. But there are also other differences based on gender, beliefs and ways of life. Pakistan is not that different. Our political reality has been cut off completely without any real ability to unite, or work as one, for the country and its people. A democratically elected government, however, is expected to work for the people. So can other leaders from other parties, who may not be part of the government, but are part of parliament.
In our situation, we saw hatred expressed openly between PTI and PML-N. The PPP has at times changed its position from one way to another, making it a little unclear what Bilawal Bhutto actually meant when he gave his speech. And we have resentment in Karachi, among influencers in that troubled city. The challenge for the leaders must be to unite our country and create a more harmonious federation. This is not an easy task; the fact that we have witnessed in the US where riots broke out as soon as the polls opened, even if some were limited, shows us how important it is to prevent a total split between groups and political forces. They need to be able to sit together, maintain their gaze, but at least be able to talk.
Currently, we are not at this point. There is no possibility that the main parties will be willing to sit down together to discuss issues with the country, which currently numbers a lot. The dangers range from inflation, which literally puts food out of reach of millions of people in the country, to the Covid virus and incoming problems, such as smog caused by environmental pollution and climate change, which have severely affected farmers.
We also have differences between society and government. There is absolutely no logical reason for the Punjab government and its police to act so cruelly against farmers who have chosen to protest peacefully in Lahore and raise their demands for higher prices for the goods they sell, or reduced prices for fertilizers, pesticides, and other equipment they need to produce the food and other items we use every day. Attacks with water cannons, tear gas and clubs, resulting in the death of at least one farmer were completely unnecessary. But we have seen such violence against students and social activists, and other groups before. Even the teachers and nurses have been attacked just like the junior doctors.
We need to create more tolerance for harmony, and a greater willingness to accept different points of view. We also need to learn from America and develop the capacity to be able to speak, no matter what differences there may be. Until this happens, there is no real hope for a future that is nonviolent and unrest.
The job of our prime minister and his team must be to create these situations so that people can learn to live in a place that offers the safety, security and tolerance that all human beings need, wherever they live and what they do.
The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.
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