Disagreements between parties are the very stuff of democratic politics. But a clear distinction exists between slander and comment. It seems, however, that both the IJI and PPP are quite ignorant of the dividing line between these two concepts.
It is perfectly admissible to say in public that so and so is corrupt, but you must provide evidence for such an assertion in a court of law. If you cannot do that, you are being slanderous and must be made accountable for your indiscretions. In this context, the PPP has levelled many charges of corruption against Mr Nawaz Sharif and other IJI members, but not one charge has been taken to court and substantiated. We can, therefore, deduce that the PPP is slandering Mr Sharif and Co. This must stop. It serves no purpose other than making the PPP look inept. It also pollutes the political atmosphere and makes things difficult all round.
The IJI, however, has transgressed all limits of decency and propriety. In the election campaign last October, the IJI was downright vicious. The personal attacks on both Mrs Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were unbelievably gross. It is quite pathetic to hinge an entire campaign on filth and abuse. It is no good saying that certain Jamaat-i-Islami supporters got out of hand and that the IJI leadership absolves itself of their behaviour. this will simply not do.
As if that were not enough, matters have got worse. Since the SAARC summit, the IJI has launched another rabid campaign of defamation against the PPP. In the public pronouncements of its leaders, the PPP government is labelled as ‘an agent of India’. This is an appalling line of attack. Sh Rashid Ahmed, the IJI maverick from Pindi, has a vulgar way with words. He believes the IJI has a monopoly of patriotism in Pakistan, all others being “traitors and agents of India”. He openly declares that Pakistan should meddle in the affairs of that country. He claims that Ch Aitzaz Ahsan has sold Pakistani intelligence dossiers to New Delhi. He declares that “India, with the help of the Hindus of Sindh, is responsible for the situation in Sindh”. And so on, ad nauseum. In one fell swoop, he has condemned the Prime Minister, her Interior Minister and the entire Hindu minority in Pakistan as “traitors”, and there is no limit to his bellowing.
We say enough is enough. Let there be a new and specific law to restrain such verbal excesses in public. Set up a special court to hear cases of slander and abuse. If politicians of all shades and parties will not play cricket, let there be neutral umpires and well defined rules of the game. We are sick and tired of it all.