Navigating Hate and Viciousness in Politics  

STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

It has been a very eventful summer in the region. A lot has been written and said about departure of US forces from Afghanistan. Verbalized in North American lingo, it can be summarized as “Adios Afghanis; wasn’t nice knowing y’all!” It was not a good experience. Thousands of lives lost, trillions down the drain, the whole region destabilized with nothing to show for it. It was astonishing to hear former President George Bush calling the withdrawal a huge mistake. I guess the perpetrator of the original blunder had to say something!

Taliban are slicing through regions and districts with the ease of cutting a cake. Recently we heard a huge growl from President Ashraf Ghani about retaking the lost territory. It is a precursor to the start of another round of Afghan bloodletting. Tragic and hopefully preventable. Surprisingly both parties have not learnt from centuries of Afghan tradition – resolving disputes through “Jirga.”

I guess Taliban are too enticed with the desire to capture complete power. Recent moves by regional neighbors, including Pakistan, seeking an end to fighting is encouraging. Afghan’s future prosperity is at stake. Imagine a peaceful state benefitting from all the trade that could flow through. It will give genuine dividends to the locals rather than the dole outs by USA. Such a boost to Afghan self respect!

Moving on, I want to deplore a recent ugly act of racism in Hamilton. A mother and daughter were crossing a parking lot wearing “hijab”. A 40 year old tried to run them over. The victims ran and hid behind a bush. The monster came in pursuit, found them, shouting anti-Muslim slurs and threatened to kill them. He was armed. The daughter escaped, shouting for help. Some brave bystanders heard her and intervened, forcing the culprit to flee.

Racism is systemic in the Canadian society, having a deep ingress in cities that suffered sharp industrial decline. Like London, Hamilton was booming, known as “Steel Town” due to a huge plant that has now closed. I understand the undercurrents in Hamilton having owned properties there 20 years ago. The white supremacists blame the “brownies” for their decline.

These are symptoms of a deeper malaise that can’t be brushed under the carpet. Fear tears communities apart. The Government has to move boldly and decisively to confront such ugliness. Muslims are a reality in Canada. They cannot be eliminated; they need to be recognized, integrated and given a sense of security. The solution lies in multi- culturalism and not Islamophobia. All political parties need to come onto the same page.

It is a clarion call for Prime Minister Trudeau to rise to his promise of equality for all.

Moving onto the elections on 25th July in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. They are a milestone event in Pakistan. Being pragmatic, the Kashmiris have mostly elected the party in power in the Centre. Rightfully so, it facilitates co-operation and co-ordination between the two Governments. This time around there is a lot more noise. What is different? The political divide within Pakistan is being transposed to AJK. However it is not just politics. It is hatred against PM IK. It has nothing to do with the inflationary hardships faced by ordinary citizens. That is just a hammer conveniently available to the opponents for reasons that are totally different.

The charge is being led by Maryam Nawaz focusing on Papa Nawaz. There is a well orchestrated and well oiled propaganda machine at work. PML(N) is presenting a pretty face with a vicious tongue. Her attempt at claiming Kashmiri ancestry and pictures of her and Papa under the same banyan tree are being ridiculed all over social media.

She may have been better served by identifying her lineage with working class like uncle Shahbaz. After all, being a “lohar” or metal worker would have been more honest. Will it stop here or grow like a creeper to create a linkage with the Kashmiri royalty? Her wild imagination could extend its origins to the lost Jewish tribe that settled in this area. Interestingly, their desire to acquire and amass wealth by any means is very similar.

AJK elections have exposed the deep divide within the Party. Maryam and her group’s nastiness against the Establishment versus the reconciliatory approach of Shahbaz and his team. I saw her latest speech. She is seeing “Jalsas” on all sides and even in the heavens! Her boasts remind me of 1997 “Jalsas” of PM IK. I was present in many. The crowds would be overflowing. Their attendances at times were larger than Nawaz Sharif’s crowds. It turned out to be curiosity to see their handsome icon rather than votes. Maryam is a good looking new product; I leave the rest to your imagination!

Bilawal Bhutto is the leader of “Main be to hoon” movement. His crowds include ZAB and BB diehards. His “wannabe” status is open to debate but I doubt it is getting any traction so far. The proof of the pudding will be seen on the 25th of July. However, the final appearance by Prime Minister Imran Khan could tilt the scales. For the voters’ baradari, common cause with their Kashmiri brethrens in bondage and developments in their area are their priorities. What matters is who can deliver. They don’t want to be entangled in a fight to protect stolen money of an absconder.

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