The fiasco of social polarization in Pakistan

Muneeb Imran highlights how polarization in Pakistan has caused prejudice and intolerance within the society. Polarized groups often indulge in pointless debates due to which real issues get ignored.

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One of the significant fall out of the Soviet-Afghan War on Pakistan’s society was that of religious extremism where many religious nomenclatures and ideologies were brought into the political fold for seeking and furthering the political advantages.

It left a huge mental scar on the overall fabric of Pakistani society leading to religious divides and many ugly spats between various religious schools of thought. The era was marked by various prohibitions on freedom of speech and many regressive ideas halted Pakistan from overall societal growth and progress.

Read more: Growing Islamophobia and a divided Muslim World

Post-2001, Pakistan has seen the rise of the liberal left that has rightly challenged the old, mundane, and orthodox views on many fronts but has primarily suffered from the same disease of prejudice, bias, and intolerance towards other opinion holders; the disease which inflicted the religious section of our society.

This polarization has become more pronounced and nauseating in the past 2 decades. Primarily, these two polarities that now exist in our society have the same fundamental problems driven by multiple biases, prejudice, and intolerance against the other group where they are quick to pounce, scorn, and judge.

Read more: The Pseudo-liberals of Pakistan

The irony of our elite society

In principle, the emergence of the liberal left in Pakistan should have been a sign of hope where mundane or any regressive ideas or customs could be addressed considering the overall sensitivities and it could have led Pakistan to usher into an era marked by overall societal growth and progress.

However, the irony with the educated elite of our society is that they too have mentally stagnated and become regressive in their approach.

Yes, they chant the slogans of freedom to express and dress up as they want, with the pretext to demonstrate themselves as being progressive, liberal, or modern but often lack the substance just as the majority of religious class believes in sporting a beard, taking a hijab or covering the face to demonstrate being pious.

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The overwhelming majority of liberal lefts in Pakistan is essentially the same as the other ultra-right religiously inclined polarity because they both do not intrinsically believe in critically pruning the ideas and then adopting them.

If conventional or orthodox views from religious clergy are popular in one class of the society then the allegedly modern/liberal class does not believe in or at least does not practice critically reviewing the ideas that primarily emanated from Western societies.

This is by no means to imply that Western societies are the primary source of evil, they in fact have been the source of the greater good in the modern liberal world and the eastern societies have benefited greatly from the contributions of the Western societies.

Read more: Western liberal totalitarianism: friendly and subordinate fascism

Difference of opinions

The alleged liberal class of our society just like their counterparts on the other side of the divide scorn when someone doesn’t conform to their viewpoints and is quick to pass judgments over lack of sensitivity towards an issue.

It is easily forgotten that in a polarized society, the continuum of sensitivity varies. Therefore, something that can prick the nerves of leftists may be completely unworthy of a discussion to the rightists and vice-versa.

In the same breadth of discussion, something that could be popular to one side of the divide could be absolutely unpopular to the other side of the divide and may even go on to rattle them.

Read more: ‘Aurat March’ in Pakistan: Feminists vs Mullahs!

The primary and the implicit idea from both extremes is to shut the discussion down and allow them to move in circles, and not ascertain the root causes of the problem, rather treat symptoms of an issue by overweighing certain factors as the ultimate cause of a problem.

There is a reason why the Western world came up with commendable mechanisms like the Fish-bone diagram, Fault-tree Analysis, and Cause-effect analysis with the underlying purpose to diagnose the root cause of a problem by carefully examining all the factors that contribute to the problem instead of cherry-picking certain factors and overweighing or underplaying them.

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Impact on society

In the midst of all these chaotic discussions and debates, any tendencies by polarized groups to allege their counterparts as being insensitive without understanding the genesis or rationale behind their argument can aggravate the divide and inflict serious injury to society overall.

This approach is downright regressive and eventually takes society into the deep trenches of ignorance and darkness because it instills and perpetuates a deeper problem into the society where are all discussions are done in binaries, not leaving the space for gray areas which require a thorough assessment and understanding of the issue.

Read more: Morality doldrums: the galling truth of Pakistan

In all this fiasco of binary discussions, the truth gets convoluted and provides a wonderful opportunity for agenda peddlers from each side of the polarity to peddle their biased opinions and present narrowly assessed evidence as facts.

The author is a consultant by profession, with a keen interest in Information Security, Foreign Policy, and International Relations. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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