Foul language, hate speech mar Pakistan election

Election Commission takes notice of code violation by major political parties’ leaders

Islamabad: Calling opponents names, insulting and abusing them publicly as well as on TV talk shows is becoming the norm in Pakistan’s Election 2018.

Campaigning is in full swing across the country three days ahead of July 25 and candidates are using and abusing whatever is at their disposal to elevate their image and tarnish their opponents, in order to bag the maximum number of votes.

However at times, while doing so, they have diminished their own public image – causing irreparable dent to their campaignS.

For the first time in the Election 2018, one is hearing insulting terms like ‘donkey’, ‘beghairat’ (shameless) and ‘children of prostitutes’ coming from veteran politicians, parliamentarians and public role models.

Former Speaker National Assembly and PMNL-N candidate from Lahore, Ayaz Sadiq, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a strong candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, a former Chief Minister of KP, Pervez Khattak and a religious scholar and head of the religious party JUI-F, Maulana Fazlur Rehman are among the leaders who passed ‘below the belt’ remarks against their rivals in recent public rallies.

Pakistani media widely ran footage of their abusive speeches, forcing the ECP to issue them notices on July 19 to appear before the commission on July 21 and explain why they used such ‘abusive, derogatory and insolent’ language.

On Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (R) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, heading a four-member bench, refused to dispose of the suo motu cases against them and made it clear the ECP had a zero-tolerance approach to abusive language and character assassination by candidates.

Imran Khan’s chief counsel Babar Awan was represented by a junior lawyer.

Lawyers for the other three politicians also appeared before the court and assured their clients would be careful in future and uphold Election Code of Conduct.

However, the CEC turning down their pleas to dispose of the case against their clients adjourned hearing until August 9.

The CEC pointed out Pervez Khattan who had called workers of PPP “children of prostitutes” and said the words were extremely disturbing and deplorable.

Justice Raza linked Pervez Khattak’s election results with the decision of the commission in this case.

It is not only foul and abusive language tarnishing the electoral process in the country.

There have also been incidents of hate speech and violence reported from Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi.

An independent candidate and well known human rights activist Jibran Nasir who is contesting polls from NA-247 (Karachi) was harassed and interrupted in the midst of his election campaign in a city area by activists of various religious groups and parties.

Nasir said he was ‘urged’ by the religious extremists to publicly declare the Ahmedi community “kafir” (pejorative use of the word black) and say he had nothing to do with them.

When Nasir refused to abuse Ahmedis saying he was not going to abuse followers of any religion, creed or sect, they created disturbances in his election campaign and assaulted his workers.

Later, while talking to journalists, he said they were extremists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and not only did they interrupt his public campaign but they also assaulted his workers.

They were later joined by members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the All Pakistan Muslim League.

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