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Hate-Speech Capital

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Parliament must legislate the way politicians speak in the House to ensure decorum.

Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism contains a reference to hate-speech as a trigger of acts of violence that continues to plague the country. Lack of action on NAP has, unfortunately, caused the Government of Pakistan to be seen as “napping” on NAP. But on Thursday, March 9, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz parliamentarian got into an ugly war of words with a rival Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker and let fly with an unforgivable salvo of abuse. He got a punch in his face in return but he actually deserved to lose his seat in Parliament: he had referred to the sisters of the rival MNA as women of doubtful character.

PTI decided to undo the 2013 elections through tough hate-speech, which has caught on and has spread as a style of address among Pakistanis who watch TV and see the mudslinging between the followers of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. Parliament has become the theater of bad language, frequently causing politicians to go for one another’s throat. It is time Parliament legislated the way the politicians speak in the House and how they behave in its corridors.

Hate speech is the curse of rightwing parties and it is delivered wrapped in their hatred of the emancipated woman. What happened last week in Parliament came on the heels of International Women’s Day, which highlighted the issue: why do Pakistani men first hinge honor on women and then dishonor other men by insulting their women? PMLN ministers have insulted PTI’s Shireen Mazari, recalling Sheikh Rashid’s past salvos against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. One bearded JUIF senator actually threatened to beat up a lady during a TV discussion while referring to her shalwar. Such politicians must lose their seats in Parliament when they fly off the handle if we are to ever curb such abuse.

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