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Politics of polarisation

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PEOPLE have much higher expectations of their leaders in times of crisis. They seek a clear direction, reassurance, and above all, unity among public representatives so that they work together to responsibly and purposefully address the challenge. With the country faced with a national health emergency, the expectation is that politics will be cast aside and national purpose prioritised over politicking.

What the public do not wish to see is bickering and politics as usual, with attacks on political opponents that serve as distractions from efforts to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Nothing drains public trust more than partisan squabbling at a time of disruption and anxiety.

The political picture that has unfolded in the weeks since the virus struck is an unedifying one. Rather than a national policy and a collective response being evolved, the situation that emerged has been of provinces, especially Sindh, mostly going their own way and the centre taking uncertain charge of the crisis.

The onus to forge a national consensus rested with the federal government. But the opportunity was passed up despite offers for cooperation from the opposition. The stated justification was that there could be no truck with those who looted public money. In one fell swoop, the entire parliamentary membership was written off and the chance to evolve an inclusive policy squandered. The result was to divide, not unite, the country’s political forces.

The reluctance early in the crisis to frame a nationally agreed approach by consulting the provinces is explicable only in terms of politics — a partisan unwillingness to engage with opposition-led Sindh. That situation later........

© Dawn

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