Don't criminalise ethnicity lest...

Something potentially divisive and intrinsically evil is - yet again - creeping into the already bruised soul of Pakistan: i.e. racial profiling and ethnicisation of political opponents.

Through a concerted conscious campaign, Pashtoons and the word 'Tehreek' are being demonised for political capital by the incumbent government. It is not just the political opponents of the PTI, but an entire brigade of party propagandists, disguised media-persons, commercial advertisers and intellectuals are consciously peddling the theme that is singling out PTI as an 'organisation linked to terrorist groups'.

An interview, tweeted by Maryam Nawaz, by two purported residents of Zaman Park, was one of the so many disturbing examples of this narrative. The two ladies - which social media handles later claimed belonged to Dharampura, sounded contemptuous when asked about the identity of people forced out of the Zaman Park in the March 18 operation. 'They spoke Pashto, were Pathans, looked like (members of) Taliban, sent by Ghundapur (Ali Ameen Gandapur of PTI).'

Another young boy from Batagram caught in Islamabad the same day near the Judicial Complex underwent similar disparaging treatment by a policeman, himself a Pashtoon. 'Who are you and why did you come here?' asked the policeman while holding the young man's trouser.

It all seems to be part of a pattern set in motion by Maryam Nawaz. 'Treat Imran Khan as a terrorist and ban the PTI for harbouring terrorists at Zaman Park,' she said while talking to media-persons on the day the former prime minister was to appear at a court in Islamabad's Judicial Complex. The subject of racial profiling of PTI supporters is resonating in speeches and statements of other N-League stalwarts, as well as Sharjeel Memon of PPP, apparently tasked to daily malign Imran Khan.

Even more dangerous and divisive to this context is the reported consideration that the PTI might be banned for alleged 'terrorist links'.

The explosive situation merits a few basic questions:

Is the ethnic metaphor for opposition being invoked for the first time in Pakistan's chequered political history? Certainly not; Bengalis, Baloch and Pashtoons have endured this slur on different occasions. The Bengalis endured racial discrimination and political marginalisation long ago and this served as the oxygen to the Awami League for the run-up to the creation of Bangladesh.

The short-sighted continued to rule the roost immediately after the fall of Dhaka...

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