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Common ground

Two hundred and thirty-five million Pakistanis share three key characteristics: a common history, common values, and common aspirations. Beginning in the 8th century, Muhammad bin Qasim led the Umayyad army in an invasion of the Sindh region in what is now present-day Pakistan. For over 800 years, this entire region remained under Islamic rule until the end of the Mughal Empire in the 19th century.

Two hundred and twenty-three million Pakistanis share a set of common values. Pakistani culture places a high value on family, emphasizing close family ties and the responsibility of caring for relatives. Respect for elders is also a core value in our culture. Pakistani hospitality is renowned for its warmth and generosity towards guests. Finally, patriotism is deeply ingrained in the Pakistani identity, as we all share a strong sense of national pride and identity with our country.

Two hundred and twenty-three million Pakistanis also share common aspirations. All of us aspire to have access to quality education. All of us seek better job opportunities and achieve financial stability. All of us aspire to have access to quality healthcare. And all of us want access to affordable housing.

In effect, we share a common history, common values and common aspirations. Then why so much polarization? Unfortunately, some of our politicians demonize their opponents in order to gain an advantage in elections or political battles. Unfortunately, some of our politicians portray their opponents as corrupt or immoral hoping to sway voters to their side. Unfortunately, some of our politicians demonize each other in order to attract media attention and generate headlines. Unfortunately, some of our politicians demonize their opponents to distract from their own weaknesses. In 1953, after the Korean War ended, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. The key factor that transformed South Korea from a war-torn agriculture society into a high-tech industrial powerhouse was the Koreans gathering around a common ground.

During the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1955 to 1975, the US and its allies dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The war resulted in an estimated three million Vietnamese deaths. Over the past few decades, Vietnam has turned itself into a manufacturing hub-and the two key factors behind Vietnam’s success are political stability and Vietnamese gathering around a common ground.

China, at the turn of the 20th century, was in a state of turmoil, with a weak and divided government, widespread poverty, and rampant opium addiction. Mao Zedong brought the Chinese on to a common ground under the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Between 1981 and 2013, China managed to lift 850 million Chinese out of poverty – an accomplishment that is unparalleled in human history.

Pernicious polarization – characterized by extreme partisanship, a lack of compromise, and the dehumanization of political opponents – results in severe economic damage, political gridlock and increased political violence. Pernicious polarization destroyed Georgia. Pernicious polarization wrecked Zimbabwe. Pernicious polarization destroys governance. Pernicious polarization ruined Greece. Pernicious polarization ravaged the Philippines. Pernicious polarization dilapidated Ecuador. Pernicious polarization shattered Colombia. Pernicious polarization is now destroying Turkey.

For Pakistan, common ground is the principal prerequisite for building trust, cooperation and social cohesion, which are all critical factors for a country’s economic and political development.

Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Dr Farrukh Saleem, "Common ground," The News. 2023-04-30.
Keywords: Political science , Political violence , Political opponents , Polarization , Patriotism , Turkey , Greece