I still remember the time when, before Imran Khan’s famous Lahore jalsa and his meteoric rise that truly propelled him into the political stratosphere back in 2013, very few of my generation were interested in Pakistani politics. Yet Imran Khan changed all that. For he gave us hope. Hope that, finally, our two-party system was on its way out. Admittedly, PTI only garnered a handful of seats in the National Assembly. But even that was fine with us. Because of one thing we were all sure: Parliament would now have a strong opposition leader. In addition, there was also the hope that with the emergence of such populist political culture — ‘the invisible hand’ would be kept out in the cold. But — to the disappointment of many — Khan appeared less interested in his newly acquired provincial power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Preferring instead to study the lesson that many before him had learned. That is, winning in the Punjab holds the key to the Prime Minister House. Thus came the famous dharnas, orchestrated on the pretext of suspected electoral rigging. Khan then proceeded to waste four months on dhandli narratives. And the biggest let-down — or takeaway — from this entire period was the infamous shalwarein geeli rhetoric as well as attacks on PTV and Parliament House. This gross misdirection of efforts came to an end only after the tragic APS attackThis was the time that many in KP expected all the political chaos borne of absence to end. For even though during that time PTI did work on health, education and police reforms in some way — its failure regarding the much-hyped Ehtisab Commission was sufficient to expose the party and undo prior achievements. Imagine, then, Khan’s good fortune when the Panama Paper leaks fell thudding into his lap last year. Many considered this a blessing, prompting a revitalised system of accountability for all. Little did we know that Panama would serve as an unwelcome benchmark for unsurpassed media sensationalism as well as polarised politics. And that the treats to be had were hourly pressers and mudslinging ad infinitum. The latter came to include the bandying around of such insults as ‘traitor’ and ‘pseudo-liberal’. Where discussions should have focused on institutional progress and democratic nurturing — keyboard warriors and media influencers took to social media to unleash round upon round of below-the-belt insults. All they have succeeded in doing is make a mockery of our political discourse.Today, the state of our political pluralism is such that before proceeding we find ourselves erring on the side of caution, adding notable prefixes to safeguard us from pre-emptory attack: no, we are not a PTI/PML/PPP/Army supporter. We have similarly become mindful of the fact that swearing party allegiance is now tantamount to declaring oneself the party messiah. By the same turn, for we are nothing if not equal opportunity offenders, any foolhardy step towards critical thinking brings with it such heartfelt allegations of being a sold-out lifafa journalist. Thus it comes as no surprise that many senior journalists have actively refrained from taking to social media to comment on the current political crisis. For why would they risk encouraging the hurling of obscenities their way? Sadly, it is our ‘free’ and ‘vibrant’ media that is the biggest casualty of Panamagate. Where discussions should have focused on institutional progress and democratic nurturing — keyboard warriors and media influencers took to social media to unleash round upon round of below-the-belt insults Yet by the same token, it is this same media that has also been the biggest winner (read: government advertisements). Where newspapers and TV channels were supposed to ‘report’ and critically analyse the news — they have now become explicit tools for narrative building of particular parties or institutions. Such is the polarisation of our media that today leaders of the two major political parties only deign to appear on those channels or talk to those journalists supporting their personal narrative.Then we have the additional pantomime that sees one half of the media choosing to pin all of Pakistan’s ills on the ‘invisible’ hand. While the other half is trying its level best to prove its patriotic, Army-loving and anti-PMLN credentials. It seems as if anchors, experts and journalists have made it their mission to defend one party or the other. Alas! Gone are the days when brilliant minds like that of Maleeha Lodhi and Muhammad Ziauddin highlighted the ‘Editor-in-Chief’ columns of famous national dailies. Now, no one rather cares who the Editors are anymore. And that is where the danger lies for Pakistan. Where politicians were already ‘marketed’ as the country’s least credible individuals — it seems that the media is now actively jostling for this crown. This polarisation of both politics and media is doing Pakistan little good. Rather than embracing this competitive mudslinging — we would do better to resist all this and more. Moreover, both politicians and media houses need to engage in serious introspection at this point in time, especially when ‘civilian supremacy and non-military interference’ is the talk of the town. Such supremacy against the military establishment can only be achieved if a rational, civilised and united narrative is furthered by these two important state and societal institutions. The writer is a PhD Politics Candidate from Peshawar, currently pursuing his studies in Australia Published in Daily Times, August 9th 2017.