Of course, not only Nawaz Sharif has a denial problem. If politicians were not widely seen as hard-hearted, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wouldn’t have billed himself as a compassionate leader. If politicians’ self-awareness is encouraging, it would mean he is determined to avoid his past political errors. Or might it be discouraging? It is, if he cannot stop denying even after he has been proved wrong by the Supreme Court. If all our national political leaders turned out to be as pragmatic as they claim to be, that would be good news indeed. Anger and resentment appear to be playing an increasingly important role in politics, as evidenced by the vociferous opposition to corruption, reaction on the model town report and the rise of the religious Right. The politics of denial presents a compelling explanation of these phenomena, providing solid empirical evidence for the role of rigid, harsh child rearing practices in the creation of punitive, authoritarian adult political attitudes. Political processes in Pakistan are distorted by the unresolved negative emotions such as fear, anger, revenge and denial that remain from punitive parenting, and by the politicians and conservative religious leaders who exploit those emotions. The rise of the rightwing politics today is not just about some pendulum swing, some political correction within a society that has veered slightly off course. Instead, as they so ably argue, what is happening is much deeper and much more significant: The Right is tapping into deep religious and suppressed patterns of anger, social fears, and profound personal guilt. And because so much is being denied, religious discourse about what can be done to change the lives of people is getting volatile with consequential hazards. Denial of the past, damages everyone. The sliding scope of denial in politics, religious extremism, authoritarian politics, and other immediate relevant matters make it indispensable for anyone who wishes to understand life of an ordinary Pakistani. This meaningless and provocative politics requires a thoughtful analysis of the impact of unresolved personal issues on public support for dysfunctional, or at least sub-optimal, policies pursued at the governmental level. The majority of the political and religious leaders offer important prescriptions for public ailments that have no remedy for the day to day sufferings of ordinary people. Sadly, dominance in the marketplace of such self-righteous ideas in the recent weeks is having little impact on the intellectual community. This is a powerful time. It shows the disastrous consequences of harsh, physically and emotionally punitive treatment of politicians. In a subtle and convincing way, the political and religious leaders show how mind sets should change toward other groups and their members, toward everybody who is not ‘us’. Their behaviour as leaders, as citizens of their country, and participants in its political life, is profoundly disturbing. Milburn and Conrad have written a very interesting book about the force of denial in our lives and our politics. They range over their field of study, from war to child rearing, offering new and often compelling insights into the role of denial in the way we see and understand ourselves. There are two kinds of denial. The traditional kind involves a conscious lie, as when a child denies he cheated in the exams, or the husband denies he was busy at work. We expect this kind of denial. It is as old as the world. The other, modern kind of denial getting popularised is a symptom of angry politicians. It manifests as a willful negation of reality motivated by an overwhelming desire for something that is true to not be true. The ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has conveniently borrowed this concept of denial while grappling with the inevitability of exit from the power politics and discussing remarks over the ongoing accountability process against him and his family. Denial can be a good or at least necessary thing, if it is part of a process that leads to acceptance. It can also be extremely dangerous. During the Holocaust, thousands of people may have been saved had the news of what was going on in the concentration camps not been met with the insistent denial. Modern denial goes hand in hand with fantasy thinking. Forty years ago, General Ziaul Haq catered to this expertly. A willingness to believe in supply-side military economics, with its miraculous formula of running a proxy war with the Mujahidin. He lived with the denial and was able to convince majority of people that through his Afghan policy he had brought glory to Islam. The rise of the rightwing politics today is not just about some pendulum swing, some political correction within a society that has veered slightly off course. Instead, as they so ably argue, what is happening is much deeper and much more significant: The Right is tapping into deep religious and suppressed patterns of anger, social fears, and profound personal guilt Now we have Nawaz Sharif, his family and close relatives. Denying inconvenient truths has morphed into an upside-down world where facts are considered subjective perceptions. Nawaz Sharif believes that cases against him and his family are being fabricated and that the Panama Papers case verdict has become a source of embarrassment for the nation. Dinosaurs roamed with Adam and Eve because we want to believe they did. Global warming is a hoax because we cannot handle what it would mean if it were real. Extremism is not an issue in universities because we really do not know how to deal with it. The desire for certain things to be true has assumed the status of truth itself. Facts are stubborn things. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. A huge counsel of wise men, led by the PML-N league noise machine, has found the solution to facts. Ignore them. Create your own alternative set. Hammer these neo-facts with enough vigor and they will become as good as the real thing. Those of us in the reality-based world are confronted with a new paradigm; a government that has decided that what they need to believe determines what is true, not that what is true determines what they believe. In the face of this, we have to accept that reasoning with them is pointless. Rational arguments are about as effective against the government as reading The Big Book to a child who has ear phones plugged to a video game. Politics is in crisis, and the leaders deep in denial. The trajectory of its relative decline right now seems set with the leaders in denial of its economic challenges and suffering a malaise in its political decision-making, signalling that a country that cannot recognise its problems is far from finding their solution. A culture of compliance, the decline of self-reliance, the belief that democracy is under threat, and a political system that bids for votes by promising government cannot solve any problems. Our politics is noisy, destructive and consumed by self-interest, and we have lost the art of collective self-improvement. The writer is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at Shifa International Hospital Islamabad Published in Daily Times, December 12th 2017.