Two kinds of discursive patterns are currently dominating the social and discursive sphere of the country. One, coming from Nawaz Sharif and his compatriots, is situated in the fancy language of protecting the democracy and securing respect for vote and is juxtaposed against undemocratic forces who have been accused of continuous interference in the political spectrum of the country. The other, flowing from the old reservoir of the language of identity, with ‘Islam’ and ‘hostility to India’ as its essential components, is continued to inform the shared cognitive codes. The terrain of state enables different power centres to contest for the suitable arrangement of social and discursive spheres. Multiple authorities seek to control language and discourses of identity within narrow and inherently unstable parameters. These discursive structures, grounded in the language of identity and sanctioned by the power relations, then draw lines of exclusion and inclusion and define what is legitimate and what is not and persuade a gullible public to think and act in a specific way.In Pakistan, the dominant discourse has always been extracted from the language of identity. Throughout the history, power relations in the country have used the strategy of ‘discursive othering’ to sustain their hegemonic position. In the 1950s and 60s, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy and other stakeholders from Bengal tried to challenge the dominant discourse as a source of an impractical vision of pan-Islamism. To avert that resistance through intelligent manipulation of discourses, Suhrawardy was linked with “Hindu India”, was declared a ‘traitor’, thrown out of the Muslim League and debarred from entering the country. In one such attempt to relate Bengali Nationalist with Hindu India, Ayub Khan quoted:In the Foucauldian understanding of the interplay of power and discourses, interpretation of capricious political events serves as a pretext to relate and articulate the identity-based representation of any political actor“East Bengali, who constitute the bulk of the population (of Pakistan), probably belong to the very original Indian races. It would be no exaggeration to say that up to the creation of Pakistan, they had not known any real freedom or sovereignty. They have been in turn ruled by the caste Hindus, Moghuls, Pathans or the British. In addition, they have been and still are under considerable Hindu cultural and linguistic influence”. ‘Discursive othering’ continued to play its part in Pakistani politics during the elections of 1965 when Fatima Jinnah decided to challenge Ayub’s position. At that time, the popular discursive realm was infused with the rhetoric that labelled Fatima Jinnah as an anti-Pakistan force.Nothing has changed since then. The discourse of identity still serves the purpose of institutionalised power relations. Only the faces of actors involved in the game have changed. With elections approaching, internal strife of discourses is underway in the country. In this context, the anti-Nawaz Sharif forces are capitalising on two pillars of identity — Islam and hostility to India. Considering the on-going clash of competing for discursive positions, two events and their interpretations coming from different power centres are very crucial. These two events include a) execution of Mumtaz Qadri and b) issue of the controversial text of the declaration of the finality of Prophet-hood in the constitutional amendment regarding election reforms.The execution of Mumtaz Qadri was interpreted as an effort on the part of Nawaz Sharif and company to appease the western world and to reconfigure country’s outlook on liberal and secular lines for certain vested interests. These meanings were effectively socialised through the platform of TLYR (Tehreek e Labbaik Ya Rasul Allah) that evolved into a political party after Qadri was hanged. This party has proved its significant presence in Punjab, particularly in its rural centres. Posters of TLYR can be found after every hundred metres alongside GT road. Given the circumstances, it can justifiably be argued that TLYR is likely to offer major resistance to PML-N in coming elections.Adding to this, the episode of the passing of bill from National Assembly that rephrased the declaration of Khatm-e-Nabuwat further enraged the credulous public against the government. Despite the fact that the change has been reversed and law minister resigned, religious elite, backed by the forces of the establishment, remain successful in keeping it as a part of the collective memory of the society. It is well operationalised to guide people to act in a particular manner. Assassination bid on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal can be understood as an outcome of this established discourse that excludes Nawaz Sharif and his compatriots as perpetrators of un-Islamic legislation.The other half of this discourse, driven by the anti-Nawaz Sharif forces, is aligned with the second component of country’s identity — hostility to India. Since the onset of civil-military rift under this government, the establishment has relied on this card. Be it Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India, Modi’s visit to Pakistan or Jindal’s reported visit to Murree, all these events were intelligently incorporated into the dominant discursive realm as components of Sharif’s effort to seek peace with India while ignoring Kashmir issue and India’s destabilising role in different parts of the country. This discursive position was further strengthened by the distorting reporting of Sharif’s statement regarding Mumbai attacks. Following which, a whole debate started over the question of Sharif being traitor or not.On the other hand, Sharif’s stance of civilian supremacy is fraught with some factual inconsistencies and inherent contradictions. The party is now divided on the question of going into elections with this rhetoric or not. Shahbaz Sharif’s faction of the party certainly wants to pitch the election as a choice between provincial governance records in Punjab, KP and Sindh rather than making it as a battle between Nawaz Sharif and establishment. Besides this, discerning the contemporary scenario, electable are now looking towards other options moving away from NS camp.Given these circumstances, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to identify the discourse which is likely to dominate the social and discursive sphere of the country due to its immediate association with institutionalised power relations.The writer is a student of Department of International Relations, NDU, IslamabadPublished in Daily Times, May 28th 2018.