The other day, I had some free time on hand. Browsing aimlessly on the internet, a link to the Election Commission of Pakistan website presented itself and I, for reasons unknown, clicked on it. There was a link of code of conduct for elections. That intrigued me and I decided to read through more than 40 salient points in the document.

I have to say, that was an interesting read. There were points on even the sizes of promotional material candidates have to use. There was a point which particularly caught my attention.

1. Criticism of other political parties and opponent candidates shall be confined to their policies and programmes, past record and work. Parties and candidates shall refrain from criticism of any aspect of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties. Criticism based on unverified allegations and distortion of facts shall be avoided.

I have always been an admirer of US politics. And the thing which really attracts me is their tradition of Presidential debate. If I am not mistaken, the presidential candidates are to have at least two debates face to face in front of a live audience. They are usually on the topics of foreign affairs or defense policies, agreed by the candidates. In this debate, they try to tell the audience of why did they formulate such a policy and where the contestants policy lacks.

Unfortunately, that’s what I think is lacking in our political discourse. The deliberations and comparisons of policies of the parties. We are still in the phase of personality based politics. Our voters are not comparing or even considering policies, but vote for faces.

That is why, if we look at our political discussions, our political activists are not debating policies, but debating people of other parties. Thus, I believe violating the above mentioned code.

I mean I do not need to go in detail on what kind of heinous, baseless accusations are levelled against candidates, especially their personal lives during and after elections. This has to stop. If we have to mature as a nation and democracy, we have to think of policies and not what is in the closets.

I don’t want to sound as a very fine human being as I am sure at some point in time I would have done the same too. But the point behind writing this blog is just to take the first step towards a more disciplined and tolerant Pakistan.