Narrative construction through literal extremes: Is it healthy in a democracy?

Pakistan is currently facing a plethora of issues ranging from political discord to an existential economic crisis. Consequently, society as a whole is experiencing political polarisation at an extreme level. This polarisation has injected a sense of fear and hatred among the masses toward other fellows supporting a different political party or leader. The analysis of the three mainstream parties, PPP, PML(N), and PTI, reveals that the discourse used by them for the narrative construction among the masses has played a critical role in the present-day polarisation of society. Predominantly, one can say that this approach by the leading political parties has badly affected the political consciousness of the common person. The building of narratives is not prohibited in political culture, but it has been underrated through oversimplification in Pakistan by binarism against political opponents.

The use of literal extremes in constructing a narrative can be a powerful tool for persuasion, but it is not necessarily healthy in a democracy. In fact, it can be detrimental to the functioning of a democratic society. When constructing a narrative through literal extremes, one often relies on exaggeration, hyperbole, and oversimplification to create a compelling and emotional story. This can lead to a distortion of the facts and a narrowing of the discourse, as it reduces complex issues to black-and-white dichotomies. Pakistan experiences exactly this type of narrative construction that has led to the point where the optics of only extremes (black or white) shape the outcome of political conduct in a country.

The use of literal extremes in constructing a narrative can be a powerful tool for persuasion, but it is not necessarily healthy in a democracy.

Therefore, what has been achieved by this approach to narrative-building so far in Pakistan through literal extremes is that, firstly, it has been effective in accomplishing short-term political goals, where each party has tried to keep its voters in contact with its narrative no matter what it is saying. Eventually, it has not served the long-term stability and health of democracy; rather, Pakistani democracy has become a tug-of-war between institutions. The leading political parties and their leaders have not strived for a more nuanced and inclusive narrative that acknowledges the complexity of issues like the economy, food security, pollution control, and effects of climate change, nor fostered dialogue on issues like provincial harmony and understanding among diverse perspectives.

The uncertain nature of political compromise among the stakeholders has resulted from the increasingly extreme and divisive nature of political discourse in Pakistan. It has undermined the foundation of democracy by alienating and marginalising certain groups of people, like minorities and different ethnicities, and leading to a breakdown of trust and cooperation among citizens. Furthermore, literal extremes have led to an erosion of civil discourse and a culture of intolerance and aggression, ultimately threatening democratic values such as freedom of speech and the rule of law in Pakistan.

The use of literal extremes in constructing political narratives in Pakistan’s current political crisis has harmed democracy. It is essential that political leaders and media outlets prioritise responsible language use and promote a culture of dialogue and cooperation to ensure the continued state of democracy in the country.

This increasing polarisation has become more relevant in the backdrop of a complex and diverse political landscape in Pakistan, with multiple political parties and factions representing various interests and ideologies ranging from the role of caste, ethnicity, and provincial inclination, all working at the same time. The use of literal extremes is a common tactic used by politicians to appeal to their base and discredit their opponents as per their own myopic approach.

All political parties are responsible for using particular words to frame public opinion in one particular direction for their short-term political goals. The dominant literal extreme in Pakistani politics is used by politicians to label their opponents as “traitors” or “enemies of the state.” This kind of language is often used to discredit opponents, stir up nationalist sentiments, and mobilise supporters. In addition to it, the rhetoric of “foreign agent” is also very popular among them. Over the last few years, such quoted examples have remained influential in shaping the minds of the masses. As a result of this practice, Pakistan has reached a point where political dialogue and compromise seem poles apart, leaving society in a whirlwind of polarisation.

The use of literal extremes in the current political discourse of Pakistan is a complex issue with negative implications at large. While such rhetoric can be used to mobilise supporters and articulate a clear message on a broad range of issues, it has contributed otherwise in Pakistan by making the country divisive by promoting the culture of political intolerance.

In a healthy democracy, it is important to have a diverse range of perspectives and a robust exchange of ideas. In order to maintain a strong democracy, it is important for political leaders and media outlets to refrain from using literal extremes to construct political narratives and instead promote a culture of dialogue and cooperation. This can be achieved through the responsible use of language, avoiding hate speech and incitement to violence, and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity.

Dr. Tauseef Javed

Tauseef Javed works at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) as a Research Associate. He has completed his Ph.D. from Fujian Normal University in Fuzhou, China. His research focuses on US economic aid policy toward Pakistan, international relations, history, and area studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. He can be reached at

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