Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Blaming The Victims: My Response To Mosharraf Zaidi

I have to say, I was fairly disturbed when I read Mosharraf Zaidi's latest op-ed in The News. Maybe I take things too seriously, but I honestly couldn't sleep for about half an hour because it angered me so much.

Now, before I actually explain why this is the case, I want to say that I really like Mosharraf as a writer. This isn't a standard boilerplate "I respect you but.." qualification; I genuinely admire his views and ability to articulate them. Moreover, Mosharraf and I are good friends, and we go wayyyy back. I first met Mosharraf when I was just 13 years old and he was a university student -- him and my eldest brother were great friends and college roommates at LUMS. He's actually probably the only person in the world to have been well-rounded enough to be able to get along with each of the three brothers in our family; the eldest (a CEO), the middle one, no longer with us (an artist), and me (a fraud academic). My parents have treated him like a son, and I consider him an elder brother. Which is why it's easy for me to say that this op-ed was rubbish and full of dangerous false equivalences that I found genuinely offensive.

In Mosharraf's view, liberal and progressive Pakistanis haven't done enough to be engaged in Pakistani politics, and have ceded space to the the more hardline elements of our society. As a consequence, we have been complicit in things like the anti-Ahmedi discriminatory legislation that was at the root of last week's massacre. In essence, liberals -- to borrow the Bush/Obama administrations' favorite catch-phrase -- need to "do more". This is the central message of Mosharraf's piece; he writes
As children of Jinnah’s Pakistan, perhaps aspiring liberals and progressives need to start to ask questions about the nature of our citizenship, the nature of our engagement, and the nature of our politics within the broader canvas of realpolitik in Pakistan.

My rejoinder would be: really? You don't think that's what liberals have been doing since forever? We've been asking questions about the nature of citizenship, the nature of engagement, and the nature of our politics for a long time. The problem, you see, is that we've received answers to those very questions, and they're not pretty.

The simple fact is that today's Pakistan (or yesterday's for that matter, but definitely today's) has no space for liberals or liberal ideas. None. If progressives got rounded up and shot tomorrow, the country wouldn't blink, and it wouldn't miss us. Why? Because we don't matter. Why don't we matter? Number one, because we speak inconvenient truths, that people would rather ignore; number two, because there's not enough of us; and number three, because we don't use guns and riots to get across our points of view.

Let's start with number one. Liberals have been on the right side of Pakistan's history, always. When it comes to the big issues of the day, we've been right. I'm sorry if this sounds pig-headed, but it's true, and I'm not going to hide behind false modesty to mask what should be patently obvious to everyone. Liberals were the only ones who questioned our Kashmir policy in the 1990s (before it came back to bite us in the ass). Liberals were the only ones who raised problems with the Talibanization of our society and foreign policy (before it came back to bite us in the ass). Liberals were the only ones to talk about Hudood laws and rape laws and blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmedi laws (before Mukhataran Mai, and before the assorted episodes of violence that engulf our helpless minorities every three or four weeks). Liberals are the only ones who regularly speak up for women's equality, and for the freedom of press, thought and religion. Let me say that again: the only ones, again and again. On all of these issues, we are joined in tactical alliances every now and then, but as a matter or principle and long-term strategy, only liberals espouse these views. And we've been right each and every time.

The problem is that there aren't nearly enough of us for this to matter. There are a few scattered in the blogosphere and Twitterverse, and a couple of columnists for Dawn, and the Daily Times editorial board, but that's it. There are, functionally speaking, no liberals in Pakistan. Oh, there's plenty of scotch-drinking social liberals (think Salman Taseer). But liberalism and progressivism is not about drinking scotch or wearing jeans. Liberalism is about equality and freedom and personal choice and rationality and the privileging of the individual, and no one believes in those things.

Now, even that wouldn't matter if liberals borrowed from the Mullahs and amplified our true power by rioting, using violence and threats and intimidation to get our points across, but we don't do that because of another core liberal tenet: the abhorrence of coercion. As a consequence, our actual power reflects our actual numbers, both of which are small.

So when Mosharraf writes that
A transformed political landscape is a long-term project. Without substantially more grounded and active participation of Pakistani liberals in mainstream politics, it has no chance of fruition.

I would say "Yeah, buddy, we've tried. And you know what? We've been told to fuck off." Pakistan has no space for liberals; despite being involved in the process to the extent that we can, we are marginalized. More than that, we are actively treated to unmitigated hostility, accused of being traitorous, foreign agents, overly Westernized, and not "true" Pakistanis/Muslims. I wrote a post a while back which contained some of the hate mail Nadeem F. Paracha, one of the true liberals in Pakistani society, got. This is what happens when liberals try to "actively participate" in mainstream politics:
Example one: ‘Dear Mr. Paracha, there is now no doubt that you are working for the CIA. You should be ashamed of defending Zionist lobbying and America. You should be kicked out of Pakistan and sent to Israel.’

Example two: ‘Paracha, how can you be a journalist and have such a big house? The answer is simple: You are CIA funded journalist.’

Example three: ‘Paracha, Zaid Hamid slapped you left, right and centre on the show, you pseudo-intellectual. There is no shortage of people like you in Pakistan. People like you have occupied important positions in our society and are given 90-95 per cent of media coverage. We are with Zaid Hamid and inshallah we will succeed.’

Example four: ‘NFP, you are a slave to the west and working against the interests of Pakistan by attacking patriots like Zaid Hamid. It is clear you and the newspaper you write for is being funded by Israeli and Indian agencies. Better shape up or we will ship you out.’

Example five: ‘Paracha Sahib, you have been trying to propagate your Yahoodi [Jewish], Hindu and Christian masters’ rotten and obsolete ideas of ‘freedom’ and ‘secular liberalism’ and kafirana [heretical] Socialism. But people like Zaid Hamid will never let Godless men like you succeed.’

While I get less of this than someone as well-known as NFP, please read through the comments on these two posts to gauge the type of insults people like me have to deal with consistently. Just look at the sheer viciousness of the things said there. I'm not asking for sympathy; no one is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to blog (which almost naturally implies getting this type of reaction). My point is only to demonstrate how mainstream Pakistani society thinks of people like us.

It's interesting that when I interviewed Mosharraf about 18 months ago, we had this exchange on the place of liberal ideas in our society:
Ahsan: To be self-referential for a second, I also have to take issue with your statement about the stuff being discussed here [Five Rupees] forming public policy debates for the next decade. One thing that is really disheartening for me personally is how far out of the mainstream I exist. The fact that I believe in secularism, and rapprochement with India, and political and diplomatic disengagement with the Arab-Israeli dispute, and a woman's right to marry whomever she chooses without threat of violence or even social shunning, means I'm engaging in conversations that public policy simply isn't concerned with. It's not even on their radar. It's a whole different world. The older I get, the more this is rammed into my head.

Have you read Lipstick Jihad? It's actually pretty decent, despite my low expectations going in. Its subtitle is "A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran". It really captured a lot of my thoughts on the quasi-immigrant experience. I am forever made to feel like an outsider in Pakistan by the Imran Khans and Ayaz Amirs and Talat Hussains and the Urdu op-edders and the America-bashers. My ideas find acceptance nowhere other than my close friends; even much of family thinks of me as some fringe lunatic. And you really should read one or two of the extreme comments we've gotten on this blog.

Mosharraf: On the "mainstream", one thing that I think a lot of privileged middle class young people don't realize is how deep rooted the changes that have taken place in Pakistan really are. I won't go into a list, but some of the fundamental assumptions about Pakistan are actually begging to be corrected. Pakistan is now an urban country, not rural. If there's a half-decent census (not possible in the current atmosphere) you'll see the urban share of the population has gone past 40%. Then consider that the current definitions don't really account for extended metropolises and peri-urban areas. Then consider that if you can get cable, and have a highway nearby (that's virtually all of the Punjab save three to five districts, out of 35) then how "rural" really are you? Point. The mainstream in Pakistan is not what it used to be. Syeda Abida Hussein said horrible things about middle class Pakistanis in an interview with the Wall Street Journal before the election. One generation ago, that was not news. Now it is. She's over as a political entity. Her ilk is near extinction as well. Two more election cycles and all this will be more obvious than it is right now. It might not even take a full ten years.

The things you beleive in are not a unique set of ideas, much as they might seem to be from reading the newspaper and watching television. They are more mainstream than the regressive politics that dominates the national landscape.

Looking back now, I'm sure even Mosharraf would be embarrassed by that last sentence. How can something be "more mainstream" than something else that "dominates the national landscape"? By definition, if something dominates the landscape, it's mainstream. And leaving aside the quote itself, does anyone seriously think the ideas I mentioned above are mainstream? Please. Go to Pkpolitics.com and figure it out for yourself.

No, sir, there is no place for liberals in Pakistan. Think about it: why does Hamid Mir still have a job? Why are banners saying "Yahoodi Eesai Mirzai Islam key dushman hain [Jews, Christians and Ahmedis are the enemies of Islam]" allowed to be hung up outside the Lahore High Court building? Why does our urban elite have a different set of standards for its daughters than its sons when it comes to going abroad for their education? Why do honor killings take place? Why has there been no serious attempt at land reform in this country in sixty years? Liberal ideas are mainstream? Are you kidding me? If liberal ideas were even remotely mainstream, we would have adequate political representation. It's almost a natural law of politics: if there's enough of you, someone will stand up for you. But there are no liberal/progressive mainstream political parties in Pakistan. The closest that we have is the MQM, and Lord knows they have issues that make liberals uncomfortable.

So when liberals try to spread our ideas, we are ignored or spat upon. What's the solution, according to Mosharraf? Here's another snippet from his op-ed:
Asking questions about how to improve the rate of success of liberal causes in Pakistan requires us to take a break from mullah-bashing, and introspect...We are too self-conscious as a nation. Too beholden to mullahs on the one hand, and too dislocated from our own culture and context on the other.

Let me translate that into plain English. "Liberals, stop believing the things you believe. Try to appeal to the Mullahs and the hallowed "middle ground". You're too extreme for your own good. Dial it down a notch, and you might get people to pay attention." If this sounds familiar, it should. It's what Mosharraf's namesake (with a different spelling, to be fair) always went on about. "Enlightened moderation", which lumped the hardline and terrorist right wing of this country with "liberal extremists", a false equivalence so singularly offensive that it leaves me speechless.

No, Mosharraf, we're part of the solution. Always have been. They're part of the problem. Always have been. That Pakistan and Pakistanis choose to ignore this fact is a tragedy, because we liberals have to share the country with those who (stupidly) think we're wrong. We have to live with the consequences of their idiocy, bigotry, racism, and violence, and we need to change the way we interact with the body politic of Pakistan? Right.

This is how Mosharraf closes his piece:
The most important tribute we can pay to those that were slaughtered by the TTP in Lahore is to formulate and execute a transparent and comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Anything less would be a continuation of the failed politics of Pakistani liberals, and the unchallenged run of success enjoyed by Pakistani fanatics.

Hmmm. Formulate and execute a transparent and comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy? You know who's been demanding that for the better part of two decades? Liberals. We've been talking about the dangers of militancy for a long, long time -- well before 9/11. That no one bothers listening is not an indictment of the "failed politics of Pakistani liberals". It's an indictment of everyone else.

If mainstream Pakistan wants to ignore us, fine, that's their prerogative. But don't blame us when shit goes bad. In other words, don't blame the victim for the crime. It's bad enough that we have to live with the actual criminals.

35 comments:

Umair J said...

I don't want to interfere in this debate since it's clearly between you and Mosharraf, but just a couple of things on why i do believe liberal discourse, while well-meaning, does suffer from dislocation.

1) Liberalism's universality is a myth. You can pick and choose the ideas that you like best, but their applicability to societies which have fundamentally different historical contexts has always been non-viable. Liberalism arose out of specific contingencies in Western history. It has evolved over 400 years through the process of the church-state split and then via the subsequent philosophical discourse of enlightenment thought. It APPEARS to be universal because it has been conjoined with the spread of capitalism, especially in the post-cold war era.

2) Non-Western societies are organized around principles of community and identity as opposed to the places which can now be characterized as liberal societies. They also underwent colonialism, which is the single largest factor responsible for crystallizing identity and communitarianism across the world.

3) Liberalism developed as an outcome of class-conflict (either through electoral politics or through revolutionary struggle). Genuine class conflict has rarely emerged in Pakistan, thus reifying non-liberal modes of social organization and state-craft.

4) Liberals in Pakistan (the socio-political ones) are too few in numbers and on top of that have always been confrontational of religion in this country. That, in my view, remains the most dislocated aspect of liberal discourse in Pakistan. As opposed to engagement that treats people on level terms, liberals talk about change that should be brought on from the top to free the 'herds', convert them all into free-thinking individualized, rational human beings. Not to suggest that you say this Ahsan, but some of the conversations that i've had with liberals, makes their rhetoric seem almost colonial in nature.

Umair J said...

5) Modernization hasn't helped at all. With scarce resources, expediency is the modus operandi when it comes to obtaining a piece of the pie. Hence further creating a disjunct between the ideal of individualism and the reality of identity based collectivism.

6) The middle class debate is something i feel very strongly about. I never had any expectations from the middle class to begin with. Barring a few exceptions most of them have been at the front-line defending illiberal discourse in this country throughout the last 30 years.

7) Liberal dislocation has been very stark when it comes to dealing with issues of the rural and urban working classes. They've largely ignored them as political variables, content to think of them as part of the larger 'herd' caught up in the traditional hangovers of biraderis and ethnicity.

Keeping all this to one side, i have to point out that the state has been instrumental in sidelining all forms of progressive discourse in this country. Not just because illiberal people have been at the helm of the country, but because society is simply illiberal in its very composition.

Is there a way out of it? Realistically: no. Why? Because i've said this on a number of occasions, urbanization has gone hand in hand with conservatism (both religious and ethno-national). Civil society space has been completely crowded out by the likes of the Jamaat and the PML. The MQM are not a liberal party by any basic definition. Their basis, while overlapping with class, was firmly entrenched in the politics of community identity. To me they represent another form of non-liberal politics. We have to remember that liberalism is not just secularism. It's about a 1001 different things out of which keeping religion away is just one aspect. As long as space below the state remains the jagir of these sorts, no liberal/progressive discourse can emerge in this country.

Being a text-book liberal in a country like Pakistan is not hard, its virtually impossible.

(oh and abhorrence of coercion is not a liberal tenet. Kant suggested liberal warfare for his idea of obtaining a universally peaceful world order)

Ahsan said...

Umair: 1. I never claimed liberalism was universal.

2. You're assuming only non-Western societies udnerwent colonialism. Everything west of the Atlantic was once a colony. The US, Canada, Latin America.

3. Maybe. But it seems to me that there is more than one route to liberalism. Moreover, I'm not even talking about having a liberal order in Pakistan (a pipe dream if there ever was one). I'm taking about a seat at the table, much less ambitious.

4. Well then the people you're talking about aren't liberals. Like I said, liberalism is about personal freedom. "Converting" people is the antithesis of liberalism.

5. Okay, but why is that identity religion based? Why not on the basis of creed?

6. Yes, I agree completely. I always felt this whole lawyers movement/middle class thing is as pernicious as any other major movement in the country.

7. Hmm, yes, I think you're right.

I agree that being a liberal in Pakistan is impossible; it was largely my point. And just because Kant said something doesn't make it liberal.

Mosharraf Zaidi said...

I would have been more inclined to provide a detailed, point-by-point response perhaps if I wasn't already smarting from being placed at the mercy of Sajid Mir of the Ahle Hadith Pakistani Salafists on Geo News last night. Mir was upset that people like me have no regard for Pakistan's izzat, and went on to say that Friday's massacre was conducted by foreigners, who also happen to be my maddoheen, i.e. Mir explicitly said that I am a foreign collaborator.

Now, I have one of the smartest young political scientists in Pakistan citing NFP as beacon of Pakistani liberalism?

I like a good stand-up comedy show once in a while, but two whoppers in less than 12 hours is, even for me, maybe a bit too much to take.

Being called an American stooge, Zardari-lover, Sharif-lover, CIA, Mossad, RAW and my favourite, an establishment hack, doesn't take much. One offending paragraph will do. So somehow having a sense of superiority because a bunch of idiots get offended by your views isn't the sole proprietorship of Pakistan's "liberal icons". Its actually pretty common, and meaningless.

Luckily, I don't deal in outrage. Its irrational and not a good ingredient for someone interested in improved public discourse.

I stand by both my critique of Pakistani liberals, and my optimism for Pakistan's future.

Umair J said...

Ahsan:

1) My point on universalism stems from the argument that individual-free thinking-rational societies can be created anywhere.

2) Settler colonies that involved the mass purge of indigenous communities vs colonies that underwent direct/indirect colonial rule through intermediaries are essentially different. I don't want to get into this very boring debate but suffice to say Africa + Asia experienced a very different form of colonialism than the countries west of the Atlantic. And almost every country in Latin America has had the luxury of going though class-based revolutions (something that leads to a breaking down of traditional orders)

5) Identity is religion (Jamaat/JUI) + ethnic (PPP/MQM/PML/ANP) + caste based (PPP/PML) + Linguistic (PPP) + a host of whatever people believe in and whatever the establishment allows. Yaar, in Punjab people mobilize around things like this village lies on the 'other' side of the river hence it's inhabitants should not be interacted with.


That point on Kant was just a silly thing i had to write because non-violence is not intrinsic to liberalism. It's intrinsic to nothing except non-violent discourse itself.

Finally, if you think there are more routes towards liberalism, then that is what should be articulated. I don't know the difference between location and dislocation in Mosharraf's framework, but to me real change (that seat at the table you talk about) can only come through alternative narratives which can work in our limited political space.

Informed liberals are a rarity in our country. Any voice that goes against the mainstream rubbish that we have now is a minuscule step in the right direction

(sorry for the over the top eagerness on this post. its just something iv been debating for a very long time with just far too many people...and i find the debate very interesting theoretically)

Rabia said...

here's another issue - the Pakistani socially liberal elite has been (some may argue out of necessity) with very exceptions, illiberal in its political preferences.

One could argue that the success of grassroots political empowerment movements like the majlis-e-ahrar, the khatm-e-nabuwat movement, sipah-e-sahaba, etc, was a direct result of the vacuum left by the liberal elite's unwillingness to engage with the public, i.e. it's support of dictatorship and politics of patronage of feudals at the local level.

now you can point out the tiny group of social liberals who were also politically liberal but most of them belonged to the smaller provinces and didn't buy the state ideology to begin with - such as the Khan brothers or Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo suffered persecution at the hands of the nationalist 'liberals'.

so basically you have a situation in which we have the complete failure of the liberal elite to give a shit about popular politics for 63 years and then it's upset that the public space has been overtaken by undesirable elements. Not only that, but it only notices this at times of national embarrassment like the garhi shahu/model town massacre. MZ's column could have been called the failure of aligarh islam, anyway that's the way i understood it - although like you i disagree with his prescription of counter terrorism preceding ideological debate.

imbelyti said...

GO MOSHARRAF GO!!

JJ said...

To what extent are these issues related to language? My reading list is limited but I often wonder if our national and regional languages lack the capacity to be politically correct and objective. I don't follow regional media but in the Urdu press I have noticed an increasing tendency to not differentiate between fact and opinion. As a result there is only a very limited tendency among viewers and readers to question and analyse.

Rabayl said...

Let me see if I have this right. You're making the following two claims, yes?

a) Liberals in Pakistan are the biggest victims/losers.

b) Liberals have been right about everything in Pakistan's political history.

As an academic, do you not see the inherent fallacy in those statements?

Also, there's marked class and education bias in your post (in the sense that one can only afford a liberal worldview if one has had the opportunity to have that education and training which the subaltern in Pakistan have been historically denied).

Sakib Ahmad said...

I first came to this blog some months ago but I didn't stay long. The air of self-conscious superiority that pervades here was suffocating and I had to leave to breathe in fresh air. I have come here a second time in response to the standard e-mail circulated by Pak Blogging.

Ahsan and some other people here are too quick to apply the label "liberal" to ideas which may simply be described as common sense. My impression is that these "highly educated" people are more cut off from ordinary Pakistanis than I who lives thousands of miles away. I will refrain from analysing what I think is wrong with Pakistani "liberals" but I'll just copy from some comments that Chris Cork made yesterday and those I made in reply.

Chris Cork:
"Those of us that write in the English Language press are kidding ourselves if we think we are really making a difference. We are coralled, because the real power of the written word in Pakistan lies in the Urdu and other languages press. Is the establishment concerned with what we have to say? Of course not – we are speaking to a powerless minority of English speakers and readers. Now if us moderates could get ourselves into print in the Urdu press, to raise our heads above the parapet there, then perhaps complicity might be effectively challenged. As it is, we are little more than polite chatter in the corner of the drawing room."

Me:
"You are spot on. People ...... are interested only in winning kudos from the Americans and the British. These fake humanists shed crocodile tears and write stirring articles against “terrorism” and in favour of the USA’s “war on terror” just so they can bask in the glow of warm words from their foreign patrons.

If they really cared for their fellow Pakistanis they would be writing in the Urdu press and raising the awareness of the ignorant masses. They have no time for that. They grow rich on the corrupt lifestyle that they have perpetuated in Pakistan and they are quite content to lead lazy, self-indulgent lives, dashing off articles in a foreign language now and then."

So, Ahsan Mian, each time you write something, do stop looking over your shoulder for approbation from your American and British liberal friends. Write something genuine for your own people, not for the sound of hand claps from foreigners.

You might like to read this article on the position of Urdu in Pakistan:

http://sakibahmad.blogspot.com/2010/01/punjab-governments-own-goal.html

Salman Latif said...

I think Mosharraf's quite right in asserting that liberals have played but a futile role in the mainstream society in Pakistan, generally. Have drawing-room talks of exalted ideals and penning notions that barely a fraction of a percent of this population can entirely comprehend, can barely be called mainstream.
If you talk about mainstream liberals, the first thing that shall come to my mind is the likes of Habib Jalib. Even when his poetry was not as directly viciously in favor of liberalism, as many of our Op-Eds are, he made a grand impact. The reason, as the comment above stated, is obvious. The social mindset around here draws its inspirations from the likes of Dr. Shahid, Hamid Mir and co. Urdu is the deal! We may feel well-responded-to when doing our pieces online but the truth is that it attracts a very limited audience.
It is one of the reasons why I actively supported Dawn's going half-Urdu. Unfortunately, Dawn has thus far failed to yield any significant results which, I feel, seems to be coming off a poor management of the channel.

Finally, even when liberals have not been out there, the digital age is gradually lending their online presence some credibility. Zaid Hamid's stardom has diminished greatly in recent times and I believe that's because many liberals actively condemned the hate-speech he was spewing on-screen. Not only that, the other perspective on FB ban was at least heard on the national circuit, if not very closely heeded. This means that the liberals are gradually starting to make a difference. Nevertheless, their remains a need for us to be more practical and out in the open. Again, I shall cite Habib Jalib as an example.

Anonymous said...

Ahsan will never take it back. Never! :P

Ahsan said...

Rabia: I think that's a very accurate assessment. It really pisses me off when people equate social liberalism to political liberalism. Very, very few of our social liberals are political liberals.

JJ: Well language itself has nothing to do with it, but you're right, the Urdu press (some of it anyway) tends to be nuttier.

Rabayl: I don't see the fallacy, maybe you can point it out for me? And on the other thing, I disagree strongly. I don't think being educated has much to do with being a liberal; if it did, our educated classes wouldn't be so conservative (indeed, more conservative in a lot of aspects than lower classes).

Sakib: What a truly asinine and ignorant comment. Don't pretend to know me, and don't pretend to know why I write. I don't write to "make a difference" because that would be foolish. I don't write for "American and British" liberals, because that too would be foolish. Most of our readership is Pakistani, and I'm not here for anyone's approval. I write what I believe, and if people have a problem with the argument, they should take it on. But I have little patience for comments like yours.

The only place I would agree with you is that many of the implications of liberalism overlap with "common sense" (countering Rabayl's point above about having to be educated to have this view). Sad, then, that it's so uncommon.

Salman Latif: I have my doubts that liberals can make a difference today, irrespective of the medium. I mean, the online presence in Pakistan is TINY...people don't read newspapers much less stuff on the net.

Anonymous said...

Kya paad maari hei Ahsaan bhai.. bahut door tak jaayegi..

Bismillah.. lage raho

Bubs said...

Rabayl,

In expecting an academic to see an inherent fallacy in his arguments, you too are guilty of a marked education bias. Surely people without a formal education are equally capable of realizing their reasoning is incorrect.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion...

I personally like liberal ideas but dislike "liberals" because of their "holier than thou" attitude. I think one of the reason majority don't listen to liberals is due to their "outsider" image (maybe self perpetuated). Then there is an aspect of incentive; no liberal has any incentive to work at grass root level and sacrifice so many "good" things in life; whereas right has a very powerful incentive to get all those "good" things in life as a bounty.

a_known_mouse said...

I remember reading a report on democracy in the muslim world in the economist and I paraphrase:

In the muslim world, where genuine opposition exists it tends to be fatally split between Islamist movements on one hand and, on the other, secular parties that fear the Islamists more than they dislike the status quo themselves.

Anonymous said...

Masterpiece. I will print it, frame it and hang it on my bedroom wall.

One Upper said...

@Anonymous, I will actually masturbate to it every night before going to bed!

Danish said...

I'm not clear about what several posts here mean by "liberal" and "moderate". Furthermore, I am not sure I know what these terms mean in the context of Pakistan in general.

What are the core differences between liberals and conservatives in Pakistan?

Is it simply about personal freedoms?

Is it that liberals believe in a larger role for government?

Is it that conservatives are more "religious"?

Is it that the conservatives favor the status quo and liberals want to bring about change?

Or is "liberal" simply a term for the educated, western elite?

I really would like to see a short list of what it means to be a liberal as discussed here. (no rhetoric)

I think it is potentially dangerous to use a loaded (even in the West) term to identify a group of people with allegedly common political views on Pakistan. It is too easy to brand these people as "Amreeka ka tattoo" I think change will have to come from a perceived (whether real or not) Pakistani viewpoint.

naveed said...

@Ahsan

I agree with you. Very tough in today's Pakistan to be a man with the ideas that you voice. However these ideas are not new and many of these are innate to Islam and to the Sufi traditions of Pakistan. It would be a shame not to revive these and perhaps the best way to deliver them is something that you should reflect upon. Someone sighted Habib Jalib. Bulleh Shah also comes to mind. Any good at urdu/punjabi poetry? :)

Sakib Ahmad said...

@Anonymous:
Bhari bazm mai.n raaz ki baat keh dii
BaRa bay-adab hoo.n, sazaa chaahta hoo.n!

@Naveed: Not everyone is a poet but most can compose a few coherent sentences. Why not inundate the Urdu press with your ideas? Take care not to sound as - in Danish's phrase - "Amreeka ka tattoo".

@Danish: The word "liberal" is a much maligned term, often used pejoratively. Pakistanis who insist on applying it to themselves have only themselves to blame. In my book, most Pakistani "liberals" are "westernised fascists".

@Ahsan: You might have written something more sensible if you had bothered to read the article - and comments following it - to which I referred. If you would rather bury your head in the sand, it is your choice.

Good Boy said...

Dear Mosharraf Zaidi,
May I say that you, sir, are one of the most confused columnists I have ever come across.
This is fantastic post by Ahsen and I totally agree with him.
The problem with you, sir, is that you seriously consider yourself to be a very smart chap, when the truth is, bhai Mosharraf, you are exactly the kind of cribber that you are accusing the liberals of being.
Bhai jaan, stop being so put off by the fan following and influence of columnists like Fasi Zaka, Irfan Hussain and NFP. You're just not in the same class, mate.
And please, it's a pain when you exhibit sarcasm. Just not your game.
Now, kindly respond to Ahsen's detailed post like a mature and honest gentleman.

naveed said...

@ Sakib Ahmad

"Take care not to sound as - in Danish's phrase - "Amreeka ka tattoo""

Perhaps you may also want to reflect how you come across. There was an air of self conscious superiority in this remark. Any one who does n't sound like the prevailing wisdom in Pakistan is a foreign agent or pleasing a foreign audience and looked at with suspicion. It's not enough to simply say that I don't share your views but it's important to throw abuse and question their sincerity to the country. This sort of mindset is contributing to a suffocating atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

Mushy Zaidi, why do you always make it a point to tell the world that you come on Geo TV?

Are you an idiot? Always thought you were, but this big?

Sakib Ahmad said...

@Naveed: Don't they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery? Are you really unable to understand why the ice cold, airy fairy writings of Pakistan's self-styled liberals are unable to break through the confines of English speaking drawing rooms? Then read the following accounts taken from just ONE newspaper published today, full of warmth and oozing love for Pakistan and its people:

http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jun2010-daily/06-06-2010/col4.htm

http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jun2010-daily/06-06-2010/col9.htm

http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jun2010-daily/06-06-2010/col1.htm

http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jun2010-daily/06-06-2010/col2.htm;

Zubair Torwali said...

The few of us must band together or be damned for ever.

HJ123 said...

I am not as learned as some of the above posters but I do have a few questions for some of the liberals in this country:

1. Why do they bash mullahs (which they rightly should) but conveniently choose to ignore the draconian policies forced upon us by IMF and other financial institutions?

2. Why don't they advocate land reforms with as much vehemence?

3. Why don't they speak for the workers in factories, in farms?

4. Why don't they attack army operations in the North which have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths? Indiscriminate bombing will never stop the Taliban, it will only make them stronger.

5. Why don't they strive for a genuine grassroots democracy? For instance, why don't they go build schools as vigourously as the militant Islamic parties build their madrassas?

Correct me if I am in some way wrong about any of the above things. But these are some of the reasons why I don't trust liberals in this country.

Anyway, I am new to this blog. It's brilliant! Keep up the good work.

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