The pseudo-liberal is essentially a bigot who parades under the illusion of being a liberal while pursuing a non-liberal agenda. Pseudo-liberals of Pakistan are no less dangerous than terrorists, activists and supporters of the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbut Tahrir. In a way, pseudo-liberals are more harmful because while extremist Islamists are visibly despicable because of their hate ideology, pseudo-liberals are eating Pakistan and its civil society and institutions from inside in the guise of their ostensible commitment to liberal values (while providing unflinching support to institutions of power (army, bureaucracy, feudals and industrialists) of Pakistan).
As my friend Rabia once commented:
“…the Pakistani socially liberal elite has been (some may argue out of necessity) with very [few] 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…So basically … 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.”
In my view, the best (or worst) moment to identify pseudo-liberals in Pakistani media and politics was when they decided to extend full support to Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s Jamaat Islami and Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s Geo News / Jang, in order to reinstall a grade 22 bureaucrat, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in his cherished seat in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, hijacking and manipulating a popular movement against a military dictator (General Musharraf) in which the PPP (Pakistan’s largest political party) offered most sacrifices. In the whole process, it was relatively easy to pinpoint and know the real faces of pseudo-liberals, who will always be remembered in annuls of Pakistan history.
There are a number of common features of this despicable group: aloofness from the working class, pride in English proficiency and accent, superiority complex, hegemonic ambitions, intolerance and autocratic ideas, benevolent sympathy for the disempowered, imitation of the west, hypocritical views, aimless lives and fake activism.
Another major problem with the Pakistani pseudo-liberals (mostly from upper and middle class) is that they sit in their lounges, drink coffee or whatever and opine about this that without any appreciation of ground realities.
There is a long list of pseudo-liberals in Pakistan, some of whose names are provided below. The list will be updated on a regular basis:
1. Mosharraf Zaidi
2. Shaheen Sehbai
3. Syed Iqbal Haider
4. Syed Mushahid Hussain
5. Dr Shireen Mazari
6. Syed Talat Hussain
7. Kamran Khan
8. Ahmed Quraishi
9. Adil Najam
10. Naveen Naqvi
11. Several liberal blogs (to be listed soon)
The LUBP Pseudo-Liberal Archive
The remainder of this post is an archive of articles written by various authors in rejection of pseduo-liberals of Pakistan. You may wish to read these articles at your leisure.
We shall overrun: The young, urban, middle-class Pakistani’s manifesto – by Nadeem Paracha and Abbas Baloch
Source: Dawn Blog, 20 March 2010
also posted on LUBP
1. Asif Ali Zardari is the devil incarnate.
2. The Pakistan Army is the saviour.
3. The Taliban are resisting American imperialism.
4. We hate American foreign policy unless it suits us. We are against American imperialism if it means we have to ditch the Taliban as that would be against the aspirations of our founding father, Mohammed Bin Qasim. We will no longer shop at Marks and Spencer because they are somehow connected to Israel. However, that does not mean we will switch off our computers and cell phones whose chip technology has been made possible due to major contributions from Israeli scientists.
5. We don’t want to sell our honour for American money unless it is for our private hospitals, textile exports, NGOs, or for completing degrees at American universities.
6. It’s not just Zardari who is the culprit. It’s also Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Fatima Bhutto is fine, though; she is dating George Clooney.
7. It was all milk and honey till Bhutto came along. Damn him for nationalising my father’s 15 mills, seven textile units, and 11 banks! I still remember the good old days when Nani ji, Dada ji and their friends brought hundreds of textile licenses from Gohar Ayub for US $ 200,000 a pop. There was no corruption and no labour unions until this Sindhi feudal and closet Hindu agent named Z.A. Bhutto came along and enforced his Zionist agenda and made all our urban serfs so uppity.
8. We are against feudalism unless the feudals in question do not support the PPP and allow us to rape the ecology of Sindh and the Punjab on our weekend hunting trips. Some crates of mangoes from their farms also help.
9. Some of us feel we know what’s best for the PPP, i.e. to banish Zardari and his kids and ditch the legacies of ZAB and BB. We have never voted for or supported the PPP (actually we never vote all!) but we still feel that we are in a better position to understand the party’s dynamics.
Also, as educated, refined and objective leaders and captains of industry, we are against dynastic politics. However, we are fine with Fatima Bhutto, Hamza Sharif, Solaiman/Essa Khan, Monis Chaudhary as well as the privileged alumni of Karachi Grammar School, Aitchison and Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, ruling us. Just as long as they are not descended from the Zionist agent Benazir and her corrupt husband, Zardari.
10. Democracy is a deeply flawed system that has destroyed the world. Totalitarian monarchies with entrenched security and bureaucracies are much better and in line with our Arab origins. Please do not compare us to India. We have nothing in common with them except our DNA, culture, cuisine, language, music, and geography.
11. Our ideal form of government is the modern day Caliphate, or, as we like to call it, the rule of technocrats. In this form of government, our posh uncles will pass stern orders in their clipped Oxbridge accents and Italian suits that will be supported by a medieval council of jurists whom we like to call the independent judiciary.
12. Lately, we have been reading some Chomsky, Klein and Zinn (all five articles) and appreciate how these believing Muslims provide us with the intellectual ammo on exposing how the perfidious Jews conspire to rule the world.
13. We are essentially a good people who are suffering because the world wants to take over our nukes and is conspiring to destroy our country. They are using the Taliban, who themselves are essentially good people who are bravely fighting American imperialism.
The Taliban just suffer from bad press, and we know who controls the press abroad. Here, the press is controlled by democratically elected anchors and media analysts who are fighting for justice and against corruption.
14. The Taliban who are killed in the drone attacks are simply pious Muslims who are doing charity work, such as digging canals in arid, mountainous zones – it’s called the Mars project.
Also, the burning of Christian villages by Taliban affiliated and state-sponsored sectarian militias is a figment of the imagination of the liberal fascists. They are doing their best to curb crusaders of truth and justice such as Geo TV. The real problem is Blackwater/Xe, fools.
15. The Taliban are an expression of Pushtoon nationalism as they have done their best to cleanse the United Emirates of Peshawar and FARTA from pagan Pukhtoon influence. The Taliban are a legitimate resistance movement against the occupation of the United Emirates of Peshawar and FARTA by ANP, Shia parachinaris, Sikhs and, of course, female students. The only genuine Pathans are Imran Khan, Hamid Gul, and Zaid Hamid.
16. Sipah Sahaba, Jaish, Lashkar Taiba, Lashkar Jhangvi, Jamaat Islami … who the are they? Figments of the imagination of liberal fascists. We should be more concerned about the Ahmed Rashids, Kamran Shafis, Amir Mirs, Arif Jamals, Najam Sethis, Tarek Fatahs, Irfan Hussains, Pervaiz Hoodbhoys, Fasi Zakas, Ayesha Siddiquas, and Nadeem Parachas.… They are CIA agents.
17. India is stealing our water and is destroying the country via its Sindhi/Balochi/Pushtoon/Gilgiti/Hazara/Hingora/Makrani/Seraiki proxies. Damn this fifth column riff-raff. We brought them the glorious Islamic civilization from the latest Nasim Hejazi novel and look at how uppity they have gotten since. We gave them commerce (Gujrati), language (Urdu), and agriculture (Punjabi) and they still want to maintain their identities and celebrate their vernacular religious practices which our pure Arab background forbids. Feed them to the Taliban.
18. We, the members of civil society, are essentially a liberal lot who are imbued with socialist values. Our ability to engage in massive socialising (through Facebook) makes us socialist in the true sense of the word. Lately, we have also dabbled in Marxism at cafes where we blow off half a month’s average national salary on lattes and cappuccinos whilst we construct our neo- Marxism around the tacit acceptance of the Taliban’s superior Arab cultural identity. We salute Abul Ala Marx, Lenin Bin Laden, and Mulla Mao!
19. These are difficult times for civil society. While the tyrant Zardari is destroying the country with a ‘progressive agenda’ (another Zionist conspiracy) that involves legislation about women’s rights and the enfranchisement and autonomy of minority provinces, our brave and independent judiciary is fighting a Herculean battle to free the champions of our true Arab identity like Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Aziz, and Masood Azhar. These tireless crusaders are fighting our battle against Hindu hegemony in Pakistan. We need to applaud the efforts of the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court in exposing the Hindus.
20. As Zardari loots and pillages Pakistan via the nefarious use of his handle bar moustache and cheery demeanour, we have to appreciate how our Taliban investment is saving our economy by killing thousands of our citizens and costing billions of dollars in damages and lost investment and trade opportunities. We are a financially and arithmetically gifted segment of society that can expand US $66 million to $1,500 million if it means that we can lynch Zardari (and free Aafia).
21. While our existential adversary India is investing billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and municipal training, we are using our billions to create the ultimate strategic depth in Afghanistan: macho Islamist brutes who will eventually recreate the Islamic State that made Afghanistan the model of peace and prosperity from 1996 till 2001.
In conclusion we would like to part with a speech from one of our greatest representatives, Zen Farman Wamid, which he made at the historic Dillee Kebab House. The topic of this grand speech was, “Today Dillee Kebab House, tomorrow Delhi Fort”:
“Assalamualaikum, my dear and superior Muslim Pakistanis. By the grace of God, I am proud to announce from this wonderful kebab house that we are now ready to invade India. This invasion has taken a lot of planning and effort by my young upwardly mobile comrades and for this we would also like to thank our friends in the electronic media and inspirations such as Yahya Khan and Ziaul Haq.
Dear muscular Muslim boys and petite Muslim girls, I had been planning this invasion for a very long time, even before my blessed birth when I was just a spirit floating over Pakistan – even before Pakistan was made. My spirit swooped down when it saw the great Muhammad Bin Qasim invading Sindh and defeating Hindu scoundrels as well as Mohajir, Sindhi, Balochi and Pakhtun nationalists.
We will vanquish them in the Islamic Emirate Caliphate of Punjab … I mean, Pakistan. Damn those who say that Pakistan was made in 1947. That’s a lie, I tell you. It was made in the seventh century, when Kalashnikov Bin Qasim, Allama F-16 Iqbal, and Inzimamul Haq defeated a million-strong army of that secular tyrant and usurper Raja Bhutto and his side-kick Mohindar Singh Dhoni and announced the creation of the Islamic Caliphate of Punj … I mean Pakistan.
So wake up, Pakistan, and let’s invade, loot and plunder like those great Muslim leaders, Mahmud Ghazni and Mr. T.
My next address to you all will be from Delhi Fort and anyone who disagrees is a traitor, a Hindu agent, or a student of the Peshawar University. Allah Hafiz! Punj … I mean, Pakistan, marhabba marhabba.”
This blog was co-authored by Nadeem F. Paracha and Abbas Baloch.
Why pseudo liberals support army?
by Sayyed Ahmed Khan, Karachi
Source: The News
The pseudo liberals always support the Pakistan Army for being the strongest institution of the country. The fact of the strength of the army is that its command line originates from the British colonial forces.
The army, in view of the pseudo intellectuals’ support, makes sure that no institution can be more stronger than it.
This theory got the boost when General Zia-ul-Haq declared that Pakistan’s ideological frontiers would be safeguarded by the army. This means that foreign and domestic security policies should be formulated by the army rather than the civil institutions.
It is ironical that almost all the successive Prime Ministers of the country have so far been compelled to run the country like a municipal chairman, and this trend is being continued in a bid to strengthen the role of undemocratic forces into the civil affairs.
It is pertinent to mention here that the pseudo liberals always come forward to support the army as saying ‘Pakistan has no other way’. Not a single demand has so far been made by any pseudo liberal to hold army accountable for any crime.
The pseudo liberals assume that the army will root out corruption from the civil institutions, but they are perhaps not aware about the institution whose own accounting books are not safe as no other party checks them.
No pseudo liberal want to be classified as ‘racist’ that is why they look at the other way when the racist composition of Pakistani establishment is discussed.
The human rights organizations mostly raise those issues in the country for which they are funded. The raising of selective issues was more prominent in mid 90s in Sindh when extra-judicial killings were completely ignored by the Human Rights Commission.
These organizations take a great interest in raising the rape issues of women in a bid to earn money. The policies of these organizations are also being affected by the foreign donors. The membership of these organizations means that you should give them money regularly without contributing anything else.
Most pseudo liberals tend to credit one person with all the powers without any checks and balances in a hope that their ‘hero’ like Musharraf is their last chance to reach the destiny.
Intellectual Dishonesty of Pakistani (Pseudo-)Liberals
by Syed Alam
November 1, 2002
As a nation we suffer from a number of problems. In my view, the most critical among them is not the rising tide of narrow-mindedness or militancy (state-sponsored or otherwise), but the intellectual dishonesty in the liberal class which is supposed to counter the conservative one.
Liberals were not a confused lot in Zia’s period, because all classical leftist movements are marked by anti-religious forces. BB’c compromise in late 80s, and then Musharraf’s coup put liberals in a big dilemma and confusion (how can one liberal denounce a govt secularizing Pakistan?).
Everybody wants to see Pakistan progress. This article does not mean to discredit pseudo liberals intentions. I am sure Qazi Hussain wants to see Pakistan progress as much as any ultra leftist and liberal wants. The differences exist in the goals (what is ’progress’?) and the methodology (bottom-up or top-bottom, etc.)
The sudden rise of pseudo-liberals is a new phenomenon, and their dishonesty is evident in a number of issues, as following:
1. Pakistan army
Pakistan army has been the strongest institution that Pakistan has produced, mainly because of the fact that its command line comes from a particular martial race (more harmony, cohesion, and way of thinking), bred by British colonial forces in centuries. Their interests are same, and differences are amicably resolved, otherwise the dissenting fellow has to be exploded in air, or take a respectful exit. Pseudo Liberals (PL) always jump to Pakistan army’s support mainly because of its strength relative to the other weak institutions. Army seeing this fallibility of pseudo intellectuals, always make sure that no institution gets bigger than it, and this vicious circle goes on.
This adventurism got the boost and excuse when Zia declared that Pakistan’s ideological frontiers were also to be safeguarded by Army. This virtually meant that foreign and homes security policies should be run by army and no civil institution. So for the last 2 decades we had our PMs running the country like municipal chair persons, while the army was taking care of all internal and external security issues without any civilian checks.
In the mess of 9/11, pseudo liberals came forward in the army’s support saying that ’Pakistan has no other way’. So the biggest failures of two foreign polices were thus unaccounted for, on the pretext of lack of choices. The question is: if two foreign policies are based on jihad and Allah’s perceived help, then how come army used civilians as canon fodder in Kashmir and Afghanistan, but refused to be just another canon fodder? This exposes the hypocrisy of the army, conveniently ignored by pseudo-liberals. There is not a single demand by any pseudo liberal to hold army accountable for the crimes (most of them war crimes) committed in Kashmir, Bombay bomb blast, and Afghanistan. There is no question asked about how Indian underworld mafia leaders got refuge in Pakistan with Pakistani passports.
Another reason why our pseudo liberals support army is their assumption that army will get rid of Pakistan from civilian corruption. An institution whose own accounting books are not seen by any third party, whose few corruption cases were unveiled by civilian sources (mostly by ousted NS govt)—how can it assume this moral authority to audit others? Pseudo Liberals usually identify the problems/benefits of military regime and its dictatorship with one person (such as Musharraf), so that if the dictatorship fails, not the whole army is made responsible for this. In this way, the door remains open for more dictatorial adventurim by another ’mard-e-momin’.
2. Punjab domination
No pseudo liberal want to be classified as ’racist’, even when he is subject to racism. So all our Pseudo liberals look the other way when the racist
composition of Pakistani establishment is discussed. Civil administration in minority provinces can be all non-locals, Pakistan army and rangers and police can be non-locals, but pointing out this fact as simply a violation of the people’s right to have representative admin, is something that no pseudo-liberal would tend to discuss. We can look at the booklets of human rights organizations working in Pakistan, or most of national parties, opinion leaders in press, but we can not see anything about it. Only regional and nationalist parties raise this issue, and hence can easily be disregarded as anti-Pakistan. Civil unrest in Karachi of mid-90s and frequent disturbances in Baluchistan are all conveniently ignored with one excuse or other.
3. White-mentality (total disregard to local intellect)
If there is any mess like 9/11, they would like to listen to Naom Chomsky. If they have to believe that Jinnah was the statesman they would refer to some ’scholar’ in American/British university vouching for his strength of personality.
Not that these foreigners are bad people, but if the problem is yours, you got to sort it out yourself. If we do not have the intellect to come up with our own solutions then the problem can not be resolved by inviting others to resolve our crisis. Even in history, our PLs can refer to lot of white historians who can not speak any local language. Local historians and writers are completely disregarded.
4. Human Rights scenario
Human rights organizations mostly take the issues for which they are funded. Raising of selective issues was more prominent in mid 90s in Sindh, during MQM and army confrontation. Extra-judicial killing by state was completely ignored by Human Rights commission.
Incidents of rape of women, even though condemnable, are given much more energy and publicity because this is how these organizations earn money. The polices of these orgs are also effected by foreign donors (much like madrasas). Membership to these organizations mean that you just have to give them money regularly without contributing anything else. Who formulates their policies is anybody’s guess.
5. Meaning of Pakistan
What Pakistan should be? Pseudo Liberals jump to Jinnah’s statements to show that Pakistan was meant to be secular. Should Pakistan be what Jinnah wanted? Or anybody else? are we not negating the very meaning of democracy by that? Should we even discuss what Jinnah wanted (besides academic interest)?
The same questions go with other founding fathers like Iqbal.
6. Heroism vs Systematic Approach
Most pseudo liberals tend to credit one person with all the powers without any checks and balances, in the hope that something will work out, or in the desperation that we have no other way out, and the ’hero’ on the top is our last chance with destiny. Institutions are not supported but a hero is made out of a ruling person like Musharraf, or some aspirant like Imran Khan so that some ’magic’ would happen over night. This approach does not help society progress, no matter if a saint is ruling at the top. Any ’change’ in the system is always brought about by challenging the vested interests responsible for the status-quo.
Traditional religion has miserably failed to satisfy the growing diversified needs of Pakistani middle class society. It has created many moral issues and dilemmas, which can not be resolved by any ’broad-minded’ interpretation of traditional religion (as the evolution of religion is possible in a free society not stuck up with its past and origin). This dilemma forced many educated liberals to look at other alternatives (among leaving the religion altogether).
The culture of saints (sufism) is the one preferred by some liberals. It has been acclaimed more in the music industry like that of Junoon group, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, etc. Imran Khan of Insaaf part and Salman Ahmed (of Junoon group) sort of represent this pseudo intellectual group. Their thinking, statements and professional activitities all point to the hollowness of their intellect. Saints are presented in Junoon’s music and video as the ultimate prophet of humanity. This is another story that most of these saints were half mad, junky and frustrated people. Their ascent to priesthood was mainly the result of a backward and superstitious society of illiterate people. But this would not sell, would it?
Besides the promotion of ’sufism’, the other cultural ’progress’ has always been in the Americanization of things. So it is not just enough to understand and speak English, but it is also necessary to use the American accent and slang. This is understandable given the dominant American economics and media, but the off shoots of this mentality are manifolds, including: Formulation of major national policies by Toms, Dicks and Harries of American Pakistanis (mainly because it is easy to get foreign funding this way).
Meet the opportunists: Cultural dynamics of Pakistan fashion industry – by Nadeem Paracha
Source: Dawn, 13 May 2010
Posted on LUBP
I have never been able to understand the cultural dynamics of what is called the Pakistan fashion industry, particularly the notion of holding ‘fashion weeks’ which, at least to me, seem to last for months.
There is nothing new in saying that the so-called Pakistan fashion scene constitutes the minutest percentage of the population when we start counting the number of designers, models, ‘fashion journalists,’ and audience members for fashion shows in this country. Their activities carry not an iota of social relevance whatsoever.
To me they’re quite a useless bunch and I am sure after reading this they would be thinking the same way about me as well. Fair enough.
However, I do have the right to raise a few questions when the enthusiastic fashionistas – who entirely exist in a colourful timeless void – go on to make statements to the effect that they are ‘defying extremism’ and how their events have more to do with matters of business and economics than mere, decedent entertainment.
Well, in no way are these jazzy events akin to a bunch of cosmetic ladies and men standing up to the specter of extremism. The truth is this (albeit widely covered) fringe has always been around. They were there even during the most myopic and reactionary days of one General Zial Haq as well. Thus, even if this country’s military, politicians and people do manage to fail themselves by whining out democracy and submitting to monsters like the Taliban, it is my guess, Pakistan would still be holding fashion weeks.
These trendy folks, about whom we are forced to read and see so much of in our newspapers and on TV, are actually quite a miniature lot. Their existence in the public eye is mainly due to the fact that they make great eye candy and software for Sunday papers to splash their pages with.
But like I said, even if we have Mullah Omar as our ruler, blowing away the heads of poor ‘underclass’ women for daring to take a peek from their jet-black burqas, or chopping off the hands of men who dare to shave, the fashionistas would be holding a fashion week at some big shot’s haveli because that big shot will most probably have some friends or connections in the Mullah’s brigade.
And anyway, the class these fashion kings and queens belong to would probably be the first to exit a burning, turning Pakistan.
Some might ask, should not a liberal man like me, who wants to see his country evolve into one of the most dynamic, diverse, and democratic nations in the Muslim world, feel happy when events like fashion weeks take place in this country during such testing times?
I’m afraid not. Like I said, these fashionista types have always been around and never have they managed to exhibit the kind of relevant meat (pun not intended) required for reviving the country’s cultural health.
This can only be done through the aggressive promotion of things like popular theatre and cinema, indigenous folk music (of all the languages that are spoken in this country), literature that clearly reflects the political, economic and social challenges of the times, and debates on faith and national identity involving accomplished intellectuals, historians, politicians and the masses, and not papaya-faced cranks masquerading as talk show hosts or ‘experts’ on TV.
Dances with wolves
The other day while flipping through the gazillion TV channels out there, I stopped for a while at a channel that was covering this year’s ‘Pakistan Fashion Week.’ Lo and behold! I noticed that one of the sponsors of the event was a foreign bank that recently laid-off hundreds of its employees as a ‘cost cutting measure.’ Now, why (rather how) would an organisation that is willing to dump many of its employees to cut cost, end up paying for a floozy event like a fashion week?
There you go then. In addition to Mullah Omar’s rule, even if the nation is facing an economic meltdown, there will always be some rich corporate dude willing to keep the wheels of ‘fashion’ turning. ‘Social responsibility’ they call it in corporate lingo. Model citizens, indeed (pun intended).
Supposedly the Pakistani ‘fashion scene’ (sometimes audaciously called an ‘industry’) has grown manifold, but it has never fought against the forces that want to clamp down on it. How can they? This batch of hip liberals in the shape of fashionistas and pop musicians is the third in line of a generation, most of whose parents quietly went along with the Zia regime after greatly benefiting from all that American and Saudi money floating around during the dictatorship.
This ubiquitous minority was quietly allowed by the ‘Islamic’ regime to have their parties, booze, and fashion shows behind closed doors, as Zia’s moral brigade went about harassing the majority in the name of “purging vulgarity from society.” The economics of this class was never threatened. And anyways, culturally, they already had their little Paris, New Yorks, and Londons operating in their drawing rooms.
But of course, this was/is a highly opportunistic class as well. Because the moment things started to open up, especially during the second Benazir Bhutto government, the second generation of this class of hipsters suddenly arrived upon the scene with their catwalks, guitars and what not because there was good money to be made. However, the moment the second Benazir government fell, so did (for a while) that hyped “cultural revolution” this class was chanting about from concert halls, catwalks, and award ceremonies. And since most among this generation of hip liberals were bought up in apolitical, tight. and compartmentalised elite environments by their prospering parents, they had no clue what had hit them.
One example I would like to quote here of such a scenario is when, in February 1997, the second Nawaz Sharif government took over, and I actually saw members of a band celebrating the coming of a new era!
Though most of their contemporaries in the fashion industry and the music scene had absolutely no idea how politics worked and what it meant to have a ‘Ziaist’ back at the helm, those who tried could not go beyond knee-jerk reactions based on speculative political gossip and conspiracy theories originating in cosy drawing rooms.
Well, many years and openings later the scene is quite the same. The opportunists are out in force courting brand new TV channels, FM stations, fashion shows, and the music scene. There maybe newness in how openly they are operating, but there is not an iota of substance in their “cultural events” that can actually challenge the obscurantist mentality and forces that challenge them. In fact, sometimes the case is quite the contrary.
Thus, my suggestions to the fashionistas would be to stay the heck away from making political statements. By suggesting that you are ‘challenging extremism,’ you are actually sounding as silly and dunce-like as those long-haired (and, indeed, bald) rock stars of ours who ended up sounding like well-fed drawing room fascists in a recent video by The New York Times.
Anyone for Pathanay Khan or Reshma, instead?
When pop ate itself
According to my own experience as a journalist covering the Pakistan music scene in the 1990s, it is never a good idea to encourage pop musicians to start making political statements. As an idea it can be exciting, but since much of the modern pop music scene in Pakistan originates from middle-class settings, one can thus expect nothing more than self-righteous droning and quasi-reactionary demagoguery usually found in the urban bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois sections of society.
Surveys and studies of these two classes in Pakistan show them to be among the most conservative, with a history of backing assorted military dictators (especially Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf). Of course, there have also been clear exceptions in this regard, but it is true that over the years the overall conservatism of these classes has seen certain sections from within become both supporters and financiers of the more extreme strains of Islamic thought.
There have been recorded cases against many middle-class shop-owners and traders for financing jihadi organisations; whereas many sections among the more ‘modern’ bourgeois class have largely exhibited their own version of extreme beliefs by passionately patronising (as supporters and clients) a number of Islamic televangelists and drawing-room preachers whose numbers have grown two-fold from 1990 onwards.
Consequently, there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of young men and women from the middle-class now preferring to adorn beards and hijabs, and taking religious rituals a lot more seriously (compared to the situation till the late 1970s). But this class still constitutes a large number of ‘westernised’ youth as well.
However, compared to their more socially conservative class contemporaries — who have been seen to follow right-wing groups from the Jamaat-i-Islami to the supposedly defunct Sipah-i-Sahaba, from the Sunni Tehreek and the Tableeghi Jamaat to individuals such as Dr Israr Ahmed and Amir Liaquat — the more ‘modern’ lot in this respect have not exactly fallen to the left as a reaction (like they did between the 1950s and the early 1970s). Instead, in spite of whole-heartedly embracing the economic, aesthetic, and cultural fruits of liberal economics and politics, they have retained their class’ inherent political conservatism.
Many western journalists and Pakistanis alike are now trying to understand why, for example, many educated, westernised, and modern Pakistani pop/rock stars and their fans are all gung-ho about anti-Americanism but at the same time keep quiet about matters such as religious extremism, terrorism, and the Taliban.
The funny thing is, this is happening even when there are disturbingly tangible and physical examples of the ubiquitous carnage and mayhem being caused by so-called jihadis; whereas conspiratorial notions such as the ever-present explanation of a ‘foreign hand’ remains a largely unsubstantiated and thus somewhat air-headed perception. Adam Ellick’s interviews with former rock star turned loud reactionary mutt, Ali Azmat, and bubblegum-rock poster boy, Ali Noor, in his NYT video feature are the cases in point.
Both hail from modern, middle-class settings and represent the more westernised sections of the Pakistani bourgeoisie. In spite of overtly mimicking the aesthetic, cultural, and linguistic strains of western pop culture, both refuse to see any contradiction whatsoever in conveniently attacking ‘western imperialism’ as the reason behind the terror attacks in Pakistan.
Azmat is seen in a T-Shirt and shorts, with an expensive Apple laptop by his side, sitting in a room decorated like an arty version of an American college dude’s bachelor pad, and the following is what he had to say: ‘It (suicide bombing) is the agenda of neocons to de-Islamise Pakistan…’
In his recently acquired wisdom (which, according to columnist Fasi Zaka, Azmat gained “from watching a total of two YouTube documentaries” and following the rhetoric of Azmat’s newfound guru, Zaid Hamid) Azmat is convinced that the Taliban are not behind the bombings of girls’ schools, but “foreign forces (CIA, RAW and Mossad),” are to be blamed!
Where else but in Pakistan can one find a rock star with a history of being a ‘party animal’ and lucratively sponsored by various western multinationals become a shameless and witless apologist of men who in the name of faith not only blow themselves up in public, but are also known to have used three-to-six-year-old children for the same deed.
Then, in the same documentary, we see yet another scion of the increasingly warped Pakistani bourgeoisie, Ali Noor, the long-haired, guitar-slinging lead vocalist of Noorie. Amidst terrifying footage of blown-up cars, shops, and body limbs, he announces that “the Taliban only constitute a tiny problem.” And, of course, it is the Americans who are to be blamed. While spouting this profound insight, Noor gestures the ‘tiny’ part of his grand statement with his hand and you wonder, shouldn’t that gesture be explaining the size of his brain? No wonder he is incapable of realising the irony of him now appearing on TV to plug cones made by a western multinational.
Is all this symptomatic of mere delusion, or of some unprecedented form of collective psychosis that this class is now suffering from? I think ‘educated,’ westernized, modern idiots like the failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahazad, have the answer. In fact, I think he is the answer.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.