Following is the piece written by Asma Qadir in response to Sarah Khan’s In rejection of Pseudo-liberals which was posted on LUBP a few days ago.
I have been going through quite a few articles on LUBP (Let Us Build Pakistan), courtesy a junior of mine from college who’s an ardent PPP fan and therefore this article didn’t come as much of a surprise. However, the audacity of the argument presented in this article is unlike any others I have come across till now.
Thanks to a facebook acquaintance, I was able to access the sheer cheek of this piece meant to pass as some expression of intellectual prowess (pseudo-ising any random person and event is the “intellectual” thing to do these days), in whole. Though the article more or less is reproduced in pieces in this note, the link is given here if someone wants to read the article.
The writer starts by defining “pseudo-liberals”,
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.
No problem with the definition there but then she goes on to name some of the banned organizations and sweeps in Jamat-e-Islami with terrorists and the Taliban.
Jamat-e-Islami is a full fledged political party, one of those very few with a defined democratic structure within its ranks, unlike the feudal assets of parties that are inherited from one generation to the next. The party produced the likes of both Azam Tariq and Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. It’s not strange though for a PPP blog to explicitly mention the Jamaat, a political rival definitely not in the parliament but undoubtedly on the street and which dates back to the presidential elections held by Ayub Khan in which the founding father and sometimes also touted as the father of this left-over Pakistan by some over ambitious PPP jiyalas, ZAB supported the dictator against Fatima Jinnah supported by among many others, Maudoodi led Jamat-e-Islami. Jamaat unlike PPP has never given a strong showing in general elections rightly so because of its hard stance on many social and political issues, which has never been able to strike a chord with the ordinary Pakistani.
But it’s only when these hard stances are not allowed the political space they seek, by condemning them in the militant bracket only because of a tilt towards the other side of the intellectual spectrum, that fringe movements such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Mohd are born.
This reminds me of a comment I read on a blog a few days ago, which paraphrased the findings of a report on democracy in the Muslim world in the Economist and said, “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.”
Amazingly JUI-F is conspicuously absent from the list. So then it’s not really the ideological battle; it’s more about how well that sage of a maulana turns somersaults all for the sake of political expediency and despite some full mouthed threats to quit the coalition over the anti-terror policy of the state, always finds some good reason to stay put. Or probably the PPP finds a comfortable negotiating partner in him for after all don’t they share the unique ignominy of being the only political parties besides PML-Q which decided to lend that implicit moral legitimacy, to Musharraf’s re election, ironically when Musharraf’s rule was at its worse ebb; JUI-F by refusing to dissolve the provincial assembly before the elections and PPP dwelling just a little too long on its decision to pull its members out from the National Assembly.
Moving onto by far the best part of the article, the writer cites the movement spurred by the sacking of the Chief Justice and the imposition of emergency which caused the packing up of the superior judiciary all over the country, and more popularly known as the “Lawyers’ movement” to identify the “pseudo-liberals”. She says,
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.
Ahh only if time could be rewound and scenes of Latif Khosa in the customary LAWYERS’ attire of Black suit and black tie, with blood oozing out from his head as he marched along with the LAWYERS outside the Supreme Court, or Aitzaz Ahsan crouching as a brick was hurled at him by the one of the notorious Punjab police jawans called into reign in this unprecedented zeal of the LAWYERS for the deposed Chief Justice, or Zamarrud Khan smiling as he took on the role of a willing Chauffeur to Iftikhar Chaudhary, could be replayed.
The Supreme Court Bar Association had been issuing statements against General Musharraf since the day he took over, but it was Iftikhar Chaudhary’s adamant NO that brought them out on the streets. Or could someone care to ask Israr Shah how he lost his legs in a blast outside a lawyers’s convention that Iftikhar Chaudhary was addressing? Pervez Musharraf didn’t takeover on 9th March, 2007. Would then any of the PPP jiyalas answer why this good long wait for 8 years? Personally I’d like to believe too that the lawyers’ movement was against the scourge of dictatorship and NOT predicated on the person of Iftikhar Chaudhary or even Pervez Musharraf. But ironically just as much as the PPP supporters and party members would have us believe that it was only a coincidence that Latif Khosa and Zamarrud Khan and Aitzaz Ahsan were protesting as lawyers and not as PPP members, that the reality of Mush’s takeover only dawned on them on 9th March and was reinforced on 3rd November, it’s PPP’s delusion of being the savior of democracy and its vociferous claim to representing everything that there is to the institution of democracy that is unfortunately making the general populace which may have actually marched against the dictator before February 2008 and not just in support of Iftikhar Chaudhary, wary of democracy as a system and reinforcing the impression that the Pakistani society may still be willing to welcome another coup from the Rawalpindi garrison.
That is exactly why even the general election in February 2008 and the honorable exit of Musharraf later the same year did not deter people from marching out in favor of the Chief’s restoration. It’s not the PML-N or the PTI or the Jamaat which turned the movement’s course around, if at all it was destined for something bigger than just the judiciary’s restoration. It was the disgust at PPP’s back door deals with the dictator and their lack of commitment to anything less than their return to power.
And even if this is not enough, negotiating their way into power with the same military dictator while getting their choicest men’s heads split and legs blown off and playing out a shouting bout with the Jamaat members on TV over the 17th amendment all the while maintaining that no deal with the same abomination of dictatorship was on the cards, sending off the same military dictator that this popular movement was supposedly against, with full honor and privileges afforded to any military chief and former president of the country, can the PPP still claim that the movement in which “PPP offered most sacrifices”, was “against a military dictator (General Musharraf)”?
And then restoring the Chief justice after a full one year of power and that too under pressure from another military chief-C’mon is it too much to ask of a party so opposed to the idea of “military establishment” putting its mark in civilian affairs to deny those inroads to the military once all over again; not to mention the foreign policy formulation and the snub that the PPP stalwarts get in foreign capitals, leaving it to Kayani to represent Pakistan’s take.
And oh yes before I forget, I think the worthy author got carried away by her emotions when calling Iftikhar Chaudhary a grade 22 bureaucrat. Just for a reminder, it was the general the PPP struck a deal with, and sent off as the former president of the country and took oath of ministries under, who was the grade 22 bureaucrat. Judiciary is another PILLAR of the state, parallel to the executive. But oh well doesn’t this explain the ruling party’s bewilderment at being called into question by the judiciary; for how could a “government servant” dare question the sarkar!
Moving on the author mentions some qualities of pseudo-liberals.
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.
Right but I just wish she had mentioned aversion to dynastic politics, condemnation of feudalism and pir-shahi, disgust at cheats and fake degree holders who also happen to be “honorable” members of parliament, envious of PPP’s claim to the martyrs’ halo, discomfort at the elevation of a political party’s leadership to national heroes and conversion of the ‘land of the Pure” into PPPistan and strong offence at the assumption of “Pakistani democracy” for all its worth and virtually hijacking the institution of representative government by PPP, to make her blog post just that tad bit more effective in blaring out the LUBP agenda. And in the end comes the actual eye-opener elaborating on the definition of pseudo liberals put forward by the author in the beginning of her post.
“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. Ahmad Quraishi 9. Adil Najam 10. Naveen Naqvi 11. Several liberal blogs (to be listed soon)
Bah! Is this real? When has Mosharraf Zaidi, Shaheen Sehbai, Syed Mushahid Hussain, Shireen Mazari, Syed Talat Hussain championed the cause of the “liberals” or claimed membership of that envied club? Except that none of these gentlemen sport a beard and Shireen Mazri has cropped hair and Naveen Naqvi loves coming on TV in western attire, which may fall under the category of “imitation of the west” in the words of the author, what exalted quality has earned these journalists the honor of being termed liberals, pseudo or otherwise? As if only the beardless and the cropped hair can seek the honor.
A very “liberal” categorization I must say! Shireen Mazari has always been known as a hawk, especially her take on relations with India that earned her the recognition she enjoys, and not her PTI membership which is what paranoia prone PPP would care to remember about her. I have never heard her making claims to the contrary or even trying to dispel the impression through any of her writings or comments.
Talat Hussain’s never ranted on about “liberalism” either and the last I heard he was commenting on Zia’s illusions of invincibility months before that fateful plane crash to drive a point across to Musharraf and his supporters.
Shaheeen Sehbai is one of the harshest critics of the PPP government for numerous reasons and I guess that alone should earn him a coveted position in the ranks of those PPP wants to pay back.
Syed Iqbal haider is a very interesting name in the list, probably the only claimant to the “liberal” title and holding on to it in his capacity as a member (/office bearer??) of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. And of course now that he’s opposed to PPP’s takeons with the judiciary, his liberalism gets prefixed with “pseudo”.
Ahmed Qureshi in the list (barring Naveen Naqvi and Adil Najam whom I haven’t heard much of) appears to be the only journalist who has been an avowed Musharraf supporter, a quality that could refelct “hegemonic ambitions, intolerance and autocratic ideas”, and one of those few anchorpersons left at the disposal of PTV towards the end of Mush’s rule, an ardent Zaid Hamid supporter at least what appears from his TV appearance alongside ZH and Imran Khan in which the latter was the only one advocating a political discourse. But I am just as unsure if this chap has ever taken on the mettle of “liberalizing” Pakistan, as I am clear that he has no love lost for the PPP.
Oh so now we are getting a discernible pattern. But I’d leave that for the end after I put in a precious few lines on NFP and the PPP itself, the beacons of liberalism in this country or so the author would have us believe.
Ranting on about Zaid Hamid brigade for a thousand times over and over again, even when he’s cold and out, concocting phone calls and reserving a full blog space to narrate the incident to prove the “imbecility” of those who think slightly towards the right, devoting a whole op-ed piece on the veil and making a political symbol out of a mere piece of cloth just like those on the extreme other end of the spectrum and ending with a “food for thought” to lend just that little bit of justification to the veil ban in some European countries, and an obsession, fanatic obsession with even a slight reference to religion in public discourse, is what I call pseudo-liberalism when it comes from someone hell bent on proving his liberal credentials! This is what reeks of “superiority complex”, when that other side of the social divide is snubbed in such definite terms only to further deepen that rift. And if it was impossible to present a conciliatory front while maintaining one’s position, in this polarization, one should only take a look at Fasi Zaka’s write-ups on Zaid Hamid.
Nadeem Fareed Paracha could probably take some lessons from there! Taking refuge in hereditary politics and presenting it as some Herculean democracy-saving tactic (“superiority complex”, eh?), negotiating with a military dictator only a few months after some historic APC, snubbing lawyer’s movements stalwarts such as Aitzaz Ahsan and Iqbal Haider, and taking references from religious history to present a case for notoriously criminal ordinances such as the NRO, is pseudo-ising the title of anti-establishment, socialism, liberalism and whatever leftist isms the PPP lays claim to ‘Onto the discernible pattern’, Not too difficult to tell now is it. It’s the same passionate “even if we lose, we win and if we win, we win” mantra taking its lead from the presidency/PPP’s base camp and on the lips of every PPP supporter.
Even those regular Pakistani opinion makers who have never laid claim to liberalism are being accused of treading over this heavily guarded “PPP territory”. “Sab soobon ki zanjeer”, ruling party in three provinces, back in power after “a popular movement against a military dictator (General Musharraf)”, what does it have to fear except its own failings?
And even though this ended up being much longer than I expected, I’d quote Mosharraf Zaidi (yes the “pseudo-liberal”) to lay at rest the insecurity that makes its place in the hearts of those basking in the illusions of grandeur, whenever there’s even as much as a squeak (honest this was supposed to be a squeak 8| )in protest at their unbearable balderdash. “.
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.” And then they call him a claimant to liberalism. Or as my father would say when as a child, I’d pout and sulk over some perceived injustice, “Have a heart”, PPP!