Much more than a pro-Sherry Rehman petition: A critical view on the PTH-LUBP differences – by Qudsia Siddiqui

Related articles:

Pak Tea House’s criticism of LUBP

Adil Najam and his pseudo-liberals’ outpouring of sympathy for Sherry Rehman – by Sarah Khan

Response by PTH: The (misplaced) wrath of the LUBP hardliners – by Yasser Latif Hamdani

Some time back, I was encouraged by my young nephew to contribute to Pak Tea House (PTH) blog. Not entirely convinced after reading it, I nonetheless decided to do so and was told that Raza Rumi, its founding editor, was a fair and generous individual. That he may be but he has failed to keep his editor, a pro-Imran Khan (PTI) storm-trooper, Yasser Latif Hamdani (aka YLH), in check.

I was disappointed to see Yasser’s prejudiced views regarding my post on Pushtun opposition to the Taliban. However, after some more research, I am not surprised. This is the same guy who fantasizes about Jinnah the dead and Imran Khan, the brain dead, and then claims to be a PPP supporter after his beloved Chief Justice openly reveals himself to be the anti-democrat Jamaati establishment bigot that we all know he is! However, I don’t want to waste more time on Yasser and his prejudices against Pushtuns and Sindhis or his sympathy for Taliban characters like Imran Khan and Chaudhary Iftikhar.

I am very disappointed with the PTH for its knee-jerk decision to join the establishment bandwagon regarding the Sherry Rehman affair. Having read numerous reports, I am still baffled that a rational and fair individual like Raza Rumi has fallen for the trap laid out by our jingoistic media. Lets examine the Sherry Rehman affair in some detail.

Since March 2009, Sherry Rehman was sidelined in the federal cabinet because she could not balance the responsibility of her core functions with that of her personal interests of keeping on good terms with an increasingly jingoistic media. There was an obvious conflict of interests in Sherry Rehman’s political responsibilities and her career as a journalist. (Same conflict of interest is evident in the response by Raza Rumi and Yasser Hamdani in their decision to support Sherry Rehman to keep their journalistic career intact.)

Sadly, after being sidelined, Sherry Rehman’s pronouncements are not as innocent as portrayed in both the petition and Raza Rumi’s one-sided article defending her. In semi-public pronouncements and to her friends and colleagues, Sherry has already referred to her growing disregard for the PPP and how she is an “ex-politician”; all this while astonishingly serving as a representative on the PPP ticket!

However, her appearance on Geo TV just baffles the mind. Either Sherry is dumb or obtuse but surely, she should have known what the rest of the country already did. That the PPP had had enough of the malicious slander of the Jang group and had decided to boycott this powerful corporate entity. Surely her decades of media experience and her tech savy would have informed Sherry what we all knew.

In this regard, the PPP response was immature and injudicious; especially in light of the fact that significant sections of the media are gunning for them. However, that being said, the coverage is highly exaggerated and Sherry’s subsequent actions validate the main theme of the protest. No, that was not about Sherry’s beheading; that is the function of the Uzbeki militia “guests” in FATA against whom our media and civil society patrons will NEVER formulate a Petition! This was about the fact that she has left and betrayed the party.

If Sherry truly cared about the PPP, her semi-public pronouncements would not have been made with a view to distance herself from the party. Similarly, her subsequent airing of this issue in the media clearly highlights that her protest is not simply based on principle but also on the increasingly clear agenda of providing ammo to a media gunning for the PPP. That Sherry has joined the anti-PPP bandwagon is sad given her work for women’s rights; an intiative that had a lot to do with the genius of Benazir Bhutto who felt that social welfare is far more universal and widespread when done from the public platform as opposed to the mostly elitist NGO platform (oh, the joys of being ‘civil society’!).

In reality, it is the divide between the public and the private sector that has been the bane of our occasionally well-intentioned but naïve chattering types. For many of them, both sectors are an opportunity to make money, not serve the public good. They do some token but expensive service meant to assuage the guilt of living of the tax-free proceeds of their corrupt industrialist, bureaucrat, judge and general parents.

Even before General Zia’s successful de-politicization drive, our chattering class were always averse to considering the masses as their own and hence, could never reconcile themselves with the stunning mass popularity and love for Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. This dented their delusions of self-importance and bred their envy and resentment against the elected Bhuttos.

Therefore, even when Bhutto was alive, they cursed him and praised opportunists like Mubashir Hasan and Mairaj Khalid; the former is now an ally of Jamaat Islami!

When ZAB died, they ridiculed BB and cast personal attacks at her. Also, it was common to hear the refrain from 1986 to 2007 that the PPP was no longer the party of ZAB.

The very same jokers who castigated Benazir for negotiating her return to participate in the coming elections then pretended to be her most loyal supporters after she died and used their faux outrage by abusing Asif Zardari.

In the comments that have ensued on both LUBP and PTH on this topic, I would request LUBP to not get baited by the likes of Yasser. This man craves attention, so don’t waste your time in going up against him and stop dissing PTH. Both this exercise and the PTH are largely irrelevant to the real debates in Pakistan.

After reading many of their posts and subsequent comments, I am sad to say that aside from some articles by the Razas and a few other stray posts, much of the rest is intellectual masturbation where the authors step away from taking a clear stance.

Even Raza Rumi has fallen victim to the malaise of trying to please everyone in a political debate and of creating false symmetries. The latter is the trend where anyone who dares to even present a minor critique of the establishment and its judiciary, media and extremist wings has to first concoct a major critique of the PPP even if the later has no role in the matter or worse, happens to be the victim.

This is a harsh but necessary indictment of Raza Rumi, whose political commentary suffers from not having the passion and clarity of his literary work.

The LUBP is a very different blog and needs to concentrate on its strengths and not get diverted into this petty feud with PTH. For starters, LUBP needs to do some work on developing a secular narrative. It has made some great strides and is already miles ahead of PTH where the dominant view is that secularism begins and ends with Jinnah and that cursing South Asian leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Bizenjo, Mengal, Bacha Khan, ZAB and BB is a badge of progressiveness and not prejudice!

Raza Rumi needs to realize that the only entity which is currently pushing and dividing the secularists in Pakistan is PTH (YLH in particular) and not LUBP!

Today should have been about how Karachi was once again held hostage by the fascists from MQM who shut down the city like it was 1995! The PTH is slowly being infiltrated by a rising star of the MQM/establishment media division; a hipster who has been peddling sectarian and racist half-truth, that he has either plagiarized or been fed with.

It was also disappointing to read Raza Raja’s comments in this regard. Here is a writer who has written some of the best critiques of the MQM and Imran Khan but who gets a brain freeze when it comes to the PPP. For someone who previously critiqued even Benazir Bhutto as a beneficiary of “dynastic-based” politics, it is baffling to see him invoke his lineage to critique the PPP and not the party’s manifesto and performance!

Comments from him and other PTH participants on this thread represent the core reason for the exaggerated outrage against the PPP over its handling of Sherry Rahman. The chattering class will always kick PPP because that’s the only thing that they then can vent their rage on. Aside from a few muted and watered down columns by individuals within the list, can any of the signatories from civil society coordinate a similar petition with the media against the MQM?

Can they draft and sign a similar petition that calls out the Sipah Sahaba and similar groups after the murder of Shias, Ahmadis and Christains. Not a vague denunciation but a specific condemnation by the same group that is coordinating with the media to once again have a go at their perennial PPP punching bag.

Can this group of signatories finally take to task a rampant Jamaat-dominated Supreme Court and call it out for its role in :

-selectively lynching the PPP leadership,
– ensuring that Jihadi bigots are set free promptly,
-ignoring the role of the intelligence agencies in the mass disappearance of Balochi nationalist youth, and
– discarding the cases against its political benefactors with immense alacrity as compared to the colossal waste of time that is given to hearing petitions against unanimously approved legislation by the elected parliament.

The so called ‘civil society’ (pseudo-liberals) and the media that it patronizes has failed on these far more crucial matters. Instead we are left with a petition about how a few dozen Lyari women protested against Sherry Rehman while hardly a peep about how MQM’s goons went about shutting the city yesterday evening; an eerie reminiscence to the 1990s.

The few who refused to sign this petition have informed me that Sherry Rehman has applied indirect pressure, and this is not so much about a botched protest as it was about yet another PPP worker whose sense of self-importance gradually became greater than the prerogatives of the political party that should now ask for her resignation.

Go Sherry go, be brave to join the long discarded list of Mubashir Hasans, Hanif Ramays, Ghulam Mustafa Khars et al, the true saviours and sympathisers of the PPP! You have Raza Rumis, Yasser Hamdanis, Adil Najams on your side along with Hamid Mirs and Muhammad Malicks.



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