Lifestyle Liberals and Political Liberals: Is LUBP a hurdle in the way of unity of liberals?

PPP and ANP remain a persistent target of the right-wing and pseudo-liberal affiliates of the Deep State

Related posts: Deconstructing Pakistani liberals: A response to Shashi Tharoor and Raza Rumi

Censorship tactics and the ‘unity of liberals’ – by Alamdar Mengal

The liberal fiasco in Pakistan – by Suleman Akhtar


I was motivated to write this post after listening to Imran Khan’s interview on BBC Urdu:

In this interview, Khan claims (3:10 onwards): “I am a liberal, was always a liberal.”

This then reminds me of the million dollar question: If Imran Khan is a liberal, how do I classify myself? Or how do I classify LUBP as compared to, for example, Ejaz Haider, Najam Sethi, Shireen Mazari and other seemingly liberal persons?

There has been a consistent pressure on LUBP for quite some time to foster unity with other Pakistani liberals who, it has been claimed, are very few in a crowd of millions of Mumtaz Qadri supporters, Malik Ishaq lovers and Ludhianvi worshippers. This proposed project is lovingly described as “Unity of Liberals” or “Ittehad bain al liberaleen” by a fellow LUBP editor.

Of course, it depends on how we define liberal: people can be socially liberal (i.e., liberal in their personal lifestyle), pro-democracy, anti-sectarian but foreign policy hawks, ethnocentric nationalists, class-oriented or mere narcissists.

Let’s consider a recent example to understand the complexity of the Unity of Liberals project. In recent past, we witnessed an interesting match of allegations and counter-allegations between the pro-Jinnah Institute (JI) report liberals and those liberals who thought the report uncritically recycled and reinforced the Deep State’s (pro-Taliban) approach towards Afghanistan.

While similar divisions were obvious in the aftermath of Salmaan Taseer’s murder and Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder, nothing else has exposed the unrealistic nature of the proposed unity of liberals more than the JI-USIP report. Clearly, the pro-military establishment narrative liberals may not be equated with independent liberals who remain pro-politician, pro-democracy and pro-human rights instead of a selective approach to these issues. (For example, see Dr. Taqi’s article on silence of liberal lambs on misrepresentation of Shia genocide.)

Apparently both groups (pro-USIP-JI report and anti-report) would self-describe themselves as socially liberal, anti-sectarian and pro-democracy. Both of them, in the main, seem to be progressive in their personal lifestyle and views on certain issues (e.g., women’s rights, moderate interpretation of Islam etc). However, the key distinction point is political liberalism, which in Pakistan’s context may be understood as actual commitment to the empowerment and political enfranchisement of the masses as opposed to military establishment’s domination.

For example, in recent years, it is the political liberals of the PPP, ANP, MQM, Baloch nationalists etc, who have paid and are still paying the price of their commitment to liberal values (equality of diverse ethnic and religious groups, progressive views on Islam, support for democracy etc), while many apolitical liberals remain silent spectators or complicit to the military state’s narratives (e.g., lopsided views on corruption, silence on global Jihad Enterprise agenda, silence on or misrepresentation of Shia genocide etc) . It is a fact that while right wing products of the Deep State’s Jihad Enterprise were busy in slaughtering Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Mir Nawaz Khan and other PPP leaders and workers, several urban liberals (many of them in the English media) were busy in blaming the victim, i.e., Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP for these murders. Same is true for ANP whose leader Asfandyar Wali Khan is frequently ridiculed and blamed by the pro-establishment liberals on the murder of ANP leaders by jihadi proxies of the Deep State.

Therefore, it is important to understand that those “liberals” who justify or reinforce the killers’ narratives cannot and must not be united with those liberals who are being massacred and then blamed for their own murder.

In a previous article, I have argued that it is inaccurate to lump all Pakistani liberals into one category. Indeed it is naive to conflate those with a “social liberal life style” (English speaking, whisky drinking, (selective) human rights sloganeering, fashionable liberals) with political liberals (i.e., those who are currently being massacred by the military state and its various proxies because of their commitment to democracy, human rights, equality and liberty).

It is important to acknowledge here that Pakistan’s English press is as pro-military establishment as is the Urdu language media. It’s only the difference in tactic, vocabulary and style which distinguishes one from the other, otherwise, barring a few exceptions, both segments of Pakistani media remain almost completely silent on mass murders of the Baloch, Pashtuns and and Shia Muslims in general by the military state and its various proxy organisations (e.g., Taliban, Sipah Sahaba, LeT, JeM). See for example, how Pakistan’s English speaking urban liberals reacted to the release of an ASWJ-LeJ terrorist Malik Ishaq Deobandi. Instead of blaming the ISI-backed Supreme Court, they conveniently blamed the police and the prosecution. And all this after Malik Ishaq had publicly boasted about his killings but which was “insufficient evidence” for our Supreme Court!” A similar silence by right-wingers and lifestyle liberals was seen on police officer Ajmeer Shah’s murder in Risalpur and journalist Javid Naseer Rind’s murder in Khuzdar by the proxies of the Deep State.

Another example is how certain liberals, many of them directly or indirectly affiliated with Najam Sethi or Sherry Rehman (known on Twitter as Lashkar-e-Sethi or Lashkar-e-Sherry), have been seen promoting notorious pro-Taliban entities as progressive or anti-establishment. In recent moths, thugs such as Hamid Mir, Tahir Ashrafi Deobandi and Ahmed Ludhianvi Deobandi have been presented by certain “liberals” as prophets of peace and tolerance. Such discourse in effect hurts the prospects of a liberal and tolerant Pakistan and also serves as deceiving ordinary public and obfuscating the challenges facing Pakistani society.

Here is another example of how a lifestyle liberal journalist, Najam Sethi, blames Westminster style democracy for corruption in Pakistan.

“the idea of “revolution, people’s power and radical change” is in the air even in Pakistan. But the growing tragedy is that this sentiment is anti-democracy, anti-secularism, anti-liberalism and anti-pluralism because the system of political democracy a la Westminster has only served to sustain a game of musical chairs for corrupt politicians and grasping soldiers who have been living off economic rents and military handouts from the United States in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives in South and West Asia. Pakistani democracy is characterized by 3 Ds: dynastic, dysfunctional and discredited.”

Here Mr. Sethi conveniently ignores and omits the fact that a particular institution has systematically ensured that democracy in Pakistan remains dysfunctional and discredited and that the corrupt politician mantra remains prevalent. Mr. Sethi’s anti-politicians stance may be better contextualized by the fact that he was a minister in Farooq Leghari’s interim cabinet after Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s elected government was dismissed for the second time by the clauses inserted by a military dictator; and which have now been removed by the current PPP elected government via the 18th Amendment.

In the light of the above, Imran Khan’s claim to liberalism is as credible as are similar claims by other social liberal affiliates (Lashkar-e-Sethi) of the military establishment. Further, any proposals of ‘tribal unity’ between lifestyle liberals and political liberals must be seen as either naive or motivated by a sinister agenda to censor and moderate political liberal voices.

marvi ejaz

20 responses to “Lifestyle Liberals and Political Liberals: Is LUBP a hurdle in the way of unity of liberals?”

  1. According to LUBP toadies of Zardari league, anyone who is not a Zardari supporter is a fake liberal. Wah!

  2. I like Najam Sethi and Dr. Shirin Mazari. They cannot be compared with Hamid Mir and Ansar Abbasi types.

  3. Here’s another social liberal performing his art:

    Ustaad Hamid Ali Khan vs Ustaad General Pervez Musharraf Khan

    Keep in mind that it is the same social liberal Musharraf who provided safe sanctuaries to jiahdi terrorists of Al Qaeda and Taliban in Waziristan, Quetta and Swat.

  4. I agree with Khalilullah.

    Najam Sethi’s only crime is that he speaks against corrupt politicians. His stance against Phoolan Devi (BB the looter) was as principled as is his current stance against Zardari, the NRO-zadah.

  5. najamsethi Najam Sethi
    @qghani We can encourage healthy debate by discouraging unhealthy comments. Should we BLOCK all those who swear and abuse? Pl discuss.
    7 Nov

    husainhaqqani Husain Haqqani
    by najamsethi
    Politics should be about disagreeing with each other’s views, not hating one another
    4 Nov

    Razarumi Raza Rumi
    by najamsethi
    +1 RT @mosharrafzaidi: we can all disagree but we don’t have be mean-spirited, we don’t have to call each other names. we can just disagree.
    4 Nov

  6. @Samad,
    In my opinion, Najam Sethi isnt as bad as many others. He has to sell his trade too!!

  7. A excellent piece; Masquerading liberals are all over the place…honestly knowing some of them and their selective and phony liberalism; I wouldn’t even want to be classified as one.

  8. Najam Sethi’s vitriol against popular elected leaders like BB and the elected president Zardari is as consistent as his gentle and mild criticism of the military establishment. He is excellent as he not only deflects the criticsm away from GHQ but manages to place the blame on PPP. Case in point being his article on Shia genocide. All those years fawning over Musharaf and his stint with the caretaker government of Farooq-ul-Haq have made his loyalties clear. No one can beat Sethi Sahib as an establishment hatchet man against PPP governments.

  9. Is there a misconception in classifying leftists with liberals? Although leftists are a very rare lot in Pakistan. But we should understand that liberals )as most of them are) would always be pro status quo (you can call this establishment in case of Pakistan)while accepting that they are pro human rights, and support democratic equality (as far as they have say in it), role of governence, modern, scientific, lietrature and arts supporters etc. but by no means they are pro-prople or want to uplift masses, social welfare is not equivalent to political struggle, NGOs are not an equivalent to political parties.
    It is always from the left that voices for masses appear, class consciousness is very important in third world politics, we have examples of China or to some extent India where still there is movement to uplift deprived segments of society, and that movement is not guided by liberals, however good looking they seem.
    So we should be very careful in our classification of political ideologies and tendencies. If we expect what should not be expected we will always be left crying foul.

  10. @Sarmad

    You are right that “leftists are a very rare lot in Pakistan.” They have limited influence and presence in Pakistani society and politics. In the present post, I did not consider ‘leftists’ (Marxists, Socialists etc) at all nor I referred to any leftist party or leader, thus the question of conflation or misconception does not arise.

  11. “Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. ”
    Well done Abdul we must not be neutral. We have to support our “Beghairat Brigade” in this onslaught from these islamofascists who have disguised themselves as social liberals. Playing Shehzad Roy & Strings on stage does not make someone liberal.In fact they are also chips of the same block.

  12. I think a number of these are political chamaleons. Dont want to use the words Political Bi$exuals 😉

  13. I meant PPP is a social democratic party and as such it stood on left, so as ANP, they are more closed to labor parties in the world rather the liberal parties, although they blieve in liberal values but they are one step further in their menisfestos and agendas.
    That is why liberals always change their stance while they are supporting PPP or ANP because their interest can collide anytime and they went close to establishment; while staunch PPP and ANP members (included in that rare lot) and supporters take stand and sacrifice.

    It is a point of view, not criticism but an addition in the topic from another perspective.

  14. ’عمران خان، امریکہ اور یورپ کے غلام‘
    دلاور خان وزیر
    بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام، پشاور
    آخری وقت اشاعت: جمعرات 10 نومبر 2011 ,‭ 12:37 GMT 17:37

    عمران خان نے حال ہی میں بی بی سی کے ساتھ ایک انٹرویو میں کہا تھا کہ وہ لبرل ہیں اور طالبان شدت پسندوں کی حمایت نہیں کرتے

    تحریکِ طالبان پاکستان نےتحریکِ انصاف کے سربراہ عمران خان پر تنقید کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ انہوں نے خود کو ’لبرل‘ کہ کر ثابت کر دیا ہے کہ وہ امریکہ اور یورپ کے غلام ہیں۔
    تحریکِ طالبان پاکستان کے ترجمان احسان اللہ احسان نے بی بی سی کو بتایا کہ لبرل انگریزی زبان کا لفظ ہے اس لیے عمران خان کو چاہیے کہ اگر وہ اپنے آپ کو عوام کا نمائندہ سمجھتے ہیں تو وہ پاکستانی عوام کی زبان میں بات کریں جو کہ اردو زبان ہے۔

    پاکستان, تحریکِ طالبان پاکستان
    ترجمان کے مطابق عمران خان نے کہا ہے کہ وہ طالبان کے طرف دار نہیں ہیں۔ انہوں نے کہا ’ہم بھی اس غلط فہمی میں نہیں ہیں اور ہم سمجھتے ہیں کہ عمران خان ہمارا طرفدار نہیں ہے۔‘
    واضح رہے کہ تریکِ انصاف کے سرہراہ عمران خان نے حال ہی میں بی بی سی کے ساتھ ایک انٹرویو میں کہا تھا کہ وہ لبرل ہیں اور طالبان شدت پسندوں کی حمایت نہیں کرتے۔

    طالبان ترجمان نے لبرل لفظ کی تشریح کچھ یوں کی ’اپنے آپ کو لبرل کہنے والا شخص دراصل خود کو اسلام سمیت تمام مذاہب سے آزاد سمجھتا ہے یعنی لبرل شخص کسی بھی مذہب کو نہیں مانتا اور خاص کر اسلام اور توحید کا مُنکر ہوتا ہے۔‘

    ان کا کہنا تھا کہ عمران خان نے الزام لگایا ہے کہ پاکستان کے بعض رہنماء امریکہ کے غلام ہیں۔

    ترجمان کے مطابق وہ عمران خان کو بتانا چاہتے ہیں کہ وہ تو ان امریکیوں کے غلام ہیں جو اب اس دنیا میں بھی نہیں ہیں۔
    دوسری جانب صوبہ خیبر پختونخوا میں تحریکِ انصاف کے ترجمان زاہد حسین مومند نے بتایا کہ پاکستان تریکِ انصاف پاکستان کے قبائلی علاقوں میں جنگ کے خلاف ہےاور جب وہاں جنگ رک گئی تو پاکستان میں شدت پسندی ختم ہوجائےگ