Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plight Of The Left

The last week and a half was not the best time to be a liberal in Pakistan.

First, the so called capitulation of the Pakistan People’s Party Government to the religious right in the shape of that holiday. Really went down well that decision.

A more severe blow came as ANP stalwart and porn king Ghulam Bilour announced a $100,000 bounty for the filmmaker behind “Innocence of Muslims”. Not only that, he asked his “brothers” from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to help.

Raja Pervez Ashraf has since distanced the Pakistan government from Bilour’s statement and views, as have the ANP. Talk of Ghulam Bilour being disciplined by the government or party has quickly died down.

The usual “betrayal by the PPP” line has been picked up by many in the liberal press and on social media, regards to their latest so called appeasement of the religious right. Granted there’s some genuine anger, but it will subside by next weekend and liberals will return to “their” party.

Until next time. And the time after that, and so on and so forth. Never realizing that PPP is not “their” party and it hasn’t been for a long time. But hey, better denial than anger, right?

As much as everyone wants to forget, this is a party whose lawmaker believes they have a right to corruption and defended that right on TV. That’s their ideology: corruption. They genuinely believe that they have the right to loot and steal and make money in all imaginable and unimaginable ways. Co-Chairman of PPP and President of Pakistan Asif Zardari - of course - wrote the book on said ideology and the exploits of Prime Minister Gillani are well known now.

Is there anything liberal or leftist about those two? The son of a tribal chief and a “Gaddi Nasheen”. Or about Rehman Malik? Or Raja Pervez Ashraf?

Truth is PPP doesn’t resemble a leftist party at all. Mian Mithu cancels more than Raza Rabbani, shut up. It is an apolitical entity at best and a criminal empire at worst.

Meanwhile everyone in the “party” wants a piece of the pie, which happens to be Pakistan. The ministers, the MNAs and the MPAs, down to the “jiyalas”. While MNAs get ephedrine quotas, the Jiyalas are rewarded with governmental jobs and paid bundled salaries as per the reinstatement policy. This is their politics, this is how loyalties are bought and/or strengthened.

Add to it the cult status in Sindh and new voter hiring through Benazir Income Support Program and you have a robust machine that doesn’t need to care about the left, or the right. They can afford to just do nothing, and that’s actually what they do; nothing.

So whoever shouts the loudest at them, or whoever cuts a deal, gets what they want.

Therefore, this talk of a betrayal just sounds desperate.

Liberals are a non factor for the PPP. They are useful for painting a good picture in the press, and maybe in front of Washington. So the PPP uses them, gets the columns in, gets two wise old men on TV to sing their praises and then settles to the right of Jamaat-e-Islami on Friday.

Why do the liberals go back? Well, partly because many are deeply invested in the PPP, either financially or emotionally, and partly because seemingly there’s nowhere else to go.

ANP, although staunchly secular, is more a regional party and would never be able to press ahead liberal agendas nationally. The worry now is that ANP have not only fallen prey to the disease of corruption, they have also taken up arms in Karachi. And once you cross those lines, there’s not much reason for you to shy away from anything else.

That’s where Bilour’s statement came from. Expect more of the same from ANP in an election year with anti-Americanism rife in KPK.

So what do the liberals do? The worst thing possible, of course.

The advance guard of PPP propagandists has already set foot in the MQM camp. Apparently, Altaf Hussain is the new benchmark for progressive and secular ideals and must be championed for his bravery and other assorted bullshit.

Make no mistake - the MQM is one of the biggest most lethal terrorist organizations in the world. According to Wikileaks the US believes MQM have 10,000 active fighters and 25,000 reserves in their ranks and draw funding through an extortion racket which is one of the most effective and punishing in the world. Granted MQM does have a political wing but that hasn’t made the killing or extortion go away.

Needless to say, this is a death-trap. MQM has the blood of thousands on its hands, and as other ethnic groups in Karachi start to fight for a share of the spoils, represented by yours liberally PPP and ANP of course, the violence will only increase.

I know that the propagandists have to earn bread and have already killed their conscience. They know all of the above better than me, and are not in the slightest bit bothered. The rest of you lot need to realize that this will not work, and it is not working.

The liberal cause has only suffered in the hands of the PPP, ANP and MQM the last 5 years and space for the right has expanded. These are people who do not care about any law and they don’t care about human life, what to speak of an ideology.

Pakistan needs all the liberals and progressives it can get, but their continued indulgence with the PPP and now MQM renders them indefensible and takes away any moral authority. Calls for introspection are raised regularly by the left. They would do well to know charity begins at home.

If a day’s mayhem in Islamabad shook your confidence in the Pakistan People’s Party while four years of slaughter in Karachi did not, you need to take a hard look in the mirror.

Please stop prioritizing ideology over humanity. It is time to start over.

Monday, 24 September 2012

A Different Pakistan

By this time most papers have stated the obvious about what went wrong on Friday along with the perceived causes. Subjects dealt with included freedom of speech vs. hate speech, Terry Jones and background of filmmaker Nakoula Bassey Nakoula, provocation and our stupid response, and to top it all off, shock and disgust at the violent nature of protests.

The analysis of what went down and why, at least in most of the English press, confirmed my long standing suspicion. I live in a different Pakistan.

In the Pakistan that I inhabit, violent protests erupted just a few months ago due to loadshedding and people actively hunted for MNAs. It resulted in many deaths along with damage to property. In recent memory mobs have burned people for blasphemy, while earlier the fate of two brothers in Sialkot was even harsher.

Needless to say, if the people catch you while committing a crime, real or perceived, you will be lucky to make it to the cops.

What about the learned people? Those who are above the masses, the ones not only setting standards but also enforcing them?

Our police, one of the most brutal and vicious in the world, kill the odd chap via torture in custody, and are generally very macho. Our lawyers beat down anyone they can get their hands on. Our politicians torture kids. Hell, even our doctors don’t mind a scuffle!

That’s the lighter side of my Pakistan. Wasn’t it pleasant?

The rough side is actually a little disturbing. Insurgencies plague Balochistan and KPK-FATA, terrorism at large, sectarian killings in Gilgit and Quetta. Our right wing political parties are the bad guys, while the three supposedly liberal parties slaughter over a thousand people every year.

My Pakistan is one where violence isn’t widespread; it’s a part of daily life, with or without religion.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if these Pakistanis were invited en masse onto the streets by say, the government of the time? Given a full day off to vent their frustration? And what if the government and the many political/religious leaders who invited these guys to protest didn’t show up themselves?

Piling angry young people onto the streets without anyone to lead them, without any direction, without any indication whatsoever of what exactly are they supposed to do. What would that lead to?

Enough of my Pakistan though.

Let us come back to your Pakistan. I have to say I am as appalled as you are over what happened on Friday. How dare those lovely, peaceful, content people come out, uninvited, on the streets like headless chicken and cause such unheard of mayhem. Not to mention the harm done to our good reputation in front of the whole world.

Viewing these events in isolation from the daily life in Pakistan is intellectually dishonest at worst and lazy at best.

Viewing the reaction of the Muslim world to that video as a whole is just wrong. It was violent in some countries, peaceful in others. How they reacted had to do with the makeup of those particular societies and the guidance received from political, religious leaders and media.

In our society violence has pretty much been institutionalized, it is the rule here and not the exception. It is what we do, it is who we are. The less said about the political and religious leaders the better, and the media feeds off sensationalism and Bahria Town adverts.

Therefore, I could find nothing shocking about Friday. A violent people, with a nasty bout of anti-Americanism and deadly disdain for blasphemy, let loose on the streets. How many ways could that have turned out? Also, the fact that PPP are an incompetent shameless lot of opportunists who find new ways to hurt the country is the least surprising of all things imaginable.

This was not an anomaly. It wasn’t an ugly episode in our otherwise peaceful national life. It was just another day, albeit made worse by a chaotic, utterly useless government.

So the elite should stop reacting with such marvellous shock. And please, please stop mocking the damn mob, on Twitter no less. If you are privileged enough to have a voice, use it to address the larger disease, not selective symptoms.

The ones responsible for law and order and the ones who claim to be our leaders, they are responsible for not just the violence on Friday, but the daily horrors Pakistanis outside the Red Zone have to deal with.