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Liberalism is a Lost Cause in Pakistan

Liberalism is a Lost Cause in Pakistan

Omer Bin Abdullah blogger@chaiwhy

Prof. T.N.T. Moungbein, chairman of the department of Other Worlds Studies, Muddleburg University, has invited Prof. Vahshat Nashaybaaz, chairman of the department of international studies, University of Streetsville, who specializes in Pakistan studies.

The topic of discussion is “Will Liberalism Survive in Pakistan?”

Prof. Nashaybaaz starts his address, “Professor Moungbein, Chancellor Kluless, honorable members of the faculty and dear students. I am most honored by this invitation.

“I can report with certainty that Imran Khan’s election as the prime minister of Pakistan does not auger well for liberalism, not just in Pakistan but also elsewhere.

“I know, Americans are not familiar with the game, but being an immigrant from Pakistan, I am among those who have followed Imran’s career from his playing days.

“His own and older cousin, Majid Khan, wanted to continue playing and retire with 4,000 runs to his credit. No. Imran would not have it. His conservative approach was country first … as his captain, he dropped him on the basis of his form, and that brought down the curtain on his career.

“Let me give one more example of his non-liberal ways, and again from cricket – the foundation of his present glory. When the Pakistan Cricket Board unveiled the team’s uniform for the 1992 world cup tournament’s opening ceremony. He asked, “Why are you dressing them like white people?” Imran put his foot down and the team attended the ceremony wearing traditional cream-colored shalwar-kameez suits.

“Mind you this tournament was not anywhere in Asia but was being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, which are very much western countries!

“He was 39 going on forty then! One of his teammates later recalled he would frequently tell them that if he ever came to power, he would end the class bias in education, invest in social services and bring an end to corruption. This man said that Imran’s beliefs have remained constant over the years.

“Really! End class bias … Pakistani liberals are from the elite. He wants them to sit beside the unwashed. He does not want them. Period.

“You know that Turkey had a great liberal reformer, Mustafa Kamal, honored as Ataturk, or father of the Turks. He cast aside all religious expression and even banned the traditional Turkish fez cap! And here you had Imran taking his team to Australia and New Zealand in shalwar-kameez!

“Not just that, as Imran prepared to enter public life, he started publishing articles that Pakistanis should not ape the West. His entry into national politics in 1997, the Sunday Times said was marked by attacking ‘evil’ Western values, and the ‘brown sahibs’ or those Pakistani elites who aped their former colonial masters.

“In his own book Pakistan: A Personal History, Imran criticized rich women going to glitzy parties dressed in Western clothes, chauffeured by men with entirely different customs and values. Did he want fathers and husbands to hire British or American educated chauffeurs who shared their values! He wanted that even women not ape westerners.

“Since decades, the United States has sold arms to Pakistan and supplied aid to it, once even wheat and powdered milk, but Imran has his own stance on Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. He says that Westoxified Pakistanis have been selling their souls and killing their own people for a few million dollars… My friends, you will agree that a dollar is a dollar. Imran wants to set relations with the United States on equitable terms. This can spell danger for the NGOs, which are a rich source for financing liberalism in Pakistan. Why would the U.S. support NGOs in a country that attempts to grow its own spine?

“Of course, who else but the religious in Pakistan would stress the importance of preserving the national character?

“Another hallmark of the Pakistanis opposed to liberalism is their disdain for made-in-Washington Islamic system in the country. Imran subscribes to this view. I mean the United States has dozens of universities teaching about Islam and Muslims so they are the right source for prescribing an Islamic system, not just for Pakistan but also for that matter any Muslim country. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s liberal crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman has already done so – assigned it to McKinsey & Company.

“I wouldn’t even mention Nawaz Sharif, founder of his eponymous faction, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, in this conversation, because he has no notion of concepts like liberalism or conservatism. Except of course, profiting from public service. But let us consider the Peoples Party of Pakistan, the party most strongly associated with liberalism. Instead of turning to religion, the party co-chair Asif Zardari has always focused on building his flourishing real estate portfolio in the United States and Europe. He has even set his son, Bilawal, who has inherited the party from his mother who inherited it from her father, on the same course. The country’s top real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Husain gifted a $40 million mansion in Lahore to the young man.

“And in the defense of its liberal ideals, the Peoples Party has now aligned itself with religious parties like the Muttahida Majlis–e–Amal (MMA; “United Council of Action”), a group of five Islamic parties headed by Maulana Fazalur Rahman, president of his eponymous faction, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazal (JUI-F). Fazal, who has made a name for himself in partaking from public exchequer, is very liberal in having profitable alliances.

“I will conclude with the advice that no one needs to be misled by Imran’s clean-shaven face. Liberalism is a lost cause in Pakistan.

“Once again, thank you for inviting me to speak.”



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