Written By: Amir Zia

In today’s context, these forces remain bitterly opposed to the Pakistan Armed Forces. For pseudo liberals, the security forces are the main stumbling block in their designs to make frontiers between Pakistan and India irrelevant. They justify their argument in the name of the so-called shared values, culture and history between the two states. The religious extremists stand at the other side of the pendulum and propagate that the armed forces are allies of the West and therefore, resorting to acts of terror against them remain justified.

warofnart.jpg

Two small, but motivated rival forces have long been trying to rule the public opinion in Pakistan. They are zealously pushing their competing narratives in schools, colleges, universities and seminaries to capture young minds. They are battling it out with each other in the mainstream media in an attempt to thrust their agendas. And they are trying to exploit the reach of the new media to propagate views and put across their messages. Despite deep fissures and countless variances within each of these forces, the westernized pseudo liberals and the religious extremists are two distinct groups, struggling to seize the national narrative.

But their ideological differences apart, these rivals also share some common traits.

For example, they both in their essence remain opposed to Pakistan and its basic idea apparently for conflicting reasons, yet aiming to achieve the similar outcome. If the so-called liberals think that the creation of Pakistan and the partition of British-India was a slip of history, the religious extremist, too, think in the same manner albeit under a different pretext. The religious extremists denounce the Freedom Movement and its achievement – Pakistan – because it clashes with their parochial, intolerant and theocratic worldview. Their rivals – the pseudo liberals – try to undermine the demand for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia as a mere British conspiracy aimed at dividing India. By this naïve assertion, they ignore the strong demands of political, economic and social rights of Muslims, which culminated with the creation of Pakistan. The two rivals also appear on the same page in their criticism of Pakistan’s founding fathers and heroes of the Freedom Movement – from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. If for the religious extremists these leaders were too open-minded, progressive and modern, their rivals declare them conservative, communal and pro-British.

In today’s context, these forces remain bitterly opposed to the Pakistan Armed Forces. For pseudo liberals, the security forces are the main stumbling block in their designs to make frontiers between Pakistan and India irrelevant. They justify their argument in the name of the so-called shared values, culture and history between the two states. The religious extremists stand at the other side of the pendulum and propagate that the armed forces are allies of the West and therefore, resorting to acts of terror against them remain justified.

The pseudo liberals criticize Pakistan and its security establishment for the alleged support to the religiously-motivated Afghan militants, while the religious extremists condemn and target the country exactly for the opposite reason; for fighting the Al-Qaeda-linked or inspired militants and destroying the safe havens of all foreign terrorists.

One can draw several other such parallels and dig deeper into the ideological stances of these two extreme views, which in a nutshell may appear contradictory, but aim to weaken and destroy Pakistan.

Many pseudo liberals, who also have been joined in by the leftists of yesteryears, will certainly raise eyebrows on what they might say the “audacity” of drawing similarities between them and their violent ideological rivals. Some can rightly say in their defence that unlike the religious extremists, they do not stand guilty of resorting to suicide bombings, explosions and acts of terrorism and sabotage, while others may like to draw attention toward their services for the EU-inspired human rights causes.

All this may be true, but the thrust of the argument is to highlight the commonalities of the two rivals. As far as actions are concerned, besides ideology, they are the result of many other factors, including strategy, the class and social backgrounds of activists, their political orientation and commitment.

The pseudo liberals overwhelmingly comprise mainly of the westernized and well-off middle, upper middle and elite classes, while the religious extremists draw most of their foot soldiers from the lower classes, especially from the rural areas and bank on select motivated individuals from the middle and upper-middle class as their ideologues, masterminds of complicated operations.

Both these rivals enjoy much more reach and clout in the traditional and the new media than their actual size in the society. For instance, pseudo liberals dominate the English-language press, which despite the small size, is seen influential because of its reach in the corridors of power. The so-called liberals freely run propaganda campaigns against the core national interests from undermining the Kashmir cause to that of the criticism on the country’s nuclear programme mainly in the English-language press, which serves as the main vehicle to highlight their small protests, conferences and other activities. They resort to propaganda against the country’s security agencies and the armed forces and try to portray them as rouge institutions. They also indulge in foreign-inspired advocacy campaigns in the name of human rights – by which they basically mean rights of criminals and terrorists. The organized, EU-backed campaign against the resumption of death penalty after last December’s barbarity at the Army Public School Peshawar is a case to point. As the national consensus stood solidly behind awarding capital punishment, the self-styled rights’ groups launched a drive to save the life of the child killer Shafqat Hussain by twisting facts and distorting evidence to prove that he was a juvenile when he kidnapped a seven-year-old boy and murdered him after sexual abuse. Their aim was to undermine Pakistan’s judiciary. Due to public pressure, the child killer was finally hanged to death in Karachi after evading death warrants at least half-a-dozen times.

Although the religious extremists do not have a direct clout on the traditional media, their apologist and allies in the mainstream religious and political parties help support their narrative. They urge for talks with terrorists – responsible for killing thousands of Pakistanis, including officers and soldiers of the armed forces – in the name of peace. There also are blatant attempts in the media to justify taking up arms against the state and arguments to support the policy of appeasement and reconciliation with the local and foreign terrorists, trying to run a state within the state. Such voices have bigger influence on the Urdu-language media, which has become a tool to propagate hate speech, intolerance, conservative ideas and ideals and twist the vision of Pakistan by attempting to paint it as a theocratic state. Such ideas are also reinforced by many pulpits and seminaries as well as big and small religious groups. Their narrow, myopic, flawed and confrontationist interpretation of the sacred religion of Islam creates favourable ground where extremist ideas breed and grow.

The extremists also have an organized propaganda machinery of their own and have mastered the art of using the new media. They are not just banking on the written word to disseminate propaganda, but use audios, videos and photographs through dedicated or third party websites and countless fake accounts on the social media. If any of these accounts get blocked, a new one is created under another fake identity.

However, the pseudo liberals and the religious extremists remain a minority in this country of more than 180 million people. Yet they have managed to create a lot of dust, which tarnishes Pakistan’s image and creates despondency, negativism and anger in the society. Ironically, the rational Pakistani nationalist narrative is missing from both the traditional and the new media. Even if it exists, it is disorganized and finds little space, though it articulates the aspirations and will of overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. What does this nationalist narrative mean in a nutshell given Pakistan’s present day challenges?

The state should ensure its monopoly over violence. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the crackdown on criminals and terrorists in Karachi are aimed at achieving this goal. Support to these causes is vital in the battle of ideas to achieve the goal of a peaceful and stable Pakistan as envisioned by its founders.

Firstly, it represents modernity rooted in our tradition, culture and religion. The same way, Pakistan’s founding fathers conceived and articulated it by investing in the modern education starting from Aligarh, Sindh Madrassatul Islam, Islamia College Peshawar and other modern education institutions, which in turn became the vanguard of the freedom struggle.

Secondly, it means rising above the bigoted sectarian, ethnic and provincial divide and promoting national cohesion and unity. This again remains the crux of the message of Pakistan’s founders, who managed to unite Muslims of South Asia for a single cause regardless of their class, ethnic, sectarian or provincial background.

Thirdly, it is establishing the writ of the state and rule of law in the country. This means zero-tolerance for armed groups and bands of non-state actors operating under any pretext. The state should ensure its monopoly over violence. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the crackdown on criminals and terrorists in Karachi are aimed at achieving this goal. Support to these causes is vital in the battle of ideas to achieve the goal of a peaceful and stable Pakistan as envisioned by its founders.

Fourthly, it should aim at making Pakistan’s defence impregnable against any direct aggression as well as the indirect soft invasion diluting our national cohesion and unity. This means unflinching support for the guardians of Pakistan’s frontiers – the armed forces – and countering those individuals, commercial organizations and media ventures working against Pakistan’s core interests.

And fifthly, it should promote the idea of economically prosperous, progressive and strong Pakistan to ensure not just the wellbeing and upward social mobility of citizens, but also guarantees peace and stability in the region. This was the dream of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali and his companions. The first key to achieve these goals is to aggressively and unapologetically dominate the battle of narratives and counter those tiny organized minorities of pseudo liberals and the religious extremists, who are trying to weaken Pakistan. It is time for the Team Pakistan to rise, make a difference and win this battle.

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @AmirZia1

Read 6607 times

3 comments

  • Comment Link Saud Saud 13 September 2015

    The entire nation is facing hardship since the creation of Pakistan, every one comes and go, either its a civil government of military. We as a nation have not reached to a conclusion what to do and how to do..? The dilemma is the political parties when they are out of power blame to the military rulers to be a dictator. The nation have elected them in terms political affiliations with them, but after coming into power they left the nation into crises and paying attention towards their own pockets. The last election what so ever it was for an elected government, whereas the nation elected them in a true political will, but have not been proved by the political leaders. The political system of Pakistan has been established purely on political norms of democracy, but none of them proved to be a democratic. The houses of Parliament and Senate are being built for the purpose of debates and there is no one who come up for the solution of this nation. The elected members come to attend the sessions in way they are visiting a photo gallery and go to their homes after having benefits in the pockets from government exchequer; enjoying well has become hobby of their life. The entire nation is suffering from severe load shading, but none of them is paying attention towards the problems of the nation. People have no choice except to have a change either way and they are providing way themselves to be over thrown. The expectations of nation has been destroyed by them. A simple person is thinking that a non matriculate or under graduates is running the GOP business due to which , the establishment and bureaucracy is facing number of administrative problems, resulting into failure of system..

  • Comment Link AZHAR AZHAR 12 September 2015

    Beutiful...God bless you Amir Zia Bahi and the hilal team..Keep up great work.

  • Comment Link Shabir Ahmad Shabir Ahmad 11 September 2015

    Well written piece. Sometimes you have to be a little blunt to say the truth. Criticizing religious extremists is not as difficult as liberals who rule the social media.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

Follow Us On Twitter