Unfortunately, the world in which we live in today is neither fair nor just, full of inherent contradictions, intellectual dishonesty and insincerity. The ‘War on Terror’ has exposed to a greater level these contradictions, and the growing level of intellectual dishonesty and insincerity, with more and more people becoming aware and conscious of how so called ‘sacred values’ can be discarded for the sake of political expediency, how discourse can immediately change to suit political interests and how labels, such as ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist’ can be thrown around to justify foreign and domestic policies. I must be amongst millions around the world that are fed up and saddened with what we watch and read, with civil society, political parties and the media perpetuating fully these contradictions and becoming part of the intellectual dishonesty and insincerity circus that pervades the world today. If one zooms into Pakistan, one will understand the point that I am trying to make in this column.

During the 1980s, the Afghan people were our brothers and today they have become our worst enemies; they were known as the Afghan Mujahedeen fighting a noble cause against the Soviet occupies with our hand stretched out to them but today the same hand is held back and the exact same Afghan Mujahedeen are known as terrorists as they fight the NATO occupation in the same country. We consistently praised Afghanistan as giving Pakistan ‘Strategic Depth’, now Afghanistan is presented as a ‘hell hole’ that must be shunned, abandoned and left to her own devices. The Soviets were classed as occupiers oppressing and butchering Afghanis, whereas NATO which is doing the same job as the Soviets is known as the savior, nation builder and peace maker in a war torn country. The Haqqani network was known as a strategic friend and asset but today it has become the number one enemy that needs to be chased out of the tribal areas and blown away. Afghani refugees were welcomed as brothers and sisters but today they are expelled for being terrorists and looked upon as being a fifth column in our society. The Mujahedeen in Kashmir were supported and touted as freedom fighters during the Cold War only for them to become terrorists post Cold War, when the US changed its strategic interests in the region from keeping out the Soviets to raising India to pit herself against China in the region. India was viewed as the number one enemy only for it to be over taken by the enemy from within.

One will hear political parties consistently speak of the rule of law, democracy, freedom and human rights, but today we see them all capitulating to military courts and the National Action Plan. We see them putting up no political resistance, whatsoever to what they say they believe in and have championed for decades. They are happy to throw around words such as terrorist and extremist, without deciphering what is meant by the terms and who falls into the bracket of a terrorist or extremist- can a person who resists occupation of his own land, such as in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan be the same as the barbarians who committed the massacre at the Public Army School in Peshawar? Can someone who criticizes US foreign policy in the region be charged for spreading hate against a friendly ally as is the case in some Arab countries? Is someone who challenges capitalism an extremist? Is someone who wants to see a new political project in Pakistan going beyond the existing rules of the game an extremist? These are all questions that the political class needs to think over but to date, they have been happy to go with the flow and not understand the implications of what they have been uttering and agreeing to.

Likewise, civil society has shown its uncivil face, with it throwing into the bin the values it holds as being sacred and instead turning itself into an Athenian mob that has been immersed and overtaken by irrationality and intolerance. Anyone trying to explain the causes of the Peshawar Attack are immediately pigeon holed as sympathizers or apologists for the Taliban, anyone defending the Madrasah system is portrayed as a Mullah wanting to take Pakistan into the stone ages, anyone wanting a greater role for religion in politics, is accused of being intolerant, wanting to force religion on others and anyone showing support to resistance in Afghanistan is presented as a conveyor belt of terrorism. This undoubtedly shows the hypocrisy of civil society as being in a state of hysteria; it has lost its moral compass and all sense of right and wrong, becoming a protagonist for liberal fascism similar to what one sees in Europe.  

Clearly there is a need for much more honesty and sincerity in the debate that has engulfed us and everyone has a responsibility in playing a positive role in this, in particular those that shape public opinion, such as the media, political parties and civil society- let’s have an honest and sincere debate on the critical issues facing our society, whether that is terrorism, the status of minorities, women, poverty, corruption, VIP culture or the violation of our sovereignty that has become even more apparent since the War on Terror. It is only through this path that we will arrive at answers and solutions to our critical issues; otherwise we risk falling deeper into the vicious cycle that we see today, leaving our society to sink further to the point of no return. The ball is in the court of the opinion makers and time will tell whether they are willing to play ball or continue with the existing rules of the game embedded in contradictions, dishonesty and insincerity. 

The writer is an assistant professor of political science at LUMS.