Theoretically speaking, there are some intellectuals who are of the view that for stability, functioning, well-being and progress of a society deviance is inevitable. It was Emile Durkheim, a classical functional-structuralist, who argued that crime is – in a reasonable frequency – necessary for the functioning of society. Crime/deviance hurts the collective sentiments and punishment is given to bring the collective sentiments back to their prior position, he argued. Deviance is a necessary prerequisite of social change.  Therefore, it is often argued that today’s deviation may be tomorrow’s norm. For instance, in modern western societies there are so many norms, like gay marriage, that were once blatant deviations.

It is also a fact that deviation like death is a universal phenomenon. Take any society and you will meet some deviants. Some may be radical and others may be less-radical, but there can be no society without deviants and deviation. Hence, ours is not an exception.

On April 16 Zahra Haider wrote an essay titled, What I Learned Having Sex as a Young Woman in Pakistan. The first sentence of her essay is very interesting:

“Pakistan is an Islamic Republic with the highest porn-watching population in the world.”

I myself do not want to indulge in a debate whether Pakistanis are the most porn watching people on the planet or not. Interestingly, a young Pakistani journalist and columnist Ali Moeen Nawazish wrote an open letter to Zahra Haider on Facebook. Ali responds to Zahra as:

“You also say most Pakistanis will indulge in Pre-Marital sex, but excuse me where is the data to back up such a huge claim? It is only an assumption you make based out of your own elite friends and your social circle, but it really doesn't apply to the majority of people who are conservative – and not the international school educated millennial you so call them.” 

As her essay got published she was being projected as a representative of Pakistani society across the world. This is, however, by any means untrue. I belong to the rural context and have been studying at a public university in Lahore for last three years. I have many friends who are studying at different private universities. I have visited many universities and houses of my friends who are the elite of our society. I, however, didn’t find a single thing from my village to the metropolitan city of Pakistan that could support Zahra’s claims.  Zahra Haider’s claims remind me of an old saying that you perceive others in the same way as you are.

In Pakistani print media there were some Pakistani liberals who spoke for Zahra and for her right to freedom of expression. Also, people on social media widely discussed, criticized and abused Zahra for writing such a bold essay. But no one from Pakistani universities, civil society, and media come up with a comprehensive theoretical framework of analysis to respond to a young girl who is in her 20s. This is not a positive sign for the survival of our society in this modern complex global world. I am a bit discomforted with the silence of our sociologists on the issue.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article what intellectuals and classical sociologists have stated about the prevalence of deviance in any society. Now let’s take Zahra Haider’s criticism on Pakistani society with reference to sex. Why is she so angry with this society? Has this society not allowed her to have sex openly and with as many people as she wished to? Well, we can’t say anything else. The question is: Is Zahra Haider a representative of Pakistani society as she is being perceived and presented by international media or a deviant?

A few days ago, Dawn reported that a report issued by the Pew Research Centre revealed:

“[A]round 78 per cent Pakistanis “strictly support” that teachings of the Holy Quran should influence the country’s laws” 

Dear Pakistani Liberals: this is what Pakistani society wants and democratically speaking the cultural norms are decided and set by the majority not by a few thoughtful intellectuals. Furthermore, Zahra Haider, who is an individualist-liberalist, is a deviant and not a representative of this society. But are deviants needed? This is what I have answered earlier.