The carnage at the school in Peshawer has rightly outraged people in Pakistan and the world. The US, ironically, roundly condemned the act as well; ironically, because the US never condemned itself for carrying out bigger outrages all across the Muslim world.  What has come to the fore after this tragic event has been Pakistani liberals’ shallow and mindless tirade against Muslim activists who were not involved in the carnage. Not to mention the attempt to make political capital from the misfortune of others (death of innocent children) by using the act as a beating stick to reduce the moral and physical space occupied by people with whom they don’t agree.

That the status quo parties condemn violence and extremism is ironic: During the rule of the PPP and PML-N governments, extremes of sectarianism, corruption, poverty, hunger, inequality, violence, oppression and repression reached new heights and became almost a normal part of life in Pakistan. Over the last few decades, increase in greed, vanity, envy, revenge, violence, and so on, have hallmarked the Pakistani polity, mediated by the policies of successive governments. On what basis, and according to which criteria the moderate parties condemn the extremism of others is not explained at all. Clearly these parties have a very narrow (and opportunistic) understanding of what constitutes extremism and liberality.

Maulana Aziz’s comments on the Peshawer outrage have caused offense to many people, not least  the liberals. But Pakistan liberals if they were true to liberality ought to know that in liberal democratic thinking, the principle of free speech cannot be curtailed by the offense its exercise may cause – so long as it is not defamatory or a threat to social order. So Pakistani liberals need to brush up and deepen their understanding of the political and social doctrine to which they subscribe.  They also need to have a genealogical understanding of the doctrine: They would know that the entire history of Western domination of the third world has been an integral part of liberal democratic states. Liberal democratic states inaugurated the age of modern empire, unleashing modern warfare, nationalism of the dominant, racism and genocide around the world. In fact it has been argued that the racist policies of Western imperialism were essential to the development of fascism in Europe. Of course, these processes shared the same space with liberal’s sacred tenets, including individual autonomy, freedom (economic, social, political) of exchange, limitation of state power, rule of law, religious toleration. Though in its early stages liberal politics was engaged in challenging hegemonic power (of monarchy/autocracy), now liberalism is an ally of global power and of the global status quo. Perhaps it is for this reason, amongst others, that the recent revelations on the torture of Muslim prisoners by the US intelligence services hardly caused a ripple among Pakistani liberals.

Another of the liberals’ hobby horse is the diatribe against the ‘Mullah’, a term that acquired a negative connotation during colonial rule, with Pakistani liberals internalizing this epithet. The mullahs are blamed for many things that are wrong in the country. This is misplaced. Because in order to do bad or good, you need power; if you do not have power you can only create a minor nuisance. With a few exceptions (the likes of the Maulana with the rangeeli turban) it is not the mullahs who prevent hospitals from being built, or who do corruption on a massive scale: the majority are just not near the loci of power to do so.

In fact, historically, mullahs have served a very important function in keeping Muslim tradition intact: Prior to British rule, large parts of what are now Pakistan were ruled by the Sikhs. In this context, the mullahs did a most useful job of keeping alive and transmitting the basics of Muslim tradition to future generations.

Paradoxically, Pakistani liberals could learn useful things from a non-liberal: Marx. Instead of repressing and suppressing discourses in line with their limited understanding of their own doctrine; they need to change the context in which the discourses and practices of their ascribed opponents take place. Marx’s Hegelian premise that the existing world is characterized by contradiction led him to the anti-Hegelian conclusion that their removal depended not in replacing old ideas with the new, but in the practical transformation of concrete reality itself. The reality to be transformed was politico-economic, social and ideological. There is no evidence to suggest that the liberals and liberal politicians hold a monopoly in wanting change for the good of all. Their metier is negligence and feathering their own nests.

The status quo parties have no ideology worth the name; to cling to power is their obsession, and everything can be sacrificed at this altar. The consequences of their rule can be placed under one rubric: persecution by successive governments, in terms of social, economic, psychological, and political deprivation.

The goal of Pakistani power holders should be to reclaim sovereignty by transcending narrow interests to transform Pakistan into something better, in tune with its best values; and not to use horrendous events as reasons to perpetuate a status quo that demeans the majority but elevates  the minority above their moral and intellectual station. The need is to analyse and understand the mainsprings of power, personnel, institutional arrangements, and policy processes (or its absence), that has brought Pakistan to where it is now. This analysis will show that the blame cannot entirely be attributed to the mullahs or Islamists. Look elsewhere: in the National Assembly and the leaders of the status quo parties who lack the necessary will and attributes needed to secure important goals for society. To complete the analysis look also at the articulation of destructive power of the West and its cultivation of acquiescent puppets and minions in Pakistan who objectively serve the interests of others; in return for perpetually keeping themselves in power, so as to keep the malevolent status quo intact.

The writer is a freelance columnist.