Pakistani liberalism is a study in itself. Unlike classical liberalism that believes in civil liberties under the rule of law with a focus on economic freedom, Pakistani liberalism is gradually turning into a shadow of anarchy. Much of it can be attributed to a certain self-hate that has become second nature to our own identity. 

It’s a story the western media loves too: Pakistan is a country that is cruel to its women and hates its minorities. Curiously, the same message is not purported about India where crimes against minorities are much worse. India is the land of Bollywood and Taj Mahal (interestingly, both these legacies would be nothing without Muslims). But unlike India’s true liberals, who are unafraid to love the country while speaking out about its problems, Pakistan’s liberals hate their own land and peddle fake news to prove that this is ‘dissent’ and then call the same dissent ‘patriotic’. 

The Pakistani liberal dilemma is akin to western neoliberalism that barely disguises its Islamophobia. Many ‘liberal’ social critics will tell you that civil military relations in the United States are kosher whereas any meetings between politicians and armed forces, in a country like Pakistan that is fighting various internal and external wars, is liberal blasphemy. Many social liberals in Pakistan will happily watch women being objectified in Hollywood and Bollywood films but if a Pakistani drama talks about domestic violence, they’ll call it ‘cheap publicity stunts done for ratings and TRPs’. If a Hollywood or Bollywood star is falsely accused of sexual harassment, they’ll extend their sympathies and criticize the media. But if a Pakistani star is falsely accused of the same, they won’t spend any time actively campaigning against him – they’ll write scathing opeds and hold seminars – with people who were also accused of sexual harassment (but it’s ok as long as it’s our friend). 

It’s all about cliques and friendships, not causes and fair play. The same liberals that protested the cyber-crime act that attempted to regulate social media are the same liberals who are now protesting against cyber-harassment of women online. And if you say that both these things are important, they label you as a centrist, bothsidism-advocate, or their worse slur ever in their books: an ISPR troll.

It is ironic that the case against cyber-harassment of women was taken up by none other than liberal rights champion, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose own party trolls are regularly found attacking women online. It is even more ironic that the case against cyber-harassment of women was pleaded to on an Indian news platform: a country that has willfully silenced millions of Kashmiris under a brutal lockdown. How many Pakistani news platforms have actually interviewed Rana Ayyub, Shehla Rashid, Arundhati Roy, Kavita Krishnan or the late Gauri Lankesh, before she was brutally murdered? Lankesh was an outright critic of Hindutva politics and she was killed in September 2017 by a man named Parashuram Waghmore who said he was doing it to ‘save his religion’. 

The liberals’ current big cause, after protecting Nawaz Sharif at all costs, is the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement which has very important and real grievances in terms of the war against terrorism in Waziristan. In any wartorn area, there are human rights concerns. Liberals forget that the cause for Pashtuns is already being fought by Pashtuns in their own provincial assembly under the leadership of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, a party that is ruling the country at the moment, which has been ruling their province since 2013. From the Speaker to the Deputy Speaker to majority of the parliamentarians in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwah are Pashtuns. The Pashtuns are currently well-represented on three major national forums: National and Provincial Assembly as well as the Senate. So they have the forums they need to not only speak about their grievances but also highlight the concerns in Waziristan. The PTM relentlessly pushes a narrative that paints the state as the enemy – the state which is fighting insurgents from Afghanistan while also trying to negotiate a peace process with them. It is also pertinent to mention here that Pashtuns not only have ruled Pakistan as military dictators (Yahya Khan, Ayub Khan) and are proud soldiers of the Pakistan Armed Forces.

This is not to say that Pakistan does not have its problems, oh no. We have our issues for sure, management of metropolises, rural-urban divide, crimes against women such as sexual harassment and domestic violence, honor killings, rural towns becoming hubs of child abuse, civil conflicts, lack of facilities to the most downtrodden sections of society and many more. But to make false equivalences as the liberals compare Imran Khan to Narendra Modi and peddle fake news (which was shared widely) about a kitten being raped – just shows you how deep this rabbit hole is and how many of us have fallen into it without realizing what we’re doing to our own social and moral fabric. In an ideal scenario, liberals would rise to protect the sanctity of media and journalism and not fall prey to propaganda and groupthink. Instead they have shunned logic, fairness and integrity and have become the monsters they claim to fight. 

The Pakistani liberal cause is not democratic. If it was truly democratic, it would hold accountable the many ‘civilians’ who have disrupted institutions such as SECP, FBR, State Bank, OGRA, NEPRA, WAPDA and PIA that weren’t ruled by the Armed Forces Institutions. Pakistan Peoples’ Party, which claims to be champion of democratic causes, has also been directly involved in the criminal activities of Uzair Baloch. Which Army General or Wing Commander forced Faryal Talpur to pose happily with Uzair Baloch, the notorious gangster who claimed he gave Rs10M in extortion money to Faryal every month? 

The truth is simple: the Pakistani liberal cause is for the clique, by the clique and of the clique. They, like the power elite, only exist to defend their own and anyone who calls them out is branded as a ‘troll’ out to silence them. Newsflash: some of us just really have had about enough of your hypocritical, one-sided, brainwashed and blatantly biased hogwash.

The author is a media person, writer and sociocultural critic. She tweets as @mahwashajaz_