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Sixty-six shades of green


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-Illustration by Tahir Mehdi.
-Illustration by Tahir Mehdi.
Our political discourse is dominated by two competing narratives of the recent history of Pakistan. Each claims to be ideologically rooted. The dominant one describes Islam as the main driving force behind the country's creation and argues that the same shall define its present course.

The other narrative, however, tells us that Pakistan was founded by a liberal lot. The Quaid spoke English, wore western dresses and posed with his pet dog. Liaqat Ali's wife Ra'ana shook hands with foreign dignitaries. Ayub Khan gave the US president a pat on the cheek and so forth.

These 'liberal' founders had set the country, continues the narrative, on the path to become a liberal, secular and yet, Muslim country – something similar to, but better than Ataturk's Turkey. The country stayed on this 'original' liberal course till 1970s.

Interesting evidence presented to support the assertion is a gallery of photographs. The romantic black and white shots from the 1950s, 60s and 70s are shared on the social media a thousand times a day and framed in articles along with nostalgic captions. They show us women in sleeveless dresses playing cards and sipping wine in a Lahore hotel, European hippies smoking pot while waiting to be served chapal kebabs in Qisa Khani Bazaar in Peshawar and a goree madam struggling with a mouthful of paan as onlookers at Burns Road, Karachi chuckle.

Those were the days, my dear! The mullahs were all either in jail or strictly confined to their mosque duties and everyone was free to do whatever he or she wanted to. But then, the machinations of the political right derailed it and that's how the country ended up in the present extremist abyss.

I have many problems with this so-called liberal-secular narrative but would focus on just one point here.

Has there ever been a liberal and secular Pakistan?

I sincerely believe that such a country has never existed. In its 66 years, Pakistan has never really changed its hue. It has stayed green all the way, one shade darker or one shade lighter.

The country was born to a confused Muslim ideology that was interpreted differently by various interest groups. The elite wanted to use Islam as a camouflage to its rule; there was no other way they could hold on to power. The clergy owned the Islamic franchise and wasn't willing to lend it without getting a share in power.

Let me elaborate my point. The first draft of our constitution presented by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan was incomplete and sketchy. It was not accepted by any party for different reasons. The second presented by the next prime minister, Khwaja Nazimuddin, in 1952, was comprehensive and detailed – ready for approval. The draft contained a complete plan to Islamise the entire state structure. Its details are astonishing. It proposed a separate electorate system for non-Muslims, exactly the way General Zia introduced it three decades later. The draft even provided for a supra parliamentary body of clerics with the powers to reject any of the acts of the elected House as un-Islamic. This scheme of rule of clergy was adopted by Iran after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. In Pakistan, however, the powers of the proposed body were substantially diluted by successive constitutions and it now, exists as an advisory institute named the Council of Islamic Ideology. The second draft thus, presented a complete model of theocratic rule, and the Prime Minister had the guts to put it before the House.

Now add to it, the anti-Ahmedi riots that happened a few months before the presentation of this draft. The riots occurred while the memories of Hindu-Muslim bloodshed were still fresh and these were so severe that Martial Law had to be imposed in Lahore, the first one of our history. So within the first five years of our life, we had witnessed wide spread sectarian killings that demanded the state to declare Ahmedis as kafir. The religious parties had a blue print to Islamise the state, and society, ready in their hands and were successful in rioting their way into the corridors of power.

The ruling elite, however, could still afford to have a ball on the weekend and enjoy brunch at their luxury clubs the next day.

The second draft too, was not approved and whatever did pass through after the passage of another four years was of no use to anybody. Ayub Khan ostensibly stemmed the rot. He wrote himself a constitution, a treatise of liberalism, shunning the entire Islamic plan. He named the country, The Republic of Pakistan dropping the word Islamic and substantially amended even the Objectives Resolution, only to eat his own words in a matter of months. The first amendment to the 1962 constitution brought back the word Islamic to the name of the country, besides allowing religious parties a number of other Islamic insertions.

Ayub had banned all political parties. He persecuted politicians under his Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) and when they collectively tried to hide behind the stature of Fatimah Jinnah, he defeated her as well. He was deadly against all political activities and dealt with all of them with an iron hand. The law enforcers would raid even literary gatherings in tea stalls and pick up poets for writing in Punjabi or Sindhi as the government considered it against the ideology of Pakistan.

The government hounded political opponents, jailed and tortured them. The country, by now, had joined the anti-Soviet and pro-Imperialist camp in the great Cold War divide. Secretary General of the Communist Party of Pakistan, Hasan Nasir, was brutally tortured to death in the infamous Lahore Fort in 1960. Students possessing 'red books' were treated like youngsters with suicide jackets are these days. Working classes faced the worse kind of oppression at the hands of 22 khandaans (families, industrial tycoons) who grabbed the new country's entire wealth and monopolised all of its resources.

And all through this period, PIA's air hostesses served liquor on-board.

I believe that this 'display of liberalism' did not imply that the Pakistani society was making progress by pursuing a liberal political discourse. It only meant that the country's callous elite had successfully insulated itself from every aspect of the commoners’ lives. They were born to our Colonial masters and continued to live like them, and to hate everything indigenous. And yes, please do factor in a small middle class as well whose only excellence was in mimicking the elite, howsoever idiotic that may have looked.

I have no problems with the moral side of these amusing 'displays of liberalism'. My concern is that the romanticisation of this period of our history has started to pretend as an alternative political ideology, which I find flawed, misleading and even dangerous. Liberalism is a political philosophy. Pakistan was never a liberal country. It was always poised to outdo the worst of a liberal political workers' nightmares. Its elite's culture was Colonial or western. This had no bearing on their tyrannical politics and should not be mistaken as political liberalism.

I think that the elite still lives the same life and practices similar politics. It has only gone clandestine. Maybe we will find their pictures from today in our Facebook news feeds, a few decades later. Will you still hit 'like' then?

Author Image

Tahir Mehdi works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

He tweets @TahirMehdiZ

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (101) Closed

Parvez Jul 30, 2013 03:18pm

I found that truly thought provoking. In my thinking there really was possibly only a loose idealogy behind Pakistan but there was a firm well thought out strategy to use religion and a theory summed up in five words by Mr.Jinnah ' The Muslims are a nation '..........put together to create Pakistan and if that was not brilliance, then nothing is. What our leaders have done later and are still doing, can simply be called.......disgraceful.

SM Jul 30, 2013 03:18pm

The problem lies with the interpretation of the word "secularism", being political secular and religiously secular are two different things, which are often intermingled in Pakistan. In Germany, a secular country, number of people are religious but they don't want the state apparatus to be a religious body. Similarly, there are also secular people, who respect others' right to be religious and don't advocate any suppression. However, in case of Pakistan, anyone who's fond of liquor would pronounce himself a secular and would try to impose this thing through state apparatus etc. On the other hand, who observes religion would like the same too. It is necessary for the people to realise that being politically secular denotes a different meaning than being religiously. Ayub's pics or Air-hostess serving alcohol doesn't make the country secular. The so-called secular lot has been as harmful to the country and its poor as the religious-extremists are.

dinesh Jul 30, 2013 03:23pm

Makes sense. Though Pakistan was somewhat Liberal till 70s but basic undertone was of an Islamic Country - that is the reason the country was born at first place. Had Pakistan was to become a liberal & secular country the very rational of separate country was lost. I think Liberal leadership of 30s & 40s wanted a country for their on gains but once they unleashed the forces of hate the course was more or less set and country was on autopilot - Zia or any other xyz would have done same thing.

Saud Jul 30, 2013 03:24pm

Excelent article, true analysis, especially last paragraph.

Indian Jul 30, 2013 03:30pm

Nice Article !!!

Afzaal Khan Jul 30, 2013 03:57pm

Thank you for portraying the reality and exposing the false narrative

Sonal Jul 30, 2013 04:28pm

Great read! I find it amazing how much coverage / emphasis there is on the past in Pakistani press. I'm not complaining though - I personally love reading it.

As a nearby outsider, my image of Pakistan resonates only somewhat with what you write - that historically it's been a country of military dictators politically, each more Islamic than the previous. Socially though, I had the impression that it's quite liberal, and not suggestive of a regressive Islamic republic. I have fond memories of Pakistani music and plays I grew up on - Nazia Hassan, Dhoop Kinaray, Ankahi, Junoon, Strings, etc. This was a reflection of the everyday life, no?

Pakistani people outside of Pakistan drink, dress unconservatively, don't necessarily fast for Ramzan, etc. etc. I wouldn't classify them as elite, but they're clearly not completely bought into the current philosophy of Pakistan.

Tauqeer Mustafa Jul 30, 2013 04:58pm

This clarity on context is necessary to side with any political discourse (no matter of what color). Those identifying themselves with the reddish one need to be a bit more conscious and cautious.

El Cid Jul 30, 2013 04:59pm

A concise write up. Essential facts. Mature birds eye view. Rather well done. Sure pulls the rug from under NFP's puerile diatribes, baseless allegations, rumor mongering, prejudices, falsehoods.

cameo Jul 30, 2013 05:05pm

excellent excellent article!!

There is no doubt that the last 30 years has seen Pakistan drifting more and more into the quagmire of religious fundamentalism. But what we see now is not the cause of everything that is wrong but an affect of what has been wrong for generations.

The problems that we face in this country do not stem from the Right or Left but from the lack of social justice and economic opportunity. Generation after generations of people are held captive like salves through a system which just doesn't give them any opportunity to have a respectable life.

Anybody who turns into a violent fundamentalist, is first an uneducated young person, who just doesn't see anything worth living for in this world. Gullible to people telling nice tales about the prospects of great things in the afterlife.

Ahmed khan Jul 30, 2013 05:27pm

Wonderful article. Biased certainly. But a most animate read. Of the several citations and issues raised inclusive of class resentment, aside if the author wishes to create a serious narrative around pictures on social media. I hate to point out but that's not really doing ones job now is it. Hardly journalism that is neutral and objective. Anyhow I digress. If the author wishes to assert that Pakistan was never a liberal society. Well it's simply not true. How many blasphemy trials. How many mosque attacks and pray tell how much targeted killing? Tons right? The question isn't whether this is happening now. The question is why has this arisen now? Clearly there's been a shift in values.

Madeeh Jul 30, 2013 06:10pm

Great Article!!!

Saifur Rahman Jul 30, 2013 06:14pm

Thanks to the writer for such a good article, I think a discussion about creation of Pakistan might be relevant here: Pakistan was created on the perception that in an undivided India Muslim would be a minority and hence persecuted by majority Hindu population. Is this a valid hypothesis? Population of Sikh in India is only 2.7% but now, socioeconomically they are the most advanced people in India. In some of the south Indian states, minority Christians are the one who are most developed with 95% literacy and high socioeconomic status. Jews are extreme minority all over the world (except Israel) but are they weak or economically disadvantaged? If India was not divided, today population of Muslims in India had been about 470 Million (Pakistan 170M, Bangladesh 170M and India 130M)

Mehmood Jul 30, 2013 06:41pm

Now how would you know, Mr. Mehdi? Last time I checked most of your youth was spent in Germany. Kindly leave the analysis to those who lived in Pakistan across all its ages.

Feroz Jul 30, 2013 06:53pm

Pakistan was born out of the womb of a secular India. Religion was the calling card or tool used to bifurcate a country. Once the religious card was used it was only a matter of time before the country became a theocracy. Nothing can stop that march, the only relevant question is whether the kind of theocracy being shaped condemns the country to a very violent future..

sansdy Jul 30, 2013 07:03pm


zee Jul 30, 2013 07:06pm

I think it is the response to NFP...not bad.

Chris Jul 30, 2013 07:15pm

Excellent! Very good insight. I would go farther and say that the creation of Pakistan had to do with the Muslim elite in India using Islam to further their selfish need for power. Once they got it they behaved the way of their colonial masters -- insulating themselves and usurping the levers of government for their own enrichment. No wonder they will not want to educate the commoner and institute a system wherein there is true representation. That will mean having to compete on a more level field. The common folks of Pakistan have been duped from the beginning, feeding them the "opium of the masses".

JEEVESH GUPTA Jul 30, 2013 07:23pm

A true account of how the "haves" have plundered the "have nots" in Pakistan. On the other side is India where the situation has been no different. The "haves" after loosening the screws of the entire structure called "NATION" are left with what is a dilapidated bungalow parts of which keep falling now and then. Obviously the fear a retaliation of the "have nots" and therefore they are in clandestine enjoying their Sangrias, caviars and the bombay duck! hail democracy

BRR Jul 30, 2013 07:25pm

Someone has the guts to say this! Good job. The liberals in Pakistan are not necessarily who might be termed liberal in other countries. The PTI people call themselves Islamic socialists - no such animal exists. No liberal would have created a country based on religion - Jnnah was no typical liberal - he wanted a state for muslims as opposed to a state for hindus and others. Shades of green, with constant slide towards dark green.

sanjay Jul 30, 2013 07:47pm

An excellent piece. You might like to read the recent book by Philip Oldenburg on India and Pakistan where he eschews both Indian and Pakistani jingoism to present a dispassionate and rigorous study about Pakistan in the immediate period after the end of colonialism. He provides good historical reasons for the argument you are making.

NMA Jul 30, 2013 08:00pm

Well written this para sums up where we came from and our biggest issue:

"The country was born to a confused Muslim ideology that was interpreted differently by various interest groups. The elite wanted to use Islam as a camouflage to its rule; there was no other way they could hold on to power. The clergy owned the Islamic franchise and wasn't willing to lend it without getting a share in power. "

Something bound to fail sooner or later, and it did when our industry was decimated and civil service ruined in the 70s, leaving the highly educated, intelligent and hard working urban middle class desperate and without work, hence becoming easy prey to corrupt religious and other political leaders..... the rest is history........

Sadia Zafar Jul 30, 2013 08:04pm

I am delighted to read the article. I also had felt very uncomfortable with the idea of liberal Pakistan being equated with PIA serving liquor. The liberal Pakistan embedded in my memory is the Jhang city (yes, the birth place of Lashkar-e-Jhangavi) in the early 1970s. Where my nun teachers ( foriegn and locals) of the sacred heart school never thought twice about doing their errands in city bazars wearing their religious attire. They never even in their wildest dream thought about "security." The nuns commanded immense respect of the elites as wells as common man for their selfless devotion to God and their contribution to education. I miss that Pakistan.

Agha Ata Jul 30, 2013 08:20pm

". . .I sincerely believe that such a country has never existed. In its 66 years, Pakistan has never really changed its hue. It has stayed green all the way, one shade darker or one shade lighter. . . "

Tahir, You said it!

Rashid Sultan Jul 30, 2013 08:37pm

What I love about some of articles and opinions in Dawn are the unforgiving slant its authors give making it their personal agenda and crusade for all others to accept and follow as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Pakistan, like any other political entity, despite being called the Islamic republic (or not) is no more or no less Islamic than many with majority Muslims as their citizens. In an economically poor third world country religion is accepted as providing succour and comfort in the face of gross adversity and the sheer drudgery of every day life. At least one get aspire for better in the afterlife - so the mullahs preach and convince the poor and vulnerable. And the 'liberal' ruling elite, aided by mullahs, use Islam as a tool to keep the majority poor Islamic folk in their place. There is no virtue or detriment in calling a nation Islamic other than it keeps your common citizen very common for all time.

Gopal Ramdev Jul 30, 2013 08:43pm

tahir sb ap se mulaqat bhi ho chuki hai kafi arsa pehle. zara nahi badlay ap!

Waqas Jul 30, 2013 08:59pm

@Parvez: Explain the creation of Bangladesh

jano Jul 30, 2013 09:04pm

The writer of this blog is confusing how Pakistan was formed. If anyone reads about Jinnah, his life style and his belief, he was most definately secular and liberal, words in my mind meaning freedom of living. Many lies have been injected in the past 60 plus years but here are some fact 1) Many claim Pakistan was made as in the name of Islam-- FACT IS NOT TRUE well, Jinnah and Liaquat wanted a shared government set up with Nehru under congress, Nehru who was annoyed with Liaquat Ali Khans Finance Ministry role during the interim government asked and agreed to a formula of muslim majority areas to become Pakistan-- listen to Quaids speechs and address to first national assembly- muslim majority areas were certainly given to us but it does not mean Pakistan was made in the name of Islam.... a huge foundational lie.

2) Pakistan ka Matleb keya La Illaha illlah-- this salogan was developed in 1968 by Ayub to discredit Fatima Jinnah. Mind you this is the same Ayub who was taking $5000 per month from USA for (?) as disclosed papers in the US showed. It is a complete lie. Later Zia ul Haq used religion to further his strength of government. Does any one remember the referendum question he asked???

3) Pakistan is a secular muslim country, where people were free to practice religion, and live freely-- in fact this was destroyed by Bhutto who ironically broke Pakistan and conspired with Mullahs to remain in Power.

4) Allama Iqbal died in 1938, he did not dream of Pakistan- Creation of Pakistan happened in late 40's, while Iqbal had long gone.

5) There is no such thing as Islamic welfare state- no current or past example exists..Kihalfat e-rashida had many opportunties and welfare was not for its citizens.

I write this note at great risk of being moderated by Dawn, but someone needs to tell the people the TrUTH, just the truth.. that would be journalism at it best

What is your responsibility -- seek the truth vs. listening to distorted history is wrong.

best wishes to all live and let live without killing and judging each other

Omar Abbas Jul 30, 2013 09:30pm

Is this article anti Nadeem Farooq Paracha?

Tahera Jul 30, 2013 09:33pm


What would be the definition of nation?

Zia Bugvi Jul 30, 2013 11:34pm

very pertinent analysis, pseudo intellectuals like NFP`s narrative based on few snaps of elite Pakistani society is definitely only a failed try to hoodwink the masses.

Umar Jul 30, 2013 11:49pm


Amber Jul 31, 2013 12:20am

I think, the article confuses politics and culture. Those who explain the birth of Pakistan in religious terms, see both culture and politics as shaped by it. But the alternative narrative, i.e which sees the birth of Pakistan as the outcome of westernized elite, is itself fragmented into two: secular politics and liberal culture. The nostalgia is for liberal culture. I am not sure that anyone actually sees the history of Pakistani politics in liberal terms. This combination of liberal culture and secular authoritarian politics is what we see particularly under Ayub. This combination was also notable in many other countries: Tunisia under Habib Bourguiba; Egypt under Nasser; Iran under the Shah. In all cases politics was secular authoritarian but culture was liberal. I do not think, any one with slightest of familiarity with he history of politics has called it liberal.

Noor Ahmed Jul 31, 2013 12:24am

A great write. It gives other side of Nadeem F.Paracha's "Also Pakistan" series.

kumar Jul 31, 2013 01:28am

Wake up !!! NFP

AFK Jul 31, 2013 01:40am

Good Article, Yes Pakistan was created by liberal minded philosophy to protect the basic rights of Muslims minority of British India from the exploitation of Banias hegemonic mindset, basically the idea was to protect Muslims in trade and commerce, there was no such idea what so ever then or commitment to transform the predominant liberal Muslim state into a theoretic Islamic state.

abc Jul 31, 2013 03:19am

@SM: Dear Mr SM. I am quoting again, an expert from your post. i.e. " In Germany, a secular country, number of people are religious but they don't want the state apparatus to be a religious body. Similarly, there are also secular people, who respect others' right to be religious and don't advocate any suppression. " I am sorry Sir, you re mixing, being secular to being athiest. Whereas, the meanng of secular dosenot mean godless or athiest, it means respecting and accepting others beliefs. Whatever religion or no religion other follows, should be accepted and respected., and at the same time, continuing to belive anf follow, ones own belief and religion. "respect" is the key element here. You are not alone Sir. A lot of people in the islmic world thinks, being secular means being athiest.

Shahryar Shirazi Jul 31, 2013 04:18am

@Sonal: Sonal it was like that as you mentioned in the last paragraph. For certain pockets of the society , things have changed drastically in the last 10 years. Problem with Pakistan is, only bad news comes out of the country. Most of the Indian and Western reporters enjoy their stays in Pakistan and also write about it. For example, and honestly, I am not trying to score a point here - With all the rapes happening in India the issue of women rights never came up. Where-as a single incident of a girls school blown up is given quite a decent amount of highlight in Indian, Western media. Pakistan needs to fix all these problems, but also, needs to work on spinning a positive image. Ahmedi's were being given a hard time back in the 50s and 60s too. However, the overall image of Pakistan at that time was extremely positive. So, it never came out in the news ....I will hit submit now without proof reading it. Excuse the grammar or spelling mistakes :)

S Jul 31, 2013 05:03am

Good read. I agree that Pakistan was never liberal.

@Ahmed Khan, yes clearly there has been a shift in values but that does not mean we were liberals. The author is simply arguing we were never liberal not that we are not being pushed in to extremism.

Point being we were never liberal but now we are being pushed in to extremism. Ofcourse why we are is a separate discussion.

Desi Dada Jul 31, 2013 06:26am

Truthful real depiction. Thanks to the author. NFP is OK as humorist or cartoonist. But NFP nothing more than the badly westernized elite about whom this talks about.

The real problem of enslaved people is that they are ready to give up everything native - spirituality, culture, language and produces confused leaders. Pakistan got such confused and compromised leaders. Almost all of them were made in England right from 1930s.

Balwanjee Jul 31, 2013 07:28am

A wonderful description of top to bottom confused society.

feringi Jul 31, 2013 08:09am

Pakistan has 5 phases of change

  1. Partition Elites (Feudals).
  2. US alliance
  3. KSA alliance.
  4. Afghanistan Depth.
  5. Taliban Supremacy.

So what looks like Liberalism is really US trying to help Pakistan become like Israel which some ideas were taken by only the military. all the rest of institutions didn't really learn from America.

Sara Jul 31, 2013 09:01am

Great piece. I found a photograph series in response to Nadeem Farooq Paracha's misleading "Also Pakistan" series which makes a similar argument, thought I'd share:

malole Jul 31, 2013 09:11am

So what are we supposed to do? We have seen the results of socalled Islamization of society. Do we need more 'Islamization' to make people real Muslims or less?

noobguy Jul 31, 2013 09:23am

Power politics rules in Pakistan. No one ever thought about building the state from its infancy till date.

Shri Jul 31, 2013 10:10am

Thinkers like Tahir are backbone of a society. Alas that there are not many in Pakistan otherwise this country has not been different to its root. It might have walked step by step with India and other south asian country. There is no sign that it will do so in future.

Khanm Jul 31, 2013 10:28am

Why are we so hung up on our past.???..We have a choice in front of us, either to continue this fued of past and present and miss out on our future... or to look seriously what we are now and mold the future...... It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

Nony Jul 31, 2013 10:30am

I do not understand when people conclude that a country created in the name of religion was having some liberal and secular values. However, some efforts were made later on to put it on another track but religious clerics have never allowed that to happen and they always got their biased demands accepted. So, from very beginning we have been working on the plan to make this flag dark green, and we have succeeded to do that. It has been proved during these 66 years that creating a nation in the name of religion was such a heinous wrongdoing that it could never be undone. The very creation is flawed here, we talk a lot but when it comes to saying that

BISWAJIT ROY Jul 31, 2013 11:05am

Once state created on the basis of islam there is no escape from it ...this is like black holes where if you go nearer to it then there will be no escape from its gravitational pull. " It has stayed green all the way, one shade darker or one shade lighter"---this quote of the author captures the essence of the state of pakistan on the whole.

deep Jul 31, 2013 11:21am

@Ahmed khan : I think the point the author was making was that the seeds of the current wave of intolerance and extremism was laid in Pakistan's early years even as the elite went about their enjoyment of all things that are deemed liberal - but the sleeveless dresses, liquor on planes and westerners on streets was liberalism in style - not substance. Even now you have this class - but every time a naat is read, the lady will put the dupatta on her head, they don't admit to drinking and even the mention of drink in an article by Ayaz amir can get the author into trouble.

dinesh Jul 31, 2013 11:36am

@Sonal: Fully agree. Most Pakistanis outside Pakistan are indicator of what Pakistan could have been and and I doubt most Pakistanis living in Pakistan are that conservative. But Pakistan as a nation is a reality and this reality has momentum gained over last 70 - 80 years, momentum to go the way it is going - sadly downhill :(

dr vimal raina Jul 31, 2013 11:37am

The garden of yore always looks greener than the present green. On the pseudo-scales of social stratification more green you are less green you can privately live.

dinesh Jul 31, 2013 11:53am

@Ahmed khan : Certainly there is shift in values but what are the values that got the nation carved out of other nation? in '47 these were against Hindu India and having won a new nation what stops them from running new nation the way they wanted too? Secular Liberals can't provide logical alternative way of doing things to conservative way of doing/thinking without challenging the very basis of formation of new country- which as citizens of nation they can't do. And logically if a conservative way is ok more conservative way must be good and still more conservative way must be great!

syed baqar ahsan Jul 31, 2013 12:04pm

it is result of failure of our unity,faith&discipline,no religion,belief,sect can put system right individually that we are doing and blaming others with long tongue and no sense.

Yousaf Jul 31, 2013 12:04pm

Secularism is the only way to progress. When all citizens no matter what their religious belief is or the ones with no belief system are all equal under the law. Pakistan must be a secular country if it will at all progress. Look where over religiosity has gotten the country. Unless people in Pakistan put country above everything else, there is no future.

Yusuf Jul 31, 2013 12:33pm

Medhi Sahaib, God bless you. What an article? We like to hear more from you.

dinesh Jul 31, 2013 01:19pm

@Saifur Rahman: You have put it so well - Pakistan is on a course set for it before 1947. Though historical reality now and for future - Pakistan will have to see the culmination of the process that was started before nation was born or someone need to challenge the very reasons it was formed. My puzzle remains as to how could poet writing 'Tarana-e-Hind' change so much during his few years stay in England.

Sonal Jul 31, 2013 01:45pm

@Shahryar Shirazi:

What I find really cool about Pakistan though, is that regardless of anything, any Pakistani I've met really truly loves Pakistan. There's a sense of patriotism in Pakistanis which I haven't personally seen in Indians (to this extent).

ABL Jul 31, 2013 02:07pm

what about the shades of "white"?

Baber Khan Jul 31, 2013 02:16pm

@Noor Ahmed: Yes. In fact, NFP is one of the writers of the elite who are desperately trying to rewrite not just the history but also the "ideology" of the country quoting selectively picked sources. The above is a great piece to counter balance the image people like NFP or Zubaida Mustapha are trying to create.

ala Jul 31, 2013 02:35pm

I only hope the happenings in pakistan does spread to other countries like bangladesh , indonesia, malayasia india etc..

Rizvi Jul 31, 2013 02:58pm

Brilliant article! Well balanced and focusing primarily on facts for a sound argument.

Irfan Husain Jul 31, 2013 03:15pm

Excellent fact-based analysis. When you create a country in the name of an ideology, do not be surprised if it takes over the public space and discourse.

dinesh Jul 31, 2013 03:49pm

Tahir you wrote "Pakistan was never a liberal country. It was always poised to outdo the worst of a liberal political workers' nightmares." and the fact is - it is doing just that ! But main point from your national prospective can be - Is it good for Pakistan to do what it is doing at this moment in its history?

Onkar Sharma Jul 31, 2013 03:52pm

Please listen on You Tube an altogether a very different but convincing theory of the creation of Pakistan by Tarek Fatah.

Parvez Jul 31, 2013 05:08pm

@Tahera: I have no idea what you're getting at, so if you tell me it would help. Two countries that came into existance ' in the name of religion ' about at the same time are Pakistan and Israel......and then other more recently on the European Adriatic coast and Papua New Guinea etc.

conflicted Jul 31, 2013 05:23pm

Elitist, colonial, corrupt notwithstanding, 60 percent of the voting population -- the highest turnout in Pakistan's history -- voted for them. The mullahs, as usual, were resoundingly rejected. That's one up for democracy. Let's give it some time to work and put these doomsday scenarios on the back burner.

joe Jul 31, 2013 05:32pm

How can we save Pakistan and make it better country, educated, respectful to Neighbor specially India, i think India and Pakistan should be the best friend neighbor share science technology and wealth for the betterment of its citizens just like Europe Union. Confined all Mullahs in mosque, let people choose what religion they want, open mosques, Temple, Church, Gordwaras etc etc for people to perform their religious duties, don't bring religion into regular life. Trouble start when we bring religion into other areas of life. i think what i do (religion wise) is between me and my GOD.Make Law and order Police, tough and educated.

Sry Jul 31, 2013 05:40pm

People saying that blog is confused between culture & politics or religious secularism & political secularism need to realise what the message is. The point is that a country based on religion was always, slowly, sliding down the extremism slide. Also, that religion was a political tool from day one, which was eventually going to have cultural impact. That's the whole deal with Pakistan, we mixed culture/religion with politics and that's where problem began.

Deb Jul 31, 2013 05:52pm

@Mehmood: The same could be said about Iqbal too!

Shubham Jul 31, 2013 06:54pm

@Mehmood: Cant get back without getting personal. can we? Any attempts to analyse the idea and thought rather than analysing the idea generator?

peter turnner Jul 31, 2013 07:25pm

@dinesh: Boy you are so correct in your comment.

peter turnner Jul 31, 2013 07:30pm

@Rashid Sultan: a great reply

Summer is boring Jul 31, 2013 08:16pm

One misconception in Pakistan is equating liberalism with tolerance. Pakistan, as you said was always "a shade lighter or a shade darker" of conservative but what it was from 40s through till the 70s was a tolerant Pakistan. Yes I do recognize the killings of Ahmedis but the target of violence is larger today, extended to Christian and Shia minority. However, I disagree with people in the comment section denouncing the creation of Pakistan. I don't care if India is more prosperous than us today, we were on the better side of history for about 50 years (Pakistan's GDP per capita was higher from 1950-2000). I'm not a blind patriot but please don't forget your ancestors who were greatly oppressed in India. 1 million Muslims killed wasn't the handcraft of Quaid e Azam or any of the people who envisaged Pakistan for their "own needs" as you say. The problem with Pakistan is its people too. Its hyper conservatism sickens me. Just because people are poor, they have built a world of religion to mentally escape from their daily problems. However, I realize that it debatable who is responsible for the situation of the people. But seriously if people continue to live with the "don't work in a bank because of the soodh dilemma" then im afraid people have circumscribed themselves to a vicious spiral of poverty.

Nasiroski Jul 31, 2013 09:35pm

Author needs to define Liberalism, he is completely missing out on the term.

dinesh Jul 31, 2013 09:35pm

@Desi Dada: But can Pakistanis of today criticize those leaders of past much? Good or bad those Liberal leaders created a new nation for ultra conservative Sunni male of today ....

Pankaj Jul 31, 2013 11:17pm

The very concept that "number of followers of a religion makes it a forceful political entity" is wrong and confusing. This concept gives power to religious preachers not to the common masses. Religious preachers can give many imaginative and explanations for this life and after life, or may give theories for explaining divine life......but, they can't solve day to day problems of common masses of education, employment etc.

Ajaya K Dutt Aug 01, 2013 12:57am

This Writer is confusing Liberalism with dictatorship; and not the other writers, including NFP, who wistfully remember suicide bombers were not heard of.

None of the other writers ever spoke highly of the dictatorship, oligarchy or "imperialism".

If "Gori" was chewing Paan, does it mean that it is because elite were enjoying imperialism.

Fazeel Randhawa Aug 01, 2013 01:39am

very good article and as someone points out in the comments it should be read alongside Nadeem F. Paracha's "Also Pakistan" series

David Salmon Aug 01, 2013 02:07am

@Mehmood: How many comments here were made by people who "lived in Pakistan across all its ages"? Should we dismiss them all? I will say, conditioned on your agreement that everyone is entitled to an opinion, that political liberalism is democratic, respectful of individual human rights, and tolerant of minority opinion and individual practice. The British left behind governments that were politically liberal, secular, and democratic. Jinnah's political philosophy was this kind of liberalism, and so was Pakistan's government until corruption, ambition, and the social conservativism of (West) Pakistan by stages ripped up the government. imho.

Ajaya K Dutt Aug 01, 2013 05:36am

@JEEVESH GUPTA Yeah. Sure. It is not perfect. But it far better than it would have been under any other color. Red or green.

Indian Income tax used to be about 80% for rich (or color the money black). Industrialists were choked with rules and regulations to protect the "have nots".

Even now Industrialists are importing coal from abroad rather than get it from India, because there is perception that "Industrialist" is "exploiting" the "have nots".

Hassan Aug 01, 2013 09:18am

This article was an absolute pleasure to read, whether you agree with it or not. Tahir is clearly one of the gems of Dawn; I thoroughly enjoyed his Motor Cycle Diaries which made me behold glimpses of Pakistan's remotest areas that I doubt I will ever venture into. On the other hand though, the truth is that Pakistan is at its lowest ebb now. Religion is a public good that helps throw unwanted non-muslims in prison, magnifies earnings of blatantly obnoxious clowns like Amir Liaqaut and finally makes up for rather uncomfortable conversation. It should be a personal matter and utterly separated from legislature and state as a whole even if residing in the name of this convoluted mess of a country. If I worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster and you have your god, we can be good, cordial neighbours regardless while giving each other space for prayers and gratitude. Lastly, ours is a society where the word "corruption" is thrown around by hoards of masses, most of whom do not pay any taxes. My banker calls me just before the beginning of Ramadan to tell me that I should move my money to a current account to avoid Zakat. It is a thoroughly, profusely, utterly corrupt society that has inherited the propensity to put the blame on the current regime.

ravi Aug 01, 2013 10:22am

Nice article, Pakistan was created on the basis of religion. To go religious path was natural for Pakistan, but intolerance which is spreading specially against different sects of Islam is very difficult to understand. But this turbulent time shall go away with time and country shall stabilise like Saudi Arabia where overall country is stable and peaceful as an ideal Islamic country should be.

Dinesh Aug 01, 2013 10:38am

@Noor Ahmed: I think both are on same side NFP often writes that founders of Pakistan were liberals and wanted Pakistan to be a liberal & Secular country - and that is a fact. Pakistan was a comparatively liberal till early 70s and that too is a fact. NFP misses that Pakistan and i think any sane person who had seen that Pakistan and who is living in present Pakistan will miss Pakistan of 60s & 70s. However this article goes deeper and hints at why Pakistan couldn't remain on that course. And that is important as once you establish the reasons the corrective action become obvious or you start enjoying the logical progression of events - knowing & preparing well for future events.

Pradip Ravi Aug 01, 2013 11:07am

@Sonal: Well Sonal, we Indians do not display a bravado of Patriotism to prove we are Indians, when the time comes (like any war) our youths have volunteered in plenty.

Sonal Aug 01, 2013 11:07am

Why does Dawn only publish some comments??

@Shahyar Shirazi: It's true that it seems like only bad news is coming out of Pakistan, but it's not true that Western press doesn't cover / amplify bad news from India. I was in Spain and the UK when the Delhi rape case happened and the girl died, and anyone I met would ask me about that. It felt like India was now the rape capital of the world. The political scams, etc also get a lot of coverage.

@Saifur Rahman: Very true about the rationale of the creation of Pakistan. And as MJ Akbar says in a book he wrote on Pakistan, it's ironical that today it's not the Hindus killing Muslims, but Muslims killing Muslims that is causing the downfall of Pakistan.

faria Aug 01, 2013 12:21pm

confused muslim ideology.... i agree. we as a nation are always confused on a number of issues and this is what creates arguments and conflicts among us

A R Khan Aug 01, 2013 12:27pm

"The country was born to a confused Muslim ideology that was interpreted differently by various interest groups" I totally disagree with this concept which has been so frequently quoted by lots of Indian bloggers who are traditionally more than welcome on Dawn to express their "in between the lines" hatred against Pakistan. There is simply no crisis, neither ideology nor identity. History has proved that the national spirit and unity reached all time high during the periods of rule when main focus was Islam and not secularism. One thing to be understood is the location of Pakistan is such that invite geo-political interests of the global players. And that is exactly making us off balance. We were, we are and we will be united.

Capt C M Khan Aug 01, 2013 01:02pm

@Sadia Zafar: You are absolutely correct, I married one of the teachers of Sacred Heart School from Jhang. I am from Jhang and witnessed what you have witness. That is exactly my definition of LIBERALS all humans of any color/religion/sect and freedom to go about their daily chores without HARASSMENT, not this exuberant public display of one's faith trying to prove them superior and others inferior.

vijay Aug 01, 2013 01:06pm

@Nony: Well said. However darker the green, it is going to look black.

ROHIT PANDEY Aug 01, 2013 01:15pm

There is always a constant pressure on the polity to make the hue of the Islamic green brighter and brighter and any Islamic country or regions with a big Muslim population.

Liberalism and Islam does not go hand in hand....TRUTH.

This is the case even in relatively a open society like Turkey.

Muslims as Janus-faced-they love things liberal but are never able to be liberal themselves!

The resignation letter of Jogendra Nath Mandal,the first Minister of Justice under Mohammed Ali Jinnah is available on the net...the true extent ( or lack of it!) of so-called liberalism at time of Partition is for all to see in that letter.

Do look up the name of Dhirendra Nath Dutta too..he advocated Bengali to be one of the official languages of Pakistan-just look into what happened to him?

Liberalism? By bending the semantics,or posting photos of what goes for trappings of liberalism one cannot be liberal-it is mindset that does not exist in Muslim societies!

ROHIT PANDEY Aug 01, 2013 01:22pm

The blood-letting in the street of Egypt in 2013 is a variant of the blood letting that took place in 1947 in India in the run up to the Partition.

In both instances,the fight is/was between the secular ideal and the religion-dictated politics!

Imran J Aug 01, 2013 06:07pm

Yes, there are Different Shades of Green in our magnificent land. These different shades of green highlighted in this article are cleverly captured in the exciting and informative novel

pervaiz vandal Aug 01, 2013 07:34pm

Written with a clarity of vision this is a strong rebuttal of the NGO based liberalism. The field for a genuine liberal view of the society and the effort to mould it accordingly is wide open.

Parvez Aug 01, 2013 10:53pm

@Waqas: I did reply..............same time that I replied to @Tahera

saqib Aug 01, 2013 11:11pm

The pictures from the 60s and 70 show all of the above mentioned haps in the country. They still happen and cameras still capture them. What cameras capture now, and did not back then was the same 98% of the population that is indifferent to the lifestyle of Quaid, Benazir, Musharraf, Nawaz etc.

There are still parties. There are still women sipping gin in Gymkhana, and there are still presidents with dogs as pets every now and then.

Honest Babe Aug 02, 2013 01:50am

@Shahryar Shirazi: Are you kidding me that women's right never came up in India as a result of the rape incidents? There were massive demonstrations all over the country and new laws were formed and a new court was established, which is actually trying these cases.

Sunil Aug 02, 2013 05:57am

It is the same story the world over-

The "haves" trying to dominate and exploit the "have nots" - in various garbs

The real liberalism is not possible without full liberty, equality and justice - and of course the mind liberating education.

mashood Qadri Aug 02, 2013 11:03am

Appealing Portfolio! However! Neither of the main players in creation of Pakistan were pro extremist or Islamist. Pakistan was created for muslims to practice fair economical race and promote un-biased education. Neither of it, had happened for miscellaneous reasons. Otherwise, Any culture or society have always the contrast present between left and right wings. This is the responsibility of the STATE and legislation to keep a balance by maneuvering in b/w the two. Practically speaking, legends of so called democracy: USA and UK, there are bunch of idiots are physically and politically carry existence, if they leave at large and allow them to use their barbaric instincts..... will either convert all othrs into Christianity or will kill everybody else (They call them the same: EVILS); what has kept them on leash... Above described STRONG STATE and legislation system!!

Sonal Aug 02, 2013 11:23am

Why does Dawn only publish some comments??

@Shahyar Shirazi: It's true that it seems like only bad news is coming out of Pakistan, but it's not true that Western press doesn't cover / amplify bad news from India. I was in Spain and the UK when the Delhi rape case happened and the girl died, and anyone I met would ask me about that. It felt like India was now the rape capital of the world. The political scams, etc also get a lot of coverage.

@Saifur Rahman: Very true about the rationale of the creation of Pakistan. And as MJ Akbar says in a book he wrote on Pakistan, it's ironical that today it's not the Hindus killing Muslims, but Muslims killing Muslims that is causing the downfall of Pakistan.

cameo Aug 02, 2013 01:42pm

May be a lot of things mentioned in NFP's 'Also Pakistan' series do not relate to average Pakistani, but there is no denying of the fact that society by enlarge was a lot more tolerant 30-40 years back than what it is now.

Thanks to G. W Bush's 'War on Terror' the last 12 years have seen the Muslim world gravitate more and more towards the fundamentalist right. I have friends from Indonesia to Turkey and everybody tells the same story. Women feel the need to wear head scarf and everybody tend to use more and more of Arabic in their language.

My own experience of travelling to Pakistan every year for last 6 years, I have seen people getting more and more hostile towards west and the secular liberal thinking.