Pak Tea House: Are Liberals to blame for Pakistan’s Extremism?

Imran Khan is Pakistan’s sports superstar. His philanthropy is also admirable. This, however, does not mean I should not exercise my right to criticize Khan’s politics. Sadly,Imran Khan’s followers do not take criticism all that well. Anyone who calls him Taliban Khan is quickly ascribed a set of views and labeled a “pseudo-liberal” and “fascist”.

In a recent interview, Imran Khan said he believed in engaging the far right and justified being represented at rallies of extremist groups by stating that his was a political party that believed in engaging marginalized groups. Will Imran Khan also engage the ostracized Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus and Christians of Pakistan? Or is his engagement limited to those that preach and execute their killings?

Imran Khan has been represented at rallies organized by banned terrorist outfits such as the Jamaat-ud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. His vice president has spoken at pro-Mumtaz Qadri rallies and has been in attendance at anti-Ahmadi rallies organized by the extremist Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat. Khan believes this approach of friendship with the radical right will help bring them to the center. It will soften them and with time, allow them to shun their extremist ideology.

If Imran Khan genuinely believes in coherence, he should employ the same approach of engagement with the far left to make them more centrist, right? Surprisingly, he ridicules them openly, calling them “the scum of Pakistan.” He does not stop at that. He also blames all the extremism in Pakistan on the liberals living within. For example, in a recent interview, he said:

“These liberals. I don’t know these liberals, because these liberals back bombing of villages. They back drone attacks. I mean, I don’t call them liberals. I call them fascists. In my book these people are fascists…Because of them we have extremism in this country these liberals, so called liberals, applauded the incineration, where they bombed this mosque when there were children and women in it, students in it. And these liberals were in the forefront. I don’t call them liberals. I agree. I really think these are the scum of this country.”

Let me remind Imran Khan that liberals were not in the forefront at Lal Masjid. It was the Army. Also, drones do not take off from atop liberals’ houses; they take off from army bases. But I understand it is much easier to criticize vulnerable unarmed liberals than take on the Military-Mullah nexus.

I am flabbergasted. I am also confused. Does Imran Khan and his die-hard fans really understand the words he uses? A fascist is a person who is dictatorial and suppresses criticism and opposition through use of force. Scum refers to a low life, worthless or evil person.

I am yet to meet a “so-called liberal” who bombs mosques and attacks shrines. I am yet to see a “so-called liberal” who kills fellow Pakistanis citing differences of faith. I have never come across a “so-called liberal” who persecutes Pakistan’s very own minorities and razes their places of worship. I am yet to come across a “so-called liberal” who delivers sermons of hate against Shia and Ahmadi Muslims, inciting their killings.

Let me remind Imran Khan that it is the religious fanatics he engages that are the real fascists and the real scum of Pakistan. It is they that are responsible for all the extremism in the country.  Lest he has forgotten, it is they that bomb mosques and shrines. It is they that murder fellow Pakistanis they despise, namely the Ahmadi and Shia Muslims, and non-Muslim Pakistanis. It is they that have made life in Pakistan a living hell for everyone, especially its minorities. It is they that spread hate and incite violence against any and all voices of reason and moderation. Many have had to flee after being threatened by these bigots.

Now, why the far left liberals should be considered scum and unworthy of engagement while those who openly carry out and endorse acts of terror be considered worthy of engagement is beyond me!  Why must only the far right be brought to the center and the far left subjected to ridicule and left isolated? Why must one end of our political divide be
befriended and the other rejected? Above all, why must the heavy burden of sins of one be taken off its shoulder and placed on the shoulders of the other?

Is this justice? Is this Insaaf?

Imran Khan’s justice appears to favor the rightist and the strong. Unless he garners courage to blame extremism on those that actually perpetrate it and relieve the “so-called liberals” of unbefitting slander, his party will increasingly be seen as TPI (Tehreek-e-Pseudo Insaaf) and not PTI.

God Save Pakistan!