Tag Archives: bell-bottoms

Liberals are losing ground in Pakistan

“They’re armed, we’re not. They’ve nothing to lose. They fight for their faith with bullets. We’re not ready to die.”Rehana Hakim, Editor, Newsline

“The liberal-minded people are thinking of leaving the country. The liberal space will shrink even further.”Ayesha Siddiqa

“Should I remain silent or stand up to be counted? I’m struggling to take a decision.”Moneeza Hashmi, Broadcaster

The Flickering Flame

. Pakistan’s liberals are fleeing the country in fear or being forced into silence.

Mariana Baabar

When Omer announced he had completed his master’s degree from a university in London and wished to return home to Karachi, his father Rahim Khan, a senior government official, should have marvelled at his luck. After all, only a minuscule percentage of boys from the subcontinent ever return to their country from studies abroad. Contrary to expectations, Rahim was dismayed, promptly advising his only son to enrol for another course or grab a job, to do anything he could to extend his visa there. Rahim explained his decision to Outlook, “He will have no future in a city where you can’t be sure of returning home alive in the evening.”

It isn’t just those from the rich, western-educated class who have made it their habit to take a flight out of Pakistan, often for good. Months ago, Allama Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, a leading religious scholar, decided to make Dubai his home, so weary was he of the repeated threats from the obscurantists livid at his moderate interpretation of Islam. Marred by continuing ethnic strife, the once-liberal city of Karachi has also undergone rampant Talibanisation, goading the rich to make a beeline for safer climes abroad. This exodus prompted columnist Kamran Shafi to recently write about the “darkened homes in Karachi where the inmates have flown to alternative ‘nests’ in Canada, England and Malaysia”.

For long, Pakistan has seen its people migrate for reasons as varied as better economic prospects to hopes of escaping political discrimination and the state’s inability to provide protection from murderous gangs scouring the land with impunity. Whoever from the minority groups of Hindus and Christians can leave the country, does so at the first opportunity. Joining them in droves in recent times have been those from the Ahmedia sect, which is deemed non-Muslim under law. A significant percentage of the exodus comprises businessmen, often the target of kidnapping and extortion. Pakistanis have always asked themselves: should we leave the country or stay behind?

This question has again become a subject of fervent debate from the time Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down and the shocking feting of his assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, who was outraged by his victim’s support for amending the blasphemy law. For someone to be killed for an opinion, an idea, has jolted Pakistanis into reflecting over their journey backward—from liberating progressivism to stifling conservatism. Recalls journalist Adnan Rehmat, “In the ’60s and ’70s, you could even eat at restaurants during Ramadan and see women in saris and bell-bottoms in the bazaars. Burqas and beards were a rare sight.” …

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