We, the Delusional Liberals

It was published as BAAGHI in Daily Times on Monday, July 25, 2011. I wrote this in response to an article by Mr. Shashi Tharoor, India’s member of Parliament and former Minister of State for External Affairs that appeared in Delhi Chronicle on July 21, 2011 and Mr. Aatish Taseer’s article that appeared in Wall Street Journal on July 16, 2011

Shashi Tharoor

A place where you can understand the dynamics of international relations and make judgements about an entire nation just by going through Twitter ‘timelines’ of some columnists: welcome to Indo-Pak subcontinent!

In a simplistically written article in The Asian Age (and Deccan Chronicle) on July 21, Shashi Tharoor — one of the most refined and brilliant politicians of India — baffled many Pakistanis. He was reacting to the comments a few of us sent via Twitter on a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, which declared that Salmaan Taseer, the late Governor of Punjab, hated India. The article started with this poorly reasoned point and developed into a powerfully worded argument covering various ailments Pakistan’s establishment has been inflicting on this fateful country since its birth. One would not disagree with the main argument of the article, as it appeared to reproduce what this scribe and so many fellow columnists in Pakistan have been writing for so long. But not everything in that article was agreeable.

Without undermining Indian pride and doubting its strong credentials of democracy and freedom of thought, it is possible to disagree with an Indian writer, one supposes. My disagreement with the WSJ article was at a factual level. Replying to Mr Tharoor’s question about why I “attacked” his favourite author, I asserted my strong agreement with the central argument of the said article. Not only that my agreement could get no attention from Mr Tharoor but my disagreement was painted as my complacency and bid to smokescreen the mistakes on the part of the state of Pakistan.

My disagreement with the WSJ article stood on two deeply flawed arguments of the author. One: that Salmaan Taseer hated India; and two: the idea of Pakistan was given by Sir Mohammad Iqbal. I have written so many times in the past addressing distortions of history by Pakistan and sometimes India too. The ‘delusional liberals’, as we are labelled by a “headline writer” as per Mr Tharoor, do not agree or disagree with an idea based on who said it, but emphasis almost always is put on what is being said and to what degree it compromises on facts.

The proclamation that Taseer hated India is one of the biggest crimes against the truth. Based on many discussions with the late governor, I can say it with full responsibility that the claim is wrong and must be based on some personal considerations, certainly not factual. Many close friends of late Taseer would bear me out on this. This very paper, owned by him, was inaugurated among many Indian guests, including Arundhati Roy. Taseer’s speech on this occasion would still be fresh in the memories of many, in which he not only emphasised the importance of peace between the two neighbours but also made his famous statement about Siachen. He said something to the effect that we cannot afford to keep fighting for a piece of land covered with snow. I am also aware of his tweets, most of which he would write in sheer jest and would enjoy the reaction on them afterwards. His taunts and wittiness was not limited to India; it equally irritated his political rivals at home as well.

Secondly, the downright faulty perception that Iqbal or even Syed Ahmad Khan gave the idea of Pakistan needs to be contested. To see the evidence, one could study the works by Pakistan’s revered historian K K Aziz who wrote Murder of History, an epic work to correct the way history has been distorted to fit poorly envisioned, shortsighted momentary agendas. His work became the inspiration for Professor Krishna Kumar, who wrote Prejudice and Pride: School Histories of the Freedom Struggle in India and Pakistan, the pioneering comparative study of textbooks, in 2001 and one which covers many issues including a mention to this too.

K K Aziz has also written about the evolution of the idea of Pakistan in his five volumes work, History of the Idea of Pakistan. He, strongly evidenced and duly referenced, has comprehensively dealt with the subject, parts of which can be corroborated by India’s respected historian, Bimal Prasad in his landmark three volumes work Pathway to India’s Partition. At around 64 instances in history before even Syed Ahmad Khan, different people — including Britons — had given the idea of partition in one way or the other. In fact, Iqbal in his letter that appeared in The Times on October 12, 1931, page 8 (now available on the internet), clearly dispels the impression that he had, in his famous Allahabad address, demanded or even spoken of any idea that resembles the establishment of a new state. So powerful is the force of distorted historical texts that even Indians, living in a freer and more democratic environ, appear to have been losing their vision of history.

Coming back to Mr Tharoor, his preconceived notion seems to be that whenever a Pakistani would opine about a foreign — specifically Indian — writer on his Pakistan-specific writing, it is going to be negative. It is going to be an ‘attack’ however slightly a disagreement is made on factual information. It might be true elsewhere, but we in Pakistan keep raising uncomfortable issues with the state, and that too quite frequently. Sometimes by even putting our lives in danger.

Tharoor sahib may also like to know more about the diversity of Pakistani ‘liberals’ before passing judgements, just as we would like to know more about how Mr Tharoor defines ‘liberalism’ and if our liberalism determines the degree to which we should hate our country, it is essentially one certificate that I would not like to get from him. Similarly, for making my voice heard by the masses, I do not need to get a certificate of patriotism from the state of Pakistan.

The difference between him and I may be (in addition to his intellectual superiority) that in order to love my country, I do not feel the need to hate India, which still carries the roots of so many Pakistanis. Just like an Indian liberal is an Indian first, a Pakistani liberal is a Pakistani first. Whenever the conscience has demanded to choose, Pakistani liberals have made the right choice — truth vis-à-vis blind complacency. The reason why we are so critical about our own state is precisely this: we love Pakistan. Please take it as it is.

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17 thoughts on “We, the Delusional Liberals

  1. zobia says:

    So what if she is a jayali of PPP. The essence of this article is patriotism and she is a patriotic and a true lover of Pakistan. You can keep difference with anyone in one country but the question is this that what your when your country comes in your way. In this article she has proved herself the real and true Pakistani.

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  2. Sadia Khan says:

    well Qasim i knw she is pro PPP bt here i used unbiased in terms of her response to mt shahi tharoor not in reference to Pakistan politics. whatever her idology is but apreciating thing is her love for Pakistan… i disagree with her in several points bt i personly knw she love Pakistan n wants beterment of society…

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  3. Qasim Ali says:

    What? She wants betterment of society? Don’t you know how much she is into homosexuality? She is the only flag-bearer of homosexuality in Pakistan.

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  4. Marvi Sirmed says:

    Qasim sahib, is it a crime to be a supporter of one particular political party? If so, I choose to be such a criminal. As, I am a firm believer on people’s vote. But you are entitled to your opinion. I respect your views. Many thanks for feedback.

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  5. Marvi Sirmed says:

    Thanks Saadia ji, once again. Your respect for others’ views is highly commendable. SOmething that our society terribly needs. Just to put the record straight, I call myself an “Anti-Theist” as against atheist. Which means, against the monopoly of religion.

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  6. Shobz says:

    I am so proud of you Marvi for speaking your mind. This is a really good piece as it makes a lot of sense. I was totally confused about the whole issue till I read your post and everything made sense to me. You rock!

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  7. Sameer says:

    I just read your article about late SalmanTaseer.Here I would like to point out certain facts which many of my fellow Indians would disagree with me but the fact remains facts and the historians have buried it.The partition Of the country into two parts and two nation theory was because of Gandhi and his undying love for Nehru.he wanted Nehru to be the first prime Minister Instead of Jinnah which led to the partition of the country.Jinnah was anyday bigger statesman and had done a lot during the freedom struggle from the british rule.

    What little what I have read and learnt about Late Salman Taseer, I CAN ONLY SAY THAT MAN CANNOT HATE INDIA as he was a crusader for peace harmony and justice for which he sacrificed hos life and fell to assasins bullets, such man cannot hate other country
    Regards
    Sameer (casperghost).

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  8. Numan says:

    I wouldnt agree she is the only flag bearer of homosexuality in Pak. what about Nuwas Manto? Or the ladies running Chaymagazine.org?

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  9. Abhaya says:

    Dear Marvi
    I must first congratulate you on crisp concise and cohesive writing style.. you impressed me a lot.. even if we do not tend to agree and that alone should define us to be as liberals.. the ones who do not necessarily agree with the view point of the others irrespective of what was said by whom and in which context.. I know I am not a liberal.. and I would not say being liberal is the best of the characteristics in an individual.. I do agree that a biased or a jested opinion if issued by someone of high reputation goes on to show his weaker sides.. and I think Shashi Tharoor has failed if what you wrote is based on facts.. now, do not expect me to go and read what he may have sais.. I am not a student opf International relations.. nor am I the one who would read everything an Indian may have said about India Pakistan relationships..
    All I do is dream.. and I dream of that dawn when India and Pakistan would not behave towards each other the way they do..

    It should be possible if the two countries try to understand their common roots..

    I am sure the centuries old Hindustan had both IOndia and Pakistan as a part of it.. there may have been differences in the religions the people followed.. there might have been differences in the upbringing of the two sets of people.. but they were Hindustanis all right..

    If I still like Mirza Ghalib and Mohammad Iqbal (irrespective of the fact if he did or did not intitiate the statyehood of Pakistan) and if you could agree with me I like Benazir Bhutto even after whatever she may have said politically about India.. and that I rate Imran Khan a highly successful cricketer this again in spite of his political views, of which I may not really be much aware..
    It is only lately that I did find out that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was not as diffciult to understand as I had perceived earlier..
    Now why do I write all this to you.. why should i share this information with you.. because I like you.. I liked your style.. I liked you as an individual.. even though at some other level other than writing you may be a much different person.. who knows you may not like the people who could be so straight forward and honest in developing new relationship with Pakistan.. that I am one man who may not be able to contribute anything towards it.. I am not asking for dissolution of the two states of India and Pakistan into one Hindustan.. I know we are not Germans.. we would never be able to achieve that level.. yet we could be helping each other’s causes.. I know that you know India has some of the best educational institutes in the region.. when we know that it could mean enough for some of the Pakistani students to be allowed to study here.. that would be liberalism.. that if we know that there are people in India who really want to make a visit to Pakistan’s Lahore or Karachi we should make that feasible for these events.. that alone would be good enough to be deserving of being referred as liberals..
    If India and Pakistan could collectively denounce the nuclear arsenals I am sure the two countries would benefit a great deal from the plenty of peaceful uses of the atom.. the proclamation in this regard could easily set a trend for the other countries.. atleast one can hope and aspire to look in those directions..

    Ramdan ke mubarak mahine mei mere dil se yahi dua nikalegi ki India aur Pakistan dost na bhi banen to kam se kam ek doosare se itani dushmani bhi to na karen..

    With love
    Abhaya Sharma ( urf Abhaya Ahmad Hindustani – Aah, India

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