Liberalism and Pakistan: a tale of twisting the facts

Disclaimer: The purpose of this write-up is not to endorse liberalism. Rather, I wish to clear some misunderstandings and give my readers a point to ponder.

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When it comes to the social debate on everyday developments in Pakistani society, no other concept is as misunderstood by the masses as liberalism.

To tell someone they’re a liberal is a gaali(curse word), and even the (apparently) educated ones won’t mind twisting the term to their benefit (remember Imran Khan terming liberals the “most” dangerous segment of society who “seek blood”?)

As a student of politics, I feel frustrated by this wrong interpretation of an important political theory. And I consider it my duty to correct it so my readers don’t make a fool out of themselves someday like our (air quotes) intelligentsia.

what is liberalism?

Liberal ideology considers individuals as the center of gravity of modern human civilization. Unlike conservatism, liberalism holds that humans are rational beings, and hence will live peacefully if allowed to lead their lives uninterrupted.

While liberalism may mean different things to different people, but in the most general sense, it is:

“… a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.”

historical origins:

Of the political doctrines that emerged during the European Age of Enlightenment, liberalism was of profound importance given that it changed how the European societies were arranged, socially, economically, and politically.

The archaic, unquestionable monarchs and feudal lords were replaced with representative bodies and a free-market economy.

Liberals like John Locke went so far as to suggest that ineffective regimes should be overthrown by individuals if they fail to do their intended job. His ideas were used to justify the Glorious Revolution in England (1688) and French Revolution (1789) as struggles against tyrannical rule.

Characteristics of liberal society:

John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and other liberal theorists advocated for individual freedom; that people should be able to do what they think is in their best interest, provided it does not harm the interest of others.

A liberal society will ensure individual’s rights of life, liberty, and property and call for their protection from the intrusion of both state and community. In the economic realm, it calls for private property rights and opposes centralized economic planning by the government in favor of the Laissez Faire (freely operating market) economy.

As a political ideology, it calls for general equality and majority rule by way of a representative democracy to give a voice to individuals’ interests

liberalism and pakistan society:

For the founding fathers of Pakistan, the liberal notions of protecting liberty and individual rights were major factors behind the demand for a separate homeland. Yet the Pakistani nation was neither introduced to nor bothered to understand the ideology itself. Today, the socially-adhered definition of a liberal is:

one who drinks, uses drugs, enjoys vulgarity, and wears inappropriate clothes.

Violence-prone and intolerant keyboard warrior youth have come up with derogatory labels such as libtard (liberal+retard) for anyone who disagrees with their opinion. Outright cancellation of liberalism as unIslamic leaves behind no room for discussion, tolerance, and understanding.

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It wouldn’t be wrong to define Pakistani society especially the youth less as conservative and more ignorant. Being conservative—opposed to a revolutionary change in traditional values and norms of society—is not wrong, but ignorance is.

This ignorance, in my opinion, results from the lack of personal learning and critical thinking skills not being developed in students from an early age. This leaves the youth vulnerable to the so-called leaders of thought opinion, who may hijack their thought process and exploit their ignorance to their benefit.

what can be done:

As I intended from this write-up, I hope to have provided my audience with a starting point to rethink everything they’ve heard about liberalism so far. As a society, we must develop the habit of critically evaluating the things we hear and see around us. The absence of such tendencies leads to misinterpretation such the that of liberalism in Pakistan.

Let me know if I helped you change a pre-concieved notion in the comments below.

Meet the Blogger

Hassaan Malik

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Hi, y’all! I’m Hassaan & this blog is my journey through life as I observe & learn from the world as it unfolds in front of me. Sounds interesting? Grab some chai and let’s go!

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Liberalism and Pakistan: a tale of twisting the facts

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