March 30th, 2014
Raza Habib Raja
Raza Rumi, whom I consider a good friend, elder brother and a mentor, was attacked two days ago. He survived whereas his young driver, Mustafa could not make it. When it happens to a person known well to you and to whom you owe a lot, the incident becomes personal at many levels.
Suddenly, you realize that words which are being written and spoken are not just a harmless exercise but entail life threatening consequences. And it also makes you realize that in this country- where ironically you are mocked at by titles like “Pseudo Liberal”, “Fake Liberal”, “Dollar Khor”, “Indian and US Agents”- you are always risking your life and despite the risk, continue to be mocked by our sick urban middleclass.
And Raza Rumi was risking his life daily and yet I know from Twitter ( where he is very active) that he was mocked by many, in particularly from supporters of the cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan.
Mr. Khan himself called liberals as “scums” and “hungry for US dollars”; thus setting an example for hordes of his crazy young followers.
Mr. Khan, whom I used to worship as a teenager, has constantly acted as apologist for extremists and his largely dumb followers ( some of them have voted for the first time in life and think that they have become experts on politics), have assumed the responsibility of defending every nonsensical BS which he utters.
He is the prime political actor in perpetuating a narrative which the extremists want. No wonder, that they nominated him as one of the members in the committee constituted by them for “peace” negotiations.
And narrative is important because the war is also ideological and they won’t spare anyone too vocal in challenging the dominant narrative.
In some sense, the extremists should not be worried as to what is being said and written about them. They are after all hidden from the public view and are not conscious of cultivating a “good” image, something which could possibly lead to hitting those who speak against them.
They are wary of dissident voices because right now the dominant narrative is that extremism is nothing but a reaction, albeit horrific, of the US war on terror. This narrative feeds on US hatred and the assumed Muslim moral superiority and is reinforced by an overwhelming right wing media.
Consequently suicide blasts, despite being claimed by TTP and allied groups, do not lead to revulsion and anger but rather shift the blame to external forces. Despite knowing that suicide blasts are inhuman as many of these use 11 to 13 year old kids and are targeting innocent, a huge bulk of the population displays apathy and worse still, comes up with apologetic defense.
Lack of consensus, confusion over the course of action and even twisted sympathy for the extremists, is created and sustained by this narrative and that is why defying counter narrative assumes importance for the militants.
And here the narrative is not merely defied through arguments but where essential, backed by threats and actual violence. But even in arguments, the space given to rightwing “experts” on electronic media is generally greater and moreover they are often supported by the anchors themselves. If you do not trust me, see the space given to Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan.
In Urdu print media, there are hardly any dissenting voices and whereas English print media does feature people who raise a dissenting voice, but due to language constrains are not that effective. And even then, they continue to be mocked upon and yes, face material dangers.
Where Raza Rumi became really intolerable was when he started a program on electronic media in Urdu. He was in many ways, a lone voice, and yet even that was not acceptable. He nearly lost his life for simply saying in what he believes.
And despite almost losing his life, he is constantly mocked upon by some.
. In this increasingly crazy society, you can only survive if you adhere to one kind of narrative. Pakistan just belongs to those who believe in that narrative, either out of conviction or fear.
Dear Pakis, have your “Naya” Pakistan. It belongs to you.
Keep on giving shameless apologetic defense to murderers while calling us “fake liberal”, “libidos”, “Pseudo Intellectuals” and yes, “Dollar Khors”