'Our dogmatic liberals' By Humeira Iqtidar

Our dogmatic liberals  By Humeira Iqtidar
The News, March 17, 2010

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and teaches courses on globalization, religion and politics of South Asia.

"Why are Pakistanis so prone to conspiracy theories?" a colleague at Cambridge recently asked. He was referring to recent debates about the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan. A version of this question is echoed by the liberal intelligentsia of Pakistan. The local version emphasises the focus on Blackwater within the rhetoric of a segment of society, notably the Islamists. A common refrain amongst the liberal intelligentsia to the question of Blackwater presence in Pakistan is that we must look inwards, we must critique ourselves and our own creations such as the Taliban before we focus on Blackwater. Through framing any critique of Blackwater as conspiracy theory, there is some congruence between the stance of my colleague at Cambridge, who is largely unfamiliar with Pakistan, and the liberal intelligentsia: they both see this focus on Blackwater as an illogical act, as a hiding behind and of course, as an abdication of our own responsibility.

What this discourse of 'our' responsibility that 'we' need to confront hides in its language of the universal 'we' in Pakistan is the reality of an extremely fractured and polarised Pakistan. There is no unified 'we' who is responsible for the rise of the Taliban, no unanimous 'we' that supported the intrusion of neo-liberal economic policies in everyday life so that about half of Pakistan is now living below the poverty line, no united 'we' that decided to support either militancy or America's war for the last decade. There are many different interest groups and classes within Pakistan and some are more implicated in the destruction of Pakistan than others.

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