Some gems from Declan Walsh’s article promoting Sherry Rehman

by admin

Related articles:
Foreign journalists in Pakistan: Embedded in the narratives of military establishment and urban elite

In response to Declan Walsh’s article on Karachi’s deadly divide – by Shaista Aazar

I could not agree more when I read this line in Declan Walsh’s article on Sherry Rehman (Guardian, 23 January 2011):

“A sense of siege is setting in among Pakistan’s elite.”

Of course. Mr Walsh’s choice of the topic and Pakistan’s urban chatterers narrative that Mr Walsh is trying to recycle to his UK audience is an ample proof of the sense of siege currently confronting Pakistan’s elite (of which Mr Walsh himself is an honorary member as long as both sides keep serving each other’s “interests”).

A critical review of Walsh’s article

While LUBP has previously exposed Mr Walsh for his misrepresentations of the blasphemy law episode in Pakistan, his current article is an example of how a foreign embedded journalist recycles elitist narratives to his UK audience.

A cursory look at the said article would reveal the following:

1. Mr Walsh suffers from the same lopsided and myopic view of Pakistani society and politics as is the characteristic of a tiny but noisy group known as urban chatterers (from middle class to elite backgrounds) who love to be known as Pakistan’s civil society but are as detached from Pakistani society as Mr Walsh himself.

[The urban chatterers are only to be found on facebook, twitter etc but despite their tall claims and pretensions lack an understanding of everyday social life and politics in Pakistan’s streets, markets, mosques and offices. The urban chatterers are, in general, members of Pakistan’s elite or affiliates whose material, emotional and financial interests remain closely tied with the all powerful military establishment.]

2. The said article is a blatant attempt at promoting an urban elite politician (Sherry Rehman) whose political credentials and support are far tinier compared to her excessively large ego and ambitious self-projection often at the cost of her own political party’s long-term interests.

3. As expected, the article successfully portrays the mullahs and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party as the villains of Pakistan’s decline into religious fanaticism, in which only a few wine drinking individuals ‘self-arrested’ in their luxury villas in Karachi (Lahore, Islamabad) and Dubai are the true heroes of the Left who are fighting for a liberal and progressive Pakistan.

4. Mr Walsh utterly ignores the fact that besides noisy but sizable mullahs (40,000 in a pro-blasphemy law rally in Karachi) and noisy but tiny urban chatterers (200 in an anti-blasphemy law show in Islamabad), Pakistan is also inhabited by almost 170 million people the majority of whom remain loyal to moderate political parties, the PPP being the largest political party present in all provinces and areas of the federation. He also ignores the fact that it is the PPP (along with some other political parties such as the ANP), not a few dozen urban chatterers, which has offered most sacrifices in the nation’s struggle for a tolerant, democratic and progressive Pakistan.

Provided below are some gems from Declan Walsh’s article. I may add a few comments here and there in a spare moment but the extracts are sufficient for now to reveal the ‘depth’ and direction of the narrative.

Sherry Rehman represents Pakistan’s left and/or liberals

Pakistani politicians have a long tradition of self-imposed exile but 50-year-old Rehman – a former confidante of Benazir Bhutto, and known for her glamour, principled politics and sharp tongue – is surely the first to undergo self-imposed house arrest. Hers is a luxury cell near the Karachi shore, filled with fine furniture and expensive art, but a stifling one. Government officials insist on 48 hours’ notice before putting food (sic) outside. Plots are afoot, they warn.

She welcomes a stream of visitors – well-educated, English-speaking people from the slim elite. But Pakistan’s left is divided and outnumbered. Supporters squabble over whether they should call themselves “liberals”, and while candle-lit vigils in upmarket shopping areas may attract 200 well-heeled protesters, the religious parties can turn out 40,000 people, all shouting support for Mumtaz Qadri, the fanatical policeman who shot Taseer.

Progressive elite

A sense of siege is setting in among Pakistan’s elite. Hours later, at an upscale drinks party in the city, businessmen and their wives sipped wine and gossiped about second homes in Dubai. One woman admitted she wasn’t aware of Rehman’s plight because she had stopped reading the papers. “Too much bad news,” she said.

Progressives demonstrate loudly in the English press and on Twitter but lack political support, having largely spurned corruption-ridden politics. Politicians say now is the time to come back. “They will be contemptuous of the politician, but they will not actually soil their hands with politics. But none of them has a constituency from which to stand,” says Ayaz Amir.

The “PPP abandoned Sherry Rehman” narrative

Rehman is polite when asked about the silence of her colleag ues in the ruling Pakistan Peoples party on the blasphemy issue. “They feel they want to address this issue at another time,” she says. The truth is, they have abandoned her.

The party played with fire over the blasphemy issue last November when President Asif Ali Zardari floated the idea of a pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on dubious blasphemy charges. According to Rehman, he also agreed to reform the law. But then conservative elements in the party objected, a conservative judge blocked the pardon and, even before Taseer had been killed, the party had vowed not to touch a law that has become the virtual sacred writ of Pakistani politics.

Sherry Rehman, progressive credentials, principled politician

Rehman is unlikely to attend Pakistan’s parliament when it resumes this week. Her progressive credentials are strong, having previously introduced legislation that blunted anti-women laws and criminalised sexual harassment. But critics, including senior human rights officials, say she made a tactical mistake in prematurely introducing last November’s blasphemy bill without the requisite political support.

Comment: To put things into perspective, let me quote the following passage from a recent post by an LUBP colleague, Sarah Khan: “Another important point that I want to raise is the support for Sherry Rehman. She tabled a private members bill in the national assembly, without discussing the same with anyone in the party, only to gain attention. Now she is sitting at her home in Karachi, which incidentally is next door to Intelligence Bureau Headquarters called the Bhopal House. Off course, Sherry has been a journalist and an editor of The Herald, which was instrumental in 1996 in discrediting the PPP government. She also left the cabinet at the time of Long March of March 2009 assuming that the PPP’s government is on the way out.”

The GHQ jihad enterprise

Herein lies the root cause of extremism in Pakistan. By remaining soft on the GHQ’s investment in jihadi and sectarian fanaticism while being harshly critical of the PPP and other political parties, urban elite are an accomplice with the military establishment. They are a part of the problem not the solution.

The mess is also the product of dangerous spy games by the powerful army, which propped up jihadi groups for decades to fight in Afghanistan and India. Some of those militants have now “gone rogue” and allied with al-Qaida; others, according to US assessments in the WikiLeaks files, are still quietly supported by the military. “Our establishment, especially the army, is in league with these people,” says Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a moderate cleric. “And until they stop supporting them they will never be weakened.”

Veena Malik, the ray of hope in Pakistan? Nothing could be more twisted than this bit of ‘analysis’ in Mr Walsh’s article:

Amid the gloom there is some hope, from unlikely quarters. On a popular talk show last Friday night Veena Malik, an actress who faced conservative censure for appearing on the Indian version of Big Brother, gave an unforgettable tongue-lashing to a cleric who had been criticising her. “You are attacking me because I am a soft target,” she railed into the camera, wagging her finger.

“But there’s a lot more you can fix in the name of Islam… What about those mullahs who rape the same boys that they teach in mosques?” As the mullah replied, she started to barrack him again.

A question for Mr Walsh

Why is the PPP the only target of both extremist Islamists and the liberal elite? Does Mr Walsh know that the judge who was gunned down in 1997 was an ex-PPP affiliate, the governor who was shot a few weeks ago was a PPP jiyala, the person who remains house-confined in Karachi is a PPP parliamentarian? Why only PPP?

And a suggestion

We suggest that past his hangover, Mr Walsh may ask himself: “Whose narratives and perspectives am I constantly recycling to the UK audience? To what extent am I blinded by the very same urban elite who are historically known to have self-centred, pro-military establishment and anti-politicians views?”

3 Responses to “Some gems from Declan Walsh’s article promoting Sherry Rehman”

  1. 9 Responses to “Some gems from Declan Walsh’s article promoting Sherry Rehman”

    Sarah Khan says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:36 am
    In response to The “PPP abandoned Sherry Rehman” narrative:

    “Civil” Society must stop blaming the PPP: A rebuttal to Naveen Naqvi and the ‘Twitter Opportunists Club’

    Tariq Ali’s backhanded tribute to Salmaan Taseer – by Mahvish Afridi

    The reality of the self-labelled civil society:

    If the urban elite feel threatened, here is a suggestion:

    Scared of mullahs? Civil Society needs to ally with the PPP for survival – by Ahmed Iqbalabadi

    Taseer’s murder and the call for a ‘broad-based alliance’ between PPP and the ‘civil society’ – by Ahmad Nadeem Gehla

    yawar says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:41 am
    Hmmm … but really, guys, you now seem to be losing it completely. LUBP is now no more about standing up to the right-wing, but reacting to what its authors read on facebook and Twitter.

    Myopic is what you all have become, gunning for so-called liberal elite just like a rabid mullah running after Venna Malik with a danda.

    Sorry, guys, I used to come here a lot, but I am now outta here.

    Had the LUBP been taken over by teenaged high-school types?

    Sarah Khan says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:44 am
    ۔ واپس مڈل کلاس کی طرف آئیں۔۔۔ اس کا ہراول دستہ اور گفتار کے غازی انگریزی اخبارات میں خطوط لکھنے والے وہ دل گرفتہ قاری ہیں جو سیاست اور سیاست دانوں کا ذکر حقارت بھرے انداز میں کرتے ہیں اور اُن کو ڈاکو اور دھوکے باز لکھتے ہیں۔ لیکن اگر سیاست داں نہ ہوں تو حکومت کون تشکیل دے گا؟

    پاکستانی مڈل کلاس کی اکثریت زیادہ تر باتونی افراد پر مشتمل ہے جو ڈرائنگ رومز میں بیٹھے ملکی حالت پر برہم ، سیاست سے نالاں، نوحہ کناں رہتے ہیں۔ وہ سیاسی جماعتوں کو الفاظ کی حد تک آڑے ہاتھوں لیں گے مگر خود سیاسی نظام کا حصہ بن اصلاحی عمل کی مشکلات کا سامنا کرنے کو تیار نہیں ہوتے ہیں۔

    لاف زنی ہی اُن کی بہترین حکمتِ عملی ہوتی ہے۔ اگر کوئی تعلیم یافتہ اور معاشی طور پر خوشحال ہے تو وہ دیہات سے منہ موڑ کر شہر میں آباد ہو جائے گا۔ اگر وہ اندرون شہر کا ہے۔۔۔ چاہے وہ راولپنڈی، پشاور، لاہور یا کراچی ہو۔۔۔ وہ راجہ بازار کو چھوڑ کر ڈیفنس میں آباد ہونا چاہے گا۔

    یہ ہے مسائل کی وجہ! ہماری قومی سیاست دیہات اور شہر کے اندرونی حصوں سے تعلق رکھتی ہے۔ وہاں ووٹرز ہیں اور اس لیے اراکینِ اسمبلی کا تعلق بھی یہاں سے ہی ہوتا ہے۔ ایک سیاسی جماعت جو ان دو مقامات میں پذیرائی نہیں رکھتی، معاشرے سے کٹ جاتی ہے اور سیاسی عمل میں ناکام ہوجاتی ہے لیکن پاکستانی مڈل کلاس کے پیشہ ور افراد جب اچھی ملازمت کو پا لیتے ہیں ، یا ریٹائر ہونے کے بعد اُن کے پاس زمین اور بنک میں پیسہ ہوتا ہے تو اُن کے پاس گاؤں یا اندرون شہر کے لیے وقت نہیں ہوتا ہے۔ وہ عام طور پر کسی کلب کے ممبر ہوتے ہیں ۔ وہ ایک آسودہ زندگی کو ترجیح دیتے ہیں اور اُن کا سیاسی ضمیر ، اگر اُن کے پاس کوئی ایسی چیز ہو، تو وہ سیاست دانوں کو ملکی حالات کی ابتری پر کوستے ہیں اور دل کی گہرائیوں سے اپنے آپ کو ایک مردِ مجاہد کے روپ میں دیکھتے ہیں جو اسپِ تازی پر سوار ہو کر آئے گا اور قوم کی قسمت بدل دے گا۔ اس میں حیرانی کی کوئی بات نہیں کہ ہماری نجات دہندہ فوج اسی مڈل کلاس کی حمایت یافتہ ہے۔

    قوم کی دگرگوں حالت پر سوگواران صرف یہیں پر اکتفا نہیں کرتے ہیں۔ نہ صرف وہ تمام سیاسی سرگرمیوں سے مبرا ہیں بلکہ وہ کبھی ووٹ ڈالنے کی زحمت بھی نہیں کرتے۔ تاہم یہ حقیقت بھی ان کو حقیقی و غیر حقیقی زیادتیوں پر سیاسی طبقے کی ہجو سرائی سے باز نہیں رکھتی۔ تاہم اس کا یہ مطلب ہر گز نہیں ہے کہ مڈل کلاس کے سورماؤں کے دل عزائم سے خالی ہیں۔ جب کوئی پارٹی برسرِاقتدار آجاتی ہے تو دیکھنے میں آیا ہے کہ مڈل کلاس کے کھاتے پیتے افراد انہی جماعتوں کے رہنماؤں کی چاپلوسی میں لگ جاتے ہیں۔ کارزارِ سیاست اُن کے لیے محض اربابِ اختیار تک رسائی کا نام ہے۔ اس گروہ سے تعلق رکھنے والے بنکرز اور دوسرے پیشہ ور افراد اپنا الّو سیدھا کرنے اور کمیشن مافیا کے شکاری اپنا دام لگائے موقع کی تلاش میں لگ جاتے ہیں۔ چنانچہ سیاسی معاملات میں درستی کیسے لائی جائے؟ قوم کی حالت میں اصلاح کیسے آئے گی؟

    اگر پاکستان کے تعلیم یافتہ افراد راہِ سیاست کے گرد و غبار سے احتراز برتیں گے کہ کہیں یہ اُن کی نازک جلد کو زک نہ پہنچائے تو قوم کے زخم کیسے مندمل ہوں گے؟ عوام سے لاتعلقی کی سیاست پچاس کی دہائی ، ایوب خاں کے دور میں کام دے سکتی تھی، مگر آج نہیں۔ ایک سیاست دان جو عوام سے رابطے میں نہیں رہتا، کو انتخابات میں مشکل کا سامنا ہوتا ہے۔ جاگیردارانہ نظام کی طاقت اب محض مبالغہ آرائی ہی ہے۔ کوئی جاگیردار سیاست میں کامیاب نہیں ہوسکتا جب تک اُس کا کسی سیاسی جماعت سے تعلق نہ ہو۔ پاکستانی ووٹرز بھی کسی امیدوار کو سیاسی پارٹی کے ٹکٹ کے بغیر خاطر میں نہیں لاتے ہیں۔

    کسی قسم کی انتخابی سرگرمی کے لیے پیسہ اہم ، بلکہ لازمی ہے۔ تاہم اس کا اثر بھی داستان ہے۔ موجودہ پارلیمنٹ میں بہت سے دولت مند افراد ہیں مگر زیادہ تر اراکینِ اسمبلی، خاص طور پر بڑی پارٹیوں سے تعلق رکھنے والے، ہو سکتا ہے کہ غریب نہ ہوں مگر وہ اعظم سواتی جیسے صاحبِ حیثیت نہیں ہیں۔ دام کام بناتا ہے مگر یہ ایک سیاست دان کے عوام سے تعلق کا نعم البدل نہیں ہے۔

    مڈل کلاس کے خوشحال افراد کے لیے مسئلہ یہ ہے کہ وہ اپنے گالف کے میدانوں، آسودہ زندگی اور پرکشش تنخواہ سے کنارہ کشی نہیں کر سکتے ہیں اس لیے ان کا کوئی حلقہ انتخاب نہیں ہوتا جہاں وہ اپنی سیاسی بساط بچھا سکیں۔ اگر اُن کے سیاسی عزائم ہوں بھی تو اُن کو بڑی پارٹیوں کی قیادت کا احسان مند ہونا پڑتا ہے جو اُن کو کراچی یا لاہور سے اسمبلی یا سینیٹ کی سیٹ گفٹ کر دیں۔ کچھ بہت ذہین افراد ہیں جو سیاست کی گہری بصیرت رکھتے ہیں اور یہی اُن کی سب بڑی رکاوٹ ثابت ہوتی ہے۔ لہٰذا تعلیم یافتہ طبقے کے لیے ایک زبردست امکان موجود ہے کہ اگر اس کے افراد گفتار کے گھوڑوں سے اتریں ، آرام دہ صوفوں سے اُٹھیں اور پاکستان کے دل میں حقیقت پسندانہ نظروں سے جھانکیں اور ہفتے میں کم از کم کچھ دیر کے لیے پاکستان کا اصلی چہرہ دیکھیں۔

    Ayaz Amir on (fake) civil society of Pakistan

    yawar says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:45 am
    Also, Ms. Rheman and many of her supporters use their real names and faces when they take-on the right, but how ironic indeed, that 99% of writers of LUBP all use nicks. Oh, how brave of you, oh faceless ones, in exposing the hypocracies of Rheman and co.

    Go on, then, brand me an ISI agent too. Sheesh.

    Sarah Khan says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:56 am
    @Yawar The day Sherry Rehman lovers club (fake civil society) started liking LUBP, we will think we are doing something wrong. So far the signs are to the contrary. Thanks for the reassurance!

    Khalid Mashood says:
    January 23, 2011 at 3:59 am
    “@Yawar, we are only trying to differentiate between the chatterati and the actual people on the ground. if you read Declan Walsh’s article, you’ll realize that the tone of the piece is that it is PPP that is wrong in leaving Sherry and ST alone.

    Even Sherry is saying that the PPP feels that they will tackle the issue at a separate time whereas another critic says “including senior human rights officials, say she made a tactical mistake in prematurely introducing last November’s blasphemy bill without the requisite political support.”

    When you dont have the numbers game to take on such a big task of an amendment on a sensitive issue, you need to play smart. She didnt and has caused everyone a problem. I personally feel she also has blood on her hands of Salmaan Taseer. “

    Khalid Mashood says:
    January 23, 2011 at 4:13 am
    Declan Walsh has shown his true color sitting in a nice cellar in a posh area of Karachi. Wonder if he will ever visit Lyari and enquire from the workers: “Did they ever demonstrate in front of Sherry Rehman?” and if they did “On whose prompting they did so?”. “Did they not realize that Sherry lived right next to the IB headquarters?”

    Ahmed Iqbalabadi says:
    January 23, 2011 at 10:02 am
    the reason why we use nicknames and pseudonyms is simply because we do not plan to use our name for any personal advantage. If we all started using our real names, there would be more candidates for senate, national assembly and provincial assembly to choose from.

  2. After Imran Khan and Justice Iftikhar, the FCS’s new hero: Veena Malik. According to Declan Walsh, a ray of hope! Other chatterers nod.

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    Honesty, do a quick search on those heroe-ising Veena. Most of them were heroe-ising CJ Iftikhar Ch in the past @mraliahmad
    20 minutes ago Favorite Reply Delete

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    A description of Fake CS: @mraliahmad
    22 minutes ago Favorite Reply Delete

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    Shame on you, Declan Walsh, and your feeders, for recycling lies about Pakistan politics and society to the UK audience.
    22 minutes ago

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    It is not the PPP and ANP who have offered most sacrifices in the war on religious fanaticism, it is Veena Malik who is the ray of hope!
    23 minutes ago

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    It is not the Baloch nationalists who R fighting for their rights, it is Veena Malik who is the ray of hope in Pakistan!
    24 minutes ago

    AbdulNishapuri Abdul Nishapuri
    It is not the Shias of Parachinar who R fighting against GHQ’s good Taliban, it is Veena Malik who is the ray of hope in Pakistan!


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