Saturday, August 14, 2010


There are several armies in this country. There are of course, the regular Faujis. They're a dependable lot; one can generally rely on them to own vast amounts of land/clubs/hospitals, produce decent quality corn flakes and stage a military coup every decade or so. Then there is the army of God, as they see themselves. This is a versatile lot-they function as terrorists, loony ideologues, charitable organisations, scapegoats and fodder for dozens of conspiracy theories that fuel drawing room conversations. Lastly, there is the great army of liberal Pakistanis who represent enlightened moderation.

Oh wait, just kidding.

Let me rephrase that: lastly, there is a miniscule group of elite Pakistanis who believe that by going about their daily lives in the manner most convenient to them, they are waging some kind of war on the dark forces at work in the country. Art is no longer art, fashion is no longer fashion, great food is no longer great food. It is all part of Showing the World The Real Pakistan, Challenging Extremism, and similarly lofty aims. Yes, it does sound a bit ludicrous in writing, doesn't it?

This is not to say that the elite should live their lives differently, or conform to ideals they can't relate to. It is merely an attempt to call attention to the cowardice and delusion of statements littering the English media about how liberal Pakistanis project a good image of the country abroad, how Pakistan Fashion Week is a slap in the face for extremists, how throwing amazing parties showcases the progressive values of the hosts. Let's be serious now. Nobody outside of Pakistan really cares about how the elite live their lives here. The evils that plague the rest of society will continue to plague the rest of society in spite of the beliefs or behavior of a few hundred Pakistanis, and unless the Taliban are being invited to enjoy and tolerate Fashion Week, it will have absolutely no bearing on extremism in the rest of society. It is here that I will come to the most important and most vexing point of all: wild parties do not a progressive thinker make. Wild parties are fun, and progressive values are very important, but the assumption that there is a natural causal relationship between the two is bordering on idiocy. Somewhere along the line, the idea that one must be well-read or strive for education, tolerance and humanity was lost in the average socialite's definition of enlightenment.

So fight on, brave armies, but don't squabble with one another over influence. Continue to stage coups/enforce Shariah law/throw parties, but for the sake of rationality, don't fool yourself into thinking your cause is any more noble than it really is.