Religious extremists versus liberal extremists

If the world is complaining about religious extremism, they should also see what many see as the liberal extremists in

    I remember a bumper sticker that read: "We have the best politicians money can buy!"

    How appropriate.

    People who have lived in Pakistan will tell you that politics and political parties are the domain of the privileged class who have not necessarily made their money the hard - and legal - way.

    Flamboyance and loose mouths have always claimed lives in a country where the majority lives below the poverty line and where almost 40 per cent of the people depend on aid and extra help.

    If you want to become famous, throw massive parties - and all the better when it is all paid for by the state and from the poor taxpayers' money .

    The bigwigs know how to wine and dine, but have no time for the wretched masses whose mouths are still open and in want of their next meal.

    If you were worried about the escalating fuel prices you would never hear any complaints from the children of the governors, minions and sycophants who have helped inflate the egos of their masters.

    You can see it on the pot belies of the oligarchs, as though they have been inflated with pride showered in plenty by the flatterers.

    A few years ago, I went to meet a friend in Paris who worked for the reputed French daily Le Monde. He told me that he thought our General was doing a fine job in moderating our society.

    I told him it was like stretching a rubber band, which if stretched too far would snap - many years down the line and it has!

    If the world is complaining about religious extremism, they should also see what many see as the liberal extremists in Pakistan.

    Perhaps the word "liberal" has become like the word "democracy" in a country where 50 per cent don’t even know how to read or write.

    To my mind, liberal values mean benevolence, depth, a greater understanding and tolerance of human ideologies, and, beyond everything else, a tolerance to respect a variety of religions within the confines of nation states.

    "Liberal" in my estimation, is not holding a bottle of scotch in a country where the laws prohibit alcohol, an offence that sees ordinary poor people sent to jail.

    If this is not duplicity then what is? While the rich have Perrier to gargle with and fancy banana floats to boost their energy, over 50 per cent of the population goes without safe drinking water.

    Politicians will come and go. Some by the ballot, others sadly through the bullet, but history will judge who were the heroes and who were its zeroes.

    We may make icons out of people who don’t even deserve a footnote in the history of this unfortunate but struggling nation.

    I remember when my team and I went to cover the floods in the Punjab where people were running for their lives and with whatever belongings they could gather in a hurry.

    Under the merciless sun and scorching heat, the scenes were more reminiscent of partition when India and Pakistan became two separate states and people had to leave in both directions to find safety in their own new lands.

    However, I was dismayed to find that when we arrived back in Multan, we found the Pakistani elite busy enjoying music in the company of their dancing girls.

    As one put it: "God save us from the liberal and religious extremists!"


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