Dreams of grandeur for Pakistan's elite

Wild parties are fun and progressive values are important, but the assumption that there is a causal relationship between the two is bordering on idiocy.

Sarah Elahi September 20, 2010

There are several armies in Pakistan. First are the regular Faujis. They’re a dependable lot; one can generally rely on them to own a vast amount of land, produce decent quality corn flakes and stage a military coup every decade or so. Then there is the army of God. This is a versatile lot – they function as terrorists, loony ideologues, charitable organisations and scapegoats and fodder for dozens of conspiracy theories. 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 minuscule 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 of society. Art is no longer art, fashion is no longer fashion. It is all part of ‘Showing the world the real Pakistan’, ‘Challenging extremism’, and similar lofty aims.

This is not to say that the elite should live their lives differently or conform to conservative ideals. It is merely an attempt to call attention to the delusion of statements regarding how liberal Pakistanis project a good image of the country abroad; how Pakistan Fashion Week is a slap in the face of 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. The evils that plague the rest of society will continue to do so in spite of the beliefs or behaviour of a few Pakistanis. Unless the Taliban are being invited to enjoy and tolerate runway fashion shows, it will have absolutely no bearing on religious extremism anywhere.

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 important, but the assumption that there is a causal relationship between the two is bordering on idiocy. Somewhere along the line, the idea that one must be well-read or strive for tolerance and humanity was lost in the average socialite’s definition of enlightenment.

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

Sarah Elahi A graduate of Mount Holyoke College who works with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Nadira | 13 years ago | Reply Good one !
critic | 13 years ago | Reply The biggest flaw with this article is that your way of categorizing these 'armies' is more than a little simplistic. You seem to assume that there is no overlap between them and in doing so paint a fairly misleading picture. The 'regular faujis' and the 'army of God' have a more complex relationship and role than you come close to portraying in this article. Just like, there has historically been and continues to be an overlap between the 'wild elite' and the armed forces. Why is this important? Because questions of ideology and agency are radically transformed when you take this fact into consideration and the real picture is not exactly as simple as you paint it. You make a few good points, here and there. Particularly, the one about Pakistan Fashion Week. You are also fairly articulate but, as a result, seem to think you can take liberties with the actual content. People might be fooled, but you really owe it to yourself to not try to get away with inaccurate stuff like this.
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