Previously published as Setting the Record Straight: What it Really Means to be A Critical Supporter, this post is being cross-posted from Pak Tea House, an excellent pro-PPP and pro-secularism blog. We thank the author for his candid criticism of the LUBP and encourage our readers to engage in a constructive debate on this topic. (Abdul Nishapuri)
At times, you know it when the bait is thrown to you to infuriate you and draw you into needless argument. And yet you take the bait, because the resulting “duel’ gives you the opportunity to set the record straight. If you consider yourself as a political activist and you pursue politics with passion, you would naturally hate it when your good intentions are doubted upon and when despite clear evidence to the contrary you are branded as a bigot or (if you are really lucky) as a “confused” wannabe liberal.
I have always believed that the greatest sign of maturity is to pass statements, particularly of strong nature, only when you have full information. And even if you have information, one should still be cautious while interpreting intentions of those who differ from us. Most importantly, as mature human beings we need to realize that not all who differ from us are enemies, bigoted, pseudo liberal or for that matter even less intelligent than us. In social sciences the room for disagreement, even if you belong to same side of the political spectrum is quite substantial. I have said it before in my articles and now I am forced to reiterate it again: You can be critical about some steps and decisions of a mainstream political party and still be a supporter. If you do that then you will actually be a REAL critical supporter of that party. And yes you can even oppose a mainstream liberal party and yet be a liberal. Liberalism is not defined by outright and unconditional support of any party.
It’s really unfortunate that I have to write this post but frankly I was left with no choice. Our editor Raza Rumi published an article which condemned the treatment which Sherry Rehman received. After publishing of the article, he and other PTH authors are being made target of a slandering campaign where they are being branded as bigots, pseudo liberals, burgers, closet conservatives and even Taliban supporters. One article by Ms Qudsia Siddiqui really transgressed and indulged in name calling. https://lubpak.net/archives/28629
Anyone who knows Raza Rumi is also aware of his ideological bent and his political affiliations. Raza Rumi is a liberal in political orientation, a believer in Sufism, a staunch supporter of religious reformation and yes he supports progressive political parties such as the PPP. But here comes a crucial difference: He is the REAL critical supporter of PPP. One who follows his conscience and tries to give his advice with sincerity and independence of mind.
Who is a critical supporter of any party? In my books the critical supporter is one who is sincere to a party due to its founding ideals but does not shy away from criticizing it when the party diverges either ideologically or operationally from its manifesto. A critical supporter retains his/her support for the party but at the same time keeps a sensible head. Above all a critical supporter does not try to spin facts to absolve the party of its mistakes. She/he believes that leadership of the party should be accountable and criticized for its blunders. He/she realizes that a party is eventually a political organization geared to achieve certain higher objectives and for fulfilling those objectives the party needs to rectify its mistakes. At times the mistakes occur due to efforts of gaining political advantage (after all political parties are geared towards achieving power) and at times due to incompetence of the leadership. At such junctures the critical supporters prove to be the real asset. However it is important that their criticism need to be taken in the right spirit.
A political party is not a holy cow. It can be criticized and not all the criticism can be lumped together under the same category. PPP is the mainstream liberal party and like all parties in this world, it can be criticized. More importantly those who belong to liberal side of the spectrum can also criticize it. Just because conservatives are criticizing it does not mean that those who identify themselves as liberals cannot. And yes, merely the fact that conservatives and liberals are critical of the same party does not mean that they are in agreement with each other in all aspects. But above all, criticizing a party on some areas does not mean that you are not appreciative of its positive contributions.
All the editors at PTH have appreciated PPP for its liberal credentials. We have appreciated PPP for its role in an improved NFC award, 18th amendment and its efforts to reach out to smaller provinces. However, we cannot remain silent when the party makes mistakes and indulges in politics of intimidation. Miss Qudsia in her article branded us as pseudo liberals, closet conservatives and brain dead when it comes to PPP( “brain freeze” was her particular reference to me). So if I am critical of MQM and Imran, I am brilliant but the moment I criticize PPP, I get a brain freeze! For her information, I have appreciated PPP several times and also criticized it. For that matter my articles about Imran and MQM, while criticizing them, also appreciated their positives. And yes they have their positives. And while being critical of their negativities, I acknowledge those plus points, because for me credibility remains supreme rather than support or opposition of any Political outfit.
For that matter even the present Judiciary has its negatives as well as positives. Things in this life are not black OR white. They come in a mixed baggage. I grew up idolizing ZAB but when I write about him, I also criticize him for his role in second amendment and other missteps.
And how has she simply assumed that I have never appreciated PPP? Yes like a REAL critical supporter, I do not try to spin facts. Like a REAL critical supporter of PPP, I appreciate as well as criticize it. In fact all my articles about PPP take an objective approach and come with mixture of appreciation and criticism. But since I have been alleged to get a brain freeze because of my perceived failure to appreciate PPP, therefore I am reproducing the following excerpts from several of my articles
“While media and urban middleclass of Pakistan have been lynching the PPP government at the top of their voices, the party actually deserves praise at least on provincial autonomy front.” http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/political-islam-politics-of-identity-ethnic-nationalism-and-centralized-state/
“The tax base is already narrow and we are in perpetual deficit. At this hour Government particularly the federal government needs support not the kind of opposition this media is whipping. Yes we should pressurize the government to be transparent but at the same time at least trust them with the money. Donate and then expect transparency.”http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/how-mistrust-of-the-government-is-hurting-pakistani-people-and-why-should-we-trust/
“Moreover, for all those who are always dying to vilify Zardari, let’s at least give the “devil” his credit. Zardari led government has tried to reach out to all the ethnicities and has successfully brokered an improved NFC award. Likewise, he has transferred the presidential powers through 18th amendment to the Prime Minister, a thing virtually unheard of in the past.”
Yes in these articles, I also criticized PPP, besides appreciating it. After all this is what a CRITICAL supporter is supposed to do. And yes while appreciating or criticizing I have never evoked my family linage to PPP. I referred to my family’s history with respect to PPP merely to show that I have an extra soft corner for the party. My critique and appreciation is based on actual performance.
Raza Rumi has also written a string of articles appreciating PPP and the moment he gets critical, he is branded as a naïve impressionable editor of a “pseudo leftwing” blog? Is this your idea of fairness?
And yes, we at PTH pride ourselves to refrain from making comparisons with other blogs. We do not try to prove our secular credentials. Yasir Latif Hamdani may also really like Jinnah but he likes him because of his secular credentials.
We at PTH would like to have a cordial relations with LUBP because we do not have doubts over the secular and progressive credentials of the other and nor are we publishing comparisons about how “we are miles ahead’ of the other. Only insecure people make such comparisons. Even this defense does not try to compare PTH with LUBP. This just tries to remove the misperceptions which the article of Ms Qudsia has tried to cultivate.