Original Articles

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

Related posts:

Deconstructing Pakistani liberals: A response to Shashi Tharoor and Raza Rumi

The Civil Society Bulletin – by Abbas Baloch

Some myths and realities about the self-labelled civil society – by Shahid Khan

“Supreme Court shall not remain a spectator if Parliament decides to make Pakistan a secular state”, Chief Justice; a self-proclaimed custodian of theocratic state warned in his remarks. That was followed by a policy statement by Chief of Army Staff that “policy of ‘strategic depth’ (extremism enterprise) shall be continued at all costs”. The two statements reflect the mindset and vision of civil and military establishment about future of Pakistan and widespread extremism in society.

“We, the liberal and moderate ‘forces’, should form a ‘broad based alliance’ against bigotry and extremism”, one regularly hears from members of a tiny but noisy crowd, afraid of establishment’s backed religious fanatics. The crowd wants PPP to move for a head-on clash and be a casualty against bigots supported by ‘holy judges’ and ‘righteous generals’.

Alliance of liberal and moderate forces is a good idea. But against whom they want to form this alliance? Are the civil society liberals really a considerable force without blessings of establishment? Sadly, their existence or otherwise does not make any difference in political or ideological landscape of Pakistan. However, they are good enough for TV talk shows for the consumption of urban middle class.

During the so called lawyers movement, English speaking urban middle class ‘activists’ promoted themselves to the rank of ‘civil society’. As we know today, the movement was a joint project of local and foreign establishment. The so called ‘civil society’ got more media coverage than it deserved. Under the impression of being a newborn ‘power’, some section of that crowd miscalculated that they are powerful enough to ‘make and break the governments’.

The democratic government lead by the Pakistan Peoples Party was the first practice target. They put their weight behind the ‘right-wing’ supported ‘righteous’ judge in their crusade to oust PPP government through a judicial verdict. Majority of that crowd consisting of lawyers, students, journalists and religious parties are currently busy showering rose petals on the assassin of Governor Taseer.

Politics and ideological divide in Pakistan is not as simple as perceived in a democratic society. It has been a bloody game where establishment ruthlessly slaughtered the voices of sanity to promote its ‘Jihad Enterprise’ and installed its puppets in every field of life.

PPP still remains the only force which can bring a social change opposed to agenda of ‘mullah-military-judges alliance’.

The tiny crowd calling itself ‘civil society’ passionately hates PPP. They are powerful enough to make noise but unable to bring down the government lead by a popular party. Their disillusion of making and breaking governments vanished the moment PPP decided to respond during the judicial activism assault.

With assassination of Governor Taseer, the so called ‘civil society’ finds itself vulnerable to religious bigots. Unlike the ‘pseudo-liberals’ of urban middle class, Governor Taseer was an ardent supporter of PPP. He boldly stood and fought for Bhutto’s dream of liberal and moderate Pakistan. He never cried out of fear but became the part of struggle which demands blood.

Afraid of fanatics, they want PPP to fight and give blood, so they can live without fear.

If urban liberal crowd does not feel comfortable with the manner PPP is fighting, they should ask the same from some other political party. Is not it simple? But, there is none else except PPP to stand against the blood thirsty forces of darkness.

No wise men. No trap this time. PPP should not give blood on their fake cries and establishments time frame. PPP should pick time and strategy which suits it best to fight the monster. If all their hopes are with PPP, then they should be part of it. They should also struggle for their liberty outside drawing-rooms and talk shows. If they do so, undoubtedly Governor Taseer will be happy and victorious.

That will require a bold and clear stand against the real architects behind extremism – much loved Judges and Generals, not the Mullah alone.

The tiny crowd which poses to be civil society in Pakistan supports Chief Justice for defending theocracy and praises Governor Taseer for his bold stand for a secular Pakistan. At the same time, they would paddle the establishment’s propaganda against PPP. If they are genuine, they should pick a side in this struggle. Either they are with us or against us.

Related articles:

A plan well executed

Salman Taseer: Another victim of the deep state

Salman Taseer’s murder and the footsoldiers of media – by Qudsia Siddiqui

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri


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  • I was a part of the Aitz Ahsan led lawyers movement in 2007 and before. Based on my personal experience and also in the hindsight, I confess that the so called movement was an establishment project bringing Islamist and civil society activists together to bring down the democratic government.

    The same scene is now being repeated. Islamists are attacking Zardari from the right side and the civil society activists are attacking him from the left side. The goal is common. Their puppet masters are same.

  • انتہائی فضول مضمون ہے امریکا کے پیسوں کی چوری خانے والے این جی اوز کے طوطے اور امریکا کی چاپلوس حکومت میں کوئی فرق نہیں موم بتیاں جلانے والے کبھی ڈرون حملوں میں شہید ہونے والوں کی یاد بھی مناتے ہیں ؟

  • My worry is that sometimes, a few sincere workers and loyalists of the PPP seem to be lured by the civil society proxies.

    The PPP loyalists must stay away from the civil society shows.

  • There are certain issues on which political workers should support civil society. At the same time Civil Society should also decide about its future direction. Half of CS is throwing flowers on Qadri, rest half is attacking Zardari and defending Chief Justice for his bold stand to protect Mullah. At the same time they are crying for Salman Taseer…Sympathies with Hussain but swords with Yazeed! That is what they are doing!

  • Smokers’ Corner: Coming together
    Nadeem F. Paracha
    The MQM’s return to the PPP-led government’s fold is certainly good news, especially for the people of Karachi/Sindh and for those patient and thoughtful enough to realise the grave consequences the fall of a government can have at this testing time. Whatever the realpolitik behind the manoeuvres of political parties may be, on an ideological level the current coalition government comprising the PPP, the ANP and the MQM is a natural union.

    Today we stand in a very changed socio-political universe. These are not the 1990s (and certainly not the late 1970s) when secular democratic parties were at constant loggerheads, in the process shrinking their own space and losing much ground to the so-called anti-democratic forces and assorted political-religious parties. Thus, like it or not, there is no denying the fact that the PPP, MQM, ANP and PML-N remain our best bets if democracy and the concept of pluralism is to last in this troubled republic.

    In our current state of pessimism one does tend to miss out certain bright spots lit by this government. Whatever has taken place in Pakistan in the last 35 years or so cannot be undone within a span of a single government term. The process gets even slower when popularly elected governments need to ignore or withdraw certain policies that might cost heavy economic losses, but at the same time somewhat boost the government’s populist credibility.

    One of the most hopeful things that have emerged ever since this government took office three years ago is the unprecedented manner in which it has, in one way or the other, carried along a coalition of parties that until only ten years ago were not even willing to share a single table. And this was always the frustration felt by the secular side of democracy in Pakistan; parties spent more time bickering among themselves rather than addressing the issue of the ever-growing role and influence of the right in politics and society. Though this unprecedented coalition of Pakistan’s largest democratic parties has boldly swum through wave after wave of both real and projected crises, it can be suggested that moderate parties have to deliver more compared to their politico-religious counterparts who so far have only the emotional sides of the populace to appeal to.

    Whereas the performance of the PPP-led coalition in regards to braving out (in a democratic manner) the terrible mess Pakistan has been in is certainly a noteworthy achievement, one cannot forget the role played in this respect by the opposition PML-N. Nevertheless, where there is enough grey matter to prove the Sharif brothers’ patient and pragmatic role in letting the democratic system regroup itself, there are also some questions to be asked of the PML-N.

    The hawks in this party constantly betray the democracy-driven narrative the coalition government is trying to float. It is true that the electronic media has been this narrative’s biggest enemy (for both economic and populist reasons), but it seems the PML-N hawks contribute further bile to this damaging process by playing to a glued-to-TV gallery that is mostly made up of the urban middle class suspicions of democracy. It is as if the PML-N by doing this has already submitted to the perception that it is simply a large Punjab-based party with the province’s conservative business and trader classes being its main vote banks.

    The PML-N’s rhetoric about governance, economic self-sufficiency and its rather vague stand on terrorism does not resound as convincingly with the people of Karachi and Sindh (and maybe even Balochistan), as it does with the middle-class of Punjab. This is not to suggest that people in the other provinces tend to ignore matters such as corruption and the need for good governance. The difference in this respect is of a cultural nature in which the said issues in Karachi and Sindh, for instance, are not seen from the staunchly neo-conservative lenses of the Punjab’s business and trader communities.

    This is where the PPP succeeds. It speaks a more common language that can be related to by Pakistanis from across the board, even though sometimes its core message does get lost. However, this is also a language that the electronic media is highly suspicious of, because after all, the media too is using the same lenses in judging politics as does the PML-N; and thus the party enjoys a better relationship with the news channels. Just as the current ruling coalition comprises ideologically natural allies, so do the mainstream electronic media and the PML-N. The people can choose whose side they want to be on.


  • CJ has siad “Supreme Court shall not remain a spectator if Parliament decides to make Pakistan a secular state”. Kiyani said,”policy of ‘strategic depth’ (extremism enterprise) shall be continued at all costs”. ISI spokesman Zaid Hameed was on ARY TV yesterday saying,” Institutions of Supreme Court and army should ‘save’ Pakistan” Imran Khan in an article in Guardian said,” Pakistan will implode if US does not leave Pakistan” PPP Governor of Punjab was murdered and Qadri made a hero by right. Target killing in Karachi increased.
    All of above show that ‘establishment’ is scared of semi-secular democracy, which is only hope that Pakistan will not become a footnote in history.

  • احمد ندیم صاحب آپ نے خوب لکھا ہے پیپلز پارٹی والوں کو چاہیے کہ اس پر سنجیدگی سے غور کریں

    پاکستانی غیر سرکاری تنظیموں کی پہلی فکری زولیدگی یہ ہے کہ وہ جامعہ مدنی (سول سوسائٹی ) کی نمائندہ ہیں .ماضی میں پاکستان کی سول سوسائٹی کی ساری جنگیں مزدور تنظیموں نے لڑی ہیں جن کو جناب ذولفقار علی بھٹو اور ضیاء الحق کے زمانے میں تباہ کر دیا گیا ، رہی سہی مزدور تحریک کو غیر فعال کرکے مغربی سرمایہ داری نظام کے مالی امداد کے نظام کے ساتھ منسلک کرنے میں غیر سرکاری تنظیموں کا بڑا حصّہ ہے

    غیر سرکاری تنظیموں کا ایک اور فکری مغالطہ یہ ہے کہ وہ سیاسی پارٹیوں کا متبادل ہیں . دوسرے عوامل کے ساتھ اس کی بڑی وجہ یہ بھی ہے کہ ماضی کے سیاسی کارکن غیر سرکاری اداروں اور سرمایہ دار ملکوں کے امدادی اداروں سے حاصل شدہ امداد اور مشاہرہ جات سے اپنا اور اپنے بچوں کا مستقبل محفوظ بنانے کے بعد اب اپنے پرانے سیاسی خوابوں کی تعبیر چاہتے ہیں ” ہینگ لگے نہ پھٹکری اور رنگ بھی چوکھا” کسی نہ کسی طرح عمر اصغر خان کی طرح براہ راست وزارت مل جائے غیر سرکاری ادارے اپنی حدود کی بنا پر نظام میں موجود “سپیس” کو وسیع کرتے ہیں وہ کبھی بھی نظام میں بنیادی تبدیلیاں نہیں لا سکتے یہ کام انقلابی تحریکوں کا ہوتا ہے جن کے کارکن مشاہروں کے لیے نہیں اپنے نظریات کے لیے کام کرتے ہیں

    چونکہ غیر سرکاری تنظیمیں سرمایہ دار ملکوں کی حکومتوں یا دوسرے گروہوں کی امداد سے کام کرتی ہیں اس لیے انہوں نے مقامی مسائل کو مغرب کی زبان کے ساتھ ہم ترازو کرنا ہوتا ہے ، اس عمل میں اکثر وہ مسائل کی گہرائی کو نظر انداز کر دیتے ہیں . پاکستان میں اقلیتوں کے حقوق اس کی ایک مثال ہیں .

    پنجاب میں اقلیتوں کا مسلہء اصل میں ذات پات کا اور معاشی مسلہ ہے . شمال سے آنے والے سفید اور زرد لوگوں نے جن مقامی لوگوں کو شہروں میں صفائی کی خدمات اور دیہات میں کھیت مزدوری کے لیے زندہ رکھا وہ عرصہ دراز تک بالمیکی پنتھ کے پیروکار رہے وہ برہمن راج ، مسلمان سلطنت یا بادشاہت اور اور خالصہ راج میں اپنی قسمت نہ بدل سکے .عیسائی مشنریوں نے انھیں تعلیم ، ما لی امداد اور جنوبی پنجاب میں خودمختار کاشتکار بننے کے موا قع دیئے جس سے ان کی اکثریت عیسائی ہو گئی .جب تک پنجابی معاشرے کو اس “ناقابل لمس ” گروہ کی ضرورت رہی ان کو ان کے مذہب کی بنیاد پر کبھی براہ راست تشدد کا نشانہ نہیں بنایا گیا .

    پچھلی دو دہائیوں میں شہری گھروں میں جدید ٹائلٹ اور دیہات میں فصل بونے اور کاٹنے کے جدید آلات کے تعارف کے بعد اس گروہ کی نہ صرف معاشی ضرورت کم ہو گئی بلکہ بھٹہ مزدورری اور کھیت مزدوری میں ان کا مقامی لوگوں کے ساتھ معاشی مقابلہ شروع ہو گیا .ان حالا ت میں مقامی لوگوں کے لیے شدت پسند مولوی کی بات کے ساتھ اتفاق کرنا زیادہ آسان ہو گیا . تاہم غیر سرکاری تنظیمیں اس مسلے کو تاریخی اور طبقاتی تناظر میں دیکھنے کی بجائے مذہب کے عدسے سے دیکھتی ہیں اس لیے مالی امداد کے لیے یہ آسان طریقہ ہے

    مولوی اور آزاد فکر لبرل کے جھگڑے کا عوام کے ساتھ کوئی تعلق نہیں ہے . مولوی حکمران طبقات کو چغے پہنے ہوئے بادشاہوں کی صورت میں دیکھنا چاہتا ہے اور آزاد فکر لبرل ایک کامیاب ” کارپوریٹ ایگزیکٹو ” کی صورت میں. ان دونوں میں سے کوئی بھی مذہبی رواداری کی بنیاد وادی سندھ کی صدیوں پرانی روح پر نہیں رکھنا چاہتا . بریلوی مولوی میں اتنی طاقت اور بصیرت نہیں کہ وہ اس جدید تحریک کی بنیاد کو ختم کر سکے جس کے بانی بابا فرید الدین شکر گنج ہیں اور جس کو سید وارث شاہ ، بلھے شاہ ، خواجہ فرید ، شاہ حسین اور سینکڑوں صوفیوں ، سنتوں اور بھگتوں نے پروان چڑھا یا لیکن ضرورت کسی ساحر کی ہے جو دمادم مست قلندر کا نعرہ لگا کر عام آدمی کو بتا سکے کہ مولوی کے اندر صوفی نہیں ” سلفیوں ” کا پیسہ بولتا ہے تاہم آزاد فکر لبرل سے یہ کام نہیں ہو سکتا کہ اس کے منہ سے نکلنے والے نغموں کی دھنیں “کثیر الاقوامی کارپوریشنز ” بناتی ہیں

  • Good article Nadeem. If one has to align themselves against the dark forces in the country, they CANNOT exclude the Judiciary and its backers as part of the dark forces of extremism.

  • @ Qais Anwar

    Thak you for such beautiful analysis.

    This applies to normal civil society organisations in a capitalist society. However situation is worst in Pakistan.

    Here we have 3 sets of civil society. First one is ardent supporter of a fanatic Chief Justice ‘Chief tere jan Nisar’ and years for secularism.

    Second Civil Society is Qadri tere Jan Nisar, and shower flowers at a murderer.

    Third civil society is Ghariat Brigade of GHQ.

    What they have common is ‘GET Zardari’ Get PPP. And cry for Salaman Taseer.

    Their sympathies are withhussain but swords with Yazeeds.

  • Excellent article Nadeem Sb. These civil society guys didn’t spoke when LHC bar association were on strike everyday for an “hour” from December last year in result of Taseer support to Aasia Bibi and from possible Presidential pardon . these civil society guys didn’t mention the revolutionary lawyer who celebrated LHC decision of retaining President for pardoning Aasia.

    They don’t mention bar groups position on blasphemy law was main factor in last week punjab bar election .

  • Despite some recent pressures on the LUBP from right and left, we will not change our policy of criticizing Islamist proxies and liberal proxies of the establishment.

    We are content with our readers’ feedback and also with the comparative traffic stats available through Alexa.com

    We will continue to remain even handed and blunt in our critical review of the narratives being propagated by Islamist and liberal proxies in Pakistan’s Urdu and English language media.

    The present post may be seen as a reiteration and informal declaration of our policy regarding who we consider or do not consider as our allies.

    We can stand the heat and we will stay in the kitchen. LUBP will not be censored!

    سینسر کریں گے دیکھنا اب صبح و شام بھی
    قامت کاطول‘ یار کا طرز خرام بھی
    سینسر کریں گے اب یہ طریق طعام بھی
    رکھنے سے قبل شہر کے بچوں کے نام بھی
    سینسر کریں گے اب یہ سنکتی ہوا کو بھی
    اور ان کا بس چلے گا تو حکم خدا کو بھی

    منہاج برنا

  • Is establishment (General Kiyani) behind all this?

    There is a theory doing the rounds in Pakistan, and call it a conspiracy theory if you will, that the outpouring of love and affection across Pakistan for Governor Taseer’s killer was anything but spontaneous. It argues that the entire episode was a carefully orchestrated response by Pakistan’s all-powerful security apparatus to suspected US plans of escalating its war on Pakistani soil in 2011.

    The idea is that the only thing that can stop the Americans from using their troops on Pakistani soil, or extending their drone strikes to cities such as Quetta, is a massive assertion of extreme religious opinion in the country’s major urban centres, which would create an illusion that Pakistan was tipping over. In essence, the plan is no different from the one that led to the sudden emergence of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, the most successful religious alliance in the country’s history, that swept to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 2002 elections.


  • Some Myths and Realities

    1. Pakistani Civil Society?

    Civil Society did existed in Pakistan during 1970’s. It was composed of trade unions, lawyers, journalists and students organisations with rights groups. During Zia persecution of PPP and left wing, the same was ruthlessly crushed by establishment and puppets installed in media, NGO’s and JI activists promoted to ranks.

    What we have today is overly make-up aunties and jeans wearing Urban Middle class on Establishments payroll. They are afraid of Mullah because they fear their scotch and fun stuff will be taken away.

    3. PPP and civil Society are natural Allies?

    A naked lie. PPP has been slaughtered in hands of establishment. Its struggle is against powers of oppression. While PRESENT civil society of aunties has always been a partner of establishment.

    Civil Society’s (Fake) hero are Judges (Iftakhar Chaudhri and Hameed Gul) and generals which protect and promote extremism and they are enemies of PPP. Our hero’s are Bhutto and BB who were killed by judges and generals.

    We do not share common enemy but ones enemy is others hero.

    4. Civil Society and PPP can work together?

    The present fake Civil society is establishments extension. Their main target is PPP. They can back-stab but can never be allies.

    5. Should PPP isolate itself from Civil Society?

    An other wrong perception.

    i). PPP Lawyers Wing has won every election from District Bar to Pakistan Bar and Supreme Court bar against establishment’s sponsored/Chief Justice group. PPP has strong roots a and support in genuine civil Society.

    ii) PPP has won every trade union election from PIA, Steel Mills to Ittafaq Foundries. The labour, rakshawa, wagon, farmers Union make biggest support base of PPP.

    iii) PPP works closely with genuine Human Rights groups like HRCP, genuine journalists, students and women groups. As a matter of fact PPP has first time recognised the genuine rights workers and awarded medals/national honours to journalists, teachers, rights activists.

    We are willing to work with all groups, persons and organisations who genuinely believe that oppression can not end unless the real architects are defeated. The judges and generals alliance. Mullah/extremist is just a creation of these forces.

    We are not enemies of genuine Civil Society but Establishments installed Civil Society can not be our ally.

    Example are Journalists groups voicing Taliban, Lawyers showering roses on Taseer’s murderer. They are on other side of divide. Also that crowd is not civil society.

  • I personally feel that liberals fight too much amongst themselves which dilutes all their efforts. Everyone is a khalifa in his or her Own right and believes in derh eent kee masjid

  • @ Ahmed bhai

    there are some laptop revolutionaries who don’t waste a second to mock Politician . As far I know Respected Asma Jehanghir has always said that she don’t consier Civil society is alternative to political parties. Just look at who voted for her in closely contested bar election , lawyer belonging to Dr Khalid Ranjha group and Former Attorney general Malik Qayyum. Does she hide this fact ? answer is no .

    Does civil society will ever consider her very skillfully played election campaigned . These guys use to share her live television outbrust against Malik Qayyum during lawyer movement .

    I don’t think civil society activist like Asma Jehanghir believe in derh inch ki masjid . But some people within civil society are very apolitical .

  • The author is so right. Civil Society burgers are already calling for HELP.


    tammyhaq Ayesha Tammy Haq
    where r the champions of free speech & secular bend -PPP, MQM, ANP – when the religious parties intimidate citizens?

    sanasaleem Sana Saleem
    @tammyhaq @kaalakawaa @samadk They’ve also been planning an attack on you Tammy. Because ofcourse anyone who criticizes Zardari deserves it

    sanasaleem Sana Saleem
    @kaalakawaa @samadk Wish I could disclose on a public forum where my zardari phobia (if any) comes from.

  • this so called civil society changes colors with the time, PPP must find means to awake ‘silent majority’…..

  • How appointed pro Taliban judges as civil society. It seems that civil society is defined by its burgers and uncle/aunty types as anyone who is anti-PPP, anti-Baloch and pro-establishment. There are other good people who should be part of civil society.