Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

There is no genuinely liberal political party in Pakistan today

At times, the electoral landscape – which by the way is still dominated by apparently moderate parties – is cited as an example of Pakistan’s resilience against growing fundamentalism. It is often claimed that Pakistan has never voted for religious parties and this is trumped as some kind of evidence of moderation or even quasi “liberalism”. Without sounding over pessimistic or critical in a self-fledgling kind of a way, I beg to refute this perception. I think the electoral landscape is misleading. Yes, while it is true that Pakistan has not become Iran, it is by no stretch of the imagination still a ...

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The mantle of religious interpretation needs to be taken away from the clergy

I have often been more amazed not at the religious fanaticism of the few, but at passivity of the moderate majority. And although sceptics will cast their doubt, the fact is that Pakistan on the whole has a moderate population. In Pakistan, comparable fervour is dominant only in pockets. Yes, this is a country which has Taliban but it is also a country where people have largely voted for moderate parties. This is a country which despite being conservative has never voted the clergy into power. It has a relatively independent media and entertainment avenues are more eclectic compared to ...

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Sorry Bilawal, Pakistan’s misogyny will always confuse sensitivity with femininity

“Aur tu aur Billo Rani bheebol rahi hai. Asif Zardari sahib, itna haram kamaia aap ne, thora sa Bilawal per lagain aur us ka technical masla theek karain.” (Now even Billo Rani is speaking. Asif Zardari, please devote some of your illegal wealth towards rectifying Bilawal’s technical problem). “Mein ne siyasat mein naheen aana, kyon ke Sheikh Rashid mujhe har roz gandy gandy messages karta hai.” (I don’t want to come into politics because Sheikh Rashid sends me dirty texts every day. The first of the above is an excerpt from Sheikh Rasheed’s speech in 2014, and the latter is one of the Facebook memes I ...

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Will Pakistan ever function as a secular state?

In Pakistan and, in fact, most of the Islamic world, the very concept of secularism is completely misunderstood. Somehow the concept has been thoroughly confused and amalgamated with atheism. An overwhelming majority of politicians, and even intellectuals, often try to defend themselves when “accused” of being secular, particularly on mainstream online media and Urdu print media. To declare oneself as a secular is considered equivalent to being considered an atheist in the public imagination. The entire atmosphere is riddled with severe misconceptions about secularism. Due to fear of being branded an “atheist” and anti-Islamic, the word secular, in both letter and ...

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October 19, 2016

Can we blame the West for thinking of Muslims as they do?

In recent times, religiously motivated terrorism incidents have taken place in the West, from Brussels to New York. Due to these barbaric acts perpetuated by extremists, ordinary Muslims are also facing excessive backlash in Europe as well as in the United States. We, as Muslims, are correct to complain that it is unfair to bracket ordinary Muslims with the extremists, but at the same time we need to understand that our negative reputation is not merely due to organisations like ISIS but also because of our behaviour in general. I am not trying to equate extremist organisations like ISIS with normal and moderate Muslims here, ...

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Does the creation of Bangladesh prove the two-nation theory wrong?

This article is not a “defence” or repudiation of the two-nation theory (TNT). Rather it tries to critically evaluate the argument that the creation of Bangladesh in fact proved that the two-nation theory was not valid. Those who claim that the two-nation theory has proven to be a failure cite the creation of Bangladesh as an example. It is claimed that ethnic nationalism trumped religion and therefore the two-nation theory has proven to be a failure. I do not intend to prove that the two-nation theory is wrong or right but just evaluate it with reference to the creation ...

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This is why I think Pakistan needs a Saraiki province

We know that Pakistan is an ethnically diverse society and such societies actually require a decentralised political arrangement. However, due to a strong centre primarily dominated by Punjab, there are widespread and mostly justified complaints from the smaller provinces. The dominance of Punjab is springing from a host of possible reasons, which are: high population allowing it to dominate legislature; resource allocation mechanism which is based on population, dominance in civil and military bureaucracy and promotion of “patriotic” nationalism and Islamic identity which are basically geared at ensuring a strong centre. One of the major rationales often cited about Punjab’s ability to dominate is its extraordinary ...

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Are there any ‘liberal extremists’ in Pakistan?

One of the phrases being used repeatedly in the Pakistani mainstream, as well as social media, is of ‘liberal extremism.’ I have repeatedly heard and read that Pakistani society is polarised – and both the ‘extremes’ are equally harmful. A few columnists and anchor persons continuously point towards the ‘dangers’ emanating from liberal extremists. Some way or the other, our media is trying to project itself as striking the vital middling position and professes ‘miana ravi’ or moderation in opinion. This term is no longer just restricted to the media but has also found its way in everyday conversations and drawing ...

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My argument in favour of a federation and why religion could not unite Pakistan

Pakistan displays strange contrasting patterns with respect to religion’s influence. Apparently, Pakistan looks to be a relatively moderate country, particularly when compared to the likes of Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etcetera. Here the hardliners have never been voted in power through the ballot box. It has an independent media and relatively loose censorship standards. Radical Islam as a mode of life is still largely absent from the overall lifestyle of the Pakistanis as the country by no stretch of imagination is following the trajectory of Iran. It does not have a charismatic cultish religious leader like Khomeini and the public mood despite being conservative ...

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Should Imran Khan be arrested for treating a Taliban leader?

I will begin by admitting that I support PPP, the party Pakistan’s urban middleclass loves to hate. The basis for my support is just one – in Pakistan’s context, PPP remains the only mainstream party with a liberal and progressive ethos. No matter how you put it, this is a party which, in contemporary times, has tried to act as a bulwark against rising extremism and has paid the price in blood for doing so. In 2007, it lost Benazir Bhutto and then Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti in 2011. It also played a major role in the modification of the infamous Hudood ...

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