The rise of western liberalism has left vague reverberations on the largely conservative ‘Land of the Pure’. In recent years, progressive groups bearing the flag of activism and resistance politics have stimulated political organising and consciousness. However, many lament that there is still no solid Left political force in Pakistan. The thought of the Left’s demise gained currency after China’s veering into a market economy, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan.
Pakistani Left has proved inept to adapt to changing times and clung onto old slogans, condemning everything. The locus of Leftist dissent, carried out primarily through social media, has been on everyday atrocities. This has diluted resources and manpower for concentrated efforts towards movement building. This focus, though sometimes necessary, has abated opportunities for nuanced discussion and meaningful engagements. Often, their protests become mere stages for verbose and spotlight rather than resistance.
Many messages of the Left are funnelled through social media, reflecting, to some degree, the lack of space for their postulations on mainstream avenues. While online activism is imperative, the Left’s failure to negotiate alternative spaces has disfranchised many possible sympathisers. The inability of the Left to create nurturing and enabling spaces has prevented mass mobilisation. Synthesising the infrastructure to hold critical dialogue and form discourse is integral to any political struggle. Mass mobilisation demands alliance-building, which can occur by understanding each other. These solidarities cannot form until we create a political culture of collective debate by listening to each other. Press clubs are not those spaces; we are there to speak truth to power and not listen to one another.
The vivid absence of such discussions leads to one-dimensional political work, where people come together on the basis of identity rather than difference. In the absence of such platforms, the Left has reduced politics to moral positions and political purity. Such masculinist ways of dissent lead to a fixation on one’s own politics, isolating the mass populace.
Pakistan needs Leftist politics, more than ever, to serve as a counterweight to the moral compass imposed by the extremist right and the establishment, which has dehumanised the state and society. The Left needs dialogue instead of reducing collective politics to identity politics. Doing away with masculinist forms of dissent by moving from protest movements to collective transformative politics is required by the Left to evolve into a potent political force.
By Hasnat Aslam