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‘Pakistan’s schizophrenic middle class always follows the State’s narrative’

Scholars at KLF 2020 slam it for being herd-like

SAMAA | - Posted: Feb 29, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Posted: Feb 29, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
‘Pakistan’s schizophrenic middle class always follows the State’s narrative’

Yasir Qazi, Ghazi Salahuddin, Dr Huma Baqai and Asad Sayeed at the Karachi Literary Festival 2020, Beach Luxury Hotel, Karachi. Photo: Asad Shakeel/Samaa Digital

The middle class, also called the intermediate class in academic lingo, plays an integral role in the overall development of any nation, but does it really anchor a society? Some Pakistani scholars think so.

“Across South Asia, the middle class is made up of the socially conservative and right wingers,” says economist and researcher Asad Sayeed.

He was flanked by veteran journalist Ghazi Salahuddin and scholar Dr Huma Baqai. They had gathered on the third day of Karachi Literary Festival 2020 at Beach Luxury Hotel on Saturday to discuss the importance of middle class involvement in national politics.

They were critical of the contemporary Pakistani middle class, which they believe is “schizophrenic”.

“Our middle class has always been following the State’s narrative. And that shows how schizophrenic it is,” said Sayeed. “It will take an anti-India and anti-America position just because the State is doing so.”

Dr Baqai was of a similar opinion, calling it selfish for “sticking to its personal benefits”. She is the former chairperson of the social sciences department at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi.

“As soon as it becomes an upper-middle class, it forms links with the status quo,” she said.

Salahuddin and Dr Baqai compared the middle class to Indian civil society and the role it played in the ongoing riots in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. “I still think the Indian civil society may be more energetic than ours. They react to situations,” the journalist said.

Dr Baqai agreed with him, declaring most of Pakistan’s middle class “a herd”.

Co-existing with the establishment

Since Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office in August 2018, several political opponents have been blaming him for coming into power with the “support of the establishment”.  It is the same entity which Dr Baqai claims has silenced the media and comes after those who speak against it.

“Our establishment has these ways with which it fragments [or] breaks the classes it sees are raising voices, just like it silenced [the] media,” she said.

Salahuddin shared a similar view. “The arrangements that the establishment has made so far are not working out. We all can see that,” he said.

He had little hope for the next generation, whom he believes are at the mercy of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan.

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