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The Trouble with NFP

March 21, 2010

Nadeem Farooq Paracha, or NFP as he seems to be known more commonly, is an ex-student activist, ex-music journalist, present liberal commentator who writes for Dawn. His pieces are ideologically democratic, secular, and leftist and in a nation generally devoid of liberal discourse, his is one of the louder voices.

I ideologically agree with NFP. Pakistan ought to be a liberal, secular democracy that protects the rights of all citizens and refrains from meddling in the affairs of neighbours for her own short-term gains. However, the more I read his work, the more I find that dude’s got issues.

His latest piece has him calling a Principal of some Islamic Montessori and castigating her for her narrow-minded view on her school’s admission criteria. NFP often reverts to this “conversation” focused style of writing, where some right winger is taught what’s what by his never ending wit. Sometimes he’s arguing with some kid who decided to tell him he hates him, or a roadside vendor, or a co-worker, or a friend. In short, it seems anyone who comes in contact with him ends up getting an ear-load of Liberal Anger ©.

Whenever one of these articles show up I can’t help but imagine two guys standing on the side of the street, one of them shouting himself hoarse claiming Zaid Hamid to be the second coming, and NFP standing next to him smugly smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke willy nilly. While the kid nears dangerous levels of dehydration-via-spittle, NFP probably scoffs a whole bunch and tells him about how Zia destroyed everything and that the kid is probably another urban-middle class-youth who doesn’t know any better.

And THAT is where the problem lies. NFP approaches his pieces with a smug superiority of believing he’s always correct. He isn’t telling us what’s right with his view-point, just what’s wrong with the one adopted by the right wingers. No one wants to be told that they’re wrong – and as long as you keep doing that from a perch of self-assured ex-liberal student activist satisfaction you’re not going to be able to get through to them.

NFP talks at his audience, instead of to his audience, and I’ve got to imagine that that alienates the same urban, middle-class, youth that he’s trying to wean away from the likes of Zaid Hamid. On the flip side, Zaid Hamid (loathsome as he may be) speaks to his audience, involving them in his plan of a falsified Greater Pakistan, and making them believe that his side is the one that is best for them in the long run.

So, NFP, I like you. I really do. But, please, connect with the audience. If some Auntie continues to castigate me for not praying and condemning me to eternal hellfire, I’m really not going to listen to her drivel. On the other hand if she tells me that the jumping jacks involved in our prayer will help me lose some weight, I might just actually listen a little bit.

So come on dude, you have access to a fairly large audience, convince them that our side is best for them. Not that they’re dumbasses.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2010 4:50 pm

    His major problem, apart from the liberal angst that he’s full of, is that he refuses to acknowledge the fact that for a portion of our population, religion is intrinsically tied to their everyday existence. As opposed to a nuanced non-confrontational engagement, he tries to make a mockery out of their beliefs (something that reeks of orientalist condescension). Anyone who wants to lead a secular movement in this country will have to do so on the back of a larger program (socio-economic class struggle, ethnic empowerment etc), something that does not confront religion or spirituality in the overt way that NFP tries to paint.

    • March 21, 2010 4:56 pm

      Agree completely. As much as Zia’s policies were insidious, it’s not like people weren’t religious before he came on the scene. You’ve got to take the religious with you and tell them that secularism protects them. Not assume that their religiosity is a result of idiocy.

    • January 7, 2011 10:28 am

      Spot on! Absolutely.

      To him, having a religious mind is like havy baggage. Also, while Pakistan is responsible for its current state, he has never been able to provide an alternate to what Zia did along with Saudis and CIA: create an army of guerilla warriors to fight the biggest army of the world. What other choice did he have? And if he didn’t do it, Ivan would have knocked Pakistan out after Afghnistan; or were there any other possible and plausible permutation?

      And secondly, he chants so much about “Sufi Islam”, and how powerful it is in its peaceful message of tolerance and love and forgiveness… well, for Sufis, yes. But for us mortals: No. Sunni Tehrik (follower of Barelvi, and therefore Sufi Islam) is an armed movement in Karachi, challenging MQM in areas of North Karachi, Surjani Town and Godhra… NFP probably hasn’t been there in decades. He (and us all) have to learn that nobody is intrinsically peaceful or violent. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, whether it is the mullah of a town masjid or “Dubya” Bush or Mullah Omar or Sufi Mohammad or Altaf Hussain or whoever is revered as the only savior by a group of (small or large) dummies who are too lazy to think on their own, or who don’t trust their ability to do so. Proof: Malik Mumtaz Qadri is a Barelvi; Sufi Islam, that is. So there you have it: your first high profile documented assassination of the “tolerant” Sufi Islam.

      PS: I’m not against Sufi Islam. I think it is great, but sans these modern day Qadris who are think of themselves as Mick Jaggers of Hamd-o-Naat.

  2. Sac permalink
    March 21, 2010 6:50 pm

    The reason why NFP seems to “talk at his audience” is because his audience is not the right-wingers, its us, the liberal, hell-bound pinkos. He is not and does not claim to be a reformer and if he tried writing for the other audience he would sound like your usual ‘we need secularism, tolerance, blah blah’ drivel that every other columnist in Dawn writes about. He presents a good read and a few laughs for those in on the joke. Perhaps that is what comes off as arrogance, but you can’t expect everyone to get all of the jokes all of the time.

    Personally I think he has become too soft. He sometimes stops short of saying what I am thinking. In his latest article he just laughs off what is, at its core, a serious case of religious discrimination and a violation of basic rights. As a non-Muslim I should be horrified at the implications of the conversation, but I laugh it off saying: ‘that’s just Pakistan’. Maybe the real joke is on us.

  3. Rubina permalink
    March 24, 2010 5:32 am

    Excelleant post. I totally agree with you Sac. The caption of kalakawa’s piece should have been ‘The Trouble With People Who have Trouble with NFP.’ 🙂

    I agree with Sac that NFP is not your regular dyed-in-wool liberal. He is a wit and an astute observer. As I see it, when he points out a religious or social hippocracy, he is doing this because he knows that though everybody is aware of this hippocracy, but find it taboo to talk about.

    He’s no reformer and never pretends to be one. His sarcastic takes on things most of us are afraid or too rightest or even ‘liberal’ to talk about, is good enough a way to provoke the thought needed to make a change.

    My 2 cents. Thanks.

    • March 24, 2010 9:03 am

      I’m certainly not saying that NFP is a reformer (Thank God for that). All I’m saying is that he has a fairly large forum from which to address people who arent necessarily of a liberal bent right now. By continuing to tell them that they are idiots, he’s essentially sending them a signal that they dont belong to his coterie of sophisticated elites.

  4. Ayoob permalink
    March 24, 2010 2:34 pm

    Exactly how does Paracha tells conservative people they are idiots, I’m still not sure, but as far as I am concerned, he simply refuses to play the politically-correct liberal.
    Though his writings have many layers, he wears his ideology (i.e. secularism and socialist democracy) on his sleeves and that is good enough.
    I understand where you are coming from and I largely agree with you, but I think the kind of politically correct liberalism you are revering to does jack-shit for a thoroughly conservative society like ours.
    I may not always in agreement with Paracha’s sarcastic and poking ways, but he most certainly is the kind of jolt this country’s conservatives need. Not only them, but hell, this is the kind of jolt a lot of us correct liberals need as well.

  5. grandtrunkroad permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:53 pm

    Hmm. I don’t see how Zaid Hamid doesn’t “talk at” people from the other end of the political spectrum. If I recall correctly he tends to refer to them as traitors or “hindu zionist” agents. At least NFP gives his political opponents enough credit to assume that their political views are their own, are worthy of rebuttal, and not part of some sinister foreign agenda.

    If anything, I think NFP’s repetitiveness pisses off people who hold similar views to his own but don’t take the intellectual aspects of religious conservatives seriously enough to sit and dissect them the way that he does. I’m not saying his points are always incredibly insightful or intellectual but I really respect him for bothering to rebut the points made by rightwingers rather than simply ignoring them as the products of some alien lesser culture like the rest of us Pakistani english speaking liberals tend to do.

    • March 28, 2010 1:25 am

      i second that – media and public attention are often short lived, focusing on the latest breaking news – yesterday Balochistan, now Taliban, then India-in-Afghanistan, now Nawaz Sharif. NFP, admittedly arrogant at times (he’s good humored enough to accept it), stays focused – and for the last few months, it’s been strictly pro democracy, anti tv evangelist.

  6. March 31, 2010 11:55 pm

    hang on – there’s a whole raft of people here saying we should appreciate NFP just because he stands up to the right? come on!

    he’s witty, sure, but he’s really goddam blinkered. i mean, Zia died 21 years ago, yet in NFP’s universe even the lack of rainfall in Baltistan last September can be attributed to the glass eyed general.

    moreover, having been a student politico is not something he should expect to live off for the rest of his life. what does he do nowadays, other than writing glorified blogs for Dawn, and appearing in one of the most cringe-worthy programs of all time (that news views confused bullshit) i mean its well and good to strike off the liberal wannabes and Zaid Hamids of this world, but what the fuck is he doing to get on his high horse?

    i’m sorry, but saying that “he wears his ideology on his sleeves and that is good enough” is not at all introspective, and no different from accepting any other loudmouth. this is not a personal attack, but if you check out comments by pro-zaid hamidites, a lot of them would say that while they don’t agree with him they appreciate him for ‘speaking the truth’ or what not.

    fuck that shit.

    i am not going to write NFP any blank checks any time soon. he has written some good stuff, and a lot of irrelevant bullshit which he hinges entirely upon Zia blowback. the nadir was reached when he tried to equate the prevalence of beardos in the cricket team with its decline. it was a prime example of NFP just not getting some basic truths about pakistan, like Umair pointed out above.

    and also, if you need any further proof, in a list he compiled of the greatest pop songs in pakistani history, neither junoon or vital signs made his top three, although they recieved multiple placings on the list. and topping that list, which was not a rank of most popular, but rather the GREATEST PAKISTANI POP SONG EVER ACCORDING TO NFP, was none other than…

    Aadat by Jal.

    Hang the bastard.

    • April 1, 2010 1:21 pm

      haha,for that piece of blasphemy (jal) he should be lynched…he’s neither a hero nor a villain,just one of the few loud liberals.

    • Ursilla permalink
      January 24, 2011 10:10 am

      Khatmal Jee,
      Fast forward. Many monthes after writing this tirade against NFP, lately you have been sounding EXACTLY like him. So, yea, Mr. Yawar b. down there is absolutely right. So-called liberals like you have suddenly decided to jump on the same bandwagon NFP had been driving before Taseer’s death. A bandwagon you were once throwing stones at.

      NFP’s been a breath of resh air for a lot of us for many years. But why did we have to wait for Taseer’s death at the hands of a fanatic to realize this.

      Kawa’s analysis are good, even though I mostly dissagree with them, but your’s here sound like a cranky child who just could not become another NFP.

      • February 4, 2011 6:12 pm

        Ursilla Baji

        Shayad aap ko falsafoon say durr lagta hai aur iss liye jin blogs pay comments sab say zyada hoti hain un hi par aap phool barsaati hain.

        i was opposed to NFP ignoring all and sundry in order to press forth his thesis that all of pakistan’s current ills can be traced back to mardood-e-momin zia ul haq. in doing so, he adopts an ahistorical attitude which reduces everything else to insignificance.

        still after mr. yawar’s tirade i went through my own writings to see if i was guilty of the alleged crimes of singing to a different tune. in my post on mr. taseer’s murder, i actually questioned how the liberal reaction was out of fear rather than principle. since then, i wrote on about how the religious argument should not be the preserve of the right alone.

        i realise that reading anyone being cynical and sarcastic immediately makes them NFP clones in your eyes, but my tirade was not based not on style but his substance.

        i don’t know why i even bothered replying to this, but clearly you’ve struck a nerve. i just don’t want to come off as some chutiya cowering about how i’ve lost my moorings and realised that i was an NFP-acolyte all the same.

        its a tragedy that in his efforts to ridicule the sheep-like nature of Zaid Hamid’s followers, NFP has bred a legion of defenders just as blinkered as the ones he calls out. for future reference, click on my blog and try reading it sometime, and tell me how exactly my thoughts or stances have changed since or before the death of Mr. Taseer.

  7. Natasha permalink
    April 11, 2010 6:40 pm

    Montonous , irritating , unfunny loudmouthed extremist.

    Can’t stand him.

  8. April 17, 2010 2:41 pm

    i like his articles, he is one gem of a writer(not all the time though), his satires are amazing also. recently read his review on ‘SONGS OF BLOOD AND SWORD’ book by Fatima Bhutto and most importantly it was impartial.

    @ Natasha //Can’t stand him// you need to surely read him again.

  9. April 17, 2010 4:25 pm

    karachikhatmal, wow, sastimasti another wow, interlard activist way to go.

    me n natasha are friends, hope it’s clear now 🙂

    Kind Regards.

    • April 17, 2010 6:58 pm

      interlard activist?


      too good! i’m sorry for getting like that, i was just itching for a flame war, i guess. i am sorry. i have been shamed as a troll.


      reading your reply its clear you could have stood up for yourself.

      but thanks anyways 🙂

      • Natasha permalink
        April 17, 2010 8:53 pm

        Karachi khatmal,

        I was referring to your comments about the great mr.Paracha =p

      • April 17, 2010 9:28 pm

        no i got that : )

        i was just saying you responded much better than i could.

  10. Natasha permalink
    April 17, 2010 6:12 pm

    Yasir ,

    That piece regarding Bhutto’s book was based on facts and not his personal views. I’ve read him quite often. I don’t understand why people go over the board appreciating him. WOW paracha wow , cool , nice, great article (no matter if it’s full of shit ) . The man sucks at comical satire . Gimme a break!

    Karachi-khatmal ,

    You nailed mr. intellectual ! and rightly so…

  11. April 17, 2010 7:17 pm

    This has been by far the most civil flame war I’ve ever come across. I was hoping I would get to step in with the ominous blog-owning “Any further comments on this issue will be deleted. Please refrain.”


    • Natasha permalink
      April 17, 2010 9:02 pm

      Awe 😦

      Muft ki advice : bring on some fiery stuff here and then enjoy playing Javed Chaudhry! =p

      • Ursilla permalink
        January 24, 2011 10:19 am

        Natasha behen,
        Kya NFP naien aap ki murghi chorali hai? Itna ghusa? Tsk, tsk. Sabr bibi, sabr. NFP’s here to stay so he can bug not only the right-wing lot, but the NGO/confused ABC lot like you too.

        Jeeay Paracha!

        Aap ki murghi aap ko wappis mill jaye gee.

  12. Simply Put permalink
    May 20, 2010 8:49 am

    NFP is quite simply the best thing that happened to English column writing in Pakistan. The guys got balls.

  13. uk4919 permalink
    May 21, 2010 2:55 pm

    By that logic no woman can ever be an impressive writer…or are literary balls for women in production now…

    Nadeem Fruit Paratha’s balls are imaginary…just like every other attribute that he assigns to our nation…he disregards all the structural flaws caused by imperialism and our colonial past

  14. yawar ali b. permalink
    January 6, 2011 10:30 am

    Hey, I came here to read your latest blog, but was led here. My, my, there are some ‘liberal’ bhai and behens of mine here who are or were tearing into NFP for being an arrogant liberal and blaming everything on Zia, blah, blah.

    Fine, but many months after this post, today I can see some of these same critics using the same arguments as NFP has been making after Mr. Taseer’s murder. LOL!

    I mean, really, I do not call myself a liberal and am often critical of NFP, but I totally respect him of taking stands and sticking to them.

    This is really funny. Before Mr. Taseer’s tragic murder many guys here were accusing NFP of being insensitive and all, but now go check their own blog enteries. They have eneded up using exactly the same narrative NFP had been using for years. Crazy shit.

  15. Muhammad Shaikh permalink
    January 7, 2011 11:59 am

    I think NFP’s writings are more like stand up comedy. Comedians too try to make a point in their own way by making fun of others. So that’s where he’s at…I read his stuff and I get his point and many times I agree with his point of view. But his style of writing and delivery is his own and not meant to become manifestos for a revolution!

  16. Bilal Kamran permalink
    January 8, 2011 8:27 am

    Since when did NFP claim to be writing manifestos?

    And I agree with yawar ali b. I have also seen a lot liberals who were attacking NFP, now change their tune and using the same arguments against ‘Islamo-fascism’ that he has been using for many years now.

    As far as I am concerned, he was the only columnist making all the right noises and issuing warnings about the spread of extremism in the society. But it’s now good to see that after Salman’s assasination, many of his liberal counterparts have suddenly woken up too. well, all power to them and even more power to NFP.

  17. January 16, 2011 12:44 am

    I see NFP and his writings just like the most arrogrant and exclusivists satires of age; Catch 22, animal farm, oscar wilde, catcher in the rye etc. Nobody can uphold every little noble and wise characteristic. Alot of people capitalize on the weakness of society and produce some amazing literature. You gotta cut him some slag. I think his pieces are incredible and the kind of work he’s producing in the lights of our people and land, is not very different from the aforementioned.

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