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Qalandar Bux Memon is a well reputed writer and analyst. He is currently the editor of The Naked Punch, a UK based magazine. This article first appeared on The Samosa-a new politics, culture and arts journal, campaigning blog and website-on 26th January 2010. The main theme of the article is that the root of all problems in Pakistan-feudalism-is actually fueled by the combined interests of the American government and that of the Pakistani elite. According to him they achieve this by capitalizing on the uneducated classes’ unwavering belief on Sufi saints.
Throughout the work the author uses a very challenging and aggressive tone. On many occasions he employs harsh terms and even lays some serious criticism on the Pakistani elite. Using techniques such as rhetorical questions, dramatic dialogue, statistical analysis and historical references he paints a vivid picture of his beliefs. On many occasions in the text he has also used examples from his own experiences to support his argument which is actually the technique that he has used most effectively.
            The basic assertion that the author makes is that the Sufis,-which he has taken to be same as landlords and feudal chiefs-while hiding behind the façade of “moderate Islam” are using the gullible masses to achieve their own ends. He also claims that the Americans use this charade to do whatever they please in a country that’s not their own. He states that the new Sufi version of Islam is acting as an “opiate for the masses.” (Memon)  So, as the Sufis get richer, the poor get poorer without the latter realizing what is actually going on. Furthermore he goes on to point out that as these Pirs/Sufis are the people that invariably end up in the national assembly, they have deep roots inside the government of Pakistan. This is the reason that they are in effect answerable to no one.
            To illustrate his aforementioned assertions, Mr. Memon employs his own experiences and presents them as examples in explicit detail. The shrine of Shah Kamal has been mentioned at the very start of the article. The writer describes how the people, in their blind faith upon these Pirs, are engrossed in the nets of deceit that are woven by their mentors themselves. Then he also quotes the example of Imam Bari Sarkar (a famous Pir). His examples are no doubt very authentic and also very relevant. Taking them in, the reader tends to agree with the author’s view point.
            Another factor that makes the work so effective is the bold accusations that the author makes. Reading the text, the reader comes across many occasions where the writer rather blatantly blames some specific groups for the problems in Pakistan. He even names people like Mr. Yusuf Raza Gillani, the prime minister of Pakistan and Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of Pakistan. Time and again the writer directly criticizes the Americans for supporting the Pirs so that their rule might prevail. In short the author has laid some serious blame on some very important people.
            The writer also introduces statistical evidence, expert opinion and at a point a historical reference, but on a very limited scope. He only reveals once that Ziauddin Sardar, a famous scholar of Islamic faith, helped him formulate the opinion that he holds now. Coming to statistical evidence, the writer gives some statistics about the poverty problem in the sindh province. But again this is done with a very obvious lack of detail which is contrary to the vivid examples that he gives. The historical reference to the British is again just a statement without any details at all. So in these three aspects, the work clearly is deficient in necessary detail.
            Viewing the text as a whole there are certain instances where the writer has truly made an impact on the reader. Take for example the part where he blames the prime minister as being from a feudal lord/Pir background. He has used that to prove that the roots of these people are very deep in the government. Then on another occasion, to emphasize the suffering of the working classes at he hands of the Pirs, he sheds light on the opulence of the “Bhuttos” and the “Gillanis” which he considers to be from the same background as the Pirs.
            On the whole the writer has presented his viewpoint in a very effective manner, but what he fails to do is to provide hard facts to back his arguments. For example he quotes the president as being from the same group as the Pirs and the Sufis but does not provide any evidence based upon which he makes his assertion. Although at one point he does use statistical analysis but that too is not backed by any credible source regarding its authenticity.
            All through the work it is strongly asserted that all or most of the feudal lords derive their power and lordship through being a Sufi. He has constantly taken the terms landlord and Pir to be the same character. This is a very questionable assumption. While some feudal lords do claim to be the “holy saviors” of their people, most simply derive their authority from sheer force itself. In some cases it may come through the leadership of ancient clans, but the point is that the power base of the feudal lords in Pakistan cannot be attributed to Sufism alone.
            Another point is that the writer has taken an invariably negative take on Sufism. What he fails to realize is that all Sufis are not rogue thieves that get rich by selling charmed amulets to uneducated people. Although this sort does exist but to classify all in this category would be unfair. There also exist people who are Sufis and are actually learned religious scholars and devout men of God who the writer fails to acknowledge.
            Concluding all his work, in this article, the author has tried to highlight how the feudal system in Pakistan prevails behind the theological illusion of Sufism and how it is maintained with the help of the Americans. But while what he implies appeals immediately to the average educated reader he has failed to support his arguments in the academic sense. Apart from that, the author has presented his opinions very convincingly and in an aggressive manner.

Written By: Awais Iqbal

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