One of the most common liberal responses to the excesses committed by the powerful in Pakistan is to call for people to ‘speak out’.
This familiar refrain, voiced often in the aftermath of the January disappearances of liberal activists, is in most cases understandable and necessary. In the context of a society like Pakistan’s where critical speech and political outspokenness can be a death sentence, speaking truth to power is vital to break the grip of fear and expand the sphere of political possibility.
However, in light of the recent abductions and the vicious, coordinated campaign to malign the activists, there is an urgent need to reevaluate this approach. We must begin to conceive of a horizon to progressive politics that lies beyond the exercise and defence of speech and reactive protest.
The call to ‘speak out’ is a cornerstone of liberal pluralism the world over,…