So, first--the most simple, straightforward, but also most critical point: It has by now become a point of general agreement amongst progressives that--contrary to the reductive, apocalyptic and even Oriental framing of Pakistan in the mainstream media--the country does, indeed, possess history, culture, music, art.
All of this is important, of course. Yet what is too often absent from this and similar correctives, I think, is the fact of the progressive struggles of its people. Too often, the staple liberal narrative acknowledges Pakistan, but as a perennial and helpless hostage (be it to radical Islam, to corrupt politicians, to Empire, or to foreign capital). Particularly as the US mobilizes the tropes of a 21st-century civilizing mission in Af-Pak--that we're here to liberate their women, that we're here to stabilize their democracy, that we're here to save their children--we must insist on a simple premise: the Pakistani people have always been capable of, if not engaged in, emancipating themselves.
In response to an absurd question that a friend of mine was once asked, when participating on a similar panel on Af-Pak--YES, Pakistan has a left--it has a labor movement, a peasants' movement, a fisherfolk movement, a women's movement, a communist movement.This is not to deny that--like elsewhere--the Left is in crisis. And if there's interest, maybe we can discuss, later, the serious challenges that confront movements in Pakistan, many of which have everything to do with imperial escalation in the region.
But--and this is simple point number one--the people, and their struggle, exist.