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South Asia

Usman Latif: pioneering the liberty movement in Pakistan

Usman Latif, a Students For Liberty activist in Pakistan, discusses his experience of pioneering the liberty movement in a society that looks to the government to take care of their problems.

“There is no concept of liberty in Pakistan. People don’t understand what it means.”

“My elders consider the government to be the custodian of everything and expect it to fix what is wrong.

“In 2014, I first started to learn about liberty and understood that property rights and the characteristics of a libertarian economy should be fundamental for everyone.”

“In 2016, I attended a Students For Liberty event in Sri Lanka and realized people don’t have the framework to think about what they know instinctively about liberty and the role of government. The event gave me that framework to understand why government exists and what it can do to protect the rights of an individual.”

“This was all new to me. It was like opening Pandora’s box.”

A lack of liberty is holding everything back

“I started interacting with other people having the same ideas and the same issues in their countries, which helped me understand that issues in South Asia come down to one thing – liberty. People don’t have freedom of expression, choice, or speech. These ideas connected with me immediately and I realized that this is what’s holding Pakistan back from progressing. I got in touch with Students For Liberty and I became the first local coordinator when we launched here in 2017. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can impart knowledge to other people.”

“There are not a lot of libertarians speaking openly here, but we would get between 30 and 50 people attending our events. I learned that the economy is the fundamental issue and other issues build on that. We debated why state-owned enterprises are not functioning and how they could be fixed since it is taxpayer money running them. We also helped people understand that they will be better citizens if they demonstrate personal responsibility, contribute toward the economy and create value for society.”

“I’m still focused on that now in my professional life. I started out as a journalist wanting to work in digital media. The more I learned about online media and gained technical skills, I became more able to help other people grow. I earned my master’s degree in mass communications and started a business in marketing and communications to teach other people how to communicate on digital media.”

Connecting liberty to business and education

“The principles of liberty are the same as the principles of business – people will not buy from you when they don’t see value. It’s the same with elected officials and governments. By teaching people the principles of business, I helped them to understand the economy and how to be better entrepreneurs. Governments should not be involved in the business; they should enable private organizations to create value and compete to let consumers win.

“Freedom means that people are educated enough to understand they naturally have freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of choice. There’s a long way to go for countries like Pakistan because people – especially people in poverty – don’t have that education and some think freedom is dangerous.”

“Pakistan has been colonized in the past, so people really did not have the opportunity to develop these ideas, but I’ve been doing my part to educate people. Students For Liberty prepared me for this through their educational material and in the community they provide – the network is very important and helped me a lot.”

“I think the best takeaway from SFL is the awesome network of people with similar ideas where you can feel good and talk openly about your ideas. And they do so much more, like train leaders. They made me a leader in libertarian principles, and they helped me boost my confidence. I realized the things I believe are not a fantasy. And it gave me a framework to talk and debate with people. That confidence came from the knowledge and network that were provided by SFL.”

“Students For Liberty is changing lives. I have learned essential lifelong skills that now define who I am, how I think about things around me, and what I teach to my students. SFL is teaching young minds not only how to be leaders but to create more leaders. Where traditional education fails in teaching such lessons, SFL creates a safe environment for the youth to think, learn, debate, express, tolerate, accommodate and lead with ideas that are essential for everyone to be successful.”

Usman Latif

Lahore, Pakistan