Sunday, April 7, 2013

Political moral depravity

Politics and morality are not the same thing. Politics is not religion nor is it a moral code. It is the art and the science of reaching, keeping and sustaining power. It is a system of making, or breaking alliances, for the common cause.
[Nafisa Shah, PPP MNA]

Lately in Pakistan, politics, politicians, political parties and their supporters have become an antithesis of whatever we associate with the name of morality. But the way this truth manifests itself under the present Pakistan Peoples Party government is dangerously alarming.

We know our given world is amoral, and it is we who try to make it morally meaningful. The physical and botanical world is absolutely beyond any moral apprehension. The zoological world shows some crude or not so crude signs of actions which may appear as morally motivated, but sure they are not. Taking care of each other, or of those who belong to other species, sharing food or such things, defending partners from the attackers, these are observed facts of their behavior. All this is ingrained in their instincts; the purpose is to preserve their specie.    

As we go up the ladder of evolution to us humans, moral trepidations come to make their way into our world. We humans develop, devise, and formulate rules, norms, values, principles, etc. and appreciate living in accordance with them what may come in our way be it any harm or other fatal risks. Here the purpose is not to preserve the specie. Instead, the fundamental motivation is moral, what we do is right or wrong. It is more than that which is given in our instincts. Among other things, it temperates, or humanizes, our “struggle for survival” so much reviled and defended as well on many counts. Not only it characterizes us with a sense of superiority over animals, but gives our life a semblance of humanity, civility, integrity, and uprightness also. We just do not live like animals driven by instincts, but try to live according to values and principles we consider right and which form moral basis of our society.

All this can be summed up in a very simple proposition: in what circumstances, ends justify means? Exceptions are there as the plethoras of conundrums are that may confuse us, but morally speaking no circumstances allow ends to justify means. That’s the moral ideal! 

Let’s be practical. Every one of us has countless needs to fulfill to live and to be happy, and sure the things which we need to meet our needs are scarce. That’s the greatest problem facing the humanity since the very first day. We have the rules of jungle which animals follow. We have the dictates of our instincts to follow. But with time and experience, we came to have a consensus that in order to behave humanely we need certain other rules to meet our needs in the midst of scarce resources. This provided us with such rules which we consider universal. They are such as: do not tell a lie, or speak truth; do not steal; do not harm/kill anyone; be honest; be just.

Some of these rules, for example, stealing, killing, were so indispensable to the existence of human society that they were encoded into laws and punishment was associated with their defiance. It means that law is a form of morality and in no way can be separated from it. It also means that law strengthens moral principles and must never weaken or repudiate them.

Although, no one ever theoretically contests the veracity of these rules, but practically at smaller or larger scales they have always been defied. History attests to this fact. The golden periods of human civilization were those when the trends to defy these rules were on the decline. The downfalls saw their rise and widespread practice in vogue. This is how nations and societies dispersed and merged into the dust of history. However, the net loss or gain came to the share of ordinary people who suffer under the hot and cold sun equally. It is they who are the real losers or gainers.

The nature of defiance of these rules is also important to the existence of human society. It determines the pace of decline, decay, and destruction of the soul of a nation. At personal individual level, we are all susceptible to a variety of temptations that may force or persuade us to defy these rules. But if someone defies these rules by commitment, that’s really serious, and it is not defiance as usual. It must be taken into account, debated, refuted and quarantined as zealously as possible. That’s important to save the moral foundations of a nation or society.

The aim of the present article is to bring into focus the same crisis facing the nation and society of Pakistan today. In our sixty year history, we have seen various forms of defiance of these rules on the part of individuals, groups, communities, religious and political parties, and government functionaries. But the current phase has uniqueness to it. One political party, Pakistan Peoples Party, its leadership from top to bottom, its MNAs, its MPAs, its members, and its supporters, all of them, probably without any exception, has made it a point to defy these rules by commitment.

Are all of those who are directly or indirectly or in any manner associated with PPP moral depraves? They are more than that. They are political moral depraves. They are consciously, deliberately, intentionally defending certain political means as justified to attain certain political ends, and all that at the cost of those moral principles. That is why they are not only moral depraves but political depraves also.

No doubt, they have made politics an immoral enterprise through and through. Actually, Mr. Zardari’s signing agreements with Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League to restore the judiciary of November 02, 2007, before the full lights of media and nation, and then saying that that was just a political statement, and thus his betraying the written word, PML (N), the lawyers, and the whole nation, was so brazen an act that they had to admit it openly. On the fateful day of presidential election (September 06), one PPP leader and MNA from Sindh, Ms. Nafisa Shah, published an article in a national English daily. She wrote: “Politics and morality are not the same thing. Politics is not religion nor is it a moral code. It is the art and the science of reaching, keeping and sustaining power. It is a system of making, or breaking alliances, for the common cause.”

Well-said and well-confessed too! Bravo that she speaks the truth, and at least in this case, PPP is not telling lies. But who knows? May be on another fateful day, there is another article from the PPP leadership that will again clarify that that admission by Ms. Nafisa Shah was just a political statement. Believe, Sir, politics and morality are not the same thing!

In ancient times, in Crete, one of the islands of Greece, there used to live a Cretan, Epimenides, who claimed that every Cretan is a liar, and being a Cretan he could never belie that he too was a liar. What happened to him is of no importance, but he gave us a paradox, Liar’s Paradox which helps us sort out things clearly. Thus, PPP has put everything topsy-turvy, or has made a mess of everything. When after taking oath of President of Pakistan, Mr. Zardari revealed: within one month you will have good news on Kashmir, all the Cretans believed him and started solving the riddle what would be the good news. But we are mistaken here, we are not Cretans, that is why we believed him and wasted so much time on guessing, talking and writing about that good news. I for one think that now we should always be on our guard while thinking of believing in whatever PPP says since PPP is doing the politics of non-issues for the public consumption; its ‘realpolitik’ has other ulterior objectives. 

Once again let’s come to the point: Ms. Shah writes, and I repeat it, that politics is the art and the science of reaching, keeping and sustaining power. Earlier on, I stressed that it is serious, and it is serious even if we do not go to the Machiavelli or Chanakya to prove our point. If politics is the art and science of reaching, keeping and sustaining power, what was wrong with Major General Iskandar Mirza, Field Marshall Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Muhammad Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq, and PPP’s beloved General Musharraf! Of course, there is nothing wrong with all these usurpers, and this is good news for all the future usurpers that there will be nothing wrong with their takeovers. They are welcome to throw off civilian governments and rule Pakistan for decades and may be for centuries until and unless they make a mistake in sustaining power!

Since we the ordinary people believe in promises made in black and white or even otherwise and in honoring them more than making them, I have a soft corner for the PPP MNA for she gave us the statement of admission in black and white which is both an admission of truth or falsehood, like the agreements to restore the deposed judiciary, that she may be meaning something else or she could not say the whole thing. I conjecture she may be meaning to say that politics is the art and science of reaching, keeping and sustaining power under the laws of the country. But even this helping hand cannot save PPP from the “crime” of ditching all the moral principles to reach power. Rather it complicates the issue, and PPP sinks deeper into the morass.

Let’s imagine that PPP tried to reach power lawfully and without any under-hand deal with the local and foreign power brokers, and that presidential election was quite fair and transparent. Personally, I have no qualms against the person of Mr. Zardari, our constitution does have reservations on his credentials and reputation. However, apart from this unending debate, after its coming into power, the immediate test of the sincerity of PPP was that if it believed in the constitution of Pakistan as the basic law of the country, it did not need sign any agreements with PML (N) to restore the judiciary; instead as the first good will gesture it should have restored the judges sent home by a dictator immorally, unlawfully, and unconstitutionally. In that case, it should have also restored the constitution to its original state so much disfigured by the dictators, or at least annulled the 17th amendment, and the moment Mr. Zardari became the President of Pakistan, PPP should have moved to restore the powers of the Prime Minister unconstitutionally grabbed by the dictator-presidents.        

But nothing of the sorts happened. Nor is there any chance of happening that. Instead, even after seven months in power, PPP is trying hard to justify its policy and actions. From an ordinary supporter to the top leader, from an illiterate Jiyala to the most qualified Jiyala, and from a newly converted PPP man to a seasoned politician like Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Raza Rabbani, there is no single voice that dare say that signed agreements are not political statements, and that it is wrong to betray promises and agreements. There is no note of dissent on any string. Even those Jiyalas who have education and training in Philosophy are as vocal in defending the immoral and unconstitutional policies and actions of PPP leadership despite that. This shows both morality and philosophy cannot be taught an issue they would be familiar was taken up by the Greek philosophers.

Under the circumstances, it will not be far from truth to say that PPP has completely turned into a conscienceless body. No one from PPP seems to have an inkling of moral courage who can challenge its leadership. Rather, all of them are out to defend everything said and done by the PPP leadership as a moral duty. It is tantamount to usurping the morality by party commitment. That is dangerously alarming because, it can result in, and is resulting in civil strife and ultimately in internal warfare.

One’s affiliation with a party, his commitment to its ideology, and his submission to its leadership, are all just incidental things and they should be put in their due place in the larger scheme of things, and must never be replaced with universal moral principles, or laws of the country, or its constitution. In case, one’s party is pursuing such policies and taking such steps which are against the dictates of morality, and are damaging to the laws and constitution of one’s country, should he remain subservient to such a party? PPP is stretching farther than that. I give benefit of doubt to all those who are in PPP or support it, and do not allege them with any vested interest in supporting such immoral and unconstitutional policies and actions of PPP and its leadership, but it’s no denying the fact that otherwise it is party commitment that has forced or persuaded them to defend the party and its leadership.

In addition to its crusade against morality, PPP is intent upon defying universal political truths such as independence of judiciary, rule of law, and security of fundamental rights to the citizens. It is at will making a mockery of the constitution also. Then, what is democracy for, for which PPP has been struggling since its inception! Is it for the rule of a party which in defiance of everything already settled authorizes itself to judge upon every thing be it moral principles, laws, or the constitution and then destroying them all? Is PPP’s democracy for the dictatorship of its party? Isn’t all that taking place under the nose of PPP, its leadership, and its supporters leading Pakistan to a sort of fascist quagmire? Isn’t it up to creating such deaf and dumb political moral depraves who are just mindless, conscienceless slaves of the party and its leadership? If it is so, then surely we are headed for a major moral and political breakdown!

[This article was completed on October 26, 2008.]

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