Friday, August 14, 2015

Stray reflections on the 68th Independence Day

Note: This article was completed on August 4, 2014. Since then little has changed; this piece is still relevant on this 68th Independence Day. 

Stray reflections on the 67th Independence Day

For the sane in Pakistan the fight is about protecting the values, the humanity has developed in the course of thousands of years, from the political and religio-political witchcraft, which it is intent upon destroying thoughtlessly. How the time-tested values were trashed (and are being trampled even this moment) when Pakistan came into being is a saga of ruthless fights between the politicians continuing to this very day, the August 14.

The greatest deceptive lessons the politicians taught the citizens derive their justification from the misconception that a state may be based on this or that faith, or ideology. That also hints at the infatuation that a theocratic state is a political possibility; whereas history has no such example to show but the only ones which ultimately proved tyrannies and relaxed in political absolutism.

In addition to such ideological adventures, another fever gripped the nation’s mind from the very beginning; that is the notion of an omnipotent welfare state. The politics exclusively revolving around the slogan of such a state gave rise to a state which started feeding itself on the hard-earned money of the citizens. Thus, not only became the state a handmaiden in the hands of every types of criminals under the leadership of politicians, but gradually it turned out to be the cruelest enemy of the citizens of Pakistan itself.

Resultantly, the state of Pakistan became a goldmine for the elite classes, and in order to appropriate the resources which the state happens to possess and generate, there emerged a new class, which the writer has termed as the State Aristocracy (Riyasati Ashrafiya) and which he has elaborated upon in his Urdu book, Pakistan Mein Riyasati Ashrafiya Ka Urooj (The Rise of State Aristocracy in Pakistan). This class of Riyasati Ashrfiya thrives and survives by its capture of the institution of the state and its resources, and use the slogan of democracy to befool the citizens of Pakistan. That is why the Pakistani Riyasati Ashrafiya is thoroughly against constitutionalism, rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and the latest evidence in this regard comes from the Parliament’s efforts to give more powers to the Parliamentary Commission vis-à-vis the Judicial Commission as far as appointment of the judges for the higher courts are concerned.

Despite the emergence of this new class of Riyasati Ashrafiya in Pakistan, the political elites remain divided and at dagger-drawn towards their own tribes. That’s what is happening today in Islamabad. It’s actually a ruthless fight to capture the state of Pakistan. But why does this fight continue even after about 7 decades have seen Pakistan go from bad to worse? What’s wrong with Pakistan, and its political elites or the new class of Riyasati Ashrafiya?

Philosophically, the chronic cancer may be diagnosed and explained thus: whenever any size of community forms, in order to live together the members of it agree to follow certain values, i.e. sort of a code of conduct. Never ever any community did come into being on the basis of a faith or an ideology. It was always an agreement or a contract to abide by certain values and rules which with the passage of time were abandoned; and what remained to be followed and imposed by this group on that group had only the semblance of a faith or an ideology leaving its moral core behind to rot. This complex phenomenon may be simplified by proposing that the abandonment of moral principles or values or rules of conduct served the interests of the elite classes who and/or their cohorts, without conspiring, politicized the faith or ideology of their community to perpetuate their rule and appropriate the resources of the kingdom or the state they happened to rule. The same took place when the state of Pakistan was instituted in 1947 on this day of August 14.

Integral to this is another proposition: When a community forms together, it invests certain persons with powers to give protection of life, property, and personal freedom to each and all of its members without any discrimination. Also, part of this function is the provision of justice and that to all equally. That is what comes to be instituted and known as a state. From the day one, Pakistani citizens were bereft of this protective role of their state and to this moment remain so. Their life, property and personal freedom are more than ever vulnerable today to the whims both of state and non-state actors. The ordinary Pakistani citizens were never that insecure in Pakistan as the present day Pakistan has forced them to be!

All the more reason to despair today is that the same political elite which is ruthlessly fighting for the capture of the state of Pakistan is exhorting the ordinary citizens, and spending millions to celebrate the Independence Day! What is there to celebrate? Celebrate the state of Pakistan, which has badly failed in protecting its citizens’ person and property and their personal freedom! Or celebrate the thoughtless fight for the capture of the state of Pakistan?

Must we ask what is there to celebrate on this 67th day of independence? What did we achieve through these 7 decades? Should we celebrate that chronic disease called Disagreement, or the Lack of Consensus? Ji, that lack of consensus between the political elites which did not allow a constitution take shape and secure Pakistani citizens their constitutional freedoms during the first 25 years or so after Pakistan was established. For the next 40 years, the citizens knew they had a constitution, but never enjoyed the security of their person, property and personal freedom.

Instead, what the ordinary citizens witness today is that despite the existence of a constitution which is verily in enforcement, certain political elites are adamant to give it up for an Anti-Constitutional Revolution which will make them capture the state of Pakistan! That means Pakistan virtually has no constitution to run the state of Pakistan. The fight for the capture of the state is still raging on the 67th Independence Day. It is the political elites which are demeaning the state and the constitution of Pakistan. That delivers a message for the citizens of Pakistan to heed: Demean the political elites! They are their culprits!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Military courts: a moral perspective

A person who is murdered, has he any rights? That question may seem strange. Let me add another dimension to it: What’s the spirit of law? Does it exist for the rights of the murderers to be protected? Or, it exists for the alive so that they enjoy their life safe and sound? Last year, in a seminar on the citizens’ fundamental rights when I made a comment that most of the NGOs are always ahead in safeguarding the rights of those who are accused of capital crimes but why they never turn up to defend the rights of those who are murdered, one activist really turned up to throw an angry question upon me: “What do you mean? The accused has no rights? And we defend murderers?” I said: “What I mean is that the one who was murdered he too had a right to his life, why was he deprived of that inalienable right? Who was supposed to protect that right of him?”

Here too, my contention is the same: What about the rights of those who are murdered, and that whether law has anything to do in the first place with the protection of their life? I presume who were murdered for a reason or for no reason at all the state was bound to protect all of them. My question those who have chosen the duty of defending the rights of the accused especially of capital crimes, why don’t they give a thought to the rights of those unfortunate ones who lose their lives? Partially in this sense, idea of the military courts makes sense.

Let’s try to delineate the issue as a solution for which the establishment of military courts is under discussion and which is one of the 20 points of the National Action Plan to tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism. In fact, the normal law is not able to take and complete its due course as is required: Delays, inefficiency on the part of the prosecution as well as the courts, fears and threats, complicity, etc. mar its performance. Both types of arguments for and against the military (speedy or special) courts are influencing the debate and public opinion in both directions. The military courts established by martial law regimes in the past are being used as a model to judge the proposed courts. That’s misplaced.

Leaving aside the both camps, I want to argue from the point of view of Law, and from the point of view of Morality. As for the first, so many others are also emphasizing that the measures which the 20 points envisage should have been taken quite earlier, since the day Pakistan came into being. That delay of about 68 years is more than criminal mainly on the part of the politicians who utilized the state for their Ashraafi interests and led it astray to what we witness happening today.

In principle, the first and foremost function of law is to protect all without any discrimination and make sure that no unlawful activity takes place, i.e. no such conflict brews which culminates in anyone’s murder. In Pakistan, however, the law has completely been negligent of this function of it; mostly because here the civil society and media took inspiration from the advanced world which has already achieved a peaceful lawful society and that’s why their point of focus is on ensuring the rights of the accused. Our society, on the contrary, is miserably a violent and unlawful society; that’s why in the first instance it requires its focus to stay on ensuring everyone’s right to life, property and liberty.

As for Morality, no debate in Pakistan, including the current one on military courts, has ever been mindful of it. It’s a non grata issue in the Paki intellectual, political, religious milieu. Let me remind that Law grows and flourishes in the soil of morality; in the absence of morality, no law can make any difference. Nonetheless, it’s Law which helps morality gain its lost dominion as it did in Europe. So in a lawless and devoid of morality Pakistan, we can start with establishing the rule of law, which with time will restore morality to its due status.

It needs not arguing that Law in an important sense is morals codified; in that it presents a moral view also. However when codified, Law takes its own course, be it moral or not. It is in this context that I want to introduce a moral problem, which the Peshawar massacre of children has brought to the fore in bold relief. No qualms about that: Let the Law take its course, which for innumerable reasons it has not taken; and it’s no time to inquire about its whys, while about 50, 000 innocent citizens have already become the victims of terrorism and extremism. The circumstances have put us face to face with a moral choice: Let the innocent citizens die at the hands of terrorists and extremists or take extraordinary measures to exterminate the murderers!

In the US, moral philosophers are employing empirical research and experiments to see how people respond to such moral dilemmas. One Problem of Trolleyology is being heatedly argued about; one variant of it is like this: Pull a signal lever and divert a trolley-car which otherwise is going to kill five persons tied to the track; but by diverting it to a side track you kill a person tied there. So what’s your choice? Most people want one should die, not five persons! In contradistinction to it, our choice is far too clear since on the one side are hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens and on the other “jet black” murderers! The only risk in setting up the military courts is the miscarriage of justice in some cases, the magnitude of which may only be measured after the legislation stands completed.

In a broader perspective, that would help shift the emphasis especially on the protection of everyone’s right to life; and though it requires a wider approach and a lot of other measures to succeed in the longer term, it may serve as the first step towards putting the state and society on a peaceful and lawful track.

Note: This article was completed on December 29, 2014, and was originally posted in January, 2015.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage

The pivot of politics is always seeking power, so that a political party is able, so to say, to implement its program on the basis of which it wins voters’ mandate. That’s an ideal statement of an ideal polity! In reality it doesn’t happen like that. There are betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism on the part of political parties. There is perennial interference, for instance in the case of Pakistan, by the players who are external to the political realm but are always intent upon unleashing political instability and uncertainty in the country. Also, there are other elements different from both of the above, who now and then venture to seek power but in non-political ways. For such elements the society of Pakistan has always proved unimaginably fertile. That’s what may be termed a depoliticized Pakistan!

Let’s try to understand what it is that’s called being depoliticized! In Pakistan, everyone who has a bit of interest in politics knows well a term, Political Apathy, the usual use of which stopped probably after the Lawyers’ Movement (2007-09); though the Apathy still exists. Maybe because it’s that Movement that refreshed the interest of the people in the political affairs of the country! Prior to that, the term, Political Apathy, stood to mean people’s insensitiveness to matters political, and it was also argued that it was this factor which kept the voter turnout in Pakistan too low.

As far as causes of the Political Apathy are concerned, one is more important than others. First, regardless of the fact which party is in power, no civilian political government ever tried to deliver, so people became impervious to whatever was happening in the political arena. They turned to themselves and to their homes. Here it may be of interest to point out that with the introduction of “Development Politics” in the nineties, the credit of which goes to Pakistan Muslim League-N, the interest of the people in politics got a boost at least in Punjab. The Development Politics, however, did not succeed in changing the political paradigm; it’s too slow to make inroads. It’s in the general elections of May 2013 that the construction of Metro Bus Service may be said to have PML-N won the vote from Lahore.

Indeed, presently there is no talk of Political Apathy; but that doesn’t mean there is none, it is there. The voter turnout in the last elections is 55%. But the argument of the present writer does not base on the concept of Political Apathy. It lays its whole emphasis on the notion of a depoliticized citizenry of Pakistan. It may both be non-political and/or anti-political. The concept of Political Apathy is altogether different from the notion of a depoliticized citizenry. The Political Apathy is a reaction from the people to a fruitless and barren politics. It leaves politics on its own; it withdraws its interest from such politics. In contrast to that, a depoliticized citizenry is something very dangerous; simply because it overrides politics. It outdates politics; it predates politics. It does not lose its interest in politics; rather it is overwhelmingly interested in politics. However, it’s concept of politics is sort of unique. It’s sort of a supra-politics.

As in Political Apathy, people are least interested in what’s happening in the political realm; a depoliticized citizenry is most interested in whatever is happening and may happen both in the present and the future political realms. The overriding interest of a depoliticized citizenry is more fatal for a society and its state than the insensitivity of a politically apathetic citizenry. A depoliticized citizenry may destroy and dismantle whatever political culture a society enjoys and whatever political structure a state consists of and stands on. Since a politically apathetic citizenry has nothing to do with politics, it may damage it in an indirect manner; whereas a depoliticized citizenry positively and intentionally damages the polity of the country.

In a nutshell, a politically apathetic citizenry is indifferent to whoever seeks power and whoever comes in power, it knows it’s not going to change their fate. A depoliticized citizenry, as it is ardently and desperately interested in politics, does not believe in seeking power through political means; it derives its inspiration from an imagined future. It is in this sense, that it is said to be depoliticized. It is the essence of depoliticized elements, whatever their form is: they always seek power hungrily and seek it in non-political ways. As a matter of principle, political elements, their betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism aside, somehow come to believe in political ways while seeking political power. As against this, depoliticized elements are naked power seekers; they want power at any cost by any means. That’s their substance and hallmark as well.

One more explanation may help understand the nature of a depoliticized Pakistan the politics of which is being witnessed in the shape of Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), Tahir-ul-Qadri (Pakistan Awami Tehreek), Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi (Pakistan Muslim League-Q), Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (Awami Muslim League). They are all seeking power in non-political ways, whatever their excuses and slogans are. In fact, it is all the martial laws which veritably nursed such power seekers. They crafted ever newer ways for non-political power seekers; and opened a whole new world for such non-political politicians. In addition, a constituency for such politics also emerged. That created a depoliticized Pakistan, which think and act non-politically. It derides politics. Some of the political parties learned a lesson or two not to seek power in non-political ways; but there is no dearth of newcomers and the old stalwarts who are still clinging to the old habits of seeking power. 

Imran Khan’s would have proved to be a promising party for the politically apathetic citizens also, had it gone for seeking power in a political manner. Unfortunately it has opted for an alignment with a depoliticized Pakistan, which believes in non-political ways only. Political problems require political solutions. Likewise, in seeking political power in non-political ways, one party may succeed, but in the process what damage it wreaks to the state and society it may never realize. Now it is PTI which represents a depoliticized Pakistan; it’s strengthening it also. It’s on the rampage to destroy a political Pakistan, it must come back to! 

Note: This article was completed on October 1, and was originally posted in November 2014.