By Dr. Khalil Ahmad
Pakistan is in the grip of a deadly crisis. Whether it is political or economic domain, social or religious life, private or public sphere, the chaos is overriding. Watch for the utter disregard for social and moral values, and social norms on the one hand, and on the other for rules and laws, and the constitution, rampant at every level without any exception. That tells not only of the moral bankruptcy of Pakistani society but of the gravity of the deep moral crisis also.
This piece traces the roots of this moral crisis.
The morals of the ordinary people reflect those of the dominant elites of the society. In Pakistan, this broadly includes military, political, religious, and intellectual elites. These elites set the tone and tenor of moral quality and direction of our society. Since it is they who form the ruling class by way of election or military overthrow or other such routes, ultimately it is they who are responsible for implementing the constitution, laws and rules of the country. Thus, it is they with whom rests the responsibility of setting examples of moral uprightness and regard for the laws and rules. Being in a position of authority, or as a popular personality, it is for them to be icons of honesty, truthfulness, and dutifulness. Also, it is for them to be men of principle, as well as tolerant, consistent and considerate beings.
But the Pakistani elites utterly failed on all these counts. Rather, they defied and defiled all these norms, and more than that ridiculed them so much so that such arrogant behavior itself came to be regarded as a norm of pomp and power, and that made the ordinary people learn utter disregard for the rules and laws of the land. That fatally struck at the root, at the morality and value system of the society.
Let us have a quick look at the role of each elite.
The Military elite is a monolithic entity. Throughout the history of Pakistan it played on the logic of ‘might is right.’ It was not one institution among others to serve the purpose for which it was created, rather eclipsed all the other institutions leaving the civil government in a wilderness. In one sense, this is the cart that was put before the horse in Pakistan. It did not entertain an iota of regard for the greatest value of the country, i.e. its constitution(s) and laws, and distorted and disfigured them at the will of this or that military ruler, as a result of which the greatest value of human society, i.e. ‘right is might’ just disappeared from the society giving rise to mafia groups and fake parties in every realm of social life. That was the end of social and moral values.
The Political elite comprises all the parties on the right and left with divergent interests. It is a heterogeneous entity but mostly without any substantial difference in their political philosophies. Power politics is the focus of their electoral and day to day activities. It is just now and then that one sees a major difference in their political opinion and goals. One such example is Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s struggle for the restoration of the deposed judges which can be set against the Pakistan Peoples Party’s position vis-à-vis the same issue.
The only contribution that the Pakistani politicians made is the constitution of 1973. But at the same time they are the main culprits who could not protect its sanctity. Their crime is more horrible as they always acted hand in glove with the military rulers in disfiguring the constitution. Also, on their own part they did not spare any opportunity to distort the constitution to strengthen their interests. To keep their grip on the political reins of the country strong, they too created various types of mafia.
The Religious elite comes from a number of groups, and extends its presence to political and intellectual domains that help it multiply its influence many fold. Their singular ‘achievement’ consists of strengthening religious formalism, and weakening the religious spirit. That caused a divorce of morality from religion in social life. By also putting their political interests over and above the religious spirit and its moral ideal, they became part and parcel of the power politics. They have their share in disfiguring the constitution also, in complicity with military and civilian rulers by justifying their immoral, illegal and unconstitutional acts with the help of religious endorsement.
The Intellectual elite, an amorphous entity, consists of academia, media, madrissa, think-tanks, free-lance intelligentsia and literary/artistic figures. Some take sides towards this or that elite, or towards this or that political or politico-religious party, or hold independent opinions like free ideologues. However, by virtue of their dealing in ideas they influence and drive the environment of public opinion to a great extent. Not only did they badly fail in achieving quality and excellence in their fields, but they suppressed independent opinion and committed the crime of not letting a hundred flowers blossom let alone allowing the truth to be regarded as the highest value to be sought for. This dried the font of knowledge in Pakistan. They also provided intellectual support to the political and military adventurers. Instead of being part of the civil society to safeguard the interests and fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, they rallied around the military, political and religious elites to grab the crumbs from their tables. Surprisingly, they too enjoyed the fruits of rent-seeking and claimed it as their right, being the servers of the nation. For instance, this or that poet or artist whom people loved and government showered with its favors, in the final analysis turned out to be a burden on the tax payers till he died.
In view of this quick survey, it is evident that in the totally morally bankrupt Pakistan there is no prospect of amelioration in any domain. This finds its proof in the fact of the independent-minded judges being denigrated, pressurized, and attacked not only by the ruling classes, but all the above elites directly or indirectly also. This also warns those of us who want to see the country come out of this crisis, to be on guard to protect the independent judiciary, which is the only hope in this darkest hour of our history. It is crucial because the only way out of the deep moral crisis is the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan which can only be achieved if this independent judiciary survives.
[The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.]