Moral decay and Pakistani politics by Tahir Kamran

Moral decay and Pakistani politics

Tahir Kamran

March 7, 2021

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Personal interest is symptomatic of the moral depravity that plagues Pakistan with no remedy in sight

 

 

 

 

 

A Thoughtful Look back to the Rules of Two Pathalogical Crooks Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How oft, in nations gone corrupt, And by their own devices brought down to servitude, That man chooses bondage before liberty. Bondage with ease before strenuous liberty.”

John Milton

In the words of Judge Devlin (1905–1992), a British lawyer and jurist, “an established morality is as necessary as good government to the welfare of society. Societies disintegrate from within more frequently than they are broken up by external pressures.” Gen Douglas MacArthur once stated almost the same idea in different words, “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.”

These statements have a great deal for us Pakistanis to learn from and introspect. But the bigger challenge confronting us is our thick-skinned political leaders and the people in various national institutions. How can political leaders like Zardari and the Sharifs and people like the current chief election commissioner be sensitised to the regressing moral values, evident to all sincere minds?

 

Sadly, corruption is being celebrated today as if it is a virtue. Several years ago, I had read somewhere that “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” But to have such noble feelings one must first have a conscience. Conscience is the moral compass cultivated among citizens and their leaders ought to lead by example. In our polity, the leaders need some strenuous instruction to develop a conscience that feels good when they do good and vice versa.

The other day, Qazi Faez Isa, a judge of the Supreme Court, likened Pakistan to a gutter. After reading about his pleading in the apex court, I was quite petrified. I was reminded of a famous reference by the historian Tacitus to the spirit of his own times: “to corrupt and to be corrupted”.

How apt is this description when we see bags full of money changing hands in the run up to the Senate elections. The way the Yousaf Raza Gillani-Hafeez Shaikh contest was orchestrated is a frightful example of corrupt practices in our politics. Mr Gillani has previously been accused notoriously of stealing a necklace donated by Turkish leader Tayyab Erdogan’s wife for the flood affected. His sons have been accused of openly offering mediation to officers aspiring for lucrative positions in the government. They apparently had no qualms about taking their cut in several business deals.

And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite all that Gillani and his family were accused of, Aitezaz Ahsan was all praise for the former prime minister. If it requires a special talent to detect positives in characters like Gillani’s, Mr Ahsan, undoubtedly, has it. No questions have yet been asked of the newly notified Senator-elect and former prime minister about the video showing his son with some legislators, instructing them in how to ensure that their ballots do not count.

The Election Commission is impudently reticent about it.

Mr Raja’s disregard for fairness and impartiality has become evident following his ruling on the Daska by-election. The hasty pronouncement has exposed his partisanship in favour of the opposition candidate who had lost the election. The pronouncement also reflects his sheer incompetence as head of such an important institution. The stark defiance by the Election Commission of Pakistan to the Supreme Court’s nudge on the conduct of Senate elections has shown the character the chief election commissioner and his colleagues. When such individuals acquire prominence in any polity, something is amiss. This calls for a corrective action. The rot has reached the very core and morality has been reduced to a clichéd expression with no practical manifestation in the socio-political sphere.

Moral decline begins when transcendent moral values that have proven beneficial over time are discarded in favour of other ideas that men find more conducive to achieving their desires. According to Gibbon, the root cause of Roman societal collapse was their loss of civic virtue and individual morality.

Gibbon believed that the laws of morality were as unchanging as the laws of mathematics and physics. English statesman, Edmund Burke, a colleague of Gibbon’s, is often called the father of modern conservatism. He summarised his beliefs about morality in a letter to the sheriffs of Bristol in 1777, “All who have ever written on government are unanimous that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”

Famous historian, Arnold Toynbee, has a perceptive quote from the concluding volume of his magnum opus, The Study of History, “Civilisations die from suicide, not by murder.” Nations too die from suicide and not by murder. When there is no capacity among the political leaders to distinguish between the ‘personal’ and the ‘national’, it is a clear indication that the nation is on a course that leads to suicide. Similarly, when ‘personal’ is prioritised over ‘national,’ the suicide becomes an unavoidable destiny.

What if this nation needs a sacrifice from Mr Zardari or Mr Sharif? They would, of course, offer some sacrificial lambs to save their own skin. This prioritisation of personal interest is symptomatic of the moral depravity that plagues Pakistan with no remedy in sight. That is unfortunate.

 

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