The Price of Moral Cowardice

parliament-608From The Dawn:

The price of moral cowardice
By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 19 Apr, 2009 | 01:49 AM PST

AUGUST 11, 1947, in the constituent assembly of Pakistan at Karachi: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” — Founder and maker of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

February 19, 1948, a broadcast to the people of Australia: “But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it.” — Jinnah.

Later in February 1948, a broadcast to the people of the US: “In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.” — Jinnah.

Deliverance into the hands of the theocrats came a mere six months after the death of Jinnah, the delivery made by the man who had succeeded him as the leader of his nation. The Objectives Resolution was adopted on March 12, 1949 by the constituent assembly of Pakistan, proposed by the prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. It clearly and unambiguously declared that religion had much to do with the business of the state. There could be no recovery, as history has proven over the past 60 years.

Now, with the resolution passed in the National Assembly of Pakistan on April 13, 2009, a perverted form of religion has been legally sanctified to terrorise the state, to threaten the nation, to widen the already alarming internal divide, and to spread alarm and despondency amongst those who still had hope that one day the creed of Jinnah would prevail.

The Nizam-i-Adl resolution, unanimously passed by the political parties present in the assembly on that disgraceful Monday in April is pure and simple appeasement by a weak government, by parties who have abandoned their principles, by other parties imbued with the bleakness of fundamentalism, all backed to the hilt by an army of over half a million men who were routed by a band of brainwashed terrorists.

To those of us who remember our history the signing of the regulation by the president of the Republic is akin to Great Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s gesture on his return to London from Munich at the end of September 1938, when he waved a piece of paper in the air and declared that there would be “peace in our time,” thus setting in place preparations for a long and bloody war.

Appeasement is, to put it mildly, a naïve policy denoting weakness. It is a yielding of compromise and sacrificial offerings. More bluntly, it is moral cowardice exhibited by pathetic men and women who offer concessions at the expense of others. Appeasement is doing deals with men who have insatiable territorial appetites with the wish to impose their own brand of false theological practices and beliefs. It is an indulgence in wishful thinking — peace in our time — at the price of surrender.

But all was not lost. The Chaudhry of Chakwal, brave and true to himself, spoke up when all were silent. My friend and co-columnist Ayaz Amir salvaged some of the disgrace when he told his fellow parliamentarians just what is what when it comes to dealing with the Taliban, when it comes to giving in to them, and when it comes to appeasement. He was rightly harsh on the government for its moral cowardice, and on the army in which he once served for having crumbled, for the abandonment of its pride. His warnings were valid, but have gone unheeded. He and the many whose heads are not in the sand are now at the mercy of a ragtag and bobble band of maniacal ‘students’ of a cruelly false religion.

Reservations are many about the MQM. We cannot forget the early 1990s, nor May 12, 2007. The party cannot be absolved of its past sins and crimes and its ‘cult’ image is somewhat off-putting. But last Monday it went far to redeem itself when Farooq Sattar, minister of this government and parliamentary leader of the party rose, prior to Ayaz, and told the house that a wicked precedent was being set, that the passing of the resolution will embolden all the militant parties of the land — and they are more than sufficient unto the day — that democratic and parliamentary norms were being violated, and that this pernicious resolution may prove to be the last nail driven into Jinnah’s Pakistan. He then led his party members out of the house and later further addressed the press in the same tone.

And that was it — just two went out on a limb, two out of the horde of parliamentarians, all of whom have vowed to uphold and honour the constitution of Pakistan, which constitution makes no provision for the passing of any such regulation as the Nizam-i-Adl, nor of the setting up in the country of a parallel judicial system, nor of ceding territory to dangerous fanatical outlaws.

The party in power claims to be a secular party as does the ANP of which the less said the better. The PML-N does not openly admit to secularism, its chief not being that way inclined as we know from his attempted 15th Amendment, but it also does not lay claim to be motivated by militant fervour. Those who let down the nation most severely were all the women parliamentarians, the most affected, the prime targets of the Taliban.

And where is ‘civil society’, where are the lawyers? They motor-marched for the independence of the judiciary. Why are they comatose when it comes to the imposition of a parallel judiciary by a supine parliament? The fearsome Muslim Khan of the Taliban may have threatened the lives of those who oppose the infamous Nizam-i-Adl, but there should be some, other than Ayaz Amir and the MQM, who can show a bit of spunk. The press, at least some portions of it, are doing their bit and speaking up and out. Where is everyone else? The army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, went to the rescue of the government at Gujranwala in March, but now he and his army have succumbed to obscurantism.

Now, only the US and the rest of the world can step in — we, in nuclear Pakistan, can do nothing but wait and see which way the cards fall. We, including the legislators, are all helpless, they by choice, we by default.

Footnote: Karachi is already feeling the Taliban pinch. Co- educational schools in Defence, Clifton and Saddar areas are known to have received visits and been threatened if they do not change, others have been sent letters with the same message.



Filed under Pakistan

3 responses to “The Price of Moral Cowardice

  1. Adnann Syed

    From the Daily Dawn again, I came across the writeup by Cyril Almeida. I thought the following quote captures my thoughts quite well. Pakistan needs to know what it stands for. Once a country is sure of its own identity, it stands to identify its mortal threat. Someone else said recently that Pakistan is extremely dangerous; because it does not know who her enemies are.

    From Cyril Almeida’s “Cowering before the Taliban”:

    “How did we arrive at this point? Trite answers abound. We’re regressing. We’re uneducated. We have lost our way. Perhaps. But there is an underlying problem, one that isn’t sexy or simple enough to attract much attention.

    Ejaz Haider first set me thinking about it a few years ago. We in Pakistan have still not resolved first-order issues of the state. The basic stuff. How is power to be divided between the various institutions of the state; what is the raison d’être of the state; what are society’s grundnorms; what is the social contract on the basis of which the state and its people are to interact. Simply, we haven’t yet figured out the framework within which we are to solve what we consider our real problems.

    Ejaz contrasted us with India, which also fails to provide adequate goods and services to many of its people. There are still poor people in India, there is illiteracy, there is hunger, rights are routinely denied. But hardscrabble as life may be in India, the Indians have worked out a consensus on what kind of state – the first-order issue – will address its people’s problems, the second-order issues. In India, a constitutional democracy that embraces fundamental rights is the agreed framework in which to pursue economic and social betterment.

    Here in Pakistan we have no such consensus. Sixty-one years of not agreeing on how the state is to be organised has made it impossible to work on the people’s problems. But that failure also always left the door open to anyone who could promise the people a better future at the cost of reorienting the state.

    So now that the Taliban are trying to barge in, we have few ripostes. Well, at least they promise peace. At least there will be law and order. At least Green Chowk in Mingora will not see bodies strung up every morning. And if they do all of that in the name of Islam, well, maybe it is time we tried another nizam after all. The current one hasn’t proved any good.

    As Rafia put it, the Taliban have slyly latched on to a simple and persuasive line: ‘the more visibly different from the epithets of modernity that the Taliban can be, the more automatically Islamic it becomes.’ “

  2. bonobashi

    Please don’t bring this down to the level of Islam bashing.

    It’s so utterly boring and vapid, like playing snakes and ladders with a four-year old who likes the swoop downwards when he hits a snake, and the lovely fun afterwards of climbing up step by painful step.

    Can’t you say something intellectually incisive, like for instance, Pakistan is about to fail because its bowlers can’t bowl a proper yorker any more?

    Somebody might read your post with interest then.

  3. AK

    No room for democracy in Islam: TNSM Chief

    ‘The fifteen year struggle of the TNSM for the implementation of Sharia in Malakand is now bearing results,’ the Chief of the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat said.

    He said the democratic system is an un-Islamic one and the judicial system of Pakistan should be according to the Sharia.

    ‘Now any appeal against the Qazi courts’ decisions can be made only through the Darul Qaza,’ he added. ‘There is no room for democracy in Islam.’

    Mr. Zardari are you listening?