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The art of justice

Published Nov 28, 2011 11:39am


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Selective outrage is a national pastime – and it’s becoming incredibly infectious. Those who profess to hold the up banner for liberalism are inconsistent whilst they condemn home grown religious extremism they show reluctance in condemning US foreign policy in the region. Whilst those who claim to speak in the name of a religiously tinged nationalism cannot bring themselves to admit that although American foreign policy has created a fragile situation in Pakistan, some of the fundamental problems facing the nation come from within its own institutions such as the unconstitutional interference of the Army in political affairs. In the process Pakistani politicians and intellectuals have lost the art of justice.

The art of justice is more than just producing flashy rhetoric – it’s all about asking the difficult questions that most of us would prefer to hide under the pretence of patriotism, ideology or religious dogma. Today in Pakistan there is an atmosphere of polarisation where real justice, in terms of observing a critical distance from power is lost. So let’s lay down the agenda – condemning religious extremism and the insanity of American foreign policy are not mutually exclusive. It is imperative for Pakistanis to reorient themselves with a fresh understanding of justice that is universal and consistent. Human suffering is a universal fact of this world and if you are outraged then you must be prepared to be consistent in your outrage.

The latest Nato attacks on Pakistan are a blatant example of injustice and calls into question Pakistan’s relationship with the West. Beyond the crude dichotomy of total isolation and utter subservience to American hegemony there must lie another way. Pakistan’s participation in this so called “War on Terror” has shaken its foundations to the core; it has exposed pre-existing problems and created more difficulties. The story of Pakistan’s turbulent political history cannot be read in isolation from geopolitical events and the actions of international power or by ignoring the phenomenon of home grown terrorism and radicalism.

Nor can we ignore the gargantuan failings of our so called “civilian” politicians and parties such as the PPP. It can be safely said that after Zia, the biggest disaster for democratic liberalism in Pak is the PPP – people acting in its name but producing nothing but a nepotistic dystopia. The actions of this party and its woeful record on the economy, foreign policy and domestic affairs have left a tarnished legacy for Pakistani liberals to confront. For those who call for civilian supremacy, are they willing to consider the records of corruption, political malpractice and violence that has characterised Pakistan’s woeful experience of democracy?

But civilian supremacy must equate to more than simply having elections – there must be demonstrable accountability and transparency in the performance of the Armed forces. The actions of the Army must be within the parameters of the democratic framework and its performance scrutinised by both the parliament and public opinion.

The loss of precious life should awaken Pakistanis to the fact that America is not a friend. This is nothing unique to American power – because the fact is that all great power has no friends it only has interests. And Pakistan must look after its own interest and safeguard the liberty and security of its own citizens first and foremost. The relationship with America has clearly undermined the Pakistani State’s responsibility of safeguarding its citizens and Armed forces. It is only logical to assume that Pakistan’s relationship with America is an abusive marriage and now it is time that the battered wife that is Pakistan be brave enough to step forward and file for a divorce.

America’s actions in the region have caused immeasurable suffering – this is a fact beyond doubt and one that we must confront head on. But having said that Pakistan has demons of its own that it has been harbouring for many decades. A principled opposition to injustice must be created – if you condemn American foreign policy then you must also condemn the atrocities and barbarities of the Taliban. The drone attacks should be protested again but so must the brutal treatment of the Ahmadis and other religious minorities such as Christians. Protest and outrage must be based on principle otherwise it becomes susceptible to the forces of political opportunism. Pakistan must reject the tyranny of both Uncle Sam and the mullah if it wishes to have the chance of determining its own destiny.

Those who try and portray any opposition to American foreign policy within the polemical framework of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” are missing the point. Any principled opposition to American power in the region is not because there is any opposition to the ideals of freedom and democracy which are universal ideals. It is rather because American power has yielded only death and destruction. Indeed in the name of democracy and freedom American power should be opposed and criticised thoroughly.

If you truly value democracy and liberty then you will oppose American power. For decades American hegemony has crushed and suppressed the hopes and dreams of millions of people from the Shah’s Iran to Mubarak’s Egypt and beyond. The Nato attack should bring into focus one clear outcome – the future of Pakistani democracy is dependent on achieving independence from American power and American money. But looking beyond the apocalyptic consequences of American power there are uncomfortable questions to face within as well. What about the role of the Army? Is Pakistan actually a democracy given the rampant electoral fraud that plagues the system? How does the State confront the proxies that it once created in the hope of confronting its bigger neighbour India?

The reason most of our esteemed columnists and politicians do not wish to have a principled conception of justice is because it’s difficult. By tying yourself to principles you open yourself up to asking complicated questions that open up a whole can of worms that most would best leave unopened. But now is the time to grasp principle beyond ideological dogmatism or political point scoring. It is time to ask the difficult questions – no one said justice would be easy.


Ahmad Ali Khalid is a freelance writer and blogger based in the UK. He can be reached at or twitter.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (21) Closed

Ayesha Khan Nov 28, 2011 08:53pm
There was no need to shed such detailed light on the issues that Pakistan is facing, this is a stale subject. Pakistan is not a toddler anymore nor was it before all the authorities are well aware more than the ordinary people about whats going on. My words might sound bitter but the truth is that it is the lenient attitude of the Pakistanis that has given America, and other nations to make a joke of our country on international level. It is the duty on the higher officials to handle the matters which are extremely sensitive and there is no need to get emotional about it. Pakistan is a nation most abundantly showered with the finest of blessings by the Grace of Allah, and we do not need any aid or assistance of any other nation. When things are out of grip then no philosophy comes in handy. It is time to say few strong words and put a stop to all the nonsense that people have been creating for our country.This is not the first time that we are hearing such a tragic event and its time to tell the world in loud and clear voice that no more junk from anyone anymore and that's it.
Cyrus Howell Nov 28, 2011 09:11pm
Justice is a hypothetical, and this article is all over the map. I can agree that whoever believes America is Pakistan's friend is a fool. This being said, Pakistanis living in America are very happy, while Pakistanis living in Great Britain seem always to be demonstrating and complaining. I'll wager it is very difficult to be bombed by NATO in London, Manchester or Birmingham. I don't perceive that Pakistani's like British justice either.
malik Nov 28, 2011 10:00pm
An excellent point of view, we as Pakistanis should think of our own nation, our own future, where we are in the doldrums and where we need to be. The whole nation as one "Pakistanis" inclusive of all its people without prejudice, have to be on one track to move forward, one step at a time, with the goal in mind with check stops to see how far we have come forward from the last stop. We need a stick hitting us regularly to keep us from straying of the path. The question is who will hold that stick??? Please don't give the parrot answer of the main parties that have corrupted us and led us down the morally declining path!!!!!!! Think about it, demand answers not half truths.
Shree Nov 28, 2011 11:09pm
You have done a good job. "Pakistan must reject the tyranny of both Uncle Sam and the mullah if it wishes to have the chance of determining its own destiny." this line to me sums up the content of your whole Blog. I guess you included criticism of the Mullahs because they have starting hurting you back. Justice would have been served better if one were to criticise ones own action that cause pain to others. Example, would you still demand justice against so called non-state actors hurting India; I hope that you do. As for my part, If Justice were of primary importance to me then I will have to ask is my country justified in putting thousands of soldiers in Kashmir. Let me end by saying "It is time to ask the difficult questions – no one said justice would be easy."
Sandip Nov 28, 2011 11:33pm
Nice article but no material. I am not aware of all the details so it is not possible for me to tell or conclude what happened. But in war death by Friendly fire is not so uncommon. Being from Canada, we lost 4 soilders in friendly fire in Afghanistan during initial phase of war. Instead of coming up with rehotric and blaming US or NATO for this and getting into outrage and using national sentiments for the outrage, it might be more mature for Pakistan to work with US, ensure that there is a fair non-partial inquiry and for Pakistan to take part in the inquiry. Thats how you will get justice done. In current scenario with anting up the rehotric nothing is going to happen and inquiry that US/NATO will conduct could become one sided. Military organizations are well defined by rules and regulations. They have clearly defined rules of engagement. So need to understand what those rules are and where things went wrong. Folks show some maturity in dealing with situation. Cutting of NATO supplies is going to have minor impact in fight in Afghanistan but will have major impact on Pakistan. Look at the news being flashed on CNN. Think and act maturely on this incident. There is no injustice done yet so need to find out what happened. Just one question I had over here is what if the troops that were killed did take part in protecting Taliban fighters that where running away? No inquiry no proof at this time apart from statements from few Generals before inquiry even begins, who where not even there and who have different agenda.
matta Nov 29, 2011 12:35am
like many of my comments I am not hopeing this would be published but long as pakistan forigen policy is based on India it would always lead pakistan to be a slave if it is not usa then it would be a indian I don't see any hope for us(indians)
Shah1987 Nov 29, 2011 12:42am
1. It can be said that Pakistan's location means it entitles itself to a certain strategic premium which it charges for its services. 2. If Pakistan decides to pay for the war in Afghanistan itself, then the lessons from the 80's weren't enough it seems. You kind of have to co-operate, in that regard.
s.chivukula MD Nov 29, 2011 12:59am
The sentiments that the writer expressed are valid if Pakistan was a free independent country.Pakistan entered the war when America threatened to bomb it to stone ages .it took oodles of money from the US.Once you take their money you are their servant or worse.You forfeited your rights to complain.
Ali Nov 29, 2011 01:03am
Excellent article. Sets the course forward for Pakistan policy from here on...
Shakky Pir Nov 29, 2011 06:00am
We Pakistanis excel at asking all the right questions, as this article so clearly demonstrates. Unfortunately, we're terrible at answering them, as the article also demonstrates. Perhaps if we devoted less time to introspection and made more of an effort to implement solutions? Lets first start by banning all the extremist religious groups.
Tahir PhD Nov 29, 2011 09:25am
"The art of justice is more than just producing flashy rhetoric – it’s all about asking the difficult questions that most of us would prefer to hide under the pretence of patriotism, ideology or religious dogma." Basically the above quote from your article brilliantly sums up our mindset and way of life. It is as if we have been doped and cannot free ourselves off the shackles. It is time for a radical and principled change – in line with other developing and prospering countries and not simply based on theocracy.
yawar Nov 29, 2011 11:49am
My God, this is full of empty, meaningless sloganeering. Easy for you to say all this while sitting pretty in the UK, bro. I am really tired of all these holier-than-the-holy pakistanis living in Western countries and lecturing us in pakistan about what corruption, justice and honour is.
Mirza Nov 29, 2011 11:53am
Bhai jan, if you are so concerned about the failings of us poor Pakistanis living here and want us to go to war with the US, what are you doing in the UK?
Yunus Nov 29, 2011 11:56am
Well said, Cyrus. This rant has no direction, just sentimental fist waving.
nha Nov 29, 2011 01:13pm
Extremely well articulated piece. Irrespective of the author's geographical location (a puerile point), this opinion resonates with those w/in and outside Pakistan who wish for substantive change, and are not satisfied with simplistic observations concerning US-Pak relations. The whole issue is about POWER and EMPIRE.
Rahul Nov 29, 2011 05:37pm
I feel that the time has come for Pakistan to bite the bullet. Jut shrug off the Americans and do a genuine handshake with your neighbors. Even India and Afghanistan should fall in line on this matter. Let the status-quo be set on all issues of disagreement in the neighborhood. Tell the Americans to leave the land! We know how to manage this side of the planet!!
nb Nov 29, 2011 06:42pm
In a major security operation or war situation, such killing by friendly fire may occasionally happen, although no military does it intentionally. Some well documented WW-2 cases happened when British were trying to sink Bismark, and when German V2 missiles were targeted on London and during Normandy Landing. Sometimes a double-agent feeds wrong information to create trouble among friends. The foolproof solution is to avoid war ( or terrorism in this particular case). During peacetime, military men stay in barracks only. One may note that terrorism starts first. Security forces always come later.
Seedoo Nov 29, 2011 07:52pm
Ms. Ayesha Khan, Can you please be a bit more specific? Words and phrases like "lenient attitudes of Pakistanis", "no more junk" make absolutely no sense to a reader like me.
Solomon2 Nov 29, 2011 07:53pm
"Unfortunately, we’re terrible at answering them, as the article also demonstrates." Yup. "Lets first start by banning all the extremist religious groups." And THAT'S the problem: expecting someone ELSE to do the hard work of democratic politicking.
Roger Aher Nov 30, 2011 02:05am
Well written article. If Pakistan wants to participate in the Global Economy and in the advancement like Brazil, China, India , Indonesia, Thailand and the plethora of other countries, it has to have a paradigm shift. Do not base your policies on just India Ban all fundamentalist organizations Focus on Education Focus to elevate the common man. It is easier said than done, but you have to draw a line somewhere and make a beginning. Now is the time. Two years from now, you would have missed the bus. It is now or never.
MIK Nov 30, 2011 02:33am
Though, everyone heart goes out to the families who lost the loved ones. This is what Pakistan has brought upon them. Don't complain. 2 a.m. in the morning, all the soldiers were sleeping when this all happened. How could they sleep? Supposed to be alert all the time in order to avoid such accidental attacks. Better, learn from mistakes.