War Against Virtue
May 02, 2009
Our share of the terrorists or Taliban has perfected what we have been suffering in our country at smaller or somewhat larger scales for the last six decades: the moral policing. Sometimes it was individuals or well-knit groups, and sometimes it were governments that resorted to moral policing. However, now in the shape of Taliban, the moral policing has reached its climax, i.e. it has become top most duty of the Taliban type state.
By Dr. Khalil Ahmad
All coercion is part of the war against virtue unless morally and legally justified.
Our share of the terrorists or Taliban has perfected what we have been suffering in our country at smaller or somewhat larger scales for the last six decades: the moral policing. Sometimes it was individuals or well-knit groups, and sometimes it were governments that resorted to moral policing. However, now in the shape of Taliban, the moral policing has reached its climax, i.e. it has become top most duty of the Taliban type state. The use of force has found its ultimate end. The annihilation of every trace of freedom has been attained. As a result, every semblance of virtue has been destroyed. In sum, with the advent of Taliban rule in parts of the NWFP, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.
From the most private details of one’s life to his public behavior, every thing has been taken over by the Taliban state to make it happen via its use of brute force. The men who wield this power of the state have no legitimate claim to it, since no moral or political theory justifies it but the naked force. It is on the part of the Taliban that they have assumed this power by virtue of their gun-holding. It is on the part of an already existing state that its authority has been ceded to Taliban on the pretext of peace. One thing is common in both states: they have forsaken the individual and his rights. In effect, they have deprived him of his natural right to freely choose his destiny.
It’s just for argument’s sake that under any system of justice statements of confession made under duress are outrightly set aside as unacceptable for the simple reason that they do not issue from a free agent and thus are unworthy of any use in fixing responsibility for one’s alleged acts. Likewise, what one does under oppression, whatever name we give to it, can NEVER be considered virtue. It’s all because virtue grows and flourishes in an environment where freedom is abundantly present in the air.
Conversely in an environment of un-freedom what freely prosper are lie, malice and hypocrisy. That is what we have our whole society from top to bottom infected with incurably. No realm of life be it public or private, political or economic, social or spiritual, religious or secular, learning or teaching, or any other, is immune from it. In such a society the gravity of the crisis manifests itself in a concept of virtue bereft of all meaning of virtue. The only purpose left for virtue to be adopted as a way of life is its usefulness in earning social recognition of one’s virtuosity. It loses its worth as a means to civilize, moralize and humanize one’s self. It metamorphoses us into a conscienceless being. It’s all vice that enwraps itself in the guise of virtue. Virtue acquires the status of one of the ploys of vice itself. Morality is taken hostage by ideology/faith.
The most distinguishing feature of this local war of ours against virtue is its flagrant self-contradiction: it claims to establish a state of virtue whereas instead of letting virtue grow naturally freely it is trying to impose/enforce virtue politically and administratively, and of course militarily also. This should bring the process of our moral fall to a finish.
This is not without precedent. Only that now it is programmed to reach its logical conclusion. Since day one we have had political groups, parties, institutions, and what not which in the name of moral policing were up to achieving this Taliban state like arrangement. In addition to that, we have had both civil and military governments which aimed at setting up such a moral police state. It is out of question here what their intent was. What came to happen as a result is what is important. It is what we have before us right now.
It may be the last war against virtue in Pakistan if we allow our last embankment to be swept away by this hilly torrent. This embankment is our constitution. It seems the enemy has crossed over all the ditches we have dug for our safety. It has run over all the forts and fortresses we have built to protect us. It has penetrated inside us. It has found allies from amongst us. And now it is up to take head-on to our last stronghold, our constitution.
It’s time we realize the importance and significance of the constitution. It’s like life to us, our people, nation and our country. We are in one word this constitution. Pakistan has no other meaning. If this meaning is lost to the Taliban brand of virtue, Pakistan will lose its meaning. The losing of the constitution is tantamount to losing the security of the fundamental rights to every citizen. The losing of the security of the fundamental rights means losing the freedoms of every citizen to live in accordance with his conscience. That in turn amounts to the losing of all possibility of virtue in our society. Let us save virtue! Let us save the constitution of Pakistan!
The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free market think tank.