Visit To DG SCPA
March 26, 2019
Azadi Ki Zaban
March 26, 2019

A Matter of ‘Honour’


Sixty three years of Pakistan’s  pent-up  ‘honour’,   sovereignty,  ‘ghairat’,  ‘hammiat’ and  ‘izzat’, have  finally been shaken out of  deep slumber by a  single American.  So what if we do not know his real name, why we gave him a visa  or what he actually does for a living.   What we do know is that  when ever not  performing  his supposedly  technical and administrative duties, his favourite pastimes are   photography, transmitters, military installations and militant Talibans.  He is also reckless with his  Glock pistol and killed two  inquisitive motor cyclists  who  were  getting unduly nosy about  his suspicious  hobbies.  Understandably there is much distress, anguish and anger amongst the people, whose dignity and self esteem have once again been badly bruised and trampled.   The government on the other hand,  caught between the dilemma of  displeasing  Americans  or displeasing its own people would  soon find a  suitable ‘formula’ that any  dependent  and  debt-ridden government must discover on such occasions.


The case of Raymond Davis is not an issue of national honour.  It is an issue of law, and must be dealt  with accordingly.   Statements from Pakistani leaders such as “ the issue of killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in broad daylight by a US embassy employee has become a matter of national respect”,  not just  narrow but also camouflage the scope of  what  constitutes our national honour.  Let us look at a number of situations to see how lopsided and superficial concepts of honour contribute to the  voice of  irrationality and intolerance in our society.


Of course Raymond Davis was carrying an illegal weapon in his car.   But is it not a fact  that  a very large majority of our ruling elite, the powerful and the influential of this country not just carry  illegal weapons but also publicly display them in broad day light.   Why has this bigger issue never become  a matter of our national honour.   We all know that an American has killed two Pakistanis and he must be punished.  But what happened to Pakistanis who buried alive five women in Balochistan,  who raped Mukhtaran Mai infront of her entire village or who burnt alive the Christians of  the Gojra village.  None of them have received punishments while those who condoned these acts ended up becoming our federal ministers. How come the state, the clergy and even the civil society was happy paying a lip service and did not consider  these issues a matter of  national honour?


The visas to some 500 Americans  of the Raymond Davis category  were issued by the government of Pakistan, knowing fully well  that they will be engaged in similar shady activities.  Are we not ourselves responsible for  creating  this problem.  Where had our honour disappeared at that time.  Will  we not question the presence of these 500 agents or will we wait for a repeat of Raymond Davis and then invoke our sleepy national honour as an instrument of damage control.


From what Veena Malik wore in India to how Salman Taseer was killed in Islamabad, the preaching brigade will be the first to  come out with (often misleading) interpretations of honour. Could one ask them as to what honour was at stake, when they refused to say the final prayers for Salman Taseer, knowing fully well that  he had not committed blasphemy.  Where had the national honour of Pakistan disappeared  when the Imam of  Mohabat  Khan Mosque declared an award for killing Asia Bibi and the state decided to sheepishly look the other way.


The Higher Education commission has confirmed 57 law makers to have made it to the parliament on the basis of  fraudulent degrees.  Another  298 refused to submit their degrees to avoid public humiliation.  Was it honourable for the compromised Election Commission and Higher Education Commission to sleep over this matter  and let Pakistan be ruled by fraudulent parliamentarians.  The message conveyed to the people of Pakistan is that    Raymond Davis’s forging a wrong name for himself  is a violation of  our national honour.   Three hundred  parliamentarians doing the same to their degrees is not.


Our honour is not compromised when we accumulate  a debt of 55 billion dollars, that has largely  facilitated  an obscenely rich elite to become even richer but failed to provide a pair of slippers or clean drinking water to the millions of impoverished.    How can we not see any relationship between    our  obsessive begging  our continued dependency on foreign loans and the disdain with which we are viewed by other nations. How come this is not considered the number one item on our list of ‘national honour’.


How do we cope with our honour when we have 62 million Pakistanis who live below poverty line, their women  abused, their children deprived and their men awaiting a meaningful livelihood.  Surely there is something terribly wrong with our sense of honour when we remain oblivious to  the presence of  8000  ghost schools (only in one province)  just because  the children who go to these schools belong to a class that has no place in  our already pre-occupied  imagination.


It is  non-productive, self-defeating and dangerous for modern nations to cling to feudal and fake  concepts  of ‘honour’.  We need to come to some common understanding of where our honour lies.  It lies in  building a tolerant and peaceful society  that provides  a decent quality of life and equal economic opportunity to all citizens.  It lies in creating a society that can push its ruling class towards greater accountability,  ethical behaviour, austerity and better performance.  It lies in protecting its women, children and minorities and providing easy, equal and efficient justice to all.   On all these counts, we have failed miserably.  So let us pause for a moment and rediscover and redefine what we mean when we say,  “it is a matter of our honour”.


Naeem Sadiq

Express Tribune Feb. 2011