NationalVolume 14 Issue # 14

Law, morality and extremism in Pakistan

It is an established fact that law and morality, two very complex, abstract and abstruse notions, are rendering yeoman’s services in regulating and controlling societies, joining scattered groups, keeping order and unity in the world.

History sheds light on the paramount importance of law and morality in controlling people’s attitude and shaping society.  Without them, there could not have been any oraginsed group, society, institution, city, state, concept of reward and punishment, legitimate and illegitimate, justice and injustice, right and wrong, love and hate, good and bad, virtue and vice, etc. in the world. Toynbee declares that justice and moral rules have created all the known 26 civilisations. While, they crumbled due to injustice and immorality along with some other common reasons.

Law, “the system of rules which a particular country or community recognises as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties”, changes with new developments in society and morality. As far as the functions of law are concerned, different thinkers have different views. Aristotle, Thomas Hobbs, Thomas Aquinas, etc. believe law should follow moral principles. Aristotle says: “just law allows individuals to fulfil themselves in society”. Positivists like John Austin, Hans Kelson, and H. L. A. Hart etc. declare morality should be separated from law. Legal Realists like Jerome Frank and Karl Llewellyn say law should be seen as “what it is rather than what it ought to be”. While, Marxists see law as a tool that the Bourgeoisie uses to control the Proletariat. While, morality, “a personal or social set of standards for good or bad behaviour and character, or the quality of being right and honest”, is the very foundation of a society. Rulers, like law, could use morality to protect their own partisan interests. Machiavelli says politics have no relation to morals. While, Napoleon Bonaparte asserts “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” It means that law and morality could be used positively as well as negatively.

Unfortunately, the ruling elite is using both law and morality negatively in Pakistan. With these tools, the ruling elite is controlling, ruling and deceiving the poor people of Pakistan. Law is protecting and prolonging their cruel rule. Nawaz Sharif, who is a proven corrupt man, is still wielding his power of wealth and politics from jail in Pakistan. Law has given a relief to him, his daughter Maryam and brother Shahbaz Sharif. He told many lies even in the parliament. But, shamelessly, he has termed his statements as political statements, not morally wrong. His all supporters, including religious parties, have accepted his logic. In their eyes, to lie in politics is not a sin or crime. Zardari, who proved himself a mentally ill man in the court of a foreign country, was later elected as the President of Pakistan. There are many cases of corruption against him, his sister, PPP Sindh government members and close friends, like Malik Riaz. But, he and his party’s members, like Khursheed Shah, are openly threatening the PTI government with a movement if they will be arrested. All PPP supporters accept his corruption and lies as something normal and ethical. They are not willing to accept their corruption as a sin or crime. Imran Khan, who has lead a life of playboy, takes pride in breaking his promise by terming it U-turn. He has, shamelessly, accommodated many downright corrupt politicians in his government. It clearly shows, practically, he does not believe in morality. He is using justice, honesty, patriotism, corruption-free Pakistan to deceive the people of Pakistan. With his approval Shahbaz Sharif is heading the PAC (Public Account Committee). In short, in the eyes of the ruling elite, to tell lies and betray the country and its people is not an immoral act.          

The ruling elite has also created extremism to protect their own partisan interests in the country. This extremism has killed many innocent people and divided society. But, now, the government and judiciary are taking some steps to curb extremism and corruption.   

In this regard, in the National Security Committee, held under PM Imran Khan, announced that the state cannot be allowed to “become hostage to extremism”. So, an action against some religious parties has started. It is a very good step, but efforts should be made to change the mind-set of students who are studying in madrassahs in the country. Madrassah reforms should be introduced as soon as possible if we want to create a moderate society. The establishment has tried to ban militant organisations many times in the past, but they come back with new names. The Musharraf government banned many sectarian and jihadi groups in 2002, yet the effort proved futile as the groups continued to spread hate and violence among the people with new names. The establishment has also tried to bring the extremists groups into mainstream politics. Thies effort has also proved failure. The TLP’s case can be presented here to prove that these parties promote extremism not only in politics but also in the country. The government should also try to stop fundraising of these organisations. Their organisational and communication systems should also be targeted to halt extremist ideas. The Punjab government has taken over a madrassah linked with Jaish-e-Mohammad in Bahawalpur. It is a good step. The government should also take every step to implement the NAP fully in the country, if it wants to get rid of extremism. Every effort should be taken to shut down madrassahs, who which are spreading hate and extremism among the people.

It is also very heartening that the Apex Court has issued a strong verdict in the 2017 Faizabad sit-in case. The verdict of a two-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musheer Alam, can be termed a watershed moment in Pakistan’s constitutional history.

“A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016”, ordered the SC. “When institutions stay within their designated constitutional boundaries and there is an effective system of check and balance, citizens stay safe and the state prospers. The trouble starts with self-proclaimed saviours,” reads the judgement.

 “Those who resort to abuse, hate and violence should never be pampered, instead they should fear the state, its police and intelligence agencies,” observed the verdict, authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

About the responsibilities of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the verdict says, “if a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties, then the ECP must proceed against it in accordance with the law, which is, most certainly not, cosmetic.” Broadcasters who broadcast messages advocating or inciting the commission of an offence violated the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Ordinance and the terms of their licences and must be proceeded against in accordance with the law, the verdict said.

With this historic verdict, the Apex Court has fulfilled its responsibility is very difficult and threatening times. It is now the duty of the PTI government and other state institutions to abide by the verdict. They should implement it in letter and spirit, if they want to get rid of extremism and fatwas. But, unfortunately, the checkered history of Pakistan tells that the ruling elite likes to implement those verdicts quickly and readily, which enhance its power and wealth. Anything which decreases its influence is taken for granted.