Duty to One’s Country

Pakistani Supreme Court’s moral and ethical obligation to the downtrodden and poverty stricken citizens must ensure that country’s leaders are morally and ethically qualified to govern.

Posted on 02/8/17
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
The Supreme Court of Pakistan's building in Islamabad where Panamagate hearing is being held. (Photo by Aamer Ahmed, CC license)
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s building in Islamabad where Panamagate hearing is being held. (Photo by Aamer Ahmed, CC license)

Duty is what one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation. Recognizing a duty means a person theoretically commits himself to its fulfillment without considering one’s own self-interest, even involving some sacrifice of immediate self-interest. Duty is often perceived as something owed to one’s country (patriotism), or to one’s homeland or community. Remember John Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address when he quoted his former Headmaster George St John, albeit without attributing, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”


Questions of national, ethnic, sectarian and religious identity were debated in the aftermath of 9/11. The spread of terrorism had already started causing deep fissures in muslim societies, some countries used that as a pretext to label “freedom fighters” as “terrorists”.   Frustrations forcibly kept latent erupted in the form of the “Arab Spring”. Many Arab countries descended into chaos, their mostly mediocre hereditary leadership adding to the mayhem. With Al-Qaeda inculcating a more virulent form of terrorism, the Islamic State (IS) came into being.Setting personal examples of propriety and moral behavior, the foremost duty of the leaders of any reasonably just political society should be to make their country a better place for their citizens to live in, a higher purpose than the affiliation to various individuals, entities and/or family, etc.


In societies consumed with “individualism,” personal gratification and self-interest becomes paramount. Democracy is not at fault, the moral quality of our leadership across the broad spectrum consists of dishonest, corrupt and incompetent persona whether in secular and religious parties, the socio-economic elite and the Armed Forces, bureaucracy, etc, almost all interested only in personal gain. The pure feudal thought is symbolized in graphic detail by not allowing local govt, the very basis of democracy, to work. Compounded by  incompetence and corruption, the State is prevented from maturing into a functioning system capable of problem-solving for its citizens Professor of Political Economy Alberto M. Piedra sums it up aptly, “once power falls into the hands of unscrupulous leaders “democratically” elected by a mass society, often suffering from pathological symptoms, the basic institutions of the country are challenged in order to meet the demands of those in power”. Even uniformed personnel have a problem distinguishing between what is a “lawful” or an “unlawful” command.


Only a selfless individual ready to sacrifice personal benefits for the goodwill of society and the nation should lead the nation. Politicians (with honourable exceptions) jostle for power using blatant lies and deceit as a means to an end, criminals and/or those having criminal record are common in our leadership. Least interested in making or passing laws, our parliamentarians mainly to table and approve amendments or policies beneficial to themselves e.g. additional perks and/or increase in emolument.


The menace is far from being eradicated due to the Army’s bold and timely actions, however military courts have been wound up. The corruption institutionalized in Pakistan by Musharraf’s National Reconciliation Order (NRO) is weighted to get mostly the corrupt elected, once in power they loot the nation paying only lip-service to eradicating widespread corruption. This no-holds-barred corruption reached its zenith in the 5 years of Zardari misrule. According to Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), Pakistan lost a staggering amount in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during this period. With practically no concept of or adherence to duty to one’s country (moral, civic or legal), there is an abysmal lack of accountability. Despite a clear nexus between corruption, organized crime and terrorism, none have  been targetted adequately individually and/or collectively due to our lackadaisical attitude.


Nepotism and corruption are not confined to politicians, top brass of the military, bureaucrats, industrialists and civic leaders are also guilty of putting themselves ahead of the interests of the country. PanamaGate has graphically exposed tax evasion and illegal flight of capital is indulged in by almost all members of our political parties who also have extremely poor tax records. Whenever they came to power the generals start cleaning up the system but end up becoming worse than the politicians they despise, compromising and making political deals to perpetuate their rule, totally oblivious to their duty to the country. Can some of the retired senior military officers justify their present standard of living from their known means of income even when force-multiplying their “perks” dozens of times over? The Armed Forces must speedup self-accountability without consideration of rank and appointment. Criminals have coughed up a small percentage of their ill-gotten wealth on the plea bargain/voluntary return “sweetheart” deal to regain their seats of power and indulge in corruption again. Give the Mian Nawaz Sharif regime credit for amending this black loophole being exploited by criminals.


In his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on Aug 11, 1947 the Quaid had said, “…. if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor” Unquote. Our present rulers push religion and ideology for their own survival. Equality before the law was the bedrock on which Islam is based, it is lacking in Pakistan. The Supreme Court (SC) has been put in an awkward position in PANAMAGATE where the people’s perception is that the accused are not on trial, those sitting on their judgement are. To quote a respected World Bank Legal Counsel, ‘’ immunity of any public office is not personal but relates to his/her official action.  Immunity does not extend to any personal unlawful/criminal actions, even when committed during or before the office”.


The Honorable Judges have taken their onerous responsibility literally to heart (we pray for Justice Shaikh Azmat Saeed’s health). Going strictly according to the literal application of the legal principles without concentrating on the gravity of the facts would affect the nation’s future. For the matter how can legal counsels from either side in all conscience equate the billions in cash (that also on Qatari hearsay) with whether taxes were paid or not paid? Failure to take cognizance of the wrongdoing by the Sharif family – even prima facie given the evidence on record – would create space for further various wrongdoings by the future leaders as the past ones like Zardari have exhibited, and totally destroy the moral and ethnic foundations of the nation. The SC’s moral and ethical obligation to the downtrodden and poverty stricken citizens must ensure that country’s leaders are similarly morally and ethically qualified to govern.


The writer is a defense and security analyst.

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