The Caliph Syndrome

CJP-Mian-Saqib-Nisar-PakistanToday-1 - e

Source: Pakistan Today

Cheif Justice Saqib Nisar is determined to make an important contribution to world history. He knows he will not get this chance ever again.

When he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, by none other than the very Prime Minister whose demise has been caused by the infamous Panama Papers verdict, he knew that he had to leave a mark on the world. But more than that, he was motivated by a philosophy of governance deeply ingrained by the traditional Islamic upbringing. I call it the Caliph Syndrome in the case of Pakistan but actually it is nothing more than Messiah Complex. This mindset, if not megalomania and delusional narcissism, has led to judicial activism the likes of which were not even reached during the term of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, the first one to go into this territory, euphoric after his restoration after a dismissal by dictator President Pervez Musharraf.

This Messiah Complex is further fed by the notion of expecting a savior, which has been In Islamic tradition, there is a ridiculously puritanical and idealistically exaggerated concept of governance in the pattern of Caliph Umer II. Some people attribute that style of governance to Umer I which holds that the Caliph or the emperor is supposed to be answerable for the death of even a lamb in a remote corner of the domain. While this sounds all good, the person who is supposed to be infatuated with this idea is the governor of the land, not the ombudsman who is supposed to ensure that law and order are kept. However, what if this zealotry actually leads to the ombudsman violating the lines set by the law and general ethics?

The Chief Justice has not only been consistently interfering in the operations of the administrative branch but has been on a rampage in terms of making ridiculous statements. This does not mean that his intentions are not good even though politically speaking he is being dubbed as the stooge of the military and bureaucratic establishment. To push this theory even further, you would find the media taking all opportunities to highlight his heroics on national TV and encouraging him to indulge further in judicial activism, with the exception of a few responsible journalists. This Chief Justice, like Iftikhar Chaudhary, has particularly been concerned with the way he is portrayed in the media.

It is perhaps the Caliph Syndrome, which so easily persuades otherwise responsible civil servants to take up the role of the Messiah, and it is perhaps the same factor that makes people so attracted to such figures. There is no surprise that the Messiah Chief Justice is the hero of many who cannot help but admire his visits to the local hospitals to inspect their operation. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif doing that was so 2010s.

He talks about a lot of things that the people want to hear, such as the delivery of speedy trials, public servants making the most of their time for official duties, and respecting the law and the constitution. However, his good words are undermined by the fact that he is a loudmouth with a broken filter and even that is understating the chaos that his words are causing. A person who loves to hear his own voice and who loves flaunting his old school literary chauvinism, he attracted flak with the use of his sexist analogies.

Sometimes, the lack of filter on his speech can even take darker turns, which show a glimpse of bigotry in this custodian of the Constitution and the Rights of the People. His hate for the Hindu community is evident from his Urdu language comment cited in the following clip from a Pakistani talk show.

However, there is a reason you see no other judge around the world inspecting school and hospitals.

The very fact that he lectures and his role of fatherly advice that is a problem in terms of law and order. His use of the bully pulpit is precisely what is wrong with his understanding of his role. And going out of his way for skirmishes with the leaders of a certain political party make his apolitical role controversial and partisan.

What makes the entire “Baba Rehmatey” phenomenon so ironical and hilarious is that fact that the preacher himself is violating the principles he is preaching others to follow. The most responsible person in the society is performing his job, as hardworking and sincere he may be, with utter irresponsibility.

But if Saqib Nisar thinks he is unique in this contribution, he is not the first person who considers himself Caliph Umer I in Pakistani society and he most certainly will not be the last.

 

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The Politics of Personality Worship Cults

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

An overwhelming number of Pakistanis draw many of their life lessons from religion. It is an important part of their personal beliefs that extends to personal relationships, lifestyle, social habits, world view and politics, of course.

While religion has its due benefits, it could not have possibly affected an area of life more adversely than politics. Not only does it twist the concept of the government and its role, but terribly destroys the approach of the masses toward politics due to Messianic influences in its teachings.

While this sweeping commentary may seem far-fetched to some, it is not hard to observe clear displays in Pakistani politics supporting this notion. None is more obvious than the way we rally around our leaders and how far we are willing to go in our submission.

Religious indoctrination has conditioned people in Pakistan to turn political parties into personality worship cults.

A good number of political parties devote solemn attention and unconditional submission to their holy leaders. Not very different to the way the local religious people devote worshipful attention to their holy spiritual leaders.

Combine that with the Messianic effect and it drives home a very unhealthy approach toward politics, and life itself. It helps followers escape personal responsibility and build unrealistic expectations as far as addressing issues is concerned.

And if by accident, or by deliberated effort, a leader is killed, then they are raised to the status of martyred saints.

This approach to politics is probably a reason behind the support of dictatorships and monarchies among people in the Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Why bother about democracy when you are willing to give up your rights for a beloved leader?

Another problem with personality worship cults is that it deprives a political group of logic and reason, discourages progressive debate and gives way to unreasonable political tactics. But above all, it maintains the golden rule of religions.

The authority must not be questioned.

And where there are personality worship cults, there are blasphemy laws.

Even secular political parties can act like cults, forcing shutting down cities in protest of their leader being insulted. Likewise, you would often see these cult-like parties waste weeks, if not months, over needless juvenile squabbles and obscene name-calling. It always involves one cult party insulting the holy figure of the other, causing wide outrage.

As soon as the blasphemy is committed against the party leader, logic and reason are locked out of the debate. And well, then there is no debate.

The sooner we move to issues in our political debates, the sooner we would be able to help restore people’s faith in democracy. But while doing so, we need to learn an even more important lesson.

Let’s stop blaming others for our problems. Let’s use democracy as a tool for the same. Don’t render it useless by turning it into a war of cults.

No, democracy is not perfect. It does not promise you prosperity, or paradise.

But that’s no reason to wait for a Messiah, or blindly rallying behind one.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

We Win or No Democracy

Source: AP/Indian Express

Source: AP/Indian Express

The current political crisis in Pakistan is a case of dangerous and deluded impostors posing as saviors and false prophets, playing with the hopes of children.

We have a political group in our country which is willing to accept democracy only if it manages to win an election. It is willing to accept the function of a state if only it submits to their dictates.

And if not, then the democratic system they so disapprove of must go in favor of military rule, or even mob rule, no matter if nearly 60% of the population voted for it.

They would rather see the military rule established, then see this corrupt, unjust democracy exist.

In other words, a considerable number of people in this country need babysitting. Actually, babies are easier to manage.

It is a world of well meaning idiots who believe that the eschatological Messiah has arrived, and no one else has the right to rule. Like followers of a cult’s true prophet, they would bow their heads to every demand he makes.

It is a world of delusional moralists who would cite fundamental rights to justify their excesses as they would selectively invoke Islam and Hadith, while otherwise having contempt for democracy.

It is a world of audacious cynics whose day would not pass without making a dozen jests about the futility of democracy and the rule of law.

It is a world of self-righteous patriots who would gladly jump to shout treason and would justify insulting and storming the symbols of the state.

It is a world in which there is no room for dissent.

Yet their struggle must go on for true democracy, which is as elusive as the cryptic true Islam that they follow. One that is being  perpetually misinterpreted.

Their struggle must go on until the demands from their beloved leader are met, in the exact order and no matter how unreasonable they sound.

But the protest must go on till true justice is served.

Until this air conditioned populist revolution is brought about.

Until the ultimate act of salvation is attained.

Until the Mighty Imran Khan becomes the Prime Minister.

And the President, and the Chief Justice, and the Caretaker, and the Emir, and the Law.