The Meaning of Honor
In a recent piece in the Express Tribune Dr. Hoodbhoy took aim at the concept of ghairatmand (honor) and in so doing ignited a firestorm of protest as evidenced by the appearance of at least two articles, and numerous comments, designed to rebut his thesis. In a nation where the notion of honor may be all that is left, the backlash cannot have been unexpected. Regardless of Dr. Hoodbhoy’s true feelings, or intent, one can hardly deny that his article, at the very least, resulted in the concept of honor becoming a subject of public discussion, rather than being accepted as an unmitigated good. Although I believe I understand why Dr. Hoodbhoy may have presented his thesis in a way designed to provide sharply contrasting choices, I also believe he missed the chance to address a related topic in a way that would have provided additional support to his thesis.
My original title for the article was to have been, “What good is honor without a set of corresponding values?”, and I mention it here because it encapsulates not only the theme of what I am about to present, but also what I see as the underlying issue which Dr. Hoodbhoy was attempting to address. Obviously Dr. Hoodbhoy speaks for himself and I make no claim to having access to his inner thoughts, but I wished to make it clear that I see this article as one which supports, and builds, on the foundation provided by his original article. In essence, what I took from his article is that honor, without reason, is not honorable at all.
If my assumption is correct than we must first address why a discussion regarding values must preceed the discussion regarding honor. Values represent the destination, while honor can sometimes be the appropriate vehicle of transportation. “Honor” in the service of inappropriate values simply dishonors the concept itself. From the Western, if not universal, point of view, both Japan and Germany, countries referenced in the original article, were brought to the brink of disaster as a result of their almost pathological focus on honor to the exclusion of anything else. When honor becomes the sole criteria for determining one’s behavior all else is bound to suffer. Where I may differ from Dr. Hoodbhoy is in my belief that honor can be an ennobling concept, but only if one has first fully examined the values which honor is designed to protect.
It is at this point where I may be jumping into the murkiest of waters without the equipment necessary to determine what lays beneath the surface. I make this proverbial leap of faith based primarily on the fact that I have seen others, such as Dr. Hoodbhoy, make it before me, and in the hope that others might follow as a result of seeing more people, such as myself, make the jump before them. It is the only way. The problem is, of course, that conversations in Pakistan which propose to examine values can be fraught with danger. The choice thus becomes a question of whether one retreats and hopes for the best, or leads the way and hopes that enough likeminded people will speak up and, in doing so, create enough momentum to ensure that the movement eventually reaches some kind of critical mass.
In any event, when discussing the Pakistani concept of ghairatmand, it seems that perhaps the more fundamental questions related to such concepts as which values are being defended, should they be defended, and are they being defended in an appropriate way, are often simply ignored. Essentially, in this context, the concept of ghairatmand seems to be defined as nothing more than the notion that any hint on the part of others suggesting that the individual concerned should reexamine his world view and, perhaps, make appropriate changes, is seen as the highest of insults. I would suggest that it is this inability to separate who one is (one’s individual worth), from how one thinks. From an Islamic perspective, this might be summed up in the oft repeated phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”. In other words, if we are to accept that honor is defined by one never changing, never considering any other view than one’s own, and never taking the consequences of one’s actions into consideration, than we can only assume that no one, at any time, can ever be expected to change in any way. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Islam supports chaos and that eternal conflict is inevitable. I choose to reject such intent on the part of Islam, and thus suggest that there is no dishonor in considering another’s point of view. Honor in the defense of truth is admirable, honor used simply as a crutch to avoid responsibility for what may follow is not worthy of the term.
In conclusion I ask you to consider the following questions, as I cannot provide the answers. Can stoning a girl to death for being raped really be justified as something that a just God would support? Is bombing a mosque really more favored than refusing to give, or take, baksheesh? Is cutting off the hand of a thief really going to do anything other than leave many Pakistanis short one appendage? All of us have the capability of changing ourselves, and in so doing, making the world a better place. What Pakistan needs, not that Pakistan is alone, is an open, honest, and peaceful discussion on values, after which honor, in its truest sense, will not be a problem.
This is not a question that, in my opinion, has been adequately examined, and certainly not in the public discourse. The knee-jerk reaction is to agree that the United States should declare victory and leave the area with all deliberate speed. I happen to disagree with that point of view.
There are a number of factors which I would suggest one needs to consider in looking at the situation in Afghanistan. In the first place, the United States cannot continue to parachute into any situation it deems problematic, destroy any hope of success for the people living there, and than wave goodbye with crocodile tears and best wishes for good luck. This is doubly true in Afghanistan, where we’ve already done the same thing at the time of the Soviet Withdrawal.
It is truly criminal for us to seduce indigenous people into supporting us while we are in their country, only to abandon them to their fate as soon as it suits us. Contrary to popular belief, there are a significant number of Afghans who will not only be sad to see us go, but whose lives will be at risk when that time comes. Are we really so short-sighted and bereft of any sense of morality that we fail to see that we can do well by doing good?
Now it is true that there are a number of problems which need to be addressed, not the least of which is to recognize that Afghanistan is a country divided along ethnic, tribal, and religious lines. I am not suggesting that it is our job to impose a particular system on the area, but certainly supporting those who support us is not too much to ask.
I would suggest a much greater use of the “carrot”, but backed with the defensive presence of the “stick” in order to synthesize our objectives with the objectives of the Afgan people. Simply allowing this country to slide back into chaos is neither good for them, or for us.
The Headline in Al Arabiya News dated January 15, 2012 (see below)
got me to thinking about whether Pakistan has the right to impose such a blockade in the first place. Although some may think the answer self-evident, I would suggest that the answer might not be quite as obvious as it first appears. It all depends on whether Pakistan recognizes the Durand Line, and the treaty which proclaimed it, or not. Up to this point, Pakistan has looked to the treaty as documentation to support its border claims over Afghanistan regarding certain disputed territory, but perhaps it now wishes to change its point of view. In the same treaty establishing the Durand Line one finds the following:
“Being fully satisfied of His Highness’s goodwill to the British Government, and wishing to see Afghanistan independent and strong, the Government of India will raise no objection to the purchase and import by His Highness of munitions of war, and they will themselves grant him some help in this respect. ”
I’m just not sure if blockading supplies really meets the terms of the agreement.
This article was previously posted elsewhere and is being reposted here as I attempt to consolidate all my posts on the subject of Pakistan in one location.
In my article titled “Afghanistan-Pakistan’s War” I suggested that understanding Pakistan can be very difficult due to the number of diverse threads that seem to be present in virtually every issue. Keeping that in mind, this article will take a look at why Pakistan doesn’t seem to be able to get along with any of its neighbors and how that affects the outlook of both its policy makers and its citizens. My focus here will be on the question of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
When Pakistan became an independent country in 1947 it both inherited and created a number of border problems which continue to this day. Iran represents the only country sharing a border with Pakistan which also recognizes the legality of that shared border along its entire length, and even in that case, as we shall see there are others who disagree. I would suggest that this question of its territorial integrity, which has been present from the very genesis of the nation, contributes greatly to its tendency towards paranoia, aggressiveness in the face of perceived threats, the heightened patriotism represented by “my country, right or wrong (but never wrong)”, and the fact that most Pakistanis embrace its armed forces as a protector of Pakistan in virtually every way.
We shall see that, although religion does play a part in the drama, highlighted by the name change to “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, the fact of the matter is it’s major disputes happen to be with others who share the same faith, specifically Afghanistan, East Pakistan, and Baluchistan. On the other hand, most people, including Pakistanis, seem to focus on the border disputes with India. This may be due to the number of armed conflicts which have occurred between the two countries or it may be because Pakistan was formed out of British India, but regardless of the reason, it seems that the border disputes between Pakistan and India might be the logical first area to focus our attention.
It really all begins with the British, not to absolve either the Indians or the Pakistanis of their responsibility. At the time of independence India, and what became Pakistan, was a patchwork of different political entities with varying types of relationships between themselves and the British Crown. Contrary to what many may believe, neither the Crown, nor the British Government, exercised full control over each and every area of “India”. A significant portion of the landmass was the property of native rulers who retained varying degrees of autonomy from the British internally, while effectively ceding control over various governmental functions, most notably foreign policy. In effect, they were independent states who, through various means, had been convinced to ally themselves with the British. Their autonomous nature became a problem as it became clear that the British were leaving. The end result, both before and after independence, was that through a series of false assurances and broken promises, followed by military action if all else failed, they were integrated, with very few exceptions, into either India and Pakistan. Two of these areas, Kashmir and Baluchistan, continue to be sources of conflict today, with Kashmir being divided between India and Pakistan, and Baluchistan to be discussed later in this article. For a number of reasons, whether one agrees with them or not, few areas which chose to use their right to remain independent were allowed to do so, and in the several cases, with tragic results.
There remain two major areas of contention between India and Pakistan regarding their shared border, with both areas hosting military action on various occasions since 1947. In the case of the Rann of Kutch, the conflict is a continuation of an unresolved dispute between the former British Indian State of Bombay and the Princely State of Kutch. Based on information from the previously linked site, the precise border has yet to be finalized. The real prize, however, lays far to the north, in the area known as Kashmir, where an official border has never been recognized and thus the line of demarcation goes by the name of the Line of Control (LOC). Kashmir is presently divided with both India and Pakistan laying claim to the entire state, China claiming a small sliver and with the added complication of a fourth group advocating complete independence. Until this dispute is resolved there can be no real peace between India and Pakistan.
As mentioned, in a related dispute, China also lays claim to parts of Kashmir, which it borders from the north, and thus can be counted as yet another country with which Pakistan originally had unresolved issues. Although Pakistan and India, and, for that matter China and India, have yet to agree on a mutually satisfactory border, Pakistan and China have done so, and, as a result Pakistan and China enjoy relatively good relations. This map provides a good visual as to the present Kashmir situation.
We now move west to Afghanistan which represents the first of three disputes that Pakistan has with countries with majority Muslim populations and thus the justifications are no longer couched in religious terms. The British legacy is once again present with its original aims no longer relevant to the present political situation. In this case, Pakistan considers itself to be the legitimate heir to a treaty originally agreed to between the British and the rulers of the area we now know as Afghanistan which resulted in the famed Durand Line. Afghanistan disputes this border as discussed in the link provided. The fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot agree on a mutually satisfactory border suggests a high degree of motivation on the part of the Pakistanis to control the situation. The original trouble lies, once again, in the British insistence of integrating what had been virtually independent states under its rule, into either India or Pakistan. A quick look at the map will tell the story as to how important it is to Pakistan to retain to land east of the Durand Line.
On the other hand, for Afghanistan, moving the line eastward, barring other factors, would give it access to the sea and the port of Gwadar, which is located in the present Pakistani province of Baluchistan. One can understand why Pakistan might find this to be a bit unacceptable and thus explains why any events in Afghanistan are considered to have a significant effect on Pakistan’s vital interests.
One might think that Pakistan has quite enough to handle, and yet separatist movements continue to plague it as well. In the case of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, the question was settled in 1971, when East Pakistan declared its independence from what had been essentially a West Pakistani Pakistan national government. The loss of Bangladesh continues to affect the national psyche as exemplified by recent discussions in the Express Tribune, as well as other Pakistani media, provoked by a newly published book by Sarmila Bose entitled, Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War.
Bangladesh may have been lost, but no Pakistani leader wishes to be responsible for the loss of Baluchistan, a mineral rich province that is also the largest of the four Pakistani provinces. Various measures have been taken through out the years, beginning from Partition, but at this point some Baluchis continue to agitate for an independent state. Depending on the group, the area constituting an independent Baluchistan could be made up of territory presently controlled by Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan which further confuses the issue. Here again, Pakistan sees its relationship with Afghanistan as one of vital importance.
In writing this article, I am not attempting to take sides, nor suggest that Pakistan does not have the right to be concerned. I have only skimmed the surface in an attempt to simply present the fact that Pakistan, regardless of fault, is essentially surrounded by neighbors who lay claim to some of what they consider to be their territory. This reality certainly has an effect on how they view the world, and how they conduct their foreign policy. Thank you for your interest.
1.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_integration_of_India#Princely_States_in_British_India A great overview although I was also able to verify the information from various other sources.
“The dispute predates the creation of India and Pakistan and stems from a dispute between the British Indian State of Bombay and the Princely State of Kutch in the first decade of the 20th century.”
Other articles on Pakistan you may find of interest..(I will soon be moving them to this site)
“To Coup, or Not To Coup…That is the question”
“Does Pakistan have the legal right to cut NATO/American supply lines to Afghanistan?”
article on “new map” without map.
Posted Previously elsewhere…2012/1/17
I may be late to the party, but I do have some thoughts on the subject of the NRO and would like to share them.
My analysis should be taken as an outsider looking in, and I don’t suggest that there may not be more to the situation than meets the eye. In any event, questions remains as to what President Musharraf’s intentions were and whether determining the NRO to be unconstitutional was in the best interests of Pakistan.
For the most part I am a supporter of the previous President, but I am in no way a blind supporter. Taking that into account, let’s take a look at what could have been his reasoning at the time of the agreement. I suggest his motives may have been pure which might also have some bearing on the somewhat disgusting way he is being treated at the present time.
Assume for the moment, that his actions which culminated in his becoming the President of Pakistan were taken for the purest of motives. What is his legacy, at this point, and should he be allowed to participate in the political process?
There is no doubt that in seizing power he short circuited the political process and ignored the Constitution of Pakistan which was in place at the time. Speaking from the perspective of an American citizen, it is true that similar activities on the part of a top American military officer would, in virtually any circumstance of which I am aware, be considered treasonous. On the other hand, it’s not as if Americans have not experienced a loss of Constitutional Rights on certain occasions based on the leadership’s contention that such temporary actions were necessary to “save the country”.
Personally, I find the present situation somewhat ironic if viewed from a certain perspective. The first thing to remember is that Pakistan is a very different place politically precisely because of Musharraf’s actions. Coups, rightly or wrongly, were not only accepted, but widely supported by large numbers of people from virtually every segment of the society at the time he seized power. Even today, there are those who wonder about the necessity of some form of internal military action and the subject has been seriously debated not only privately, but in the Pakistani Media. I would thus suggest that, in his case, there is a legitimate argument to be made that his actions did, in fact, reflect the will of the people.
What Pakistan would have become without him is, or course, a question which can never be answered with any degree of certainty. Certainly it would seem that he always had the interests of Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan, as his top priority in making the decisions he did. Acknowledging that inner core of patriotism does not suggest that one must agree with every decision he made. Baluchi’s, and others, may, for example, take issue with his response to the unrest in Baluchistan, but one cannot deny that his aim was to keep Pakistan from losing any more territory as had occurred in the early 70.s with East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
It is unfortunate that many of his more progressive domestic initiatives do seem to get lost due to the very real security issues that continue to face the country. No one can suggest that he was successful in blunting the influence of the various religious leaders and factions within the country itself, and yet at the same time, he instituted a number of policies which seemingly were designed to do that very thing. Apparently some felt that they were, considering the number of failed assassination attempts. My belief is that he fell prey to the very same hubris of so many other Pakistanis, particularly politicians, who believe they can use them as proxies to meet certain policy objectives, while being able to control them when they are no longer of value. Ironic, considering that it is a very similar type of accusation which is aimed at the Americans, at which time the negative consequences are much more acknowledged.
The point is that I could really make a case either way regarding Musharraf’s security legacy, both from a Pakistani, and an American, point of view. I will say that I disagree that he was an American “lackey” and would again suggest that it was Pakistan’s, not America’s, interests which were at the heart of his decision making process.
We now come to the real point of the article. I would suggest that, in large part, Pakistan owes the present political climate, which seems to include a much more solid commitment on the part of its citizens to its democratic institutions and the rule of law, such as it is, to the man who they are effectively barring from returning to the country by issuing a warrant for his arrest. Here’s why, and I now return to the NRO to make my point.
Regardless of any of his other actions, Musharraf did eventually relinquish the reins of power in a relatively peaceful way. Certainly he fell prey to the notion that his leadership was indispensable to Pakistan’s future success, but every leader necessarily feels that his way is the best way, and one must admit that he often spoke in favor of the principles of democracy and that the legitimacy of any government is determined by the level of support given to it by the governed.
In terms of the NRO, it would seem to me that for Musharraf not to have made the agreement would have left him open to charges of suppressing the will of the people by barring some of the more popular individuals from offering themselves as candidates. This is certainly not just an assumption based on the past, but a reality based on the results of the election which was subsequently held. In other words, it is the very people that were covered under the NRO that ended up winning the election. This would seem to vindicate the NRO agreement from a “fair choice” perspective, and argue against it as a good political strategy for Musharraf personally. This would also suggest that Musharraf should be given the same opportunity to place his hat in the ring and allow the people of Pakistan to either support or reject his quest for higher office. It seems to me that to do otherwise would now leave the present leadership open to the same charges of attempting to suppress the opposition.
There have been quite a number of other articles written on the unfairness of Blasphemy laws, but here I would like to concentrate on how these laws hurt the society, not just the minority members of the society.
Now, it is true that they do what they are designed to do, eliminate the very thing that differentiates Man from any other living thing. That “thing” is the ability to think, to reason, and to adjust, as new information becomes available. Actually, even animals know enough to change their behavior when the circumstances warrant it. The avowed purpose of any Blasphemy Law is to eliminate the possibility of change which, in essence, eliminates any examination of the underlying premise. What can have a more dampening effect on innovation and progress than killing anyone who might question the way things are done now? What can be more of an obstacle to finding God, than to forcibly prevent people from searching for him? One might suggest that everything which is “wrong” with Islam can be found in the need by some of its adherents to prevent any discussion on what Islam means to the individual, whether he be a Muslim, or from some other faith.
Some have argued that it is not the Blasphemy Law that is at fault, but the problem lies in the way it is applied. I reject this point of view, for the reasons already stated. Whether or not Islam is responsible for the myriad of problems which many Islamic countries face is not up to me to decide, but the absolute legal and societal restrictions which forbid even asking certain questions might be a characteristic that needs further examination.
Apologizes to anyone who may visit prior to February 1, 2012. Design and layout should be completed, with previous articles imported here, and new articles on the way.
I look forward to hearing from you then.