A matter of ‘honour’

Published: February 18, 2011
The writer is a health, safety and environment consultant at an organisation called Quality Concerns

The writer is a health, safety and environment consultant at an organisation called Quality Concerns

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 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 motorcyclists 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, will 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 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 daylight? 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 the Pakistanis who buried alive five women in Balochistan, who raped Mukhtaran Mai in front 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 federal ministers. How come the state, the clergy and even the civil society was happy paying lip service and did not consider these issues a matter of national honour?

Visas, to some 500 Americans of the Raymond Davis category, were issued by the government of Pakistan, knowing full well that they will be engaged in 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 Salmaan 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 Salmaan Taseer, knowing that he had not committed blasphemy? Where had the national honour of Pakistan disappeared when the Imam of Mohabbat Khan Mosque in Peshawar announced a cash reward for killing Aasia Bibi, and the state decided to sheepishly look the other way?

The Higher Education Commission has confirmed that 57 lawmakers have made it to the parliament on the basis of fraudulent degrees. Another 298 refused to submit their degrees — presumably to avoid public humiliation. Was it honourable for the compromised Election Commission and the 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, which 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 the 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 8,000 ghost schools (in one province only) just because the children who go to these schools belong to a class that has no place in our already-preoccupied 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’.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • Balwinder Sandhu
    Feb 19, 2011 - 12:06AM

    I wrote in another blog that I, an Indian felt the murder of these 3 men deeply. I also wroite that I found the suicide of one one of their widows even more deeply.
    I further said that if this had happened in India, then Raymond would be convicted. Period.
    And then comes along this brilliant analysis by the author who says that much greater crimes are committed daily in Pak. He reminds us of dealing with them as well.
    Brilliant Sir. Confirms my opinion that some of the best men and women in Pak are not sitting in govt. The day they did, Pakistan would be like India, and together we would conquer all.
    My best wishes, B Sandhu, of UK and IndiaRecommend

  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Feb 19, 2011 - 12:25AM

    Amazing! Recommend

  • American Lahori
    Feb 19, 2011 - 2:16AM

    If America wishes to show that it wants to be a Long-Term, All Weather Friend & Ally of Pakistan’s, then the US Government must extradite the second driver and passenger to Lahore for trial.

    The fact both of the criminals left Pakistan indicates that neither of them had “diplomatic immunity” and that they both were involved in terrorist activities against the citizens of Pakistan.

    America preaches about Democracy, Equality and Justice – well, its time to “Walk the Walk” and stop the Talk.


  • Mahajan
    Feb 19, 2011 - 2:38AM

    This is an incredible document. He belongs to not only Pakistan, but to the whole world. He is speaking for humanity at large for all the downtrodden people. God bless him.Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Feb 19, 2011 - 5:54AM

    i wish Pakistanis would analyse all murders in Pakistan with the same rigour as is being done in this case of Raymond Davis.Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2011 - 7:56AM

    By being ignorant and self centered, the average middle class Pakistani (with enough disposable income for a meal as the overpriced & undervalued Espresso) does nothing to feed or uplift the lives of homeless Pakistani’s dying in the streets in front of them.

    Thats murder too.

    Deaths via RD’s actions + Drone attacks<Pakistani IgnoranceRecommend

  • abdul samad
    Feb 19, 2011 - 8:57AM

    sadly all the burden of upholding honour in our society has been laid to rest on the women of the family.I don’t know why this discriminatory behaviour towards the female population.
    If a girl marries of her free will then the family’s ‘izzat’ is damaged & has to be reclaimed,if some ruffians in the street hoot & whistle at a girl coming back to her home then the family’s ‘ izzat’ has been hurt!!

    In our society the perpetrator is never condemned or punished,it’s the women who are condemned even when they are the victims!!

    If a girl is raped ,the rape victim herself is treated as the criminal!!! this is one of the most sickening things imaginable,that someone who has been violated gets to be blamed & punished by the law in our country for being raped!! If this doesn’t show our society’s moral bankruptcy then nothing does.

    A few years back there was this infamous case of a blind girl who was gang raped by a bunch of men(yes,we look upon people with disabilities as weak ppl to rape,swindle or otherwise take advantage of,rather than giving them special treatement to compensate for their disability) .The state didn’t go after the rapists but chose to lock up in jail the blind girl who got raped!! How sick is that!! What sort of demented & twisted law states that put the rape victim in jail !!

    Is there something physically deficient in our people’s brains that they are mentally incapable of understanding the glaring difference between consentual intercourse & rape???Recommend

  • Mehnaz
    Feb 19, 2011 - 9:18AM

    Spot on!Recommend

  • shafat
    Feb 19, 2011 - 9:37AM

    brilliant article can not agree more .Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2011 - 10:19AM

    excellent article!!!! Moving in the real sense, the author has successfully summed up this whole honor n davis issue in a very exquisite style. If this piece does not knock some sense in someones mind, then therez surely something wrong with that head.Recommend

  • Truthseeker
    Feb 19, 2011 - 11:05AM

    Thank God ,the ‘honour and dignity’ of this nation has been jolted out of deep slumber by the act of one American Citizen.Had this incident happened in any other country under the same circumstances, so much hype would never have been created.Hungry person asks for food, sick person looks for medicine, thirsty searches for water, homeless needs a shelter; and well you can guess, who seeks honour and dignity.

    Pakistan has the distinction of having highest ratio of beggars population in the world.Pakistan has another reputation of having beggars with an attitude, and when they don’t get the dole on their terms , they curse the donator and his whole family. Unfortunately this ‘begging attitude’ has overpowered the psyche of the nation.

    The flagbearers of this ‘glorification contigent’ were burning the American Embassy in Islamabad on November 21,1979 when the Islam’s holiest shrine ‘the Grand Mosque in Mecca’ was seized (not by Americans but) a day earlier by their Arab brothers who claimed to be Muslims. These ‘honour deprived’ Muslims were damaging American Embassy, and the custodian of Kaaba was seeking (Infidel) French Commandos help to regain the honour and dignity of Islam because the Muslims could only burn the embassies in Pakistan and Libya. These infidels successfully restored the honour and dignity of the Muslims.

    The intriguing thing about this whole ‘holy effort’ is the role of the establishment and politicians of all spectrums.Everyone wants to gain maximum benefit from this human tragedy.It is amzing claim portrayed by media that willy- nilly the whole nation is united.
    On one hand ruling party is saying that the accused American will have to face the Pakistani Courts, and on the other side the community of ‘Pure Muslims’ is threatening to besiege the American Consulate on the 25th of this month.The famous general who doled out American donated/Taxpayer money for the sake of uniting the Islamic political Parties, was supporting this action on a TV programme.Isn’t it disgusting that Pakistani Establishment believes that Islam can be strengthened by bribing the Muslim Political Leadership to unite?

    A wise man summarised this situation in nutshell when he stated that ‘With friends like these one doesn’t need an enemy’.Recommend

  • azhar akhtar
    Feb 19, 2011 - 11:41AM

    what honour?? people like salman butt who make their wives wear suffocating burkas,who pray five times a day & who then also unashamedly sell out their countries for dollars are then rewarded by our hypocritical society with multimillion rupee contracts with tv channels to give expert opinion on the world cup.
    Why hasn’t pemra or the govt taken any action against the channel responsible for this atrocity??

    Why does our society choose to reward people who while religiously performing all the dogmatic rituals & practices continue to cheat & steal???Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Feb 19, 2011 - 11:56AM

    Truth is bitter; very bitter.Recommend

  • SUB
    Feb 19, 2011 - 1:08PM

    @ Naeem Sadiq: Dear Sir, it is very nicely written however will you please also suggest a solution? The common people can only be ridden from the Ghairat Brigade and Be-Ghairat Brigade if we all can set a goal to achieve some min. level of education for everybody and keep improving it with time. Education is the only solution to this monster Sir. But does it suit the career politicians, feudal, military and civil ruling elites and of Qaid e Azam the Great, Bhutto, Zia ul Haq, etc.?Recommend

  • SUB
    Feb 19, 2011 - 1:10PM

    I forgot to mention the Thekedar’s of Islam and the liberal fascists may beRecommend

  • Salman
    Feb 19, 2011 - 2:24PM

    Can’t agree moreRecommend

  • Feb 19, 2011 - 2:35PM

    Dear Sir
    We (in general) firmly respect, regard and agree what you written in the article. these are the cruel facts and we cannot deny to them. My only point of concern is till when we’ll be highlighting facts? till when we’ll be discussing problems? till when we are actually telling everyone about the mishandling? and importantly “when we’ll start owning thing and start taking responsibility?” yes these are the facts, if our so called leader are not doing anything about it then where is “OUR ZAMER”? why don’t we act/react to things? why are we letting them to do this? this is the time sir, where we need to take charge & responsibility.Recommend

  • Uza Syed
    Feb 19, 2011 - 8:10PM

    Naeeem Sadiq Sb. is a man of honour and guts and sense of duty to tell us the truth as it is i.e. we live by no principles whatsoever. I am sure that gods must be regretting the defficiencies we are endowed with such huge abundance. Could it be that we are created as example to admonish the world about what all can go wrong when you don’t accept your shortcomings and wrongly claim something that you don’t have —- in our case — the best and the purest and yes with “Ghairat”.

    Reference to this ‘Ghairat” thing by everyone and his dog, somehow, makes me wonder about the reason behind it. The way we conduct ourselves in every sphere of life suggests an accute shortage of this character. Is it this deep sense of inferiority due to lack of ‘ghairat’ that we tend to monopolize it with extreme ‘baigairati’ —- I wonder. Recommend

  • Asim Ghani
    Feb 19, 2011 - 10:08PM

    Excellent! Yes, regardless of the killer “diplomat’s” gory crime in Lahore, what about the Pakistani side to this subject of “national honour,” an aspect having more fundamental importance than what some foreign thug does on Pakistani soil? Recommend

  • Sarah N Shehryar
    Feb 20, 2011 - 12:18AM

    excellent article! wish Pakistan possessed more of such forward-thinking people.Recommend

  • Tariq
    Feb 20, 2011 - 2:38AM

    I agree 100% with author of the article but think if this murder had happened in Peshawar, Karachi, or Quetta, the whole establishment/governament and people (particularly from Punjab) would have already labeled muedured persons as taliban or al-qaida’ operatives and the situation would have resolved in hours. AS every day we are seeing it in NWFP, Sindh. It is only when some one from Lahore is harmed then we take it seriously as PAKISTAN means PUNJABI (specially Lahoris).Recommend

  • Jeddy
    Feb 20, 2011 - 2:55AM

    USA can only keeps its soldiers in Afghanistan as long as it can perpetuate the myth of instability in Pakistan. The news about terrorism travels fast and far beyond Pakistan. People abroad are too scared to come here. News about what is going on in Afghanistan, nobody knows, its top secret. The war probably ended five years ago.Recommend

  • Ramesh Manghirmalani,
    Feb 20, 2011 - 5:58AM

    I partly agree with you, I do not think you have any moral right to bring Veena Mallik in your article, I agree with you Pakistan is holding begging bowl,.Recommend

  • Rabia Ahmed
    Feb 20, 2011 - 11:36AM

    great article. Recommend

  • Feb 20, 2011 - 4:47PM

    Totally agree with the article! Bravo, Mr. Sadiq for a daring piece. Would have been good to also include Dr. Aafia and the ruckus created about her in these questions of honour. I blogged about this recently at http://bit.ly/eWSJvQRecommend

  • Asif
    Feb 21, 2011 - 8:36AM

    The rich business people and wealthy agricultural land owners should start paying their share of taxes. That would help Pakistan stand on its own feet instead of asking for aid and loans.Recommend

  • Feb 21, 2011 - 12:07PM

    In the first phase why was he (along with many others … God knows) allowed Visa and free movement every where in Islamic Republic of PAKISTAN? I’ll give you 1000 bucks for crossing over to any other country like these people sneak into Pakistan. And another 1000 bucks for illegally shooting a duck over there!Recommend

  • syed tariq
    Feb 21, 2011 - 6:49PM

    No one can disagree with the contents of the article unless totally uninformed and unintelligent. The horrible malaise that has enveloped poor old Pakistan – many overesas Pakis have long and fond memories of a different country when tolerance and fun was possible and mullahs were a bit of a joke, will lead finally to a breakup of the country. I prophesy reluctantly that the NWFP will merge with Afghanistan (to the detriment of both partners), Baluchistan will hive off partly into Iran and partly into the new Pakistan which will be composed of the present Punjab and Sindh, the two power hubs of Karachi and Lahore becoming twin capitals.
    I say this as there is no other solution to the madness which has now gripped the country. For every sensible proposer there are 10 more willing to kill him/her for precisely that reason. Islam is now a tyranny not a religion of good sense or coompassion, and hundreds of thousands Pakis living abroad can never return to live in such appalling conditions. There is no Mustafa Kemal around to hang bearded men but in his place are numerous bearded military men who believe God (and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf) is on their side.
    How did all this come about? Whatever mistakes Jinnah made in his decision to partition British India, this surely could not have been the result he envisoned? He was a constitutional lawyer who believed in the rule of law, and corruption in any form was anathema to him. He was a rationalist who could never condone racial or religious bigotry or discrimination. Where did it all go wrong?
    Much of the blame rests on the conflict between the so-called Free World and communism. Pakistan asap allied itself to the FW and that meant following its line in every important field, including installing ‘strong men’ beloved by the Pentagon. Each strong man in his turn moulded the country in his own image ending with the horrendous Zia ul Haque and his offspring the Taliban. Make no mistake the USA is a grandfather to the whole lot. This incestous relationship continued long enough for the entire country to become contaminated by the warped thinking of the Pentagon and Oval Office who tolerated ‘sons of bitches’ so long as they helped them in return – see the example of Mubarak et all going back for many years. Now of course the tide has turned somewhat in the USA but it may be all too late for those already infected by US/Talibanism.
    Another great obstacle for those preaching ‘sense and reason’ is the USA’s support of every inhuman act of Israel towards the Palestinians. Yes these are muslims but that is not the reason why the whole of the Muslim world (Shias and Sunni combined) are horrified and humiliated by Israeli conduct; one wonders what Europe and the USA would have done if every Palestinian happened to be a devout Christian?? The reason is simply humanity and human rights and a rejection of gigantic hypocrisy of the West. And what of the laws of resistance to occupation that gave succour to the Free French in the forties? But this is not my point – my point is that any effort to reason with fanatics is met with arguments showing the scandalous behaviour of the Western powers towards Muslims, starting with their ridiculous attitude towards the hijab and ending with their unacceptable attitude to the Palestinians.
    Perhaps if the USA reconsidered its entire hopelessly wrong position towards Israel, and also began to engage with the liberal element of Pakistan (not just the Army) my prognostications about Pakistan’s future may be proved worng.
    I know this is a long comment but it cannot be helped. Recommend

  • mohammad omer
    Feb 23, 2011 - 6:12AM

    thank you soo much for posting this. Recommend

  • ZAF
    Feb 24, 2011 - 10:24PM

    Wholeheartedly agreed; brilliant piece. Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Feb 25, 2011 - 6:06PM

    This is one of the best articles I have read in a long time. Thank you, sir.Recommend

  • pakpinoy
    Feb 27, 2011 - 6:54PM

    What a great article! The so-called “honor” most often displayed in Pakistani society has little to do with ethical values or right and wrong. It has everything to do with the human ego, pride and in Pakistan’s case — a feeling of great weakness and humiliation.

    A great proverb states, “Humility comes before honor…” and “Humility is the beginning of Wisdom…” Only weak, defeated and humiliated people defend honor for the sake of honor. The strong, confident and successful have nothing to prove nor defend as the results, successes and strong character speak for themselves.

    A man of character and internal strength has little use for superficial, and yes medieval, pursuits of honor. He is too focused on being a great and successful person, even if he has to be the stronger party and often swallow his pride and ego (Leadership 101), standing up for truth and justice, defending the weak and defenseless, making the world a better place.

    Very unfortunately, the average Pakistani only seeks to defend honor in order to: protect one’s reputation, protect one’s shallow and tender ego, give an illusion of strength to counter reality of great weakness, gain revenge and retribution for past offenses, etc, etc. All of these reasons are “DIS-honorable” in my book and show the weakness of the society that places higher value on defending such “honor” over truth, honesty, humility and integrity. It’s the blight of the nation.Recommend

  • Shah Q
    Mar 4, 2011 - 2:56PM

    nice read…Recommend

  • Khaula M
    Mar 28, 2011 - 1:28AM

    My salutations to you, Sir! Recommend

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