San Morality and Law Policy
Machiavelli, considered the father of nationalism, is generally perceived as a supporter of a policy dissociated from conventional morality and putting forward all means in the quest for political power, even the most unscrupulous. There are many proponents of this view and in most third world countries, including Pakistan, morality has no place in the power game.
Against this perception, there is no shortage of people who see Machiavelli as a pragmatist who recognized the harsh realities of political life. According to them, he was the first to recognize the true nature of “reason of state” and the place of “necessity” in politics. The concept of “reason of state” promotes the discourse that the security and interests of the state take precedence over all other considerations. Likewise, it is argued that “necessity” recognizes no law and that morality has no place when the interests of the state are at stake. Pakistan is again the epitome of the applicability of these perspectives. Pakistan’s judiciary legitimized military coups by invoking the doctrine of necessity and dictators took refuge under self-determined interests and state security to derail democracy, leading the country away from the path envisioned by its founding father.
Contrary to previous views, some claim that Machiavelli did not subordinate moral standards to political standards, claiming that he was concerned with both means and ends which were just. It is claimed that his plea for adopting ruthless strategies was not to preserve power for himself, but to create and maintain a strong state, whose moral purpose was the good of the whole community. History is replete with instances where politicians and military dictators used the slogan of the good of the whole community and the maintenance of the strong state as justification for their actions, even though these measures ultimately proved disastrous. Military dictators in Pakistan came with ostensible advocacy and a determination to stamp out endemic corruption, but lured by the lure of exercising power, they got involved in dirty politics and left the country in a bigger disorder as far as corruption is concerned. Likewise, politicians have also used the farce of accountability to victimize their political opponents, causing unfathomable damage to political morality and the chances of establishing a system of good governance.
The people are accepted as sovereigns in whose name the state is governed by the chosen representatives as stipulated in our constitution.
It is also said that Machiavelli never said that the end justified the means. Instead, he showed how well-intentioned and morally good actions could have worse results than supposedly immoral but bold and resolute actions. Sometimes force and violence, cruelty and deceit are justified as lesser evils. Machiavelli implied that the morality proper to politics was not one based on ideals, but was a consequential morality where actions were judged according to the good consequences they promote for the general good of society.
The arguments for consequential morality in political life rested on the assertion that it was unrealistic and naïve to think that good ends could be achieved without resorting to dubious means. Politicians who keep their hands clean sometimes perpetuate the evil of the status quo or make the evil worse. In these circumstances, it would be indulgent, irresponsible, and morally wrong to insist on doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences.
These arguments have taken on new life lately with the rise of the phenomenon of terrorism if need be. In the face of the terrorist attacks, respect for the absolute rules against torture and arbitrary detention, the rights to a fair trial, freedom of conscience, thought and expression have been rejected as naïve. Politicians and scholars have justified the violation of these rights as a lesser evil, necessary to protect national security. But those who oppose such violations are not otherworldly idealists. They are deeply suspicious and very cynical about the veracity of politicians’ stated goals and the justification of their real political goals. They wonder whether morally dirty decisions serve the general interest or the common good. Too often private, corporate or commercial interests and controversial ideological ambitions masquerade as general interests in politics.
Those who are suspicious of the Machiavellian art of politics also question the alleged “necessity” of the dirty means they use and find that such claims are often exaggerated, counterproductive or simply fraudulent. Suspending rights and resorting to fraud, force and violence are rarely the best and only alternatives in politics, even when national security is at stake.
As can be seen from the foregoing discourse, there is no lack of arguments for and against a question. People can make powerful arguments to justify their actions and others can condemn those actions with equally strong arguments to prove them wrong. God forbid, atheists would give you countless arguments to deny the existence of God. But the reality is that there are certain touchstones developed by human societies with international renown for judging the veracity and justification of human conduct, including politicians and leaders.
The principle of “the majority is the authority” is accepted and followed by the whole world in all areas of life, including the practice of art and governance. Democracy is supported and practiced by the majority of nations. The people are accepted as sovereigns in whose name the state is governed by the chosen representatives as stipulated in our constitution. The rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights are considered essential ingredients of good governance. Any deviation and aberration from these universally recognized and accepted standards is illegitimate, erroneous and unjustifiable regardless of the issues at stake. The legitimacy of the means takes precedence over everything else.
Seen through the prism of the conclusion drawn at the end of the previous paragraph, the behavior of our politicians is contrary to internationally recognized democratic standards. It is politics, morality and disrespect for the law and the constitution. The consequence of this crude policy is that Pakistan today stands on the edge of a precipice. Unfortunately, the man who pledged to reverse this phenomenon through his revolutionary program, to establish the rule of law and to orchestrate a society without corruption and to end the culture of political vendetta has in fact perpetuated these vices with impunity. Fawad Chaudhry’s revelation that the drug case against Rana Sanaullah was fake tells the story of the highly publicized accountability process. The same goes for the reference against SC Judge Qazi Faiz Esa which Imran admitted was a mistake on his part. So is the 35 flat tires lie, the narrative on which he built his campaign against the PML(N) government. How can a leader with such filthy credentials be trusted?
The writer is a former diplomat and freelance columnist.