When the intelligentsia capitulates

Why do many societies consider the freedom of the Press to be of paramount importance? It is because the Press serves to check possible abuses of power – of the other camps of power. The Press too can be bought or coerced, but there typically always remains a core of the intelligentsia that does not cave in. When, however, the intellectuals start abandoning of their own volition their once-cherished principles of liberty and dignity, we must take urgent notice.

This shameful declaration was seen in a national Pakistani newspaper on Friday, 20th February 2015.

Much of the spirit of Peshawar has already evaporated as more terrorist attacks continue and the government responds with more committee meetings and more brave declarations about rooting out terrorism. …… What else should be done (to fight terrorism)? Two models before us can serve as examples: (1) how the police chief in Indian Punjab, KPS Gill, was instrumental in crushing Sikh militancy. …. Gill was given complete authority. A Sikh himself, he dealt with the Sikh insurrection with a ruthless and merciless hand. Every method, including encounter killings (i.e. murder, under the guise of an encounter of police with armed opposition), was permissible. Thus it was that the problem was licked. -Ayaz Amir, 20th February, 2015 in the The News, Pakistan

Here we have a journalist calling in no uncertain terms for the coldblooded murder of those whom the police or other branches of the Executive do not find convenient or appropriate! This is no greenhorn – this is one of the most respected journalists in Pakistan, observing that country’s fate over decades.

This shockingly open assault on freedom and due process is not an exception. ‘.. it is expedient..’, ‘.. in the interest of security..’, and ‘..extraordinary situation..’ – these dark, all-too-familiar phrases are from the shameful pieces of legislation passed unanimously on January 06th, 2015, by the Pakistani Parliament. The National Assembly of Pakistan caved in to the Pakistani army and passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 and Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015, which allow the establishment of military courts to try civilians, enfeebling the principle of division of powers between the executive and the judiciary, and paving the way for human rights abuses. There was not a single voice of dissent.

Another Pakistani journalist, Irfan Husain, took it upon himself to defend those two shameful pieces of legislation. He wrote in Dawn, January 10th, 2015:

While we should certainly not descend to the level of the Taliban, we need to beef up our ability to defend ourselves. And if this calls for compromising the human rights of terror suspects, so be it.

This insidious “…so be it.” is at par or worse than the most explicit cartoons one may or may not freely publish. Of course, in the post-Snowden world, we are all terror suspects – but we may not leave even some of us to the wolves, for we know where that path leads.

There appears to be a change taking place in Pakistan, where even the intelligentsia is going over to the dark side, the side which believes in tyranny, force, fear and secret police camps. This is not about Pakistan, important as Pakistan is, being the world’s sixth most populous country and a key stakeholder in the fight against murderous religion-inspired extremism. If it becomes acceptable in Pakistan to kill people without an impartial trial, without giving the accused a chance to defend himself or herself, then the contagion will spread. Liberty and human dignity everywhere will be at threat.