111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

Lies, evasion, falsehood…the real crimes

Richard Nixon faced impeachment not for the Watergate break-in but for lying about it, and being caught in the lie. When the tapes revealed that he had fibbed and had tried to cover up for the break-in his fate was sealed. No commission headed by a serving or retired Supreme Court judge could come to his rescue.

Bill Clinton faced impeachment not because of his affair with the world’s most famous intern, Monica Lewinsky, but because he lied about it. The lie was the crime not the romping about on some White House sofa.

The first thing we were told in Kakul was that character came before anything else – before talent, before competence, before military skill. Character meant behaving like a gentleman and that meant not lying, not cheating and not hiding behind evasions. If you lied and were caught out in the lie, no matter how brilliant you were your time as a cadet was over. If in the 9 mile race you took a 50 yards shortcut that you were not supposed to take, and you were caught in the act, that was the end of your military career.

(Why senior officers in their later careers so often forget the basic tenets of officer-hood is of course another story.)

Mayfair flats or Hyde Park condos are not the main issue here. Misrepresenting their true status, evading the issue, going round in circles and not admitting to the plain truth…that is the issue. Corruption, amassing wealth beyond your means, offshore accounts, crooked money trails are all reprehensible. But saying things known to be false is worse than the actual crime.

Prophet-hood came to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) later. Much before the divine summons, across the desert sands the word had spread that Muhammad, upon whom be peace, was a truthful man…Sadiq. The reputation for truth came first; prophet-hood came when that first basis had been established.

A ruler, or a prince, may lie and dissemble – all is forgiven if the lying and dissembling, the hypocrisy and the make-believe, are for the higher good of the state. You can lie for Pakistan. There would be countless occasions when you are required to lie for Pakistan. But woe to the ruler who indulges in fiction for Mayfair flats or offshore accounts, and is caught out doing so. He is then shown to be without character, without integrity, and as such he forfeits the Mandate of Heaven. He loses the moral authority to lead his people. That is the issue here.

The shopkeeper and the trader work for profit. The ruler has before him a different code of conduct. What is permissible for the tradesman may not be permissible for the ruler. The warrior or the Samurai also has a different code of conduct. He is expected to carry himself differently. He may gamble, he may drink, work up debts and not pay his bills on time. But he is not supposed to cheat and he is not supposed to lie. The only lie he is forgiven is when it comes to women. That is a different subject altogether.

And self-righteousness and parading one’s virtue, they stick in the gullet. It’s a strange thing seeing the good and great making money by every dubious means throughout the year and then every Ramazan repairing to the Holy Land and lying prostrate in the Holy Mosques.

If we care to think about it this is true secularism: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Change Caesar to Mammon and it truly fits our heroes. The Mayfair flats and offshore accounts are the rendering unto Mammon the things that are Mammon’s. The frequent sojourns to the Holy Land are the rendering unto God.

In Islam the fiercest corners of Hell are reserved not for the unbeliever but for the Hypocrite who is not what he pretends to be. Most of us draw a neat line through our lives – adhering to the rituals of the faith, observing the tenets of Islam and not deviating from them in the least but keeping our real passion, the highest peaks of our enthusiasm, for the rites of Mammon.

Cheerful frauds, rogues with a touch of humour in their eyes, add salt to everyday life. Whom would you pick as your companion of an evening, a cheerful fraud or a pious fraud? The latter will give you indigestion. Pakistan’s problem is not just corruption. Corruption happens everywhere. Problem here is the mixture of corruption and outward piety – land-grabbers building huge mosques and then claiming credit for themselves, ruling families bending every rule in the book to set up factories and enrich themselves, and then reading the nation cloying homilies on virtue and self-sacrifice.

It is not the corruption which is annoying. Most of us, to a lesser or greater degree, are into corruption or its many variants. It is the piety on parade which is hard to stomach. Here we have not just the vulgar display of wealth but the vulgar display of piety.

We all know the good work of Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi. Why doesn’t he make a song and dance of his piety? Because he is the genuine article and the thought of putting his virtue on parade would never have crossed his mind. Why doesn’t Professor Adeeb-ul-Hasan Rizvi of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation wear his virtue on his sleeve? Why doesn’t he spend the last week of every Ramasan in the Holy Land?

Jam Sadiq Ali was one of the most transparent guys I ever met in my life. In his drawing room in Karachi as evening fell there would be ranged on a centre table several bottles of Scotland’s finest and the only question that the bearers would ask of you was, “Sir, soda or water?” There was no pretence, no hiding. And he was chief minister of Sindh, and a very effective CM at that.

Chaudhry Ahmed Saeed of Servis Industries was head of the Agriculture Bank at that time. Pointing to him Jam Sadiq said, “Sain, I had no money when I came back from London. Chaudhry Saab allowed me a loan of 2 crores and that’s how I was able to carry out my kharcha- paani.” Referring to a by-election in which my friend Illahi Bux Soomro had stood as a candidate, Jam Sadiq said, “Sain, your friend is very popular. We had to do his recounting four times before he could be declared elected.”

Give me Jam Sadiq Ali any day compared to the pious frauds with cold calculation in their hearts and virtue-spouting homilies plastered on their lips.

Whenever I have the occasion, and sometimes it is true when there is no occasion, I mention Prohibition and why it would be a good thing to end it. Prohibition hasn’t made us more religious. It hasn’t turned us into a better society. It has only raised the sum of general hypocrisy prevailing across the high ramparts of the Islamic Republic.

We had our share of frauds and humbugs before, and we would have been poorer without them. But Prohibition by driving drinking indoors – and everyone is not Jam Sadiq Ali – has drawn a sharper contrast between outer form and inner substance. It has put a premium on the pious fraud and has further shrunk what little space there was for honesty of purpose and dealing.

Email: bhagwal63@gmail.com

Ayaz Amir, "Lies, evasion, falsehood…the real crimes," The News. 2016-04-19.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Supreme court , Political crisis , Political change , Corruption , Politics , Accountability , Bill Clinton , Abdus Sattar Edhi , Jam Sadiq Ali , Sindh , Pakistan , CM