Moral authority, realpolitik and state craft 

What’s the rush?

We should not rush and make errors for the sake of satisfying raised emotions.

Pakistan as a nation is driven more by emotions rather than rationalism, rule of law, or political tradition. This emotionalism is ingrained in us from an early age and critical inquiry is discouraged to build rational thought and logic. Every now and then there are cries of lack of moral authority and demands that an elected Prime Minister should resign because of that. As soon as Panama JIT report was made public then once again calls were made by opposition politician that the elected Prime Minister should resign. I have never understood what this moral authority is that is so frequently invoked in our politics and whether it is really very critical to use moral authority as a legitimate demand to seek resignation.

Since early days of Islam, the question of moral authority using concerns about legitimacy have been raised and became a cause for political division. Till this day, the question is hotly debated and even gave rise to a separate sect pursuing those arguments. The reality is that these questions of moral authority did not matter much as allegiance was given to the Caliph that ascended to the position as per tradition of the day. It is also a reality that Islamic political entity grew many folds during the tenure of first four Caliph and we don’t know what would have happened if the allegiance was not given to them by the community. I don’t think our present day politicians are in any ways equal to those great men of our history but Quran proposes that we should learn from history so I had to remind all of you about it.

Now let’s suppose, since the majority of our nation is emotional rather than rational, that moral authority has to be applied then it should apply to everyone and should be codified in a legislation. If the moral authority has to be invoked then ISI and MI should have refused to become part of a JIT because there is a long history of a military takeover of governments. The military should have first apologised for the past transgression of the constitution as an institution and then sent their representative to sit on JIT. They should have also asked its former Chief General Musharraf to come back and face courts before they become the part of a legal process against an elected PM. If the moral authority has to be invoked then Imran Khan should not be the Chairman of his party because he violated the constitution of his party every day and even now holds an illegitimate title of party Chairman. He should also not ask for an elected PM to resign until he first clears his name in all cases against him because that has deprived him of moral authority. If the moral authority has to be invoked then Judges should have first tried their own brother judge named in Panama papers before they took up the case of a civilian politician. So moral authority should only be invoked by those that are themselves not encumbered by engaging in violating moral conduct. Bottom line is that moral authority has no place in politics.

The question of political authority does have to deal with the question of legitimacy. Any ruler whether a King/Queen, elected Prime Minister/President or a military dictator has to deal with the question of legitimacy. Legitimacy is provided by rules, procedures, laws, and constitution. A ruler that does not have legitimacy will always have to deal with uprisings and dissent. So moral important barometer for a government is legitimacy in realpolitik rather than any adherence to some invisible and intangible moral authority. First four Caliphs of Islam as soon as they took the oath of the office sought allegiance of the citizens. Since majority pledged their allegiance the rule became legitimate and enabled them to take actions against those that challenged their authority.

In our current political crisis many intellectuals, amateur politician, newspaper editorials, and power hungry opposition is invoking moral authority to push an elected Prime Minister out of office. My position has been consistent that the elected Prime Minister should go home through a due process which is the only way he will lose legitimacy to rule. PML-N decision to seek a vote of no confidence, as reported by some media, for their Prime Minister is a good political move. If the opposition has any support then they should defeat him on the floor of the assembly and throw him out of the office. While the other legal process of ascertaining disqualification of individual MNA Nawaz Sharif should proceed in the court of law as per the provisions of the constitution for a fair trial.

We have to become a nation of citizens that respect rule of law and strive for its application uniformly. Islam’s main message is also justice. The main purpose of Jihad is also to seek social justice. Selective justice does not help anyone but rather creates instability. We are a nascent democracy that is still trying to find its feet on the ground and deepen its roots. We can’t be using intangible ideas like moral authority that has no precedence in law or history to seek removal of an elected Prime Minister.

I have faith in the nation that it has the ability to make a good collective decision. There is no evidence yet that PML-N or its government has lost support of majority of the nation which can only be established through a free and fair election. I also have faith that our judicial system has the ability to reform itself and ensure justice for all without favour or bias. I believe our democracy is slowly but surely taking root and a tradition building to guide future parliaments and governments. The process of ehtisab has to continue and take its natural course as per constitution of the country. We should not rush into it and make errors for the sake of satisfying raised emotions.

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi is former President of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce, USA, and member of PTI Central Tarbiyati Council as Incharge of Curriculum Development. He has also authored the book: Islamic Social Contract.


  1. JKhan said:

    Mr Kundi is trying to be a Columnist and a phylosopher at the same time. Did he realise how has this Nation arrived at the mental health that he describes? He will get the answer to his needless phyllosophical theory.

    • Abdul Q kUndi said:

      thanks for the comment. I have always said I am a politician and shared by two cents view. It seems you believe it is not even worth 2 cents. I respect your opinion. thanks.

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