Morality and Misplaced Loyalty

Supreme Court building in Islamabad has been at the center of much of Pakistan's political drama in recent months.
Supreme Court building in Islamabad has been at the center of much of Pakistan’s political drama in recent months.

Misplaced loyalty for corrupt individuals is not only betrayal of the community but complicity in their crimes, it lies at the heart of virtually every scandal. Carrying obfuscation and obduracy too far, Nawaz Sharif insisted before the PML (N) Parliamentary party, “I still do not understand the grounds for my dismissal I am only content that I was not disqualified on the grounds of alleged corruption.” Both he and those shouting their lungs out after his disqualification well knew that he was guilty. Why the hair-splitting in refusing to accept that corrupt practices and corruption are one and the same thing?


The purpose of law in society is to provide justice, providing that justice is the task of the leaders. Only a just society can inspire confidence about room for improvement for all. Secular discussion notwithstanding, provision of justice in Islam is related not only to law but it has an ethical dimension. Only such leaders can lead a society in the right direction who are just and follow the laws not only legally but ethically. Joining ethics with lawfulness is a central requirement of the principle of “Tauhid” in Islam, the principle that conjoins and unites all sides of practical, theoretical and spiritual life of men into a unity. Those who violate or negate this unity are unworthy for leadership in a country that professes to be an “Islamic Republic”.

Justice demands the Sharifs are brought to trial on multiple counts. Considering all what happened during the 60 days of JIT investigation, should Nawaz continue to threaten, intimidate, obstruct, etc occupying the seat of power? Telling lies and half-truths, not disclosing all facts, submitting forged documents, engaging others to give false testimony and prompting people to falsify documents is not corruption? Exemption from moral behaviour even if no law has been broken according to the statute books is an invention of the Western secular society that has separated morality from legality. No such difference between moral and legal obligation exists in Islam: morality is a legality that one has to fulfill to be eligible for public office, elected or otherwise. Articles 62 and 63 of Pakistan’s Constitution bind ethical behavior into law, thus making it a unity according to the principle of “Tauhid”. Those trying to change or remove Articles 62 and 63 are trying to break this fundamental unity of an Islamic society.

Given the plethora of indications that wrongdoing had taken place but correctly concerned that the rule of law could not be applied until more evidence was collected and collated, the SC referred Mian Nawaz Sharif and his immediate family for NAB process, being ethical in applying not the wording but the spirit of the law. Mindful of there being separation of morality from legality in Islam, the Honourable SC Judges had no other option but to disqualify Sharif on the “Al-Capone Formula” based on secondary proof.

After belief in God, loyalty comes first and foremost for the institution one belongs to or serves in, be it in the political arena, in the judiciary, the Armed Forces, govt departments, the media, in corporations, financial institutions, etc. Jamie Damon, Chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan said: “Loyalty should be to the principles for which someone stands and to the institution. Loyalty to an individual frequently is another form of cronyism. Leaders demand a lot from their employees and should be loyal to them – but loyalty and mutual respect are two-way streets. While teamwork is important and often a code for ‘getting along,’ equally important is an individual’s ability to have the courage to stand alone and do the right thing.”  How would that be possible without a strong belief in ethical principles?

Unfortunately, even in institutions as trustworthy and respected as the Army, loyalty is for the individual rather than to the institution. Shielding someone corrupt because of having served under or with him pure cronyism but to eulogise him is criminal behaviour.  Those guilty of doing so are accessories and complicit in the crimes of those whom they protect. A very corrupt former COAS has multiple close former aides possibly occupying positions of power; forsaking their conscience and their duty to the uniform they are not only protecting but projecting him. Given his known “assets” on a soldiers pay, condoning his corruption is pure hypocrisy. One has utter contempt for such people!  It is in pure and simple delusion if someone thinks the rank and file do not resent this.  Are they deaf, dumb and blind to these corrupt living well beyond their known means of reasonable income? One agrees that accountability must not be applied only to politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary citizens, keeping the corrupt in the senior military hierarchy and the superior judiciary out of the ambit of accountability is utter disloyalty to the institutions and to the state.


In a 2004 paper “Misplaced Loyalties: The Role of Military Culture in the Breakdown of Discipline” Donna Wilson writes: “Primary group bonding is reinforced through formal and informal socialisation however, this is a double-edged sword. We have seen how misplaced loyalty can lead to stonewalling, preventing proper investigation of criminal activities. Group bonding also prevents individuals from speaking out against inappropriate behaviour, which can therefore continue unchecked. The “Chain of Command” thus becomes short circuited by strong affective ties which it itself encourages. Encouraged by combat norms, strong affective ties create highly cohesive units that can actually impede the good functioning of the overall organisation..” Unquote.


Misplaced loyalty was seen at its worst with the AJK Premier and the GB Chief Minister threatening to accede to India because of the SC judgment disqualifying Mian Nawaz Sharif. Those individuals more loyal to their leaders than to the State should not hold public office. Given the fault lines manifest in their own “comradeship” syndrome, why should the military hierarchy be surprised that loyalty to the individual superseding that to the country is alive and well when elected representatives ignore their obligations to the state and its people? Given misplaced loyalties where is the morality in allowing such people occupy positions of power and deal with matters of national security?


Apropos of Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani’s rather snide remark about parliamentarians not needing “certificates of patriotism” from either Islamabad (read the SC) or Rawalpindi (read GHQ), Samuel Johnson was quoted by Boswell as believing that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, indeed the perfect refuge in Pakistan is the feudal version of our convoluted democracy as represented by our Parliament.

The writer is a defense and security analyst.

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