By Dr. Rubina Saigol
[This article first appeared in Dawn http://www.dawn.com on February 18, 2008.]
One has suspected for a long time that the so-called ‘international community’ is a major global myth that serves to cover up a lot that needs to be revealed.
Generally it is believed that the ‘international community’ consists of the different countries of the world with the UN as their embodiment and a reflection of their aspirations.
It is also commonly assumed that the ‘international community’ is a moral space – a space that represents international human rights norms, standards and values to which the individual countries are expected to conform. There is also an unspoken assumption of the equality of nations and of shared values, principles and beliefs.Upon closer examination, however, one finds that the so-called ‘international community’ does not seem to conform to any of the standards and values associated with it. More often than not, the term ‘international community’ is a euphemism for the United States and its allies. The assumption of equality falls apart as soon as one realises that this ‘community’ follows mostly US dictates and chastises and affirms nations, countries and governments according to the extent to which they toe the US line.
In fact, it is neither international as many countries that are not in favour are excluded from this deadly brotherhood nor is it truly a community as the values, norms and standards are far from shared. If anything characterises this so-called community it is double standards and hypocrisy. For example there is one standard for Israel, another for Iran, one standard for India and another for Iraq.
There is hardly any moral consistency with which nations are rebuked, reviled or rewarded within the power oriented and unequal system underlined by the UN and its totally unequal membership in which some are permanent members and others temporary. In a morally twisted sort of way if you have a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, considered morally unacceptable for Iran, Iraq or Syria, then you are permanent and a ‘good’ member.
If, on the other hand, you have no weapons of mass destruction and are not at war with anyone as for example Iran or Iraq, you are a pariah state that must be punished and bombed out of existence. The possession of nuclear weapons qualifies you to be a moral and good state in a position to redraw world maps and design the moral order. Barring that you are a ‘failed state’ or a ‘terrorist state’. However, a state that has actually used nuclear weapons against civilian populations is never defined as a terrorist state and the same is true of states that occupy the lands of others and kill them on a regular basis.
However, nowhere is the hypocrisy of the ‘international community’ more obvious, glaring and absurd as in the case of Pakistan. A country in which a dictator popular with the ‘international community’ has violated every norm of constitutional and democratic rule, and where law, morality and legality have been destroyed like never before is constantly described as ‘on the path to democracy’, ‘in the right direction’, and so on.
One wonders how the US and Britain would react if the entire Supreme Court were to be sent packing by the defendant for fear that the verdict may go against him. Most defendants in the world change their lawyers if they are not satisfied with their work. Pakistan has the unique distinction where the entire bench was dismissed by the defendant. This is equivalent to dissolving the people and electing a new one if a dictator does not like the electorate and its choices.
One wonders how this famed ‘international community’ would react if its army chiefs took over by overthrowing Gordon Brown or George Bush; how would they like their civilians being court martialled; how would they like their Superior Court judges manhandled by the police, lawyers beaten up and judges incarcerated for crimes never committed or proven in any competent court of law. I wonder how BBC, CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS or Channel 4 might react if they were ordered by the UK and US army chiefs to go off the air for 77 days.
How would Americans like their constitution to be first suspended and then amended by one single man? One wonders how the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups would react if hundreds of citizens just disappeared into thin air and their relatives never knew their whereabouts.
Yet, Pakistan’s government has been consistently praised as it goes through all these actions. The so-called neutral caretaker government has proved exactly how ‘neutral’ it is by its clumsy handling of SCBA President Aitzaz Ahsan’s release, then re-arrest and then release again. They have made a joke out of arresting and releasing lawyers and judges. The fact is that the terrifying undertakers are fast taking the country down under. Along with flour, electricity, oil and gas, Shaukat Aziz, the imported miracle economist, is also gone. So who is accountable? No one.
But the ‘international community’ no longer seems to believe in the universality of human rights. It has bought the argument of cultural relativism and cultural specificity put forward by the creator of Pakistan’s miracle of disappearances – people, flour, power all made to magically disappear without a trace.
The general has argued that Pakistanis are not ready for the kind of rights enjoyed in western countries, that we are different. Human rights were supposed to be universal and available to all human beings. Now however, our general seems to have convinced the West and the elusive ‘international community’ that Pakistanis are different and the standards used for others should not be used for them.
While arguments for universality were based on the essential sameness of all human beings, arguments for cultural specificity are based on difference in culture and religion. The latter forms of argument, based on cultural and moral relativism, are almost always used to deny rights and express reservations against human rights instruments.
So Pakistanis can have their will expressed through elections cancelled by one man’s desire to seize all power for himself. Elected governments can be dismissed at will. The Constitution can be suspended at the slightest whim and then amended to suit one and only one man. Pakistan’s judiciary can be dismissed by a defendant!
What can be more appalling? Every citizen is presumed guilty until proven innocent – human rights standards are made to stand on their head. Yet, terrorists run amok in the country, killing at will. No one is there to stop them because the government is too busy jailing and beating judges and lawyers.
And the ‘international community’ bereft of all morality, stripped of all norms and standards of decency, ethically bankrupt and emasculated stands by watching in silence as a progressive and law-abiding Pakistan is steadily deconstructed and all vestiges of civilisations destroyed. [Courtesy Dawn]