No repentance–no shame - Dr A Q Khan - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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Even though we are slowly but surely forgetting our history and rich cultural heritage, young and old alike know of Ghalib and Allama Iqbal and love them and their works. Ghalib was the undisputed king of Urdu poetry and prose. After the 1857 War of Independence, Indians in general, and Muslims in particular, were subjected to severe torture, murder, deprivation of property and wealth, etc. The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, and his wife were banished to Rangoon, where they died painful deaths. Before they were deported, their two young sons were beheaded and their heads put on a breakfast tray and placed before the king. This act was carried out by the so-called "civilised" British. Ghalib's pension was stopped, and despite his extremely arduous trips to Calcutta, it was never restored. Begum Sikander Jehan Begum of Bhopal offered hospitality to him, which he politely refused, as he was very old and did not want to leave his friends and colleagues. The Begum then fixed a monthly honorarium to be paid him.

Humility was in Ghalib's blood, and in a number of his verses he spoke of himself as a humble, ordinary soul, even though he was accepted by all as a giant literary figure. Hali and Iqbal were full of praise for his genius. Ghalib expressed his shortcomings in the following verse while comparing himself with Bedil:

Tarz-e Bedil men rekhta likhna

Asadullah Khan, qayamat hai

In yet another verse, he expressed it like this:

Ham kahan key daana thay, kis hunar men yakta thay

Besabab hua Ghalib dushman aasman apna

A wise person never boasts of his knowledge and wisdom, but quietly goes about his life. Ghalib did not taunt anyone else to be ashamed of their deeds, but asked himself why he was not ashamed of his own deeds. He was an example of self-chastisement.

The situation in our country and with our leaders is just the opposite. They neither repent their misdeeds, nor are they ashamed of lying, cheating, corruption and fraud. We have developed a culture in which moral and legal wrongdoers are treated with respect and honour and are given important posts in the running of the country. The leaders and the parties of these miscreants support them openly, rather than getting rid of them, more often than not because they themselves do not have a clean slate. This is a blatant demonstration of violation of laws and moral ethics. The wrongdoers move around in expensive four-wheelers with heads held high. Nobody can dare to question their status. We see a certain similarity to the reign of the Pharaoh where he and his subalterns behaved with total impunity. A small bright spot is that the public is no longer deaf and dumb. The media has made them aware of political games and voiced their concerns.

I wish all those in power would pay attention to these verses. As if embezzlement of government funds, corruption, nepotism, etc., is not enough, we are now faced with the moral and legal crime of politicians using fake educational degrees and testimonials. People have used this dubious means to become public representatives, even managing to get lucrative posts. Stop to think for a moment. Would anyone who could stoop so low not also make the most of the opportunities for wrongdoing that are offered?

It is the misfortune of this nation to have party leaders who not only support such people, but then place them in important and lucrative posts where they are further rewarded for cheating and fraud. No matter what they do and what they achieve through dubious means, the public sees through all their mischief, even though they may not be in a position to act upon it. Even if they are unable to challenge fraudsters to their face, they do discuss these matters amongst themselves and with their friends and hopefully would not vote them into office again. The press also plays a role and acts as their spokesman. It all boils down to:

Dunya men kaminey ko sharafat nahin milti

Daulat bhi lutadey to yeh daulat nahin milti

Allah Almighty has cursed such people and proclaimed that they will be doomed to hell. We all know that not so long ago President Nixon had to resign because he had lied about the Watergate break-in. He had known about it, but denied any knowledge. A similar thing happened to President Clinton when he claimed that he did not know Monica Lewinsky, whereas he knew her well and had flirted with her. He survived impeachment but lost a lot of respect and prestige, both nationally and internationally. Had both Nixon and Clinton told the truth, American lawmakers and the public would probably have pardoned them and considered their behaviour to be due to human frailty. Lying is not acceptable in the Western world, whereas in our country it has become accepted not only as a moral norm, but as a pillar to leaders and rulers and all their despicable acts are simply laughed off.

Some time ago it was reported in the press that a woman in Saudi Arabia had used a fake degree in order to get a job. When she was found out, she was not only dismissed from service but was punished with lashes and imprisonment. I am sure many of our leaders and culprits of similar acts saw that article, but there was no reaction from any quarter.

Our politicians are crazy for power, money and status, and this prevents those involved from telling the truth. If they are politicians, they are afraid that the party bigwigs will get annoyed and that they will then be sidelined or thrown out of the party and/or government. This compels them to remain quiet regarding all the wrongdoings they know of and become "yes-sir" persons. It takes guts and moral courage to speak the truth, and our leaders should encourage such behaviour, provided, of course, they themselves have nothing they want to hide. They should encourage their colleagues to follow such a practice. We can only move forward if party leaders weed out the cheats and liars, something difficult for them to do if their own reputation is not spotless. All wrongdoers lack moral values and personal pride and they never seem ashamed of their actions. Unfortunately, this cancer has affected the whole nation and entered every walk of life. We have lost dignity and respect in the eyes of the world at large, but we are least bothered about this--if we stop to think about it at all, that is. The public can do nothing. They are either mere passive spectators or participants in their own small way. A famous Persian proverb comes to mind here: "Mara che azeen qissa keh gao aamad o khar raft" (what difference does it make to us if the bull goes away and the donkey takes its place).

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