Ernest Dempsey—To determine whether one has slipped out of bounds has got to be a carefully considered point. Otherwise, one might
risk slipping out of the boundary that demarcates the territory of sanity. Asking an official for explanation of some unusual behavior by him during a recent trip to India is a case that stirs critical thought about the values held high by Pakistan’s judicial circles.
This past weekend, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) issued Deputy Attorney General Khurshid Khan a show cause notice after his recent trip to India along with a delegation of 200 SCBA members. The purpose of the trip was promoting interaction with judicial bodies of the neighboring country. During the visit, Khurshid Khan did some chores – like cleaning dishes and floors, and polishing – at a few places of worship with the intention of promoting inter-faith harmony. The SCBA felt it amounted to defaming one’s country; thus they issued a notice to Mr. Khan.
Two aspects of this reaction to an apparently harmless are interesting to notice. First, as mentioned in the news story on Express Tribune, Khurshid Khan being a government employee is accountable to his office and the judicial body, by sending a court notice, has overstepped its jurisdiction.
Then, the fundamental question arises as to why this group of legal experts thought it was defamation of one’s country if somebody engaged in chores for promoting inter-faith harmony. It is apparent that in one’s life, a person usually has almost predictable, defined social roles – particularly a person who holds an office and knows his/her official code of conduct. However, anyone is always free – legally, morally, and existentially – to promote friendliness and bring together people of diverse religious beliefs and ideologies.
In this context, the problem seems not to be so much with Khurshid Khan’s behavior, but with the pattern of thinking based on “superior” values and class system of societies. With high-paid judges enjoying air-conditioned offices and expensive cars, the feeling of belonging to a certain class which, supposedly, is superior and can only see servants doing the chores around the house becomes a part of one’s identity. This is a kind of syndrome not uncommon among people who have a lot in the pocket and little positive in the heart.
One the other hand, a “respectable” official like Khurshid Khan has hurt the artificial feelings of this class by stepping out into the open, the real, and the truly human. It was his time to show the world that a Pakistani official can have a big heart; that he can stand for the universal spirit of harmony – it was his victory that, not unsurprisingly, made his companion visitors worry for the integrity of their skin-deep values.
For all purposes that matter, Khurshid Khan’s effort for inter-faith harmony is one example every individual should follow, and those associating patriotism with pomp and show should remember that a human child is born stark naked – vulnerable and without a sense of social class; to him or her, every helpful hand that feeds and protects is his universe.