An ISI chief and a liberal?

Not quite

In Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s now famous interview to Der Spiegel, he defends the Taliban’s right to "freedom of opinion" although the question itself related to Mullah Omar’s presence in Pakistan.

However, it is worth listening closely when the general explains why he too is unwilling to apprehend the Taliban leadership, even though many claim that Taliban leader Mullah Omar, for example, is in Quetta, a city where Pasha lived until a few years ago. "Shouldn’t they be allowed to think and say what they please? They believe that jihad is their obligation. Isn’t that freedom of opinion?" he asks, defending extremist rabble-rousers, who are sending more and more Koran school students to Afghanistan to fight in the war there. [Der Spiegel]

Now the ISI chief might have engaged in this sophistry to avoid answering the tough question regarding Mullah Omar’s current residential address. But it also shows that for all his sophistication and liberal pretensions, General Shuja Pasha’s doesn’t know what liberalism is about. He indulges in a common fallacy, or indeed a trick that illiberal types use: they forget (or are unaware) that even the standard bearers of liberalism argue that the one condition that constrains free speech is that it should cause no harm to others. Here’s old Mill:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. [John Stuart Mill/On Liberty]

5 thoughts on “An ISI chief and a liberal?”

  1. Oh yeah, jihadi terrorism is just an ‘opinion’!

    An aside: Nitin, how will you reconcile ‘acting on self-defense’ within the ambit of liberalism?

    Cheers,
    Murali

  2. For all I care, the jihadis can keep all their thoughts to themselves. So long as they don’t bother the rest of us, we shouldn’t have a problem.

    I think Pasha (cleverly?) forgets a crucial point here: Using the right to free speech to propagate such opinions can certainly be termed as incitement to violence, given what’s happening.

  3. Presumably the general is also inclined to be liberal to the “opinions” that, eg, Muslims should all convert to Pastafariansim. And the opinion that it is acceptable to depict the Prophet in cartoons. Surely he opposes the application of Pakistan’s blasphemy law in such cases.

Comments are closed.