Thursday June 20, 2024

Intellectual dishonesty

By Dr Syed Kaleem Imam
March 24, 2022

It was ten years ago. BMW cars were to arrive at the Karachi port. Out of nowhere, the regime announced a large reduction in import taxes, so the BMWs left the port enjoying the colossal rebate. But that’s not the end of the story. The following day, the authority withdrew the rebate, after learning that the fleet belonged to an influential member of the power structure.

Such intellectual manipulation has formed a large part in our history. The moment you gain power, the clever business begins. IPPs, motorways, sugar, wheat, dollars, elections, and judgements – every scam played with intellectual manipulation.

There was a time when officeholders shared their principles, doctors fought for humanity, teachers prepared the next generations, journalists told the truth and judges delivered justice.

Making a knowingly false claim is dishonesty, but that is the norm that is encouraged more by those who are aware of the consequences. To be fair, logical integrity requires seeking the truth regardless of whether it conflicts with your own narrative or opinion.

As a stakeholder, I have witnessed countless instances of responsible stakeholders covering their tracks and succumbing to pressure. A group-think mentality and self-praise band did not challenge poor decisions and provided amenities to those they admired.

Some people have an outrageous display of anger where they behave awfully towards a weaker person, so that they may have their way. Tempering anger and hate aggression with Machiavellian flair, they achieve mercenary gains or avoide being exposed for their incompetence. As ironic as it sounds, such angry bosses would go over the top to flatter their seniors.

Today, the worst thing is to sell the power of your pen. Unfortunately, this all is being done to achieve some monetary goals, promote sham ideologies, or advocate vested interests. Dishonesty is not regarded offensive anymore, but as part of the fifth generation of disruption and hybrid warfare.

Politics has traditionally been the norm for attaining some levels of status within families, communities, and on the international stage. Despite their origins, deceit and lies seem to have taken over morals and values.

Our land of opportunity should not be singled out in this, though. Intellectual dishonesty is now an international phenomenon. No outrage for Palestine and Kashmir but for East Timur and Sudan international forces act swiftly. The so-called modern world shouts for freedom of speech but is mute for Julian Assange. When India stays out of the Ukraine debate in the UN, the European Union is quiet but it does urge Pakistan to pick a side.

Avoiding or ignoring a difficult question is not a good idea. The only way to overcome intellectual dishonesty is by admitting our mistakes and not using double standards when interpreting one another’s interpretations. Even though some people believe intellectual dishonesty shouldn’t be punishable, they believe it should be liable.

A world of misinformation and fake news makes it more important than ever to confront intellectual dishonesty. Sometimes the truth can be confusing, especially when it comes to key issues like the environment, education, and health. Incorrect or unchallenged information also compromises government policies. Promoting positions out of fear, scorn, or emotional motivations should be discouraged.

For a change to be effective at the national level, it must begin with children’s early encounters with ethics and morals at home, in school, and in their communities. Our goal should be to preserve the depth and breadth of life and to prevent people from becoming tools of their tools.

Establishing boundaries and respecting principles is the only way to bring about change. Embrace what is right rather than what sells. A society based on morality and prudence is immortal, but societies based on immorality and dishonesty are bound to be doomed.

The writer is federal secretary, Ministry of Narcotics Control. He tweets @KaleemImam and can be reached at:

Facebook: @syedkaleemimam