January 12, 2009AfghanistanForeign AffairsISIjihadisliberalismPakistanTalibanterrorism

An ISI chief and a liberal?

Not quite

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

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]

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