There was a furor over the French chef barring Pakistanis from eating at his restaurant. It got none other than our friendly neighborhood Cyril Almeida, all fired up and ready for action. He not only started a media campaign but also contact the authorities (meaning the police) to take note of this craziness taking place in the very capital of this country. How could a businessman living in Pakistan bar the very citizens of the country he was doing business in? What gall! What injustice! The slogan used to incite the support of the pubic was “No to Apartheid“. Now who would want to support something as heinous as the apartheid in Pakistan? A person must be mentally deranged to not support a cause so just, so straight forward that even a kid could tell it was a cause worth fighting for. Well, I am here to tell you that all these people, including Cyril Almeida were wrong!
They weren’t wrong because the behavior of the chef gave them emotional pain. They weren’t even wrong in voicing their displeasure with this behavior of the owner. Where they went wrong was in denying the owner the right of ownership, the freedom to decide the type of customers his business would serve. Was the choice correct? I am not a judge or jury. What I do know is that the very essence of freedom rests on not dissevering an owner’s right to practice what he believes in and how wants it done. Is the owner physically harming someone? No. Is the owner forcibly making someone do something they don’t want to? No.
So what has apartheid got anything to do with this? Lets first see what wikipedia says about the term apartheid:
Apartheid (Afrikaans pronunciation: [ɐˈpartɦɛit]; an Afrikaans word meaning ‘the state of being apart’, literally ‘apart-hood‘) was a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments, the ruling party from 1948 to 1994, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants were curtailed and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. The term is nowadays currently used for every kind of segregation, established by the state authority in a country, against the social and civil rights of a minority of citizens, due to ethnic prejudices.
Apartheid was used in South Africa by the government to forcibly segregate people based on some criteria. The fact that the criteria was skin color, height, beauty, or size of the nose are irrelevant. What is relevant is that in that case the government in charge forcibly implemented these rules and subjugated one group under another. You may ask how is this any different from what the restaurant owner did? Did this lunatic also not segregate based on citizenship? Did this owner not create a class of people that was found to be suitable for serving while another similar class without a passport of a foreign country found to be unsuitable? Yes, you’re right, the owner did all that, but with a slight difference.
The difference in this case is in it being a private decision, voluntary if you may. It wasn’t government decreeing who gets to eat and who doesn’t. It was the private owner exercising his right of being the owner. The dissenters have a right to show dissent and protest. But, to bring the police to resolve this and with it the threat of violence that’s implied behind every action of the armed police, is going a bit too far. It’s a kind of behavior a socialist system would encourage and engage in, forcing all and everyone to conform to the centrally acceptable norm or decision. It is this behavior, in the face of this rejection by the restaurant owner, that indicates how far the country is from becoming a bastion of freedom, or a prison where any dissenting opinion or idea is violently opposed.
Here we must keep in mind the governmental rules regarding the serving of alcohol. The rules are partly or wholly to be blamed for this mess. Due to these restrictions, the owner may have found this retarded way to bar the locals, to avoid any inadvertent breach of the law. There is no doubt that his methods are crude, unintelligent, and perhaps borderline stupid. Nonetheless, they still don’t deserve an involvement of the police. His ownership entitles him to exercise his right to choose and restrict as he pleases, as long as it does not involve violence. Calling this apartheid is simply an attempt to emotionally charge the climate, and cloud the real issue, the issue of personal and property ownership.
If Pakistan is to become a great nation, then these ownership rights will have to become sacrosanct. This is the seed that makes a society become prosperous. Aristotle analysed and concluded the supremacy of private property over communal property. He blasted the social and communal rhetoric of Plato to pieces with his devastating critique. Even the beloved prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), counselled patience and non-violence when the early Muslims were persecuted. It was not until the private property of the Muslims of Mecca started getting forcibly confiscated that the permission to pick up arms was reluctantly given for the first time.
There’s a reason that wherever there has been respect for private property, there generally has been resultant prosperity. Let us embrace this path to freedom. Let us embrace this path to a more prosperous Pakistan. Let us respect and defend the seemingly insignificant, yet vitally important, right to private property.