New Writing

   

As published in The News , Pakistan on 29 May 2017

A comment
by Javed Jabbar

Is Mashal Khan's brutal mob killing in a northwestern university in Pakistan in April 2017 on unfounded allegations of blasphemy a symptom of a malignant disease that stifles intellectual freedom in Pakistani universities in general ?

There is a malaise which occasionally erupts into sores and boils . But its main roots are structural and managerial flaws . They are religion -driven only in some specific aspects and individual cases . There are other causes for the ailment . Unresolved tensions between a Federal Higher Education Commission and newly empowered , assertive Provincial Governments ; proliferation of new universities without a commensurate expansion of qualified faculty ; deficient standards of most public sector colleges and schools that provide students unprepared for the next levels of education ; weak governance and ineffective enforcement of discipline , for both staff and students . The last of these factors most tragically enabled the hyper-swift , unchecked murder .

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Evolving a democratic nation-state Dawn

23rd March 2017
by Javed Jabbar

The Lahore Resolution portrays a vision formulated through a consultative, democratic process. The creation of the original State of Pakistan in 1947 and its post-1971 renewal represent a continuation -- with periodic suspensions -- of participative methods to achieve State stability and national cohesion.

Whether through non-official mechanisms such as political parties (most of which are internally non-democratic !) or through official elective institutions such as Parliament, the democratic principle , often elusive, remains a fundamental ideal . This dimension was distorted by 4 military interventions. Yet ironically, even in the military-led phases, the democratic facet was strengthened by the promotion of elected , truly empowered Local Governments (2001-2008) and the introduction , irreversibly , of private electronic media (2002 onwards).

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M. A. Jinnah, re-born.

25th December 2016
by Javed Jabbar

Just as we sit inside a darkened cinema theatre to willingly suspend our dis-belief and become part of a two-hour dream, so too today , on the 140th birth anniversary of the Quaid-i-Azam let us use a thoroughly unreasonable premise to speculate on what M.A. Jinnah would do when faced with the harsh realities of Pakistan in 2016.

If he --- by a re-ordering of time , space and logic –– was re-born in 1986 and decides to enter the political realm in 2016 at the age of 30 , would he be able to ultimately rejuvenate and re-construct Pakistan ? Would his qualities of character , capability and courage be relevant and effective in the next 42 years ? Would the fundamental difference in adversaries then –– the colonial British , a hostile Congress –– and potentially now –– two dominant political parties widely perceived to be led by corrupt leaders, other power-monopolizing elites –– permit a new formidable challenger to displace them ?

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Kashmir -- the internal challenges (www.southasia.com.pk)

19th November 2016
by Javed Jabbar

As published in South Asia magazine, Pakistan Before we can effectively address the external challenges on Kashmir such as mobilizing international support for a just and honourable solution, we should give higher priority to clearing the confusion and contradictions that mark our own internal handling of foreign policy.

Despite its association with the genesis of Pakistan in August 1947, thereby making it the first and oldest subject on our foreign policy agenda, Kashmir's pre-eminence is equalled today in 2016 by other subjects such as nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, USA, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and related spheres such as NATO, EU, Turkey, Russia, Gulf, other Muslim countries, and other major nations. , November 2016.

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Trump’s victory – or one cheer for democracy. Dawn

11th November 2016
by Javed Jabbar

WITH reference to the results of the US presidential elections and elections to Congress: one cheer for democracy, two cheers — or, rather two jeers — for racism, sexism, bigotry and falsehoods.

Though Pakistani voters have a tendency to often re-elect corrupt leaders, they have demonstrated far greater maturity and universality of vision and values than the majority of US voters this year. More than ever, I am truly proud to be a Pakistani.

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Testing boundaries Dawn

23th October 2016
by Javed Jabbar

THE Cyril Almeida episode is only the latest Pakistan-specific manifestation of a historic, global change evolving between state-related information and independent media. Both sectors are testing or breaking conventional limits. Some general dimensions and some questions specific to this particular incident invite attention.

By their very nature, all states, democratic or otherwise, require secrecy in certain aspects. This is why virtually every state enforces laws on secrecy with varying time frames for declassification and disclosure. In some cases, even when disclosure becomes legally obligatory, redaction is used to black out portions of documents. Like love and diamonds, secrecy can be forever — until someone decides otherwise.

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Media madness — or sanity?’ Dawn

5th October 2016
by Javed Jabbar

A GAP of 16 years occurred between the first American presidential candidates’ TV debate in 1960 and the second in 1976. There should be a gap of another 16 years till the next. With a pervasive media, America in particular would benefit from ‘time off’ from the self-perpetuated 24-hour TV news cycle and candidates’ direct face-offs.

The Clinton-Trump encounter on Sept 26 was reality pandering to TV. The second debate due on Oct 9 stimulates an advance question. Will a medium which inherently magnifies theatrics and posturing divert attention from the need for a sustained, in-depth face-to-face discussion by the candidates instead of glib two-minute statements and laughter-seeking witticisms?

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Pakistan -- the Promise of the Early Years : A Memoir | Dawn

22nd September 2016
by Javed Jabbar

This is an unavoidably incomplete yet unexpectedly absorbing book about the fulsome life of an unusually distinguished individual. Syed Fida Hassan had a meritorious education. He succeeded in a competitive professional examination (ICS). He married a woman of ability in her own right. They nurtured three gifted children who achieved excellence in respective fields. He achieved sustained progress in State service (CSP) which culminated with high-level appointments and awards. He attained international recognition in sports administration. He gained wide respect. That's enough raw material for one , or more volumes of memoirs.

And as the icing on the cake -- he was also good-looking . In his Diaries of 1966-1972 (OUP, 2007) President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan records a note in October 1967 about Syed Fida Hassan who was then serving as his Principal Secretary. There was a dinner hosted in the visiting President's honour by Karim Aga Khan in Cannes, France . The Prince of Monaco and his wife, the beautiful Hollywood actor, Grace Kelly were also present . Ayub Khan noted : "There was an old French lady who apparently got very fond of Mr. Fida Hassan... she thought he was the most handsome man she has ever met and wanted him to come to stay with her on his next visit. Zeenat, Fida's wife, was not listening in. She was on another table..." !

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The power of the people | Dawn

14th August 2016
by Javed Jabbar

Does the Quetta carnage of 8th August symbolize how a few crazed terrorists probably goaded by agencies of congenitally hostile countries can pulverize both people and state power ? The search for a credible answer continues as we turn to the nature of people’s power.

Multiple factors helped create the independent new nation-state of Pakistan . On the 69th anniversary of the country's emergence , it may be useful to reflect on aspects of how and whether the power of the people is always a potent factor in the formation and evolution of nations and states . And whether and how such power features in the context of Pakistan .

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Unwise voting | Dawn

28th June 2016
by Javed Jabbar

ONE of the world’s oldest parliamentary democracies- the UK- used an inappropriate electoral system which enabled mere populism to distort the long-term vision of a mature democracy.

Even without a written constitution, a referendum with fundamental implications for the future of the country should have been determined by at least a two-third majority of votes, and not left to be decided by a narrow margin of less than 4pc. A simple majority is valid to enact normal, day-to-day legislation. But it is inadequate to decide on a subject that has far-reaching dimensions embracing not just narrow national interests but larger regional and global values.

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From Resolution to Institutions | Dawn Special Report

23rd March 2016
by Javed Jabbar

The Lahore Resolution moved on 23rd March 1940 ( actually adopted on 24th March) does not contain the word "Institutions". Yet implicit in the demand for the creation of new, autonomous, sovereign "independent states" (subsequently amended to become a singular state) was the explicit goal to build the whole range of institutions which enable a state to develop and progress.

Seventy six years after the adoption of the Resolution and sixty nine years after the birth of Pakistan it may be relevant to briefly survey the process of how our institutions meet the requirements of an independent country

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Precision and Passion - " Pakistan ---from religion to fascism. Memoirs of a journalist | Dawn Books & Authors

20 March 2016
by Javed Jabbar

On page 88 of this extraordinary book ,while recalling his family's migration from Hyderabad Deccan in the Indian region to Pakistan soon after Independence in 1947 , the author digresses briefly . He writes : " .. the topsy-turvy way in which I have written this book and, in that process, played havoc with chronology.. ". But for this reviewer at least : no regrets are required. A stream-of-consciousness dimension sometimes marks the narrative . The text moves smoothly , sometimes abruptly from one time-zone to another , even from one subject to another within a single chapter or section . This unpredictable mobility is precisely one of the several qualities that make M .A.Siddiqi's book refreshingly different from a conventional approach to sequentiality . There are pleasant surprises ever so often .

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Pakistani Universities - internal challenges | Research, London

February 2016
by Javed Jabbar

The attack by the Pakistani Taliban on the Bacha Khan University at Charsadda on 20 January is an appalling reminder of external threats to the country’s campuses. But there are also internal threats-overt, covert, a few already fatal, several ominous-that threaten freedom of academic inquiry and intellectual exploration in Pakistan’s higher education institutions.

Such threats are presently limited in scale. But if they are left unchallenged, they could turn universities into places where minds are suffocated and ideas perish.

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Dialogue with Dhaka | The News, Pakistan

December 2015
by Javed Jabbar

44 years after the two halves of Pakistan separated, acrimony rather than reconciliation marks the relationship. We recall today the tragic parting of 16th December 1971. There is now an additional dimension of sorrow: we also mourn the massacre of Peshawar school children on the same day in 2014.​

Over four decades since the rupture, Bangladesh continues to convict and execute persons sympathetic to the West Pakistani perspective who were accused of murders in 1971. In contrast, there is no report of even a single individual being held guilty, leave alone being punished, for the killings of thousands of non-Bengalis in different phases of 1971-early 1972. Many affected families now resident in Pakistan or overseas who were directly affected, or witness to, the violence their own family members or friends or colleagues suffered simply because they were non-Bengalis.

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Bangladesh and Pakistan One hundred years: 1971-2071 (i.e 56 years from now in 2015) | Holiday weekly, Dhaka, Bangladesh

October 2015
by Javed Jabbar

When one of my most favourite journals in South Asia, Holiday of Dhaka, graciously invites me to contribute some observations to mark a very special anniversary, a resplendent range of memories and associations come alive. Be it the image of the dear, departed friend Enayatullah Khan, a brave journalist of exceptional integrity, a close compatriot in our shared struggle to build co-operation between media practitioners in South Asia or be it the living example of Sayed Kamaluddin who perseveres with courage and vast experience to sustain and strengthen this journal. Be it the golden green landscape of Sonar Bangla and its beautiful women and men or be they re-collections of a lost yet forever-treasured past. At the same time, tomorrow calls --- because the future is, ironically, perhaps more important than the past. Though that does not devalue the infinite charms of yesterday.

The title of this brief essay contains within itself the reasons why it is attractive and tempting to speculate about what the bi-lateral relationship between the two independent States is likely to be over 5 decades hence. As this writer is not going to be in this realm of existence, one cannot be held accountable for making predictions. Thus, read onward- knowing well that regrettably, there is no sense of responsibility or prospective accountability on the part of this day-dreamer.

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Brief yet enduring? | The Dawn

26th August 2015
by Javed Jabbar

Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja commenced what will possibly be the shortest term of any Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (23 days, ending 9th September 2015) with refreshing independence e.g. the short order of 19th August places a blanket ban on issuance of permits to hunt endangered species. One hopes that similar, prompt scrutiny is applied to the implementation of Recommendations by the Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court on 15th January 2013. Those proposals for change provide for radical re-construction of the media sector.

By coincidence, then-Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was a Member of the two-Member Bench of the Court , along with Justice Khilji Arif Hussain (who retired in 2014) which constituted the two-Member Media Commission chaired by former Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid , with this writer as Member .

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A walk on water | The News

16th August 2015
by Javed Jabbar

On a mobile, human-made island floating south-south east of New York on the Atlantic Ocean toward the Eastern Caribbean a few weeks earlier in 2015. A brisk walk for a mile of rounds on a smooth deck just some feet above the liquid surface seems a miracle : to be able to virtually walk on water .

For an insecure mortal who prefers the solid earth beneath his feet rather than ephemeral depths : the brief exercise provoked recall of previous passages on ships . As a child in the early 1950s , with Mother on the S.S.Sabarmati or the S.S. Saraswati on the short Bombay-Karachi-Bombay routes . A thrilling school excursion in 1959 on board the Pakistan Navy destroyer "Badar" as CENTO fleets staged "Exercise Midlink" in the Arabian Sea. Later, the ferry service in 1967 on the Channel between England and France . Later still, on a yacht off the Malaysian coast or on day-long trips out of Karachi harbour , or elsewhere . But these steps in 2015 were the longest walks on one's longest voyage to date on the blue beneath .

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Constructing National Identity | The Dawn

14th August 2015
by Javed Jabbar

14th August is as much about the continuing evolution of a singular yet kaleidoscopic Pakistani national identity as it is about the anniversary of the Independence of the State of Pakistan.

What does Pakistani identity mean to a little girl called Fatima who has never been to school , is displaced due to floods, sitting in a shelter on a bund near Khairpur on the Indus River on 3rd August 2015? As I tried to momentarily engage her in a brief conversation, she afforded me a sceptical look . And what does Pakistani identity mean to another Fatima of about the same age who studies in a leading private school in Karachi ? The city Fatima is guaranteed to proceed soon to an American university for higher education. Unlike the Fatima on the river bank who is likely to be married off shortly to become the mother of at least 2 children by the age of 18, with more to come in the years ahead. Is there only a thin , transient connection between the two ? Perhaps one day both Fatimas will know they share more than a very special name.

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Independence, not Partition | The Dawn

14th August 2012 (repeat August 2015)
by Javed Jabbar

As we approach the Independence anniversaries of Pakistan and India, newspaper articles, books and discussions in electronic media keep using the term "Partition" as a virtual equivalent of Independence.

Though the following article was originally published in Dawn on 14th August 2012, it is brought to your valued attention in August 2015.

A few days later it is intended to inflict some other thoughts on your esteemed self about the subject in 2015.

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Back-channel, not Track-II | The News

18th July 2015
by Javed Jabbar

The text of the brief Pakistan-India joint statement released after the meeting of the two Prime Ministers at the SCO Summit on 10th July unfortunately omits specific reference to Kashmir. About 16 years ago after the Vajpayee visit to Lahore in February 1999, the Kashmir dispute was replaced with the term "the Kashmir issue". One hopes that the 2015 omission is only tactical and transient, not strategic and permanent.

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A Pertinent yet Flawed book | Newsline, Pakistan

7th July 2015
by Javed Jabbar

" Conflict resolution in multi-cultural societies : the Indian experience "
by Jhumpa Mukherjee , 165 pages. Sage Publications,
New Delhi ,2014.

For three reasons this book is of special relevance for readers in Pakistan . First , because it chronicles with dates and details how the Indian State , our most difficult neighbour , has attempted with substantial yet limited success , to adapt its constituent state-units to its vast ethnic and cultural diversity . Second , because it is a compact ,handy source of information on this subject for Pakistan where knowledge about India is mainly confined to a broad awareness of the northern Hindi -speaking parts ( and Bollywood trivia ) . Whereas this book provides considerable detail about South India and North-East India . Third, because both India and Pakistan are part of an unfolding era in regional and global history when established State frontiers are being breached or threatened under various pressures, including ethnic and cultural forces.

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Meaning Massacred | Dawn

7th July 2015
by Javed Jabbar

Recent slaughters of tourists in Tunisia and Shia worshippers in Kuwait represent only the latest killings by those claiming to be Muslims even as their actions prove they have no right to be in the fold of Islam . By being entrapped into using the same words that perpetrators of violence use to disguise themselves, we , and media , become parties to the massacre of what words mean.

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The pleasures of Turkey | Dawn

7th June 2015
by Javed Jabbar

Where previous visits were formal or festive, a recent visit in April 2015 was educative and restorative. On the first evening in Istanbul one was introduced to a vantage point from where the sight was spectacular and the sound of azaan captivated. There was the splendour of both the Great Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque, like silhouettes of the soul, seen against the backdrop of the Bosphorous, and a twilight sky.

The normally solo azaan here became a unique duet. Each line of the call to prayer was rendered with a sacred euphony by the muezzin of one mosque. Then, a split-second later, repeated, with no over-lap, by the muezzin of the other mosque. Each voice rippled with resonance across the open space. Never before had one heard this perfectly partnered homage to Allah : all the cadences, the tenderness, the power of the call ---- touched, soothed , stimulated the heart, and every corpuscle.

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Search without end | Dawn

31st May 2015
by Javed Jabbar

Despite having long known and respected Ahmad Ali Khan, in reviewing this book one simply wanted to learn, most of all, about the author, in his own words. And perhaps about oneself as well. Because sometimes another person's voyage becomes one's own discovery. As it turned out, so gripping did the reading become and so engaging the subject that any selfish quests were quickly set aside.

In Search of Sense is a riveting, revealing portrait of a gentle yet towering giant of journalism. The book is a panoramic passage through a landscape of momentous landmarks in the 20th century history of South Asia and Pakistan. This is an intensely personal saga: a remarkable individual's ideological odyssey parallel to, and meshed together with, his emotive journey from childhood through all the stages that culminated into a fulsome life.

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TRAVAILS IN TURKEY | Dawn

18th May 2015
by Javed Jabbar

A RECENT visit to friendly, beautiful Turkey revives awareness of how close are the bonds with Pakistan. Alas, one also realises there is one subject in which the two fraternal nations should not share a common feature ie the abysmally low ranking of both in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

Turkey is placed at 149 out of 180 countries. Pakistan goes even lower, but not too far away at 159. However, in the ‘Abuses’ part of the score, the two countries are virtually in the same single rank. Turkey at 64.07, Pakistan at 64.91. While Turkey has a strong tendency to coerce or imprison critical journalists and media proprietors, Pakistan’s front-line journalists such as reporters, (a couple of TV) anchors and cameramen are either killed outright or are injured by mostly untraced elements, or threatened with violence.

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From Resolution to Revolution | Dawn

23rd March 2015
by Javed Jabbar

There is a profound challenge for Pakistan 75 years after the adoption of the Lahore Resolution which led to the independent State of Pakistan in 1947.This challenge is to make a third and decisive transition. Over the past three-quarters of a century, two transitions were initiated but remain incomplete. The first transition requires on a mass level, a re-examination of our origins and history.

The second transition requires a re-positioning of our relationship with our land. The third transition requires an authentic Revolution, ideally comprehensive, and in practical terms, gradual, phased, in some respects simultaneous, in others consecutive. But in all respects tough, painful, sometimes unavoidably violent, always single-minded and radical.

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Press Release from SPO-UK, London

29th January 2015

Vigorous debate on Right to vote in Pakistani elections for overseas Pakistanis and on ideal mechanisms for balloting – diversity of opinions expressed.

Consensus on urgent need for similar consultations by ECP, Government of Pakistan and civil society forums.

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Pakistan-India : Ten challenges for the way forward..for Mr Modi! | New Approach, Kolkatta

2nd December 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Written 2nd December 2014 for the new Indian journal "New Approach", Kolkatta, January 2015 issue.

Accustomed as this writer is to being unrealistic as well as unreasonable, with the additional misconception that some persons are mistaken enough to read through a text that begins on this low note, a neatly symmetrical number of ten challenges are placed below for consideration by the Prime Minister of India. Knowing that he his not going to err by applying his time to this dubious task.

Being also the chauvinist yet pragmatic Pakistani that one is, an equivalent ten challenges for the consideration of the Prime Minister of Pakistan may follow in the next contribution to this journal whose very title is so promising and auspicious.

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Peshawar : the inside story | Frontline

22nd December 2014
by Javed Jabbar

No. This is not about what the title above misleadingly suggests.
There are no hot, new facts previously unrevealed.

These words are steps into darkness. The void of the murderous minds that committed the horror. Even in pitch black, there are split-second flashes, multi-second glimpses.

Desecration begins with the killers' identities. Their faces, four of the seven, frozen by death. Two with their eyes still open. But closed to what they had wrought. One of them with an expression somewhat wry, thoughtful. One, with protruding teeth, a nasty sight. Two with fine features, possibly the only fine aspect about them.With eyes shut, unable,finally, to witness their own madness.

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Mr. Jinnah is alive … and well ? | Dawn

25th December 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah passed away on 11th September 1948. Spiritually and metaphorically he remains alive 66 years later...but is he well ? He survives the Peshawar tragedy with the same heart-wrenching grief felt by parents and families and his nation.Yet he also shares with us all, our resolve not to let the barbarians reign. And he will remain alive, as long as Pakistan exists as a nation-State. Which is, God willing - and our own actions enabling ! - forever, and anon.

One meets Mr. Jinnah every day, sometimes in every waking hour. He even appears in our dreams. Though he himself, at the level where he now resides, may be going through a nightmare because of what we have made of his legacy. He is a pervasive icon, not a cloistered relic confined to a museum.

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16th December....what if ? ! | The News

16th December 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Several factors led to the dismemberment of the original Pakistan on 16th December 1971.One of these factors has received far less attention in public discourse than deserved.

This factor is the disregard for a fundamental dimension of the Constitution-making role of the National Assembly elected in December 1970 as expressed in the formulation of the Legal Framework Order ( LFO ) under which the Assembly was elected for its prime purpose.

This disregard was represented by the fact that the LFO did not require a simple majority, leave alone a two-third majority of the 5 Provinces of the country to endorse a new Constitution.

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Applause of starlight for the voice of the moon | Dawn

October 2014
by Javed Jabbar

This is a personal remembrance and tribute for Habib Wali Mohammad who passed away on Sept 4, 20l4 in Los Angeles, whose voice remains part of the ether and not just a sound in a studio.

For reasons that may become evident in the following recollection, Habib Wali Mohammad`s voice often felt as if it fills a void. From outer space. We assume the moon is silent because it probably is. But if we want to link a male voice sound to the splendid, isolated glory of the jewel in the night-sky, we could do no better than listen to Habib Wali Mohammad.

Almost exactly 40 years ago, in 1974, I completed writing the screenplay for Pakistan`s first English language cinema feature film " Beyond the last mountain " which I also directed and produced.

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Internal and external threats - do media matter ?
Regime | Hilal

September 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Those readers who wish to skip the dubious privilege of reading the whole text of this reflection are well-advised to take a gentle leap to the concluding paragraphs for a response as uncertain as the implications of the question posed in the title.

For the unwise, let us proceed in search of the route to a potential answer.

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Culture of the Sepulchre: Idi Amin’s Monster
Regime | Newsline magazine

22th July 2014
by Madanjeet Singh

Viking Books, Penguin Group, India, 2012.
237 pages
Book review by Javed Jabbar

Witness to catastrophe
At least for this reviewer, the book comes as a pleasant surprise. Written by a career diplomat and an art historian, a personal viewing of a brutal tragi-comic episode of recent history becomes a well-paced, readable and unexpectedly absorbing narrative.

About 13 years ago, Niaz Naik,former Foreign Secretary and Convenor of the longest-running, still on-going, quiet, non-media-reported (since 1991) Pakistan-India Track-II Dialogue know as the Neemrana Initiative, of which this reviewer is also a member,introduced me to the author, Madanjeet Singh, who was then visiting Pakistan.

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True tales from Tharparkar | Dawn's Metro/South edition

22th July 2014

On a visit to Mithi and Nagarparkar on 17th and 18th July 2014, during inter-actions with friends, fellow-workers and other aliens from outer space, a small collection of brief true tales.

During the Jam Sadiq Ali Government in 1992, a certain Tehsil level Food Inspector was officially declared and duly-recorded to be "dead". Shortly thereafter, in a second coming, the same individual, with a new name was appointed to the very same position. About 22 years later, in 2013-14, after having been charged with corruption and being suspended, he has resumed duties in exactly the same position. The identity of the person and this charming case is widely-known. Here is living proof that neither drought nor famine can cause deaths.

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Torment and Creativity : a psychoanalytic study of literature and literati by Shamim Ahmad | The News

20th July 2014
271 pages. Rs.950/- Ushba Publishing International, Karachi, 2014.
A Comment by Javed Jabbar

In contrast to the first word in the title, this book is a treat to read.

Comprising six previously unpublished essays and twelve previously published ( in a leading newspaper ) but substantially expanded articles, with extensive citations and research, Shamim Ahmad has woven them together to create a seamless study.

To categorize the book as being ideal for the general reader is to stress its universal relevance for all literate adults. It is not to imply that the preparatory effort or its resulting text is too light for the specialist. Here is a finely balanced blend of investigation, reflection and opinion relevant for both serious amateurs and seasoned professionals.

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The other India | The News

24th May 2014
A Comment by Javed Jabbar

The BJP’s decisive victory in the May 2014 Indian elections indicates a distinct new development. At the same time, the result masks and misleads.

The first anomaly is the inherent flaw of the first-past-the-post system. The winning candidate often gets a minority of the total votes. Losing candidates, together, get far more votes. Yet the winner goes on to represent even those who voted against him/her, and the party and policies s/he represents.

Requiring the winner to obtain 51 percent of all registered voters, or the majority of those who voted, and proportional representation are ways to rectify the anomaly and ensure that legislatures accurately mirror voters’ opinions. Then there is compulsory voting, as practiced by over 30 countries, to make election results truly reflective of the whole electorate.

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About the Geo ISI episode | The News

14th May 2014
A Comment by Javed Jabbar

The complaint addressed by the Ministry of Defence against Geo to Pemra is as extreme and excessive as Geo's own live telecast of an unverified statement alleging the involvement of ISI and its DG in the attack on Hamid Mir.

Pemra is ineligible to process the complaint in the absence of a full-time Chairman. It is an ironic coincidence that the complainant, the Ministry of Defence also does not have a full-time Minister because the individual in-charge is already the Minister for Water and Power.

But so many are working over-time, not just part-time or full-time, to compound the mess with excess. A fusillade of allegations, accusations, assertions, each way every day. Even as time passes and the intensity may subside, a halt to the hyperbole is overdue. In the silence of print, let us briefly reflect.

The Jang/Geo group's origins in the pre-Independence phase and over the past 66 years are marked by a significant contribution to Pakistan's freedom movement and to the growth of independent media and to freedom of expression. The group has vigorously advocated vital national causes to promote education, social justice and human rights and has exposed major instances of corruption and misgovernance.

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Myth of Media Self-Regulation | Dawn

5th May 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Fortunately, both Hamid Mir, the intended victim of the 19th April shooting in Karachi and freedom of expression, will survive. Like Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, there is no scope for a roll-back, despite the dastardly attacks on media and journalists. However, the present situation underlines the illusion of media self-regulation, specially by electronic news media.

There are two broad categories of media regulation. The physical, operational category is an exclusive State responsibility covering essentials of eligibility.

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Non-Muslims are a Vital, Indispensable Part of Pakistan | The Citizen, India

May 2014

If relationship with land is seen as one of the most fundamental ways to position people with a national identity, then Hindus are, paradoxically, the original, the first Pakistanis. Long before Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam and other creeds advanced in South Asia, the areas that constitute both the foundational version of Pakistan, 1947-1971, and the post-1971 Pakistan were home to Hinduism and Hindus.

There is a need to immediately stress that the preceding statement is categorically not meant to encourage Narendra Modi and the Hindutva extremists of India to ratchet up their hostility against Pakistan and make an attempt to re-claim our country’s sovereign territory in the name of historic origins !

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Murder, Mystery And A Cover-up | Newsline magazine

April 2014

Getting Away With Murder : Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan Heraldo Munoz W.W. Norton & Company, New York – London 2014.
Book review by Javed Jabbar

This is a book about a grim and tragic subject. Yet this is written with an elegance and grace that makes for smooth, engaging reading rather than at a heavy, burdensome pace that some may apprehend. The author headed the UN Commission of Inquiry formed on the request of the Government of Pakistan to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He is the UN Assistant Secretary- General in-charge of Latin America and the Caribbean for the UN Development Programme, and the former Ambassador of Chile to the UN. He has previously written two other books, titled “A Solitary War” and the award-winning “The Dictator’s Shadow”.

Here is an individual narrative compiled by one who had the benefit of a special and exclusive responsibility. This gave him access to a range of sources and experiences to which other writers would not have convenient access. While there are references to findings of the UN Commission, the book is not a re-production or even a summary of the official Report by the Commission. The author views the subject and its context from his own personal perspective rather than be restricted to a rigid, formal approach. At the same time, he draws upon information gained by the Commission. On grounds referred to in this review, both the circumstances before and after the murder, and the book itself to an extent, are regrettably marked by muddled lapses.

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Diplomatic solo-speak and/or Diplomats should be seen, not heard | The Citizen, India

March 2014

At a recent dinner in Pakistan hosted by a senior envoy of a friendly overseas country, this writer, alongwith eight other guests was treated to the experience of diplomatic solo-speak : of about 90 minutes spent at the table, the host held forth for about 80 minutes.

Contrary to the well-worn notion of hypocrisy and subterfuge in what is known as diplomatic double-speak, this was virtually entirely a singular, straightforward, apparently honest and sincere preroration. But was this good private diplomacy ?

To share this episode, even without naming names, runs the risk of rightly being seen as an ungracious guest.But one reflects upon this aspect with no pique against the polemicist. Indeed, for one who is asked too often and too unwisely to speak in public forums, this was a most welcome opportunity to remain silent. The longer one's mouth remains shut, the deeper one can delve into the pleasures of listening, a discipline one relishes and from which one learns so many diverse matters. Which is exactly why the question was posed at the end of the previous paragraph.

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The Man With A Golden Heart - Syed Faseih Iqbal |  DAWN

February 2014

In the demise of Senator (r) Syed Faseih Iqbal, we have lost in one person a rare combination of qualities, attributes and achievements. Journalist, publisher, editor of professional integrity, Senator devoted to public service, philanthropist with humility, articulate champion of Balochistan's rights while being the Province’s resident by choice rather than birth, and a true Pakistani. Most of all, an exceptionally warm-hearted, compassionate human being.

As the ambulance began its long drive from Karachi to Quetta a few hours ago today, this writer got out of a car to salute him in silence and wish him Godspeed to the heaven to which he surely belongs. His own car never flew his country's flag because he never held a public office of a Minister or Governor. But the last vehicle in which he travelled, was bearing a gentleman who served his country, his Province, his profession, the needy and distressed, his friends and family with far more sincerity and passion than many flag-bearing office-holders one has known. This was the kind of moment one could have disregarded abhorrence for weapons, and would not have minded a gun-salute to mark the departure of an eminence.

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Pakistan, In-Equally Equal With India |  The Citizen, India

February 2014

In November 2013, at the start of a question-and-answer session at a New Delhi event focused on Pakistan, an eminent senior Indian journalist posed a question to a person sharing the stage with me. He said words to the effect as to whether it is not true ….which actually means that, in his view, it is true…… that, in 1947, Pakistan saw itself as being equal to India. That question-cum-comment symbolizes to one how profound is the ignorance and misperception in sections of India about how Pakistan saw India 66 years ago, and how Pakistan sees India today in 2014.

If that remark had been made by an average, non-journalist but bigoted Indian…. in other words, a counterpart of a bigoted Pakistani … one could possibly dismiss it as an example of the sad lack of correct perception of actual realities. But here was a person of distinction, widely respected for his erudition, an individual who has served as Editor of influential newspapers, and continues to contribute notable columns to discourse, making a presumptive statement which has no basis in fact whatsoever.

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Already a Shariah State ? |  The News, Pakistan

February 2014

Leave alone the abject, shameful decision to talk with terrorists, the composition of the two negotiating teams and the TTP's declared agenda require reflection.

First, the composition: there is no woman member. As the exclusion in the TTP team is predictable, why does the Government team not include even a symbolic representative of 48 per cent of the country's population (as per the 1998 census)? The presence of a woman would have actually been more than symbolic. Women have suffered even more than men due to the atrocities perpetrated by terrorists who use the sacred name of Islam as a cloak for their barbarity and their nefarious real aims? As widows, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, relations of soldiers, police and male citizens who were killed or seriously injured, women, in a sense, experience a fate worse than death. Thousands deal with deep trauma and torment every day as they face an uncertain, insecure future in a historically male-dominated society.

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Visible States: Invisible Realities |  The Citizen, India

January 2014

States are, by their nature, structures that require, in some aspects, deceitful facades, secretive actions and deceptive words. Intelligence agencies, psychological warfare operations and statements made by Ministries of Foreign Affairs for the benefit of overseas countries accurately express these devious attributes of States.

For Pakistan, President Obama’s statement of January 17, 2014 to the effect that : “We will not monitor the communications of Heads of State and Government of our close friends and allies” has to be taken with a large pinch of American salt and Pakistani pepper.

The two countries are certainly close, but equally certainly, uneasy in their intense proximity. They are also friendly. But more than most other friendly relationships, this one is marked by a parallel stream of mutual distrust for virtually all the past 66 years.

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War without End |  Newsline magazine

November 2013

“Shooting for a Century: Finding answers to the India-Pakistan conundrum”
by Stephen P. Cohen

Published by HarperCollins, India, 2013. First published by the The Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC, USA, 2013. 236 pages

This book is a substantive and significant contribution to discourse on its subject by one of the most astute scholars on contemporary Pakistan and India. Researched extensively – though not necessarily comprehensively – the book is relatively slim (196 pages, excluding Notes, Index and other parts), neatly structured in seven major chapters with several sub-sections in each chapter. Written with clarity and candour, it is easy to read and difficult to set aside.

There is a kind of inevitability about the subject and scope of the book. Prior works by Stephen P. Cohen include The Indian Army (1971); The Pakistan Army (1984, 1998); India : Emerging Power (2001); The Idea of Pakistan (2004); Arming without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization (with Sunil Das Gupta) (2010); The Future of Pakistan (with others) (2012).

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Back to Simla....forward to peace ? | Newsline magazine

September 2013

If the Kashmir Line of Control crisis in 2013 ( January and August ) is seen as only the latest evidence of the failure of bilateralism to resolve the dispute, then a return to the full text of the 1972 Simla Agreement may actually offer a way forward to peace through multi-lateralism.

Our neighbour's acceptance of multi-lateralism is selective. On trade and WTO, laws of the sea and air, currency, finance, telecommunications et al, India abides by the discipline and decisions imposed by global agreements, including modes for dispute resolution. Even in the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty, India accepted World Bank mediation and over 50 years later, recognizes international arbitration to resolve differences on water issues.

However, on Kashmir, for the past 40 years since Simla, India has insisted on a bilateral approach. A systematic global campaign has been conducted to convince the world that Pakistan has also agreed to using only the bilateral method. Almost crooning with delight at the success of this campaign, the spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said in Hyderabad, India on 27th August 2013 that Kashmir was no longer an international issue, that since Simla, it had long become and remains a bilateral matter between the countries.

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Lively, well-attended discussion at the House of Lords, London on the book | " Pakistan---unique origins ; unique destiny ? ".


On Tuesday, 23rd July 2013 from 6.30 pm to 8 pm in Committee Room G of the House of Lords in Parliament building, Westminster, London, a lively, well-attended discussion was held on the book " Pakistan----unique origins ; unique destiny ? " by Javed Jabbar, published by the National Book Foundation in Islamabad.

Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham hosted the discussion and Lord Khalid Hameed also jointly presided at the event. The Committee room was jam-packed with all 40 seats occupied and a few persons obliged to stand. Attendees included the elected woman Mayor of Hammersmith, Councillors, prominent British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and British Indians, comprising bankers, businesspersons, management and marketing professionals, journalists, scholars, doctors, social activists,barristers and others, including several women.

Welcoming attendees to the event, Lord Nazir Ahmed noted the unique dimension of the book itself and quoted from the Foreword by Professor Shariful Mujahid who has stated that the book is : "...a carefully researched, thoroughly analytical, persuasively argued and eloquently written work...a must read...for all Pakistanis and for all those interested in South Asia..". He regretted that the book is not yet available for sale in the UK.

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Introducing : The Thought-Detection Machine | The News

July 2013

Once upon a time in our democratic future, the Election Commission introduced the use of the Thought-Detection Machine. This new device was considered to be a more effective way to determine the eligibility of candidates who filed nomination papers for elections to the National Assembly, the Provincial Assemblies and the Senate.

After the 2013 experience during which candidates were asked to recite verses from the Holy Quran or give the number for the compulsory parts of daily prayers by Muslims or even the number of mandated prayers per 24 hours, candidates had wisened up to the possible perils at filing time.

In the 2018 pre-polls phase, virtually every candidate entered the rooms of Returning Officers already loudly reciting verses from the holy book, a rosary in hand, at least 2 bearded companions, one to the left, one to the right. The ROs were non-plussed. When they attempted nevertheless to persist with their questions, some candidates had the gall to shoot the same type of questions right back to the ROs.

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Need for a collective, shared Presidency | The News

July 2013

As legislatures prepare to elect the new President of Pakistan on 30th July 2013, it may be relevant to consider a radically different concept for the office of the Head of State of what is surely the most asymmetrical Federation in the world.

For a country of at least 180 million people, there are only four constituent Provinces of the Federation, the lowest number amongst States for so large a population. To compound the imbalance, one Province (Punjab ) has more residents than all the other three combined. And one other Province ( Balochistan ) with the lowest number of residents has almost as much land as all the other three combined. This unusual lop-sidedness remains one of the factors that continues to breed unease and mistrust between Provinces and about the power of the Federal Government in Islamabad even after the 18th Constitutional amendment.

In the context of considering a new approach to the Presidency it is not necessary to advocate an increase in the number of Provinces. That is a separate subject in itself whose pros and cons could be better addressed on another occasion.

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ECP failure : media, advertising and elections | The News

May 2013

As we approach the finishing line on 11th May in a fog of bombings, killings, advertising blitzes, media clamour and derogatory invective by leaders, it seems that the Election Commission of Pakistan has squandered an opportunity to effectively monitor and regulate the use of advertising and media in Elections 2013. Instances of negative advertising and defamatory extremism by leaders being freely carried by media in recent days only underline this omission by ECP.

An unprecedented opportunity became available to ECP by the first part of the Report of the Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court on 15th January, 2013. The two-Member Bench of the Court comprises: Mr. Justice Jawaad S. Khawaja and Mr. Justice Arif Hussain Khilji. The Commission comprises Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid as Chairman and this writer as Member. With the approval of the Court, the Commission invited former Federal Secretary, Mr. Salim Gul Shaikh to serve as the Secretary of the Commission. All three persons serve on a voluntary basis.

While the Commission has been asked to provide its Report on nine Terms of Reference (TORs) (published in leading newspapers on 17th February, 2013), one of these TORs was particularly relevant to the upcoming polls. This TOR stated: “To enquire into allegations of media-related corruption and suggest steps to ensure impartial and independent media for the upcoming elections.”

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Caretaker Governments : reforms needed | The News

May 2013

As the Caretaker Governments, Federal and Provincial, approach completion of their terms after 11th May 2013, it becomes relevant to reflect on options for possible improvements to the process of appointment, functions and responsibilities of such Governments in the future. Though unelected, Caretaker Governments in Pakistan have a legitimacy sanctified by Article 224 of the Constitution.

In democracies with varying levels of development, there is normally no need for Caretaker Governments. In the directly elected Presidential democracy of the USA or the directly elected Parliamentary democracy of India, the incumbent Government remains in place. In the USA, the Opposition and the people at large accept the ability of the incumbent Administration to prevent its partisan interests from adversely impacting on the fairness of the electoral process. In India, the Election Commission has acquired enough credibility to give confidence to the Opposition that the continuation in office of the incumbent Government will not place other parties at a disadvantage. In Pakistan, we will hopefully move towards such a consensus in the future !

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Islam and Europe | Dawn Metropolitan

January 2013

" Europeans realise we all live on one planet " concerning a lecture by the under-signed at the University of Karachi on 21st January.

The report accurately reproduces some of my observations. However, there is one perhaps inadvertent but important discrepancy about what was actually stated. The report quotes me as having said : " It was almost 1,000 years after Islam was introduced that it was translated into an European language ".

What I stated was that while the first translation of the Holy Quran into English took place in about 1650 or shortly thereafter i.e about 1,000 years after the coming of Islam (derived from a slightly earlier French translation by Du Ruyer published in 1647), the first translation into an European language took place in the 12th century. ie more than 500 years after the advent of Islam when a Latin translation was prepared for a monastery in Clugny in 1143. It was only after introduction of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century that first, the Bible, and much later, limited numbers of the Holy Quran in European languages began to appear. Whichever the European language, the early mis-translations and distortions were repeated and reinforced.

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16th December and Muslim Nationalism | DAWN

December 2012

We mark this day in 2012 with inconsolable sadness.  Even the new dawn brings the melancholia of twilight.  Will a brief reflection on Muslim nationalism in South Asia lessen the gloom?

 Perhaps 14th August 1947 actually marked the birth of un-identical twins pretending to be a single nation-State.  This is not to subscribe to the cynical view about the country’s birth expressed at its very advent to the effect that the new entity was doomed to fail, sooner rather than later.  This is to speculate as to whether the only nation-State to be created with two parts separated by 1,000 miles of hostile territory represented, from the very start, two variable expressions of Muslim nationalism in South Asia.

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Extending Pakistani Philanthropy | DAWN

August 2012

As this  Ramazan  draws to a close we  have seen again a splendid facet of the Pakistani people : their spontaneous willingness to give generously to those who suffer or those in need. A wide range is covered :  destitute, sick,  physically disadvantaged,  victims of disasters, terrorism, orphans, education and emergency care.

 A credible survey conducted by the Aga Khan Foundation several years ago showed that Pakistanis are amongst the most caring and compassionate nations on earth. Though the rich obviously give more, the poor give more frequently than the rich. Pakistanis can also be justifiably proud of creating and operating some of the world's most efficient welfare organizations. This valuable philanthropy should now be extended and enhanced to other, new spheres.

There are at least ten such  spheres of critical importance. They presently either  do not receive any local funds whatsoever   or only negligible sums.Overseas aid  sustains some of them. This is  welcome and should continue.  But Pakistanis are obliged to take primary responsibility.

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Independence, Not Partition | DAWN

July 2012

To virtually equate the tragedy of a holocaust that came during the events of Partition with the dignity and beauty of the achievement of Independence from colonial rule is unjust and untenable. The term “Partition” as a synonym for Independence belittles the vision and devalues the validity of the concept of Pakistan. It implies that the rationale for a new, pre-dominantly Muslim nation-State is rooted in forced separation, displacement and violence. The painful circumstances of Pakistan’s birth should not become the lens through which we view a decisive landmark in the continuing evolution of Muslim nationalism in South Asia.

By design as well as by perhaps inadvertent repetition, the concept and word of “Partition” has been made synonymous with the Independence of Pakistan and India. With conscious intent or by unconscious adoption of a widely-used term, this process of subtle, semantic misrepresentation was initially conducted in India and the West by scholars, journalists and media. Regrettably, many of their counterparts in Pakistan also incorrectly use the word “Partition” to refer to the momentous phenomenon of the birth of two entirely new nation-States.

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Who should own news media ? | The Express Tribune

August 2012.

For at least three reasons there is a need to consider alternative forms for the ownership of private news media instead of the single-owner or a small group-owner form.

The first reason is that news media have become one of the four pillars of the inter-related structure of society and State : the other three being the legislature, the judiciary and the executive. Unlike the other three pillars, which are “owned” by the people at large, the privately-held news media belong to individuals or families or groups of investors on a commercial basis. As an essential component of the contemporary nation-State, the determinant factor for privately-owned news media – as for the other three components – must be the public interest, not the private profit motive.

The second reason is the nature of news media content. Unlike a physical product or tangible service purchased by a consumer, news media content absorbed by a citizen shapes awareness and perception about events and trends that affect citizen, society and State, that affect how an individual views the world at large. Information and opinion exchanged between the seller and the buyer of shoes and shirts, of airplane seats and hotel rooms are limited to the quality, price and performance of a given item. Branded goods and services sell because their buyer knows the predictable content in advance. Whereas the content of news media in particular is unpredictable, volatile, unknown in advance. There are relatively few media users who transcend the content they receive. News media virtually define the public agenda, shape attitudes, influence consumer spending through advertising. Such power must therefore be subject to non-partisan principles of the public domain.

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For Obaidullah Baig....infinite income ! | DAWN

June 2012

From our first meeting in about 1968 to our last meeting 44 years later just a few weeks before his demise in June 2012, Obaidullah Baig remained unfailingly and so engagingly the very same person.

Warm, affectionate, sincere, soft-spoken, humble. The lines on his craggily handsome face that came with time more clearly defined a depth already present. His life spanned over seven decades yet his character stayed still, fixed and well-rooted. How nice that some people, their qualities and their values never change.

Without being a close friend, one felt close to him. Without meeting him regularly one could be familiar and comfortable with him whenever we did meet.

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Social Monitoring Of Media | The Express Tribune

April 2013

Unlike self-regulation which is intra-sectoral, and state regulation which is mandatory, social monitoring should begin and proceed with a willing, active two-way participation by both civil society groups and the media themselves.

However, if media do not cooperate in some aspects, monitoring groups should not be deterred from the aim and action of analysing media’s policies, conduct and content. While media are plentiful in number, already formally organised, well-resourced entities vigilantly guarding their interests and freedoms, civil society groups specifically focused on media are very few in number and are comparatively, severely under-resourced. They are often, if not wholly, dependent on funding by overseas donor foundations.

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Murtaza Razvi | The Sadness Lingers

April 2012

In a country where, despite the proliferation of media in recent years there remains a scarcity of exceptional media persons, we have tragically lost an outstanding media specialist in the demise of Murtaza Razvi on 19th April 2012.

There was something distinctly earnest,boyish and innocent about Murtaza Razvi. He had not yet succumbed to cynicism,the occupational hazard of journalism, despite having spent many years in the sector and being one of its finest practitioners.

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Essences and poisons | The Express Tribune

December 2011

Parties and numbers, the two facets of electoral politics which are considered indispensable, are also invidious. If freedom of choice amongst political parties is an essence of democracy, partisanship on the basis of parties is a poison of democracy. Such partisanship may not be a fatal poison. But it certainly has the capacity to paralyze. Both the Lok Sabha in India and the US Congress have often been at a standstill during 2011 due to acrimonious confrontation. And if the number of votes obtained is essential to determine success, one winner and many losers rarely represent the true picture in a given constituency or country.

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Estranged Siblings: Pakistan and Bangladesh, 40 years later | Daily Times

December 2011

16 December 2011 marks exactly 40 years since1971, when Pakistan became the first State to disintegrate after World War II. Vastly outnumbered, completely encircled, grossly disadvantaged Pakistan's Armed Forces numbering only 45,000 were ordered to surrender to Indian troops which invaded East Pakistan 3 weeks earlier to ensure the secession of Bangladesh. 

Some beginnings also contain their endings. Pakistan's birth in August 1947 alongside India as the only nation-state created with 2 wings with each wing containing significant parts of the population separated by 1000 miles of hostile territory represented the vision of an awkwardly-constructed yet inspiringly ideal dream-state. The premise was that the faith of Islam shared pre-dominantly in the 2 wings could transcend distance and bind enormous diversities of language, ethnicity and culture.

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One Re-appraisal Required | The News

December 2011

Beginning with 1971, on every 16 December a wound in the psyche of Pakistan re-opens with piercing pain.  40 years ago on this day, a unique vision for a nation-State became a traumatic vivi-section.  East Pakistan seceded --- with decisive Indian help --- to become Bangladesh. Even as remembrance brings grief and conditions in today’s Pakistan demand renewal rather than regression, the need to re-visit some aspects of 1971 remains critical and unmet. Some elements which comprise the catastrophic failures after the polls of December 1970 of both the political and military leaderships, in West and in East Pakistan are established truths that require no revision

One of the major facets that deserves re-appraisal is the charge of genocide allegedly conducted by the Armed Forces of Pakistan, by Biharis and other West Pakistanis
seeking to exterminate the Bengali people of Bangladesh including specially the Hindu population and supporters of the Awami League. Over the past 40 years this accusation has been so often repeated in Bangladesh, India and particularly in western discourse that it has come to be accepted as the truth.

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Democracy and Disasters | DAWN

September, 2011

Can we redress the deep pain and damage caused by the natural disaster of heavy rains in Sindh when we have already made democracy at its core level a man-made disaster? If a democratic system is the strongest foundation for societal capacity to cope with challenges like emergencies, then  the foundations of democracy were demolished well before the flood havoc of 2010 and the rain havoc of 2011.

Soon after the 2008 polls, instead of removing flaws, the elected Local Government structures began to be replaced by the appointed Commissionerate system. Many of the people who sometimes literally have to eat grass at the grass-roots level are now deprived of of participation in decision-making and in implementing relief campaigns precisely when such  mechanism are most needed. There is almost complete unanimity amongst persons in the affected areas with whom this writer spoke about how badly the Union Councils are missed at this time. This is not to suggest that the mere existence of directly elected Union Councils, and of indirectly elected Nazims and Naib Nazims at the Tehsil and District levels alongwith their respective forums would be magically able to effectively handle the crisis. It is to stress that vital components required for an efficient, timely, orderly response to the large-scale distress are missing altogether. Their current absence compounds the problem.

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Make voting compulsory | Opinion | DAWN

August 2011

PAKISTAN has an electoral democracy but not a representative democracy. Post-1971, in eight general elections, the voter turnout has almost always been less than 50 per cent of registered voters.

Or one out of every two voters has never chosen a candidate or a party. Compulsory voting alone will redress this enormous gap between the unknown truth and the known election results.

If casting a ballot becomes as obligatory as possession of a national identity card is today, every adult citizen will establish a direct, physical interaction with the democratic process. The act of participation will reduce the alienation and sense of distance presently felt between at least half the population and the political democratic system. Even for those who vote and still feel alienated, the knowledge that the election result is the reflection of the totality of adult society will help shrink the cleavage.

When virtually every adult votes, democracy will become truly representative of public opinion. At present, election results are often sceptically viewed as being representative of mainly tribal, ethnic, linguistic, and feudal vested interests.

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16th Dec: Towards a New Military Leadership? | DAWN

December, 2010

About 5 years ago, the commandant of the Pakistan Army's most reputed cadet-officer training academy  invited this writer to address the trainees on a date of my choice in the second half of December.

There were a couple of options other than the date that one finally gave him : 16th December. The specific date was chosen deliberately. To  remind the young cadets of the date on which East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan.Political factors and Indian intervention  played a decisive role in the disintegration. But  the then- military-led Government of President General Yahya Khan was ultimately responsible for taking crucial  political  and military decisions particularly between 1st March and 16th December 1971. Those decisions by military government led to the catastrophic disintegration of the original Pakistan.

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3 Days in Southern Sindh | DAWN

September, 2010

3rd, 4th and 5th September 2010 spent  driving 60 kms from Karachi to Thatta and  600 kms onwards to Nagarparkar via Kotri and Hyderabad provided sights that disturbed and uplifted, contrasts that were vivid and ironic.

Going from Sindh's current capital to one of Sindh's oldest capitals is also to take with oneself the different time- zones of history that we simultaneously live in today. Sleek cell phones and laptops inside  powerful 4-wheel drive vehicles. Immediately outside, on the national highway just past Gharo, boys, teenagers , grown men upset at wretched conditions in a flood relief camp, refuse to move to a better location offered to them. They wield poles, axes and branches cut from trees to threaten traffic and block the road to  stage their protest.  The sporadic intensity of their shouts, the fleeting anger in their eyes which look but but do not see, disturb us. They want to wait till the news media and cameras arrive. No sign of the police...yet. After about 50 minutes and long lines of stalled vehicles, our 2 cars are permitted to be carefully steered through the jam.

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2 Days in North Sindh | DAWN

August, 2010

The enormity of the disaster which affects  millions of people in all 4 provinces should be a test even for well-established governance and disaster management systems.  For our level of preparedness, the official civil system can sometimes look like a disaster itself.   Yet one should guard against presumptive cynicism particularly at such a time.  Responsibility to cope is a universal obligation transcending all divisions and categories. Each person with any potential to contribute, from afar or near has an urgent duty to render.

Spending 14th and 15th August travelling from Karachi to Sukkur, Shikarpur, Khanpur and the edge of the advancing flood waters informs,  despairs –  and inspires.

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On 10 Merits of Fat Books | DAWN

June, 2010

At the recent launch in Karachi of a new book by this writer titled:" Criss-Cross Times: selected writings about conflict and confluence,2001-2009", three distinguished scholars were unduly generous in their comments about the book's merits. In my own remarks of thanks, this writer only fleetingly referred to the girth of the book. It runs to only 504 pages with a hard cover. Though not in the top league of fat-cats which can go to 800 pages and beyond, my obese production still qualifies in the medium-weight fat class.As I did not dwell at the launch event on the 10 virtues of fat books crystallized from the sources and experience of life, perhaps they deserve serious consideration through the courtesy of Dawn Books and Authors.

To begin with, fat books occupy more space. Therefore, they reduce the need to buy more books to fill up your private library. So fat books help cut expenses and save money. Secondly, when you strongly disagree with someone, you can always throw a fat book at the offender. And be reasonably sure it will deliver the message more precisely than a thin book.If you are in public office and in power, you can " throw the book " at the miscreant in more senses than one. For example, going purely by the book, you can file cases against
him for subversion  of the State or possession of heroin while he is still recovering from the impact of the book. If your target is on a TV talk show, as a host or as a guest, a fat book hurled at the voice and the face can be very cathertic. There is the small detail you need to later attend to regarding the frequent replacement of your TV screen.

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