Guest Post by Hassan Abbas
We should occasionally take time to apprecaite and salute the political commentators and columnists who continue to struggle through their pen to make Pakistan what it was meant to be: a democratic, pluralistic and modern Muslim state at peace with itself and its neighbors.
In this spirit, I want to honor these courageous columnists and writers who continue working towards this goal, despite hurdles in their way. In my opinion – supported by many other friends who I talked to on this issue – these men and women are doing a great service to the true cause and ideals of Pakistan. The list is drawn from those who write regularly in Pakistani English newspapers/magazines. A quote from a recent article is provided for each columnist to exemplify their work.
1. Ardeshir Cowasjee (Dawn)
“On the 59th anniversary of Independence we continue to be ruled by a vast government made up of members of dubious political parties all of whom claim to have ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“visionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (of grandeur, no doubt, and of nothing else).”
2. Ghazi Salahuddin (The News)
“One great tragedy in our lives is that these people who may recognise the folly of the government’s action keep quiet because they want to retain their positions in the power structure. Such moral bankruptcy is the cancer of our political governance.”
“JeffersonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ghost must have risen from his grave in rural Virginia when Ghumman (a Pakistani minister visiting the US) declaimed that since democracy was the root of all evils, he would rather have a ‘dictator.’ He also informed his flabbergasted audience that ‘democracy has not worked in Pakistan and it has failed over and over again.’ The Minister is also either poor at counting or his history is about as strong as my quantum physics, because he went on to say that in the last two and a half centuries, nobody had dared to go into PakistanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s tribal territories as Gen Musharraf had. ‘We now have a leader who wants to establish Rule of Law in that area.’”
“If what is happening in Waziristan is Rule of Law, then I am migrating to Darfur.”
“As realpolitik, Pakistan followed the best course in Cold War even though the Pacts were unpopular. When the Soviet Union collapsed, India was found holding the Friendship treaties with no benefit and PakistanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s strategy was proved successful. Pakistan had taken the US for a ride, equipped its army on false pretences, and fought unsuccessful wars with India for which America was not to blame. Now economic historians think AyubÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s was the best period in our history. A similar verdict is in store for Musharraf when he is gone. We keep on rejecting our history and the strategies of realistic survival followed by our leaders, some of them un-elected. Denial of what others see as good for us links up with a self-flagellating collective psyche. This is death-wish, pure and simple.”
5. Naseem Zehra (The News)
(On Baluchistan): “Indeed what the government must not do is go on the military and political offensive to neutralise the brewing crisis. Threats, warnings, ultimatums and maximalist positions will only worsen the situation. It could push either side ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“against the wallÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ decreasing possibility of an amicable settlement of genuine grievances. We could then be headed towards greater difficulties, dovetailing into other unresolved challenges of politics, security and democracy.”
(On refusing to take ‘APNS best journalist award’ from Gen. Musharraf’s hands): “It isn’t that I detest Musharraf beyond forgiveness; it’s just that I love my principles more. I don’t know what Musharraf loves. But it isn’t the Constitution.”
“Al Qaeda’s money, inspiration and organizational abilities have helped turn Pakistan’s Pashtun belt into the extremist base it is today, but U.S. and Pakistani policies have helped more.”
8. Prof. Khawaja Masud (The News)
“We must continue to march intoxicated with the QuaidÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œshy and splendid idealismÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? till we realise the dream of Pakistan as visualised by Quaid-e-Azam i.e. democracy, social justice, tolerance, open mind and heart.”
9. Amina Jilani (Nation)
“The majority of our tried, tested and failed politicians, for the larger part of their political lives and when they are not haymaking, are mired in inertia.”
10. Ayaz Amir (Dawn)
“Hezbollah has no F-16s but it is running rings around one of the best armies in the world. We can have 500 F-16s in our air force but given the crisis of resolve we face, we will remain a country ready to jump at the sound of a single phone call.”
Hasan Abbas is author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, a keen purveyor of political news and commentary of Pakistan, and maintains the blog Watandost: Inside News about Pakistan, where this post first appeared.