IN a list of 192 — the number of honours conferred by the Pakistani state on its landmark 65th birth anniversary — there are names which appear worthy of celebration. Saadat Hasan Manto is one. He is a happy-sad reminder of the progress Pakistan has made in over six decades of suppressed existence. He is a rebel who has not ceased to bring out irony long after his departure, and justifies the cliché about a person bringing honour to an award. And then Manto has not quite gotten over his habit of creating a little controversy. If he is the standard, other choices may suffer in comparison and a long argument on merit may ensue — who else should get the award and who should be made to wait a little longer to help the roll of honour retain or regain its brevity and prestige?
Medal choices, subjective as they are, are easier to defend in fields as open to interpretation as literature. Gallantry, often proven at the cost of life or grievous hurt to a person, is another area where the choice is easier to accept, sentiment being a vital ingredient that goes into the making of a medal. But there are still other selections from other areas which must walk to the hall of fame with their stature over-politicised. The present government loves to give out awards and has received its share of criticism for drawing heavily on the boxful of decorations reserved for its own people and allies. The president’s Aug 14 list again includes some well-known government functionaries among allies who could have perhaps been permitted a bit of modesty in office. As members of the award-giving authority, they are liable to appear to be blowing their own trumpet. Their biggest award must come not from the rulers but from the people.