KARACHI: A book on the ebb and flow of Pakistani politics titled Pakistani Siyasat Ke Madd-o-Jazr by Urdu columnist Muqtada Mansoor was launched at the Arts Council on Wednesday.
Prof Sahar Ansari, who presided over the programme, said the hallmark of a good book was that it generated debate both for and against its salient features, and Mr Mansoor’s book (a compilation of his articles) had that quality. He said he had known the writer since the time he was deeply interested in philosophy. Praising the narrative that the author used in his columns, he said not only did Mr Mansoor know how to employ words but also had a sense of values.
On the contents of the book, Prof Ansari said there were certain points in it which needed attention, for example, the chapter where he discussed the plight of the media fraternity. He argued that there was a time when newspapers were published by keeping certain ideologies in mind, such as the papers published by Maulana Azad or Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar, which reflected the vision of those individuals. Then came the time when newspapers became political representatives. After partition, complying with the owners’ demands, the field of journalism was given the status of an industry.
Prof Ansari said despite the fact that the articles in the book were written in different time periods, the issues that they raised were relevant to date. Pointing out another important aspect of the book, as was mentioned by an earlier speaker, he said society needed a new social contract.
Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed read out a paper which was laced with humour. He was candid in critiquing some of the things mentioned in the book. Before that he took contemporary media trends to task saying today a big number of columnists had links with seen and unseen forces. Gone were the days when columnists had their distinct identity and integrity. Nowadays there were only a handful of columnists whose writings provided food for thought. He said the marked aspect of Mr Mansoor’s column writing was his ability to analyse and remain objective as much as possible. This was his fourth book and the topics that he chose to include in it ranged from civil-military relations to the crisis of governance.
Dr Ahmed pointed out some factual errors in the book, such as the one related to the time of the formation of One Unit. On a lighter note, he told the audience that the author had already had breakfast with the president of the country and met the two Sharifs. If he met the third Sharif, he would be putting a burden on his readers.
Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui said the book shed light on the genesis of Pakistan, with special reference to the history of Sindh. It brought into focus the pre-partition elite of the Muslims of north India and how they, after migrating to Pakistan, benefited from partition by joining hands with the Punjabi bureaucracy. He disagreed with one of the chapters in which the writer had suggested that the emergence of the MQM was a result of certain injustices to the Mohajir community.
Piler’s Karamat Ali categorised Mr Mansoor as an analytical intellectual journalist. He said his book touched upon two important issues: electoral reforms and the need for a new social contract. He said the writer had begun by discussing matters related to Sindh, and if the problems related to Sindh could be understood, the way they should be understood, only then some good would come out in the larger context. He stressed that in a free society the privileges held by state institutions were challenged, not in our society.
Dr Riaz Ahmed Sheikh said Mr Mansoor had tackled some sensitive problems in his book. He mentioned that Jinnah’s Pakistan had become an enigma (muamma) and it’s up to us to unravel it.
Shah Mehmood Syed said Mansoor had chosen a dry subject to write on but had written it in an interesting way.
Suhail Ahmed said the author had distinct views on history.
Momin Khan conducted the event. The author thanked the speakers and guests for attending the launch.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2015