KARACHI: Former Senate chairman and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Raza Rabbani has said Pakistan finds itself in a whirlpool and the only way to get out of it is to have a ‘national dialogue’.

He said this while speaking as the chief guest at the launch of a book titled Selector Say Selected Tak — Sanghasan Per Kon, a collection of articles and analytical pieces by journalist Mazhar Abbas, here at the Arts Council on Saturday.

Senator Rabbani said the publication is not just a collection of articles but will serve as a ‘history book’ for the younger generation. The reason for it is that the state of Pakistan has been presenting a distorted version of history. What’s being taught today is not real history.

Talking about the current problems of the country and highlighting the need of a national dialogue, he said the situation is not new.

Selector Say Selected Tak launched

With reference to the interference of the powers that be in politics, he argued that if one looks at the history of the region, from the days the East India Company ruled over India to present times, the politics of ‘selection and selected’ is on. Although the imperial powers have left, the civil-military bureaucracy’s colonial mindset remains.

“When the state becomes a national security state, then the requirements change. In my view our political system is based on a caste system. When that happens, then those who have brute force rule. A national dialogue can be initiated in parliament and the Senate. And the [colonial] mindset can be changed by civil society and intellectuals,” he added.

In his welcome address, caretaker Information Minister Ahmed Shah told the audience, which had turned up in a large number, that he’s known Mr Abbas from his university days where they used to have intellectual discourse and read poetry to each other.

Karachi chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said the reason democracy hasn’t flourished in Pakistan is because land reforms haven’t taken place after independence, and subsequently, martial laws have been imposed. “We complain against martial laws but we also complain against those who grow up in their incubators. Everyone talks about themselves, no one talks about democracy. There’s no democracy within political parties themselves.”

Former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair of the PML-N said it was Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari who used the word ‘selected’ for the first time [for Imran Khan]. He claimed our history is of one step forward, two steps backwards. “We are moving back to the early 1980s.”

Journalist Asma Shirazi in her video message said Mr Abbas is an ideal person for all those who write and speak their mind. The book is an important addition to the political atmosphere. “A journalist should be like Mazhar Abbas. He received bullets in envelops during Gen Musharraf’s tenure so that his voice could be silenced. But Mr Abbas believes one must live in those times when living is difficult.”

Scholar Dr Riaz Shaikh said the book contains columns written by Mr Abbas from 2020 to 2024.

Journalist Wusatullah Khan said ever since the general election of 1970, it was decided that a free hand would not be given.

Journalist Suhail Waraich said to write a book is to establish one name’s in history. Mr Abbas meets all the conditions of an ideal journalist, he added.

After talking about the author, Mr Waraich turned his attention towards the politicians on stage. To Mr Zubair, he said his father Major General Ghulam Umar conspired against politicians. To Hafiz Naeem, he said his party was once the ‘B-team’ of martial law. To MQM-P’s Farooq Sattar, he said his party supported Aftaf Hussain when he killed people. To Senator Rabbani, he said his party sacrificed two of its leaders and is now working alongside the powers that be.

Farooq Sattar said his party made mistakes knowingly or inadvertently and suffered the consequences of getting derailed from its purpose. “But will it all carry on like this? First of all, we need to change the rules of the game. What is our collective responsibility? It’s time we came up with a national agenda. There’s no democracy at grassroots level.”

Speaking on the occasion, the author Mazhar Abbas said the words (selector, selected) used in the title of the book were once rare. They became in vogue a few years back when a cricketer joined politics.

“I learned a lot from journalists such as Nisar Osmani. When they took Mr Osmani to jail, his wife’s eyesight was getting weak. By the time he was released from prison, his wife could only recognise her husband through his voice. In a country where to-date democracy hasn’t arrived, how can freedom of the press be achieved? Gen Ayub Khan was the first selector in this country and ever since the process hasn’t ended… On Feb 8, selection, not election will take place. The day the people of this country begin to select, democracy will come.”

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2024

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