Veteran bureaucrat writes first-hand account of Pakistan’s 70 years

Published June 15, 2024
Salman Faruqui speaks during the book launch ceremony held at Mohatta Palace, on Friday. —Shakil Adil / White Star
Salman Faruqui speaks during the book launch ceremony held at Mohatta Palace, on Friday. —Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: A book titled Dear Mr Jinnah: 70 Years in the Life of a Pakistani Civil Servant by Salman Faruqui was launched at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Friday evening.

Hameed Haroon, who chaired and anchored the programme, first talked about the very well received launch events in Lahore and Islamabad for the book. Commenting on the publication, he said the author didn’t want to write a pessimistic book. “The optimism has been noticed by critics and journalists in Islamabad and Lahore. When Salman says Pakistan is not perfect, read between the lines. It’s probably grossly imperfect. But we can perfect it.”

Ameena Saiyid, whose Lightstone Publishers has published the book, thanked all those who made it possible. She emphasised the need for having public libraries in the country and called the book ‘outstanding memoir’.

Farooq Hasan said his association with the author goes back 60 years. They were together in college. Ever since they have been friends. “His services to the country are almost incomparable. He’s one of the 12 officers with spotless careers.”

I have written the book to thank Mr Jinnah, says Salman Faruqui

Journalist Mazhar Abbas said he received the book a day back but had read it. He’s closely seen many of the events and incidents mentioned in the book — Gen Zia’s rule, Moin Qureshi as caretaker prime minister, Jatoi as caretaker prime minister, Karachi’s turbulent situation, etc. “A lot of politicians glamorise Gen Ayub Khan’s rule. I think he had a major role to play in Sindh’s destruction.” The journalist also mentioned the omission of the role of intelligence agencies in the book and differed with the author’s perspective of Mr Jatoi.

Entrepreneur Bashir Ali Mohammad said Mr Faruqui has penned the book for the young generation to understand Pakistan. “The book has come out at a time when we’re getting nearer to the tipping point because the whole world is in a mess, polarised. Our luck is that we have a young generation for whom Salman has given this message which is very clear, that we have to change Pakistan.”

Shahnaz Wazir Ali said the book is not an autobiography. “It is an account, a narrative of Salman Faruqui’s 70 years as a civil servant. It spans a range of governments, tenures, departments, positions that he’s held and several fundamental issues faced by Pakistan.” She highlighted the letter to Mr Jinnah in the book which is a mix of emotions of the author, a deep sense of sadness for what we’ve lost in the country. “It is a recollection of many incidents where Pakistan veered sharply off the path of democracy. He has recollected in the short letter how we stand at the edge of the precipice.”

Lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said it’s a 404-page book. He divided his comments on the publication into three sections: strengths, limitations and Mr Siddiqui’s disagreement with the author’s analysis on what’s wrong with Pakistan and how to improve governance. Talking about the strengths of the book, he said it’s a combination of biography and political history. He’s written it like a novel. The author comes from a generation of bureaucrats who have now disappeared. He’s an ambitious man but his ambition is about making an impact on how Pakistan can develop. Then there are certain disclosures in the book, such as the 2008 Marriott hotel blast which are its strengths.

On its limitations, the lawyer said the book is history from the above, a bureaucrat’s reading of history. On the last part about his disagreement, he argued that the current “ruling elite in the country is suicidal, celebrates mediocrity and has no sense of humiliation”.

Dr Ishrat Husain who spoke via video link said he and the author are friends since college days. In their younger days they formed a students’ union and held its first convention in Hyderabad for which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the chief guest. He spoke on Mr Faruqui’s personal charm and power of persuasion, too.

After the speeches, Mr Haroon put questions to the author. Mr Faruqui said there are certain things that he is co-writing with Shakil Durrani. That particular book will come out in a few months. Another book will appear after his passing away which will be up to two NGOs when to publish them.

Answering the question about the motivation for the book, he said, “Our family migrated from Patiala to Pakistan after losing everything. A lot of our relatives were killed, women kidnapped. I remember, in the camp, everyone was saying Jinnah had destroyed us. But when we came to Wagah, everybody prayed, thanked the Almighty, and chanted Quaid-i-Azam zindabad! I say Quaid-i-Azam zindabad because 14 million migrants arrived in Pakistan and settled down. They don’t fear killing for sacrificing a cow or for not getting jobs… If I had remained in Patiala, I may have ended up being a head clerk. If I have reached a certain position here [in Pakistan], it’s because of the Quaid-i-Azam. We forget that we’re free. So this book is all about ‘thank you Mr Jinnah’’’.

Farhan Faruqui delivered the vote of thanks.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2024

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