ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: Aboard the Democracy Train: A Journey through Pakistan’s last decade of democracy, was billed as a chronicler of the 1980s and the 1990s – a historical narrative that documents the degeneration of the country, under General Ziaul Haq and the events that followed.

The hard back book, written by Nafisa Hoodbhoy, a journalist working for the Voice of America today, contained personal accounts of the author from General Ziaul Haq’s reign and then the worsening political picture after 9/11 under General Pervez Musharraf.

Launched in collaboration with Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) here on Tuesday, two thirds of this book shed light on the political history/developments in Karachi and how the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Jamaat-i-Islami found patronage under General Zia.

The remaining one third of the book, Aboard the Democracy Train dealt with post 9/11 situations and the American engagement in Pakistan that further worsened the political affairs of the country.

“I have captured the front line experiences as a journalist when I was the only female reporter for Dawn in Karachi,” she said.

Senior journalists and columnists, who had known Nafisa Hoodbhoy personally as well as professionally, made up the group of speakers to talk about the book, the events as they remembered (to corroborate all that was captured in the book) and the author.

For CEO of SPO, Naseer Memon, the absorbing accounts revived the terrors of General Ziaul Haq’s 11 years tenure in power and the dramatic changes in Karachi since the 1990s.

Journalist and author, Zahid Hussain said the book reminded him of how Karachi used to be the centre of all politics and was transforming into a hub of violence.

“Those were also the days of curbs on journalism when media used to be a resistance media,” said Zahid Hussain.

History was also recalled when National Party Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo remembered the birth of the MQM from 40 to 45 students lead by Altaf Hussain, to counter Sindhi politicians.

“Nine students were shot dead in three years in Karachi University,” said the Senator commenting on the ethnic violence initiated by the MQM.

Since most of the guests speakers happened to have attended the Karachi University, they were thrown back to the days when they were students and were first hand witnesses to the degeneration of Karachi.Sentences and paragraphs jumped out of the book like images, said the editor of Express Tribune, Mohammad Ziauddin.

“It’s a fine and easy read, especially for the younger generation. The author has turned it into an historical movie from 1984 to the present day,” said Mohammad Ziauddin who empathised with the Sindhis, whom he described as innocent and systematically exploited people.

The personal and humane touch of the author, took writer/columnist, Ayesha Siddiqa 20 years back.

“I remember all those stories like they were yesterday – the critical events that changed opinions and societies and eventually resulted in this failed State today,” said Ayesha Siddiqa elaborating on how Nafisa Hoodbhoy had explained the nation got derailed.

The event was also an opportunity for guests in the audience to congratulate Nafisa Hoodbhoy and meet the author personally.



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