Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: POLITICAL IMPRESSIONS

Thanks to Dost Publications for the review copy

PUBLISHED IN DAILY TIMES / 13 FEB 2010

Many would call it a wasteland where governments and old problems get recycled, institutions never get a chance to evolve and good intentions remain unrealized. Against such a backdrop, some people have an unerring sense of direction which brings moments of clarity in an otherwise murky scenario. Dr. Aftab Ahmed may have possessed such ability. Political Impressions is a collection of his articles that have appeared in prominent English dailies over the years.

21 articles, spanning 13 years from 1987-2003, have been arranged in three sections. They give readers a brief glimpse into the life of founding fathers who visualized a secular Pakistan, a reality check about headline making events of the time, topped off with proposed reforms to avert the slippery slope brought on by what can only be classified as a policy of benign neglect. Separately, they represent a well grounded analysis of Pakistan’s political scene. Together, they reflect the dichotomy between the charted vision and established practices.

In the first section titled ‘Concept’, the writer takes a look at secularism from two perspectives and elaborates upon Iqbal’s version of a nation inspired by a secular Turkey instead of an insular Saudi Arabia. In ‘Quaid’s concept of Pakistan’ Jinnah’s views on minorities have been compared to the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) pledge made during the founding of Medina when Jews were granted equal rights. The first two articles about ‘Iqbal‘s concept of a Muslim homeland’ - (I & II) appeared in different publications five years apart but are essentially the same, so one can be skipped. Portions from ‘democracy and party organization’ (Reality) also re-appear in ‘the parliamentary system and political parties’ (Reforms).

If ‘Concept’ shows visions of the professed destination for a ship at anchor, ‘Reality’ highlights the gradual shifts brought on by failures of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan among other things, due to the short-sightedness of its leaders who did not exploit their party’s strength or build ‘well organized and strong political parties’. It laments PPP’s U-turn that led them to make wrong choices on various pretexts. He wonders if ‘politics of consensus is possible’ in the year 2000 and comments on ‘Prospects after Agra’ where the author has on good authority that Indians will not compromise on Kashmir whatever else they may agree on. In ‘military rule with a difference’, he hopes Musharraf would get a consensus because ‘politicians matter’ and ‘cannot be ‘wished away’ and admires Musharraf’s restrained approach towards Indians in the face of open hostilities in ‘Prospects in New York’.

An analysis of the 1958 coup in light of American and British papers appears in the ‘…genesis of 1958 coup….’ The British papers – secret confidential documents relating to Ayub era (1958-69’), have been complied by Roedad Khan and recap the British High Commissioners conversation with President Mirza - the man disdainful of democracy, elections and constitution despite the HC’s observation of a ‘widespread demand of elections’. The American papers – secret/confidential dispatches between US embassies and State department reveal the American’s kindly stance towards Ayub and Ayub/Mirza’s joint opinion that ‘only dictatorships work in Pakistan’.

The author notes the contrasts between the Brits and the Yanks; Ayub did not confide in the British who stayed on the fence, he did however get the Americans to give a green-light to the projected future.

‘Reforms’ takes charge of an off-course nation by proposing requisite administrative/political reforms. ‘’Reforming the bureaucracy’ (I, II) is about the interchangeable nature of the assignments of political leaders and bureaucrats with one responsible for policy formulation and the other dealing with its execution and neither sticking to their designated roles. ‘Pakistan needs a truly federal democratic system’ details the anomalies in the territorial division of Pakistan . Here the writer draws his own conclusions that go against the set up of a centralized government in a country where regions have distinct identities and governance should be under a truly democratic federal system that respects the political, economic and cultural aspirations of its people without trying to ‘steamroll their diversity in the name of ideology’. He believes in ‘the process of devolution/decentralized power to ensure participation of people, only made possible when organized, broad based political parties act as ‘conduits between society and state’.

‘Power aspect of devolution’ examines the limitations of the devolution plan in light of certain obvious truths and disturbing practices by powerful MNA’s, MPA’s and bureaucrats where neither wants elected representatives of local bodies to run the districts. ‘Administrative reforms: an elusive goal?’ where experts tasked with producing a lean and effective bureaucracy in the 90’s considered cutting federal governments 5 tier system down to 3 by removing the deputy secretary and offering additional secretaries a golden handshake. He refers to his own involvement in Civil Services administration as a Member/Secretary of Anwar-ul-Haq Commission on civil services (1978-79) where he formulated recommendations which differed in the approach taken by the Ijlas Haider Zaidi Committee in later years.

Dr. Aftab Ahmed was a scholar of the Urdu literature, has written on contemporary and classical Urdu poets and received the Prime Ministers literary award in 1998 for ‘Bayad-e-Suhbat-e-Nazuk’ - a book of sketches of renowned literary figures from our times. This is a posthumous publication of his works. Political impressions may not be every ones cup of tea. It could, however, be served as a remedial draught to an ailing system.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

Quarter Preview: ‘MANTO’

The Good Times GT Magazine (Friday Times) published the official images sent with this write-up, posting the coverage here.

Manto is all the rage these days.

The writer who orbits the South Asian literary stratosphere recently marked his centennial anniversary and now appears as the subject of a new film. It has been directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who also plays the title character and scripted by Shahid Mahmood Nadeem. Babar Javed produces. Media men & women invited for a first look in August had high expectations.

Contrary to what many thought, this was not a curtain raiser but a quarter preview, and the attendees found themselves at the screening of an extended teaser of ‘MANTO’ - the movie at Nueplex Cinemas – Karachi. The private showing also unveiled trailers of upcoming serials courtesy of GEO Films Production. The figure of Manto himself stays in shadow till 11th September – a day red flagged after 2001, but one that has always been significant for Pakistan and observ…

VIEW: A (Deep) State of Denial

First Published inDaily Times / 31 Dec 2012 (Monday)

By: Afrah Jamal

Thank you to the folks interested in publishing this in Urdu


Hapless polio teams are in the crosshair of extremists and people have come up with their own theories to explain the presence of health workers in the montage of violence. If a polio team does not reach any home, the residents can call a number and let them know. Many houses were left wondering about the fate of the drive this year after the three-day carnage that claimed nine lives, six of them women. A maulana on the media attributes the sudden spike in polio-related violence to government. More polio means more $$, he hisses confidentially. Twitter-sphere assigns the subsequent instability to the dreaded ‘deep state’.



According to them, it can sacrifice anything and anyone on the altar of national interest or in this case — the lure of more dollars. Every ‘whodunit’ begins or ends with a deep state cameo. Apparently, their interference is legendary, as is …

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

KARACHI DIARIES: KOMAL RIZVI VDO Launch / Press Conference

First Published in Economic Affairs (Islamabad) / June 2014



This brother / sister duo came highly recommended. Their music video launch / press conference held at Port Grand, (Karachi) will be the talk of town. And their experimental new sound would be put up for review.



Komal Rizvi, who made her debut as a singer / actress / VJ in the 1990’s, was staging a comeback with her new single - ‘Kalli Kalli’ in April 2014. Hasan Rizvi stars in the video with his sister; Sohail Javed directs. It would be Komal’s first launch and Hasan’s umpteenth choreography.



The filming had been eventful, the storyboard toyed with the elements - water, fire,,,, etc, as did the musicians; one was scorched, the other drowned, several times over reportedly. Nothing had dampened their ardour, or kept them from bombarding Sohail with a steady stream of creative input. ‘Add a tabla’ one would say, ‘how about a sitar’ the other would suggest.


The award winning director survived, and was later hailed for his …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…