CITY NOTES

I do not at all claim to be in the inner circle of Majid Nizami, but he was more than just this newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief to me. He was more noted as the Editor of Nawai Waqt, this paper’s group’s eponymous Urdu paper, and he assumed that office in 1962, which was 34 years before this paper began publication, and which was the year of my birth. I am no longer a young man, but Majid Nizami has been the Editor of Nawai Waqt all my life.

I have had the privilege of working closely with him at one time, attending his daily editorial meetings, and apart from the public man, I found him a gentleman of the old school. That does not mean that he lacked the steely inner core that made him very clear about the difference between right and wrong, and his unflinching support for what was right. I suppose it was this that made even his opponents respect him.

One of the most impressive things about him was how involved he was in events. I suppose that was inevitable in a newspaperman. And that was something he was: a newspaperman. I know he founded three magazines and a TV channel, but he was very much a newspaperman. But I suppose it was that involvement that kept him not just passionate but also so adept at instilling that passion into the group’s publications.

As a successful newspaperman, he was also well aware of the need for truthfulness. That made him struggle for press freedom all his life. At the same time, he was strongly committed to his opinions, which were based on a very firm patriotism. That patriotism was based on a firm commitment to the Ideology of Pakistan Movement, which he had personally taken part in, and which he kept alive by his tenure as Chairman of the Nazria Pakistan Trust, and the Karkunan Tehrik Pakistan Trust.

He would have found the forcible feeding of a Muslim catering supervisor in New Delhi by Shiv Sena MPs, staying at the Mahrashtra Sadan, a kind of vindication of his view of India, as a place where a Hindu majority did not allow Muslims the space they needed to express themselves freely. It probably does not help the cause of MP Rajan Baburao Vichare that they were only showing the catering supervisor that the chapatti was inedible. Vichare also noted that the lentils and vegetables being served there were also inedible.

Vichare didn’t deny trying to stuff catering supervisor’s mouth with a chapatti at Maharashtra Sadan, but said it was not to break his fast, but show how hard the chapatti was; the veg and lentils were also bad. The new meaning given to the term ‘forcefeeding’ did not stop Pakistan from deciding to go ahead with foreign-secretary-level talks that are to take place on August 25.

As if that wasn’t enough to show how India has changed since Narendra Modi came to power at the head of the BJP, there have been Muslims slaughtered in Saharanpur, politely called a ‘communal riot’. Modi is yet to solve the demand that something be done about the disturbance caused by the fajr azan. One would presume he is losing sleep over this, but we should remember that he inaugurated his reign as Gujarat Chief Minister by the slaughter of 1000 Muslims.

One of the causes Mr Nizami supported was that of the Palestinians, who are being slaughtered these days in Gaza, the death toll now having climbed above 1000. No one is counting their IDPs, while those of ours created by Zarb-e-Azab are more than we thought there would be.

I wonder why we aren’t hearing reports of heavenly figures (in green robes) leading our men into battle against the militants? Is the ISPR not vigilant enough? Remember the 1965 War, when enemy soldiers died dogs’ deaths, and ours were martyred? Not to forget the help from the men in green? I know the Zarb-e-Azab press releases describe our troops as being martyred, but what about the rest?

Another militant group that seems active is Boko Haram. The group gained even more attention when it kidnapped all of those girls from Chibok. Some of the girls’ parents have finnaly met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. I don’t know what happened. Maybe they rubbed President Jonathan’s hat for good luck. The parents of the girls recovered so far didn’t.

But that isn’t all Boko Haram has been up to. There were two blasts in Kaduna at the mosque on Muritala Muhammad Square. Muritala Muhammad was the brigadier who overthrew Yakubu Gowon in 1975, but was himself assassinated three years later. Not having had a chance at him, Boko Haram tried to blow up Muhammadu Buhari the same day. But he survived. Buhari was not merely a retired major-general, or just the poor unfortunate who lost two presidential elections, in 2007 and 2011, but a former military ruler, between 1983 and 1985.

In Buhari’s time, the leadership of Nigeria went to those who carried out military coups. The general who replaced Murtala, Olesegun Obasanjo, was later elected Nigerian President. It may be why General Pervez Musharraf is hopeful. While Pakistan only once had a military ruler replaced by another (when Ayub was replaced by Yahya), it has Musharraf aspiring to be elected. If he avoids being hanged for abrogating the Constitution. That’s another thing Mr Nizami always opposed: military rule.

While you are reading these notes, the country will be shutting down. The Eid holidays have been announced from July 29 to August 1. Well, with August 2 and 3 being a weekend, don’t expect anyone back in any government office till August 4. And by the way, don’t expect anything to be done on July 28. In fact, the whole country has gone onto automatic since Friday, July 25. A lot f them left office early on Friday, they needn’t be back until next Monday, with only one working day between them and freedom. My own experience has been that newspapers do not reach the Village, so if you’re reading this, you must be celebrating Eid in Lahore.

If you are celebrating. With Mr Nizami gone, with people dying both in Zarb-e-Azb and in Gaza, there seems precious little to celebrate.