January 2000     Vol 3      No 10     Reg No.SS-346

Publisher & Managing Editor:
Ikram-ul-Majeed Sehgal

Chief Patron
Air Marshal (Retd)

Mohammad Asghar Khan

Lt Gen (Retd) SF Lodi

Brig (Retd)TH Siddiqi
Lt Gen (Retd) Imtiaz Waraich

Board of Editorial Advisors
Ardeshir Cowasjee

Arif Nizami
Ms Maleeha Lodhi
Ms Nasim Zehra
Hameed Haroon
Humayun Gauhar
Ambassador (Retd) Afzal Mahmood

Panel of Contributing Editors
Air Marshal (Retd) Ayaz A. Khan

Vice Adm (Retd) IF Quadir
Dr Shireen Mazari
Farhan Bokhari

Panel of Columnists
Col (Retd) EAS Bokhari
Col (Retd) Abdul Qayyum
Dr. Matiur Rahman
Ms Amina Jilani
Capt (Retd) A.A. Jilani

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Ms Ambreen Jahangir

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From the Desk of the Publisher

and Managing Editor

Dear Readers,

We enter the new millennium with the scars of the old but also the hopes for the future. Chechnya and the Indian Airlines hijack are burning images of oppression and apathy but the soul comes out unscathed in the knowledge that tyranny will not stand. Pakistan enters the new millennium under military rule and a benign one at that. Because of the military rulers' strict adherence to the rule of law except where necessity dictates otherwise, we dream of what this nation can be with the right leadership once democracy returns to the body politic. I wrote an article 'THE NEW MILLENNIUM' for THE NATION on Saturday Jan 1, 2000 which I am re-producing with thanks.

We left the last millennium with the images of might being right and universal apathy as is being presently applied in Chechnya. Overriding those perceptions was the dominant figure of the underdog struggling with tyranny against impossible odds. The Chechen ability to die for freedom rather than live under subjugation is an underlying quality that defines those who live with faith.

The vast majority of the peoples of the world who enter the new millennium live more on hope than anything tangible, yet it is that elusive desire for things more in the realm of imagination that gives them hope. Like other less developed countries (LDCs) of the world, Pakistan's population borders on two extremes. On the one hand, we rub shoulders with those countries where high-tech and the information age is now commonplace. On the other, a fair majority of our people live in conditions which resemble the 'stone age', millions of years removed, except for maybe the radio and perhaps TV, bereft generally from the fruits of man's spectacular progress in the 20th century. The aspirations of the masses are built more on perception than on reality, for the most part their bankrupt leaders spend their days hiding reality behind perception, courtesy of the state-controlled media or an obliging fourth estate. Countries have to have leaders at every tier, our saving grace is that at the lower levels our leaders have greater integrity and motivation, our problems stem from bad governance way up the leadership platform. We can look at the future with trepidation or with hope, it is incumbent upon the print media, as leaders per se in our own right, to be objective in our analysis of the times, but to invariably instil hope through the broad spectrum of the populace, to motivate them in their hopes for a better future for themselves and for their children.

We have both the material and manpower resources to make this country great in the comity of nations, what we lack is the will and determination among the elite to make sacrifices, to shun some worldly comforts in order to pay for the build-up to the future. Pakistan is a federation of great ethnic races that have enormous depth of culture and history, in this era of globalization this dissimilarity has been welded into one cauldron of nationhood, that bond can only remain strong when everyone feels an equal partner in the venture. The Centre can only be strong when its constituents that make up the Federation are strong; strength in any union cannot be derived from the relative weakness of the other. There is so much rhetoric about government of the people, what we have to provide is government at the people's doorstep. For a majority of the needs that concern a common citizen, he (or she) must be able to address them within reach of his home, not far away in some urban mystery jungle that is mostly beyond his means to cope with. We must have the courage to break the shackles that feudals have imposed on our masses, if not physically in bondage then through the manipulation of laws and the law-enforcing mechanism. Enfranchisement does not only mean the ability to vote only on electoral days, it also means the vote must be meaningful to affect the citizen in all his days as he struggles with the vagaries that life presents on a day to day basis, whether it be for basic needs such as food, shelter, medicine, transportation, etc or those issues which concern the community as a whole. To address issues which concern the nation as one, one needs leaders who think selflessly beyond their own individual ambitions for the good of the nation, the touchstone being that what is good for the people, not what is good for themselves.

Nations take a long time to get their true bearings, fifty years or so is nothing in the life of, institutions require far more time to crystallise into solid entities with the distinct identity of the nation they serve. It is no use lamenting on what has happened in the past, let us 'gird our loins and stiffen our sinews' (Shakespeare, Henry the Fifth) for the future. To do that all of us have to pull together, to shun our differences for the haven of a common platform that combines ideology and nationhood in one giant melting pot. To do that all of us have to make sacrifices, in a spirit of give and take, secure in the knowledge that magnanimity and understanding will foster unity more than the use of force, that vengeance will always remain subservient to compassion.

Each of us seeks security individually, if that security is sought collectively, where is the lack of patriotism? Each of us seeks a just and fair society, in which all beings are equal as others, how can we bring this about when we compromise with our conscience at each step of our lives? And the irony is that we have contempt for those with ideals, accepting without even a tinge of regret that that strength of character disqualifies that person from being a leader in our imperfect society. In fact of what measure is any society where merit is a disqualifier?

Things have to change, rhetoric alone will not create the environment in which reform can be attempted. Actions have to be exemplary; the leadership has to qualify that trial of quality before asking others to take that path. And people are usually judged by the company they keep, the selection of leaders across a broad spectrum has not only to be judicious, it has to be objective oriented for one mission only, that what is best for this country, without compromise on quality. The sincere intent of the leadership in choosing capable persons for the new millennium is not doubted, will that brilliance become subservient to power or retain an ability to speak one's mind without fear or favour? More important, is the country's leadership ready to accept criticism recognizing the integrity of or do they seek only a rubber stamp to their well-intentioned but ill-reasoned ideas? The present military rule has uptil now a track record of sincere intention and the ability to absorb genuine criticism with objectivity, how long before this honeymoon is over? That mistakes have been made and are being made is welcome, it confirms that there was no deep-rooted sinister ambition in the take over, but only a reaction to a contrived circumstance, the integrity of that fact gives the Army's rule a legality of sorts. The readiness to express regrets for mistakes made is very refreshing given 50 years of leadership that gave up half the country but still does not regard it as the sum total of a series of major mistakes. Even that readiness pales before the fact of rectification when a mistake is found to be a mistake. Some people take it as a weakness, actually it is the touchstone of self-confidence and an inherent integrity in arriving at decisions free of influence.

Let us not seek to make this a society of angels but let us at least strive to better it from a condition where even angels fear to tread. This is only possible if people have power over their lives at the grass-roots level, power being vested in those elected in a pragmatic, democratic process that widens the power base and does not focus it in the hands of a person selected by a bureaucratic process. Some people lament the fact of military rule while entering the new millennium, would one rather lament entering the new millennium without being a country, so close to fragmentation we came? At least the present regime has a definite agenda and is embarked positively on that direction, not camouflaged under the figleaf of rhetoric. Our present rulers are at the crossroads not only of destiny but opportunity, the right path will make this country rise to the level of its destiny, a wrong choice will also consign them to the dustbin of history. Such is the responsibility and stakes that governance brings along with the trappings of power.

Nothing symbolises the constant struggle through the millenniums against tyranny than Chechnya. It is no use railing against the world because the world has no answer for its lack of concern. The lesson is carried from the old millennium; we have to fight our battles as a nation, as a country and as individuals, ourselves without support or hope of it from any quarter. In the end, it is the individual that must come to terms with himself in the same manner as the Chechen soldier, what is life without freedom? That is the enduring thought for the new millennium, for our children's sake, freedom is worth dying for. Against that ultimate resolve no amount of tyranny will stand.


The views, opinion and recommendations expressed in the articles published in this magazine are entirely that of the author of that particular article, this magazine serves only as a neutral platform for healthy debate where contrary thoughts in print are considered an important cornerstone of the freedom of expression enshrined as the essence of democracy.

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