An interesting discussion was held between Senator Javed Jabbar and Dr Huma Baqai on Sunday in a session of the fourth Adab Festival. The topic of the discussion was ‘Political Memoirs:...
An interesting discussion was held between Senator (retd) Javed Jabbar and Dr Huma Baqai on Sunday in a session of the fourth Adab Festival. The topic of the discussion was ‘Political Memoirs: Ciphers and Supplement to History’.
Jabbar recalled that in the 1990s he was in the Senate and Benazir Bhutto was about to become Pakistan’s prime minister, but she did not have a member in the Senate. “It would’ve been very strange that a party was coming into power with no representation in the Senate,” he pointed out, saying that it was then that he joined her party.
He said Benazir did not have complete support from important quarters, and whatever support she had mustered came with some conditions, “so one felt very sympathetic with her and wanted to help her”.
He lamented that she made a fundamental mistake after winning the 1988 elections. He said he and political activist Khurshid Hadi visited her at the Bilawal House and asked her to pay an immediate visit to Lahore to mobilise support for the Pakistan Peoples Party to form government in Punjab.
“I bluntly told her that the way to Islamabad is not from Karachi but via Lahore. To our shock, Benazir Bhutto didn’t want to go to Lahore. She was fully confident that the Punjab leadership would mobilise the independent MPAs not already with Nawaz Sharif to give her their support.”
Jabbar said that using various means Sharif was able to form a majority. “That created the biggest obstacle to her being able to function effectively as a prime minister,” he pointed out. Dr Huma interjected that “Lahore to Islamabad” is a mantra now.
The former senator continued that compartmentalisation of people into democrats and dictators is somewhat unfair. “Civilians are also capable of being very authoritarian, dictatorial,” he remarked.
“Within their parties there’s no scope. If you challenge the leader, oh boy! You’re committing harassment, and that’s dictatorial because parties never hold authentic, fair elections in their own parties. That is a sign of dictatorship.”
Speaking about Gen Pervez Musharraf’s tenure, Jabbar claimed that Musharraf was a more democratically inclined individual than civil democrats. He said Musharraf was willing to accept dissent within the cabinet. To pass the law to introduce private electronic media was a sign of democracy by Musharraf, he added.
The former senator shared that he had asked both Benazir and Sharif to do the same, but they did not. “Neither of those civil, elected, political democrats was willing to allow private media in Pakistan.”
The concluding day of the festival had opened with a session for students on building innovation and capacity in the creative sectors by Dr Samina Zahir. The speakers during the day included Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Zehra Nigah, Arfa Syeda Zehra, Aitzaz Ahsan, Jabbar, Sultana Siddiqui, Dr Ishrat Husain, Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Kishwar Naheed, Iftikhar Arif and Masood Lohar.
The sessions were interactive, with endless questions asked by the engaged audiences. They included a talk between Aysha Baqir and Amna R. Ali on Aysha’s brilliant novel ‘Beyond the Fields’, and another between Irshad Abdul Kadir and Maheen Usmani on Kadir’s novel ‘The Lady of Sohanbela’, which is about a female Gaddi Nasheen.
A session was also held on a book of poetry by Nafisa Itaat Husain, introduced by Quratul Ain Hyder, and endorsed by Zehra Nigah and Fahmida Riaz, with the participants including Sheema Kermani, Ameena Saiyid and Nafisa’s grandchildren.
At the closing ceremony, Ameena and Shama Askari thanked Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab, the authors and artists, the Lightstone Publishers’ team and the sponsors for their support for the festival.
The closing keynote speeches were delivered by Zafar Masud and Arfa Syeda Zehra. The day ended with riveting performances by Rosemary Mushtaq, Shayma Saiyid and rap singer Kaifee Khalil, and a concert by the band Laal.