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Middles and End Notes

Pamela Philipose

By Inam Aziz. Translated from the Urdu by Khalid Hasan
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, pp. 170, Rs. 395.00

By Amalendu Das Gupta
Papyrus, India, 2007, pp. 204, Rs. 250.00

By Raj Chatterjee
Penguin, Delhi, 2008, pp. 206, Rs. 250.00


One aspect of newspaper writing that has always invited comment is its ephemeral nature. Shaped in the anvil of the moment, journalism often lacks the informed consideration of the scholar’s gaze or the litterateur’s careful powers of expression. Yet such writing, with all its inadequacies, has always been a telling measure of a society’s stomach for dissent and its interest in analysing the heterogeneous forces that shape the times. The three books reviewed here, each in its distinct way, represent different aspects of the newspaperly craft: reporting, comment and free expression.   Of the three volumes, it is the first, Stop Press: A Life In Journalism, written by Inam Aziz and translated by Khalid Hasan, that is the most important by far. Although meant principally for a Pakistani readership, there is much that scholars and observers of Pakistan in India can glean from the memoirs of the late Pakistani journalist, Inam Aziz. His career straddled what was arguably the most important period in Pakistan’s history—from its inception as a new nation in August 1947 to Benazir Bhutto’s ascendance to power. It was a period that saw three coups and the undermining of every democratic institution that the new state was bequeathed with. While Indian democracy had its fair share of reversals, there were many in Pakistan who wanted an answer to the question Aziz once put to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: Why was it that while Pakistan and India inherited the same system of administration and the same army, there have been no coups in India? Bhutto’s answer, in what was to be his last newspaper interview, was precise. He observed that Pakistan suffered from two ‘basic weaknesses’: one, 85 per cent of the army came from one province, Punjab, and consequently controlled it. And that the bureaucracy was also largely Punjabi. Both these powerful forces join hands in defence of their interests, and political forces are left helpless. Of course, it was not always like this. As a young college student in Delhi already displaying a journalist’s curiosity, Aziz observed from the sidelines the agitation for a separate Pakistan and was enthralled by the charismatic if slightly enigmatic M.A. Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam. Aziz’s fervent enthusiasm for the creation of a nation that he could call his own never, fortunately, came in the way of his ability to observe the moments when the country ...

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