In his new book, Sartaj Aziz reflects on the nation’s life through his personal journey, the key events and people who shaped it
For Sartaj Aziz, a development economist and a politician, writing his memoir is a legacy-driven compulsion. But to me the second edition of this book, Between Dreams and Realities: Some milestones in Pakistan’s history, encompassing parts of his personal and political life, is an evolution from his grandfather’s Rediscovery of One’s Soul and, in the same vein, his father’s What is Man and What he Ought to Do to the soul-searching of a nation whose dream, to quote Aziz, “has received many serious blows in the past seven decades”.
In the book, Aziz reflects on the nation’s life through his personal journey, providing readers with an honest account of his time, the key events and people who shaped it, the highs and lows, the mistakes, his take on the political, economic and cultural forces he had to confront then — which as a nation Pakistanis are still grappling with. He is as flummoxed as the rest of us about what has happened to his country. His meander through the nation’s life often finds bitter spots and fault lines following the death of Quaid-i-Azam, the founder of the nation, and the assassination of the nation’s first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan.
“As my personal progress proceeded parallel with Pakistan’s progress as a nation, I witnessed, often from close quarters many… milestones and turning points – both positive and negative, adding to my dreams and their realisation and also tragedies and upheavals which shattered some dreams and left a legacy of difficulties and obstacles,” he writes.
Overall, it is a solid work featuring photographs, quotes and annexed documents, so candid and honest it could serve as a reference book. For a man with a ringside seat, it is not light on revelation, but he does not close his argument without suggesting a solution and that too exuding hope. For example, he ends the chapter on his party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s archrival Imran Khan as prime minister by saying: “Pakistan’s economy has huge potential for economic and social progress but that requires a stable political environment and economic stability”. Aziz doesn’t gloss over his party leader Nawaz Sharif’s flaws either. “The counterpoint to Nawaz Sharif’s brilliant political career, in which he was elected Prime Minister three times, is the stark reality that he was unable to complete his full 5-year tenure in any one of them. The reasons for each ouster were different and bring out his weaknesses and errors.”
An authentic record of the milestones and turning points in Pakistan’s political history, this book advocates that only a genuine democratic dispensation can ensure a viable federation. Unlike Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Aziz’s yearning for the dawn does not become a lament for ‘This light, smeared and spotted, this night-bitten dawn”. In not losing hope, he is in consonance with Faiz saying: “Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet.”
An authentic record of the milestones and turning points in Pakistan’s political history, this book advocates that only a genuine democratic dispensation can ensure a viable federation.
Aziz says all his life he has held on to the dream of “the advent of a vibrant and self-sustaining democracy”. And he is not despondent now. He hopes, rather is confident, to see future generations of Pakistan “bringing forth outstanding political leaders who will convert this dream into a permanent reality”. For them, he has “explored some of the causes of failure of democracy in Pakistan”.
“The vitality of a nation does not come only from its economic progress or the size of its military but also from its shared values, cultural heritage and social energy. The classical definition of a ‘nation’ with a common language and a common culture has been replaced with the modern concept of the nation-state with a diverse range of cultures, languages and ethnic groups. This diversity, if properly harnessed, and harmonized, through democratic principles and forces can increase the inherent vitality of a nation,” says Aziz as one of the most important lessons of history in the Epilogue I.
He proposes a new charter of democracy after a Grand National Dialogue involving all stakeholders. To him, national cohesion, internal and external security, health of the economy, a credible and just judicial system, depth and quality of education system, a rational and coherent foreign policy and singularity of the locus of state authority are the ingredients of the national interest. These ingredients can only be harnessed through a broader and more inclusive democratic system. That is the only way to ensure that “the dream of Pakistan is never allowed to die”.
Between Dream and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History
Author: Sartaj Aziz
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 1995
The writer is a print, broadcast and online journalist associated with Jang Group of Newspapers as Editor, Special Assignments