Monday, November 26, 2012

Daily Times editorial Nov 27, 2012

Ardeshir Cowasjee An uncompromising crusader for truth and principles and inveterate foe of corruption, incompetence, nepotism and law breaking, that was Ardeshir Cowasjee. Businessman, sometime head of one or the other government organisation (though never for long, such being the nature of our governments), eventually letter writer and later weekly columnist for Dawn, the venerable Parsi gentleman full of lovable eccentricities passed away at the age of 86. In his long innings, Cowasjee’s journey took him from the family business, of which shipping was his passion, to one of the most widely read (though not always and everywhere admired by everyone, particularly the high and the mighty whom he never spared) columnists in English journalism. Cowasjee seems in retrospect to have belonged to a different generation, if not universe. Today’s Pakistan had broken his heart long ago, when our slide into chaos gathered pace. He has been described in comments after his death by friends as a seeker and speaker of truth (to power, one might add), for him the only religion, a public intellectual wedded inextricably to the public interest, come what may. From environmental issues (particularly, in later years, his railing against the land mafia in his beloved Karachi) to corruption, the idea of fair play runs like a silver thread through all he touched. His entry into journalism was the result of a series of letters to the editor to Dawn, begun in 1988 when post-Zia, the press achieved some modicum of freedom, an effort that eventually saw an invitation from the paper to write a regular weekly column in 1989. Over 22 years, the ‘old man’ took just about every malfeasance to the cleaners. Amongst the illustrious columnists who have graced the Op-ed pages of the venerable paper, Cowasjee shines and will remain in the memories and hearts of his myriad readers. Apart from the concerns listed above, Cowasjee’s enduring passions were an independent judiciary that would uphold the law and constitution no matter what, and M A Jinnah and the Pakistan he wanted. On the first, the ‘independence’ achieved by the present judiciary would have both delighted and perhaps worried him for its sometimes ‘excess’. On Jinnah and Pakistan, after struggling bravely for many years to remind his audience of what Jinnah stood for and what his vision of Pakistan was, Cowasjee it is said died of a broken heart (notwithstanding old age and illness). Today’s journalists, columnists and public activists have much to learn from what Ardeshir Cowasjee stood and struggled for. Our present generation, smart as it is in a brave new interconnected world, could derive a great deal of learning and wisdom from the treasure trove that constitutes his writings. RIP, Ardeshir Cowasjee, they don’t make them like you any more.

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