The Rag
November 1999

Column Writers and Lottas
by Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

In the last ten years of disastrous period of musical chairs by corrupt
politicians, term ?lotta? was used quite often. Politicians before the last term
of Nawaz Sharif made it very profitable to switch sides to who ever could pay
them more. Term Lotta became synonymous with those politicians. Lotta, which is
Urdu word for utensil used for ablation when pronounced with a little different
accent, also means theft and plunder. Which I think was also the very true
meaning for these politicians. Having said that, I don?t think that politicians
are the only one who were lottas only, we have representation from all sections
of society.
Today lets talk about journalists. One does not need to have a very good memory
to recall how quickly our so-called torchbearers of truth change their positions
with every whim of new wind. They change their position daily shamelessly
without acknowledging that they were wrong just yesterday. I think it is great
that if someone changes his or her position when new information comes than
stubbornly sticking to your position. I have changed my opinion many times, but
this does not coincide with change of governments in Pakistan. I accept that I
may be at fault previously or I am better informed now.
When India exploded an Atomic bomb, and their was intense pressure from Public
to explode our own devices, one big Urdu newspaper was leading this movement and
was urging the government to go ahead with it and should not think about
consequences. ?Pakistanis can live with hunger, disease and poverty but we need
a bomb right now?. There were some who wanted to use this opportunity to isolate
India and get maximum economic benefits and still keeping our options open. But
they all were labeled as CIA or RAW agents or Chamchas of Western Powers. This
newspaper wanted atomic explosion so early that it was against the diplomatic
missions consulting foreign governments to judge the consequences. But just a
few days after the Pakistani explosion and controversial decision of freezing
the foreign currency account the very same newspaper in its editorial was angry
that we should have done first our homework.
There were many famous column writers who also did the same as this newspaper.
They said that Pakistanis can eat grass but will not bow to Indian hegemony. But
by just freezing the foreign currency accounts they started crying aloud. I am
not saying that freezing Foreign Currency account was a good decision. I totally
agree that first the rulers should act by themselves on what they preach, and
first show an example of simple and honest life before asking Public to give
sacrifices, but changing your opinion so quickly, is it a right journalism?
Another column writer of a famous Urdu newspaper, who also owns a pretty popular
Pakistani news site on the Internet, has changed his writing so quickly (in just
one day) that it is really shameful. As soon after the coup, his column on the
site declared with quite flame language that the reason, Nawaz Sharif Govt. fell
because it betrayed Kargil issue. But if you go to one of his column written
just a few months ago and still saved on his own website, he is openly defending
Nawaz Sharif withdrawal from Kargil Heights. How could you do that? I don?t
remember even a single article from this famous writer, writing in this very
popular newspaper, which had ?openly? criticized previous government. We may
argue, that it was not safe for people to write against Nawaz Sharif. But if we
are so afraid then we should do something else than writing. Many good writers
kept writing in the same time period in spite of difficult circumstances.
With just a pen and paper, you could write anything, but if you consider
yourself a journalist, it brings a lot more responsibility. Free and independent
press is considered an important pillar of democracy. Nowhere in the world,
Press got its independence easily, it had to fight everywhere. If our last
democratic process was a failure, it?s some what responsibility also lays on our
lotta journalists along side corrupt politicians.