Javed Chaudhry is a renowned columnist and television anchor. He is the author of seven books. His column Zero Point and his talk show Kal Tak are well-known in the public. As a journalist, he has represented Pakistan in several countries and also participated in various specialised media courses in various countries of the world. He addresses issues of public interest in his columns and programmes.
Here are some excerpts from his exclusive talk with Cutting Edge.
Interview by: Muhammad Tauseef Sabih
How did you decide to adopt journalism as career?
Javed Chaudhry: Frankly speaking, it was accidental. My first attraction towards journalism was the discounted railway ticket for journalists. Secondly, when one of my friends joined Nawa-i-Waqt, I accepted it as a challenge and also decided to become a journalist. I applied for a job, but my application was initially rejected by Majid Nizami Sahib. Later on, Arif Nizami Sahib approved it and I started working as a trainee sub-editor at daily Nawa-i-Waqt. Then again, I accidentally started column writing, because I was challenged by some colleagues to write a column. After that I took it seriously and studied to improve my column writing technique.
We believe column writing is a specialised job. What were the techniques that you adopted for improving your style?
JC: Once I took it as a career, I was the first column writer in Pakistan who started writing columns as per techniques recognised internationally. I write columns with depth and information. I opted for a storytelling style from the Holy Quran. In the Holy Quran, Allah addresses human beings through several stories. I realized that you need to address the general public in your columns; you need to focus on their issues. When a column wins public approval, it automatically gets the government attention. I spend almost eight hours in writing a column.
What do you say about the quality of columns in Pakistani newspapers?
JC: Here in Pakistan you can divide columns and columnists in two groups: one is pro-establishment, and the other is anti-establishment. The pro-establishment columnists change their opinion with a change of government, so they don’t have any respect in the eyes of the public. However, the anti-establishment columnists mostly focus on the truth and that is why they have deep roots in the masses. Unfortunately, we do not have enough column writers in Pakistan and as per my knowledge there are just 12 main columnists in Pakistan including English and Urdu column writers. Some are good in craftsmanship and some have clarity of mind and ideas. We need some enthusiastic young blood in this field as well. Arthur Buchwald an American humorist best known for his long-running column in The Washington Post, is my favourite. He is the first man who made column writing a technical job.
What is your special quality as a columnist that earned you recognition?
JC: Let me tell you that I was not a bright student in my childhood, but my observation power was phenomenal. I think it’s my keen observation that has made me what I am today. Secondly, my reading habit helped me a lot. Later on, when I studied psychology, I came to know that people who are less soical and more serious in their childhood, develop their observation power. I believe it somehow arouses creativity in you. Then, hard work is a key to success. At times, it takes me several days to write a single column. My devoted team helps me in gathering the data and I myself read 21 newspapers regularly to remain updated.
You are also anchoring a talk show. What is the purpose of these political talk shows?
JC: I believe in using every tool of the media that can help us in spreading knowledge and information, arousing emotions and creating awareness among the masses. Television is certainly one of the most effective mediums we have. As far the question of politicians is concerned, I think these talk shows have made our politicians think that they need to improve themselves. Viewers are getting more and more knowledge about their leaders and the political developments around the world. It’s a continuous process and things are improving with every passing day.
What is your opinion about Pakistani politics and politicians?
JC: Unfortunately, Pakistani politicians are characterless. You can threaten them and even can buy them. We are lacking ideological politics here in Pakistan. Our ruling elite avoid political commitment. They just follow dictators or rulers.
Don’t you think that the masses are also responsible for creating this mess by voting these politicians to the assemblies again and again?
JC: I will not blame the public because they are not educated and do not have enough awareness. They are not given their basic right to choose their leader independently. They are weak and they do not get a chance to think on other issues while being mired in their domestic and economic affairs. I would blame politicians for the gloomy conditions of our beloved motherland.
How can we bring a change when we have corrupt politicians on one hand and a poor public on the other?
JC: I believe it’s a political system that always brings about a change. From human history, we have learnt that change always comes when a person from the ruling elite converts himself and starts feeling the miseries of the poor. Look at the example of Moses coming from the house of Firaun (Pharaoh Ramses). The family of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was among the worthiest tribes of Arabia, the Bani-Hashim. Quaid-e-Azam was from a business family, Gandhi was a Brahman, Chinese leader Mao Zedong was from the ruling elite, and Zhou Enlai was a landlord. Change always comes from the elite whenever someone from them starts identifying with the problems of the poor.
If only the elite can bring about a change, then what is the role of ordinary people?
JC: Wars are initiated and won by generals, but these generals always fight wars with the help of their army. People are important because they bring about change under the guidance and leadership of a person from the elite, who changes himself for them. Pakistan would not have been there unless the masses supported Quaid-e-Azam. The public needs to have conviction, consistency and devotion for achieving its goals. People usually have the potential, but it’s the leader who developes that potential to achieve success.
Why did we fail to produce a leader like Quaid-e-Azam again?
JC: I think there was a time when the world required leaders like Quaid-e-Azam, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong. That was a time when new countries and nations were in the process of emerging and getting freedom. Today’s world just requires good managers to run these states. We need to produce managers to run our systems better than before.
How can we expect to have good managers when we do not have a system to produce them?
JC: Initially, institutions are made by individuals (leaders) and then these institutions produce managers that are able to run systems. We need to build institutions by focusing on problems and settling them regularly. The Army is the only institution we have that has a system which trains each and every lieutenant equally in the process of becoming a four-star general. The Judiciary is the other institution improving day by day. It’s a continuous process to build up institutions.
Where do you see Pakistan in the near future?
JC: I link Pakistan’s future with its Islamic identity, its nuclear strength and the Pakistan Army’s approach. I think our enemies will attack us in these three areas. We need to strengthen the relations and mutual understanding between the civilian government and the Army. We need to critically monitor the West’s attack on our culture and religious practices. We should repel the so-called liberalism prevailing in society, which is leading us towards a drastic moral decline. Our nuclear capability is an iron shield for the nation and there are powers who do not like our shield. We must work for its strength so that Pakistan can emerge as an independent and developed nation state.