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Mr Ghazi Salahuddin (Jang Group of Newspapers)


Ghazi Salahuddin | Rene Klaff


Change is the crux of the matter – for individuals and for communities.

We are holding this seminar against the backdrop of the celebrations of the fifty years of our independence. But this observance has not been very joyous. In fact, the sense of sorrow over what we have made of our freedom – both in India and in Pakistan – is directly associated with the main concern of this seminar because of the poor state of civil society in the two countries.

These deprivations, ladies and gentlemen, underline the state of our civil society and it is a challenge for all of us to break out of this bondage.

If there is any hope it is in the success of small communities in helping themselves. The strategies adopted by our rulers for economic development have not been able to foster any social growth.

All of us, I am sure, look forward to a very gratifying discussion on issues which have a bearing not only on our two countries but the entire region.

Ghazi Salahuddin, from the Jang Group of Newspapers thanked the participants, especially those who had taken the trouble of travelling from India in spite of the tension the acquisition of visas had created for them.

Ten participants from India were invited for this seminar, out of which three were not able to make it, "but that left us with a lucky number."

Introducing the seminar Mr Salahuddin mentioned that it was being hosted by the Jang Group of Newspapers and Friedrich Naumann Foundation in the backdrop of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

He suggested that South Asia seems to be uniquely afflicted with a strange madness with which "we will have to ultimately contend to be able to behave, in a collective sense, like sensible and rational people." Referring to a recent report on human development in South Asia, compiled by The Human Development Centre in Islamabad, he pointed out the sad but not surprising fact that the South Asia is now the most deprived region of the world, having wrested this distinction from the Sub-Saharan Africa. South Asia contains 22 % of the world’s population but it produces only 1.3 % of the world’s income. All available indicators seem to be pointing out towards this region as the poorest, the most illiterate, the most malnourished and the least gender-sensitive area.

Mr Salahuddin also suggested that the role of NGOs has become more crucial since the apparent total collapse of the public sector in this region and the failure of the governments "to carry the torch of development to the people who are down-trodden and dispossessed." The assignment of injecting a process of change "is increasingly becoming the burden of what is described as the organised sector of the civil society: the non-governmental organisations."

He pointed out that, at least in view of the Pakistani experience, our civil society has reached a stage where the established structures of authority cannot be sustained without an immediate and enormous development in human resources. Mentioning the fact that journalism in this region first developed in relation with the movement for independence, he suggested that it can play a major role under the present circumstances where the top-down approaches have failed. "We should now realise the importance of what is called "public journalism" (also "civic journalism" or "public service journalism" or "community-assisted reporting") that has emerged in the more developed countries partly in response to declining circulations. The idea is that a newspaper should play a role not unlike that of a community organiser. There is also the idea of "development journalism" to highlight the positive aspects of change and to cover the development activities.

Among the issues introduced by him as possible foci for the discussions during the seminar was the possibility for change. "Can this change be brought about by what we know as participatory development?" He hoped that this seminar, among other things, will make an attempt to answer this question.

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