The framing of ideas into words for building up a certain narrative is what encompasses the real task of a writer. If the narrative is progressive and socially responsible, then, the writer has done its job for not only one but several generations to come. It is unfortunate that the power of writing can work both ways –progressively and backwardly. Remembering Prof. Waris Mir on his death anniversary brings to mind his prolific writings that used to advocate democracy and liberal and progressive thoughts during General Zia ul Haq’s conservative and repressive rule.

Waris Mir, a professor at the Mass Communication Department of Punjab University, Lahore belonged to that era of Pakistan’s history when speaking one’s mind was a punishable offense. During his writing career of 25 years, Waris Mir wrote on political issues, national and international problems, human rights, freedom of expression, philosophy, religion, history and social issues. His political and intellectual write-ups saw their peak of popularity during Zia’s dictatorship in the 1980s, a dark chapter in Pakistan’s political history which used to enchain every emerging voice. He was a Seer, who wrote not only for the generation that was reading his columns on multi-dimensional issues but also for the posterity that was yet to open its eyes in this social setup.

“While a writer is penning down his concerns, he is not only writing for that particular day or era – he is rather putting together pieces of history for the posterity. But in this age, when the journalist/writer is not allowed to put into black and white what the truth is, what element of precision or accuracy is he going to secure through writings?... with enchained expression, it is not only the voice of the writer that is muffled but of that entire generation…”, so wrote Waris Mir in one of his articles during Zia era in 1985. To be prophetic in the writings does require a brainy disposition. But more than that, it requires a holistic approach, a scientific deliberation where the cognition is thoroughly rounded without any slanting corners. More importantly, it requires a sincere heart that is not tilted towards a political party, a particular ruler and specific desire.

Being a prophetic contributor, Waris Mir had concerns for the masses in general. The concerns extend out to those who form the nation and the body of the country. Proud to call himself a “student with an open mind” and assertive to deny that he was working for particular and personal ideals, Waris Mir had amalgamated historical orientation, international references, and national situations in order to talk about issues pertaining to various sectors. These included the political chaos in Pakistan, the repeated military intervention by power-hungry generals, uneasy civil-military relationship, ludicrous referendums, the formation of the so-called security councils, rigged polls, sham democracy, suspension of the constitution and the like.

Probably, the tragedy of the situation is not that the writings of Prof. Waris Mir stopped to flow.

The real tragedy is that despite having great connectivity to the present world, his writings are not available to the new generation. If Waris Mir were alive, he would have relived the very circumstances when still the establishment wants to have an upper hand in the decision-making instead of doing justice to its profession. It is so obvious that even today that one can listen to his words as one’s own voice echoing as: “The military intervention in politics does not allow the political and economic setup of a country to get strengthened… The military regimes do allow holding elections but only handpicked parties can participate and chosen loyalists become a part of the government…’’

Waris Mir died with his boots on July 9, 1987 at a young age of 48 while confronting Zia’s dictatorship through his writings. His concerns for the posterity make him a timeless writer and it is only due to this characteristic of his writings that today, in the form of three volumes, Waris Mir ka Fikri Asasa (The intellectual asset of Waris Mir) is an excellent source of reference material for journalistic writings, intellectual inquisitions, historical references, national issues, political dilemmas, religious and cultural tribulations, scholarly ponderings and a perfect guideline for those who wish to practice journalism in its true sense. If today he lived physically, he would be satisfied with the fact that at least he did not ‘play with facts to misguide the new generation.’

“I firmly believe that unless the system; in which intellectual contemplation is stifled and expression is enslaved; is not changed, any problem related to the betterment of humanity cannot be solved… A true writer can never become an agent or cog for anyone else. A writer is concerned with humanity at large and with a brighter and better future of his/her society. He is the torch-bearer of high human values, aestheticism, peace, moderation, and patriotism. For the sake of bringing a revolution, he does not believe in using Kalashnikovs and missiles – he instead relies on his pen to achieve these objectives.”

He was aware of the fact that he was addressing those problems and issues that were and still are the concern of the common man, be it democracy, justice, religion, the polity, freedom of speech and expression, gender discrimination, the army intervention into politics, debates related to the constitution issue, national and bilateral problems, international disputes and so much more that still persists. It is this perennial aspect of his writings that keep him alive. Waris Mir spoke what the people of Pakistan needed to listen to at that time. He thought what a real thinker does contemplate about with loyal regard to his faith, country, and people. He related that specific knowledge to the masses which was hidden from them. One might twist one’s heart with pain upon the thought of the very persistent problems that Waris Mir addressed in his writings. He is no more but those who have been following his writings may wonder what happened to the causes he used to champion. The problems he wrote about still persist but unfortunately, we have few, people to raise them as vigorously as Prof. Waris Mir.

The writer is the daughter of Prof. Waris Mir and the article is penned on his death anniversary that falls on July 09.

His political and intellectual write-ups saw their peak of popularity during Zia’s dictatorship in the 1980s, a dark chapter in Pakistan’s political history which used to enchain every emerging voice.