KARACHI: At a ceremony held here on Tuesday, The Jinnah Society conferred the Jinnah Award for 2011 upon celebrated columnist and philanthropist Ardeshir Cowasjee.
The award is conferred “in recognition of outstanding and dedicated services to Pakistan”.
The event, held at the offices of Oxford University Press, was attended by notable society figures who praised the columnist for waging a war against corruption and other societal ills with his pen.
Seasoned former diplomat Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, who was there as the chief guest, termed Mr Cowasjee a “quintessential citizen of Karachi, born and bred in this city”, whose family had made a significant contribution to the metropolis, particularly its port area, from the time of Bartle Frere till the time of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and after.
Mr Marker observed that the Cowasjee family, as well as the Parsi community as a whole, remained aware of their civic duties while contributing to Karachi’s commerce.
“This is the civic legacy of Ardeshir Cowasjee. He is a worthy inheritor”. He added that Mr Cowasjee’s relationship with the bureaucracy was “unsettling” during his brief stints as head of both the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and the Port Qasim Authority during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government.
Referring to the brief period in which Mr Cowasjee was jailed by Mr Bhutto in the mid 1970s, Amb Marker paraphrased Justice M.R. Kayani, who had said that freedom after speech is just as important as freedom of speech.
He said the columnist’s “passion for justice was reflected in his writing” and that he had “vigorously campaigned against the desecration of Karachi.
His words are feared by the Karachi mafia and cheered by the citizens. He is a worthy holder of the Jinnah Award”.
Speaking earlier, Liaquat Merchant, president of The Jinnah Society, said that Ardeshir Cowasjee was a “lone campaigner against nepotism, corruption and maladministration. He is a champion of the rule of law and an independent judiciary”, while adding that Mr Jinnah is the columnist’s “guiding light”.
“If you want to understand the reason for the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah is a bridge you must cross. Then you can [see] if we have fulfilled the vision or have fallen” by the wayside, he added.
Mr Merchant said a booklet of the Quaid’s quotes translated in Urdu would be launched in January and distributed free of cost to ensure his message reaches the widest audience.
A visibly frail Ardeshir Cowasjee repeatedly thanked the audience for attending and, displaying his usual wit, thanked them for “wasting your valuable time”.
Playwright Khaled Ahmed read out the citation.
Ameena Saiyid, the OUP head, presented a collection of Mr Cowasjee’s articles from the last 10 years to the columnist as well as to Mr Merchant and Mr Marker.