The death of Omar Asghar Khan is a tragedy not only
for his loved ones but also for the country. A public figure who combined
integrity, an understanding of the theory and practice of development
and a deep commitment to the people of Pakistan, is rare in our country's
history. What is even more unusual is that such a person should decide
to take a plunge into Pakistan's mainstream political process. A process
in which politicians by and large have demonstrated managerial incompetence,
and a greed for personal power and wealth untrammeled by any human consideration
for the people in whose name they claim to rule. Omar had a sensitivity
and clarity of mind, which enabled him to work for the long run reconstruction
of an alternative political process. A process marked by probity rather
than pelf, reason rather than obscurantism, fraternity rather than egotism.
With an M.Phil in development studies from Cambridge
and an initial teaching experience in the Punjab University, Omar tried
to lay the basis of a new politics based on grass roots institutions.
He established a highly successful development NGO called SUNGI, which
combined social mobilization for development at the village level, with
advocacy on development policy issues at the national level. He remained
detached from the political skullduggery, and the use of public office
for private gain during the 1990s. He continued to work quietly for a
new politics that would be grounded in grass roots development, selflessness
and a love for the people. He dared to be idealistic in an environment
where pragmatism was confused with the displacement of principles from
politics. At the end of the 1990s the country entered a critical crisis
of state, economy and society as a result of a combination of incompetence
and greed for power and wealth by successive political regimes. At this
juncture he decided to join the cabinet of President Pervez Musharraf
to help to turn the tide. Having made his contribution to saving Pakistan
from the collapse of economy and state, Omar decided to leave his cabinet
position and engage in the national political process in the prelude to
the elections of October 2002. He had just begun his political career
at the national stage. It is a tragedy for Pakistan that he was cut down
in mid stride. As in Shakespeare's Scotland it is symptomatic of the sickness
of our society that "young men die before the flowers in their caps".
Yet we must continue to pursue hope for a better future with love and
reason. As the great Sufi poet Sultan Bahu puts it:
[JO DIL MANGAY HOWAY NAHIN
HOWAN REHA PARARAY HU
DOST NO DAIWAY DILL DA DARU, ISHQ NA WAGAAN PHAIRAY HU
ISS MAIDAAN MUHABBAT VAALE MILLAN TAA TIRKHERE HU,
MEIN QURBAAN TINHA THEEN BAHU
JINHAAN RAKHIA QADDAM AGGERE HU]
[The heart desires the potential within the actual.
When one possibility is actualized a new possibility is born.
In this tension between the actual and the possible, the true friend is
one who does not give a symptomatic antidote, and true love does not turn
back from the quest.
On this landscape of love you will confront much suffering.
I salute him O' Bahu who takes the forward step]