But when I read Javed Chaudhry's translated Urdu column in the Express Tribune this morning, not having read the original in (the Urdu daily) Express on the 27th, I simply could make neither head nor tail of it. It seemed to me to be a column written about two years ago and for the life of me I could not make out why it had been published today. And why did I think that? Because the headline of the oped was:
"A conversation with Abdul Hameed Dogar"
And of course because the rest of the column referred in glowing terms to "Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar's" long working hours, the amount of cases being expeditiously handled by him while sitting in the Supreme Court, Dogar's open admiration for Justice Rana Bhagwandas - the Supreme Court's senior-most judge who refused to accept General Musharraf's diktat against the judiciary which Dogar had gladly accepted ("It is we who are Muslims but it is Rana sahib who has stronger belief [in democracy]") , his praise for the independent media (the same media, it may be recalled, that had hounded Dogar for his daughter's nepotistic admission to a college over the heads of more qualified candidates), his belief that the PPP government should continue rather than be dismissed by him as 'many are predicting' (much to Chaudhry's 'astonishment' and my confusion since I never knew that Dogar was ever considered anything less than beholden to Asif Zardari for his support), etc etc etc... I thought I was in some episode of The Twilight Zone.
Lost in translation: Javed Chaudhry
Well, as it turns out, it was not me but the Express Tribune staff that's in some sort of twilight. Or at least tubelight. As you can verify from the original Urdu piece posted here, Javed Chaudhry's piece was actually about Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry! And his name is mentioned no less than three times in just the first para. In spite of the fact that his chief protocol officer is referred to as "Hameed sahib", for the life of me I cannot understand how the current chief justice's name was substituted for that of the disgraced former judge who, under the Supreme Court's own ruling, is no longer to be considered as ever having been the lawful chief justice.
Note to ET: NOT Abdul Hameed Dogar
ET staffers are apparently putting the entire blame on the translator but it must be said that the level of oversight involved here is just mind-boggling. Surely a bunch of other sub-editors and editors would have - or should have - seen the piece before and once it was 'pasted' on to the page. Are we to assume that nobody saw anything bizarre in the article? Or that nobody at ET can read Urdu?
Unfortunately, ET has changed the story as it appears on their website now, to reflect a corrected version. And they still do not have an epaper version for you to see this hilarious blunder in all its gloriousness. But I will update the post tomorrow with a scan of the print edition to keep all of you entertained.
But what of the story itself? Considering that it was an exclusive given to Javed Chaudhry by Justice Chaudhry - a mere day or two before the damning judgements reversing the government's controversial multi-billion dollar LNG deal and the elevation of over 50 bureaucrats to secretary-level grade - probably to assuage the government's paranoia about the judiciary out to get it (the title of the Urdu column was "There is no threat to the system"), you can imagine how frustrated both Chaudhries must be. After all, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had gone out of his way to praise Benazir Bhutto as well, only to see it all being credited (at least in English) to his former nemesis Dogar.
Or is this what is known as poetic justice for PR exercises?
Expect a big-ass apology from ET in tomorrow morning's paper.
*** UPDATE on 30 April 2010 ***
As promised, here is the scan of the article as printed yesterday:
Meanwhile, the apology has come in the form of a "deeply regretted" correction notice on the op-ed pages that blames the translation as expected. "The mistake crept in because the name of the chief protocol officer happens to be Mr. Hameed" says the notice. Inconsiderate man that chief protocol officer.