By Agha Iqrar Haroon
I went to Lahore from Islamabad especially to meet a medical doctor Dr Najam ul Sahar Butt when I read Urdu translation of a book of General Makhmut Akhmetovich Gareyev who reached Kabul in 1989 and took charge of Soviet adviser to President Mohammad Najibullah. He remained in Kabul in that capacity till 1991. Dr. Najam did an excellent translation Makhmut’s book into Urud.
My conversation with Dr Najam ul Sahar took place in his small office where he continued to check his patients while talking to me. It was a worth meeting with a person who is the only writer available in Pakistan translating original Russian manuscripts into Urdu as he has full command on Russian language of being a former medical student of former Soviet Union.
During meeting, I came to know that he is son of an imminent journalist Badrul Islam Butt who is actually teacher of my teachers in journalism.
Dr Najam ul Sahar has translated a number of Russian novels and autobiographies and his latest work is Urdu translator of semi biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin that was first published in year 2000 with title of “От первого лица. Разговоры с ладимиром Путиным Издательство”. The writer has opted a title for this book in Urdu as “Mard-e-Ahan (The Iron Man) and meaning of this title is closer to another book “The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia” written by Angus Roxburgh. However this book is not an autobiography of Vladimir Putin rather an European view about Putin.
“От первого лица. Разговоры с ладимиром Путиным Издательство” was translated into English under the title of “First Person, an Astonishingly Frank, Self-Portrait by Russian President Vladimir Putin”. However, title of English translation was contrary to Russian meanings of title because “От первого лица” literary means “From the first person (from the mouth of person) ” instead of “First Person”.
This book is compilation of interviews taken by three famous journalists from Putin when he was Prime Minister of Russia and acting president as well. Interviews were conducted by Nataliya Gevorkyan, Natalya Timakova, Andrei Kolesnikov while Putin included his own contribution therefore his name is also in the list of authors.
Jumhoori Publications is the only publishing house in Pakistan that is translating Russian books as well as original works of liberal writers. The man behind Jumhoori Publications is Farukh Sohail Govindi who has been a leftwing voice in Pakistan.
“Mard-e-Ahan (The Iron Man) helps readers to understand who Vladimir Putin is and what his story of survival was?
“Mard-e-Ahan” can also help to understand networking of Soviet Intelligence agency the KGB. Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (English simple translation is Committee for State Security). Book also indicates macro reasons of failure of USSR. Putin believes that one of the major reason of collapse of Soviet Union was lack of continuity in state power and lack of involvement of common man in huge bureaucratic networking where personal relations to powerful people were key of success rather than credibility and qualities of an individual.
Series of interview started when Putin was Prime Minister of young Russia but ended when he was also holding charge of acting President after the resgination of Yeltsin, therefore it may not help to understand “political undercurrents of young Russia”. However, it helps to understand “Soviet Union”. It may be mentioned that Russia has achieved a lot since year 2000 when original book was published and last 17 years are considered as “Golden Era” of Young Russia.
I read this book first in year 2010 in English and then I came to know what philosophy is inside this book through detail discussions and reading original Russian book with the help of a Russian speaking friend.
Major part of Putin’s story is linked with his tenure as KGB agent serving in former East Germany. There is no doubt that the fall of Berlin Wall was the beginning of “Rise of Putin”.
The story of rise of Putin also helps to understand that decisions in corridor of power in young Russia had been taken without consultations and the first President of the Russian Federation, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin used to take decision solely and this trend of his (Yeltsin) personality helped Putin to become what he is today.