A Time of Madness’: Memories of Partition

A Time of Madness by Salman Rashid 
Aleph, 2017

Salman Rashid in his slim memoir about a visit to his ancestral house, has also written about many more among the two million displaced by the Partition of 1947.

As someone whose grandparents migrated to Indian Punjab from what became Pakistan, I grew up on a healthy dose of family recollections about Partition. All my relatives who I know made their way from places like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi – to Delhi, Jalandhar and as far as Gwalior. In all those stories, the overall sentiment was that of having made it in life despite losing almost all material possessions. Consequently, I grew up without much sentimentalism or curiosity about the event.

The silence was not just mine; I noticed how in several films, references to the Partition were replaced by metaphors like an earthquake. Waqt and Ek thi Ladki come instantly to mind. Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan is a rare exception. It was not until 1997, fifty years after the event, that the Outlook magazine carried a special issue on the Partition on August 15, which opened a floodgate of discussion on the topic. The online oral history initiative ‘1947 Partition Archive’ is of even more recent origin.

So when I chanced upon a review of Salman Rashid’s A Time of Madness, I would have moved on had my eyes not fallen on this sentence: “Rashid travels to the land of his forefathers armed with a grainy photograph of a house on Railway Road in Jalandhar.”

My heart skipped a beat. Continue reading “A Time of Madness’: Memories of Partition”



Dr Chamal Lal has a collection of some of the favourite Urdu couplets of Bhagat Singh, including a picture of the original in the young revolutionary’s own handwriting (right). Dr Lal reproduces the couplets in the nagari script as well.

achcha hai dil ke saath rahe paasbaan-e-akl
lekin kabhi- kabhi ise tanha bhi chod de

auron ka payam aur mera payam aur hai
ishk ke dard- mandon ka tarz e kalaam aur hai

akl kya cheez hai aik waza ki pabandi hai
dil ko muddat hui is kaid se azad kiya

Dr Manzur Ejaz, writing a series on People’s History of the Punjab, on the life and work of Shiekh Farid, considered to be the first poet of the Punjabi language.
Continue reading “Links”

Watch TV serial Tamas Online

Thanks to the indefatigable Arvind Gupta, the TV serial Tamas broadcast by Doordarshan in the late 1980s is now available online. (including some  commercial ads from those days!) Based on a novel by Bhisham Sahni on the partition of India, it hit the TV screens in the backdrop of Babri Masjid- Ramjanmabhoomi imbroglio and brings back memories of some very fine TV serials made at time- Shyam Benegal’s The Discovery of India, Gulzar’s Mirza Ghalib and Arvind N Das’s documentary India Invented based on DD Kosambi’s works. Happily all these are now available at youtube and/or google videos.

Even twenty years after it was broadcast, Tamas still touches a raw nerve and, sad to say, retains the relevance of its core message- the human cost of violence in general and of sectarian violence in particular. The last two decades seem to have been a re- enactment of the partition, this time in slow motion.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

View part 1 of 5 of the serial at google videos (or click on the image above)

Continue reading “Watch TV serial Tamas Online”

What’s good for the goose?

Apparently, what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander in the time of the free fall of the free market:

The IMF’s advice to Pakistan (and its no different for the rest of the third world) is to privatize the government’s assets and raise funds from the market. At the same time, the IMF chief wants the markets, in turn to raise money from the US federal government. Why not then give a handout from the US federal government directly to the rich world’s ‘burden’?

The IMF said it was encouraged that the (Pakistan) government was committed to measures to improve its financial position, including privatizing assets and raising funds from the international markets.

Four days ago, the IMF chief had the exactly the opposite take on the United States’s .7 trillion “bail out” plan to stop the free market’s free fall:

Continue reading “What’s good for the goose?”

Ralph Russell is no more

Ralph Russell, the British Urdu scholar in the tradition of VG Kiernan and who is well known, among other things, for his perceptive writings on Mirza Ghalib, has moved on (source).

A self- description from his website:

I was born in 1918. I became a communist at the age of 16 and am still content to call myself one despite the traumatic experiences from 1946 onwards of the corruption and eventual collapse of the communist movement and the Soviet Union, because I still hold to the humanist values which made me a communist. I believe that true communism is not only consistent with these values but is a logical development from them.
Continue reading “Ralph Russell is no more”

Visions Belied

Independence Day of Pakistan is on 14th August, that of India, 15th August.

This post, a slightly abridged version of the one written two years ago, reflects on the speeches that Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru made on 11 August 1947 and midnight of 14/15 August 1947 respectively.


Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were delivering the most important speeches of their lives on the eve of India/ Pakistan’s freedom from British rule.

Both had lead their peoples from the front and carried immense responsibilities on their shoulders. Both must have been aware that their speeches were historic not only for them as individuals and leaders but also in the life of their respective nations.

It is to be presumed, therefore that these were carefully prepared and sought to both paraphrase the past and look into the future.

As one reads the two speeches, one finds them startingly similar.

Continue reading “Visions Belied”

An Interview with Alys Faiz

(Reproduced from The Dawn)

Alys Faiz’s story is the story of a lifetime of commitment. From being a young woman who wanted to fight alongside the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, she became the woman behind revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz; Alys now finds herself still angry at the social injustice in the world, still fighting on behalf of the oppressed in her regular columns for Viewpoint and She, as well as in her work with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and other organisations.

Alys campaigned for the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance in 1961 and for peace in the Gulf thirty years later, in 1991; Alys collected signatures for peace in 1952 and again for peace in Afghanistan in 1988.

A single interview cannot possibly do justice to her extraordinary, varied and active life. Hers has above all been a challenging life, involving adaptation to an alien culture and society; living with a man whose greatness and political commitment led her to make huge personal sacrifices; carrying on his work in the loneliness of bereavement.

Yet Alys Faiz has no regrets and prefers to tell of the difficult times via hilarious anecdotes, using her acting training to further liven up the store with mime and mimickery. The white hair and Alys’ claims that she is now ‘tired’ are deceptive: there is a quickness of eye and hand that betrays a wicked sense of humour, an eternally youthful streak and an obvious powerful personality. Undoubtedly, these were the characteristics, which have made her a survivor.

Q. You’ve always been politically active. Was your family interested in politics?
A. They were Conservatives.

Q. So how did you end up a Communist?
A. I didn’t end up; I began! I was always a bit of a loner. I used to like to go out for walks on my own on the weekends. And one fine day I found myself in Clerkenwell, where I saw Marx’s house. I went in and John Stratchey was lecturing on socialism or something. I sat down and listened. That was the beginning.

Q. How old were you at the time?
A. About 18. And then I joined the Party.
Continue reading “An Interview with Alys Faiz”

Nisar Main Teri Galiyon Ke- A Translation

I could not find a translation of the complete nazm Nisar main teri galiyon ke on the internet while writing the previous post and have attempted my own translation of Faiz’s popular and, in present circumstances in Pakistan, a particularly apt nazm. The original nazm is reproduced below the translation. I have taken quite a few liberties in this humble attempt at translating this highly idiomatic  poem.


My salutations to thy sacred streets, O beloved nation!
Where a tradition has been invented- that none shall walk with his head held high
If at all one takes a walk, a pilgrimage
One must walk, eyes lowered, the body crouched in fear

The heart in a tumultuous wrench at the sight
Of stones and bricks locked away and mongrels breathing free

In this tyranny that has many an excuse to perpetuate itself
Those crazy few that have nothing but thy name on their lips
Facing those power crazed that both prosecute and judge, wonder
To whom does one turn for defence, from whom does one expect justice?

But those whose fate it is to live through these times
Spend their days in thy mournful memories

When hope begins to dim, my heart has often conjured
Your forehead sprinkled with stars
And when my chains have glittered
I have imagined that dawn must have burst upon thy face

Thus one lives in the memories of thy dawns and dusks
Imprisoned in the shadows of the high prison walls

Thus always has the world grappled with tyranny
Neither their rituals nor our rebellion is new
Thus have we always grown flowers in fire
Neither their defeat, nor our final victory, is new!

Thus we do not blame the heavens
Nor let bitterness seed in our hearts

We are separated today, but one day shall be re- united
This separation that will not last beyond tonight, bears lightly on us
Today the power of our exalted rivals may touch the zenith
But these four days of omniscience too shall pass

Those that love thee keep, beside them
The cure of the pains of a million heart- breaks


The original (source)

nisaar mai.n terii galiyo.n ke ae watan, ki jahaa.N
chalii hai rasm ki koii na sar uThaa ke chale
jo koii chaahanewaalaa tawaaf ko nikale
nazar churaa ke chale, jism-o-jaa.N bachaa ke chale

hai ahl-e-dil ke liye ab ye nazm-e-bast-o-kushaad
ki sang-o-Khisht muqayyad hai.n aur sag aazaad

bahot hai.n zulm ke dast-e-bahaanaa-juu ke liye
jo cha.nd ahl-e-junuu.N tere naam levaa hai.n
bane hai.n ahl-e-hawas muddaii bhii, mu.nsif bhii
kise wakiil kare.n, kis se mu.nsifii chaahe.n

magar guzaranewaalo.n ke din guzarate hai.n
tere firaaq me.n yuu.N subh-o-shaam karate hai.n

bujhaa jo rauzan-e-zi.ndaa.N to dil ye samajhaa hai
ki terii maa.ng sitaaro.n se bhar gaii hogii
chamak uThe hai.n salaasil to hamane jaanaa hai
ki ab sahar tere ruKh par bikhar gaii hogii

Garaz tasavvur-e-shaam-o-sahar me.n jiite hai.n
giraft-e-saayaa-e-diwaar-o-dar me.n jiite hai.n

yuu.N hii hameshaa ulajhatii rahii hai zulm se Khalq
na unakii rasm naii hai, na apanii riit naii
yuu.N hii hameshaa khilaaye hai.n hamane aag me.n phuul
na unakii haar naii hai na apanii jiit naii

isii sabab se falak kaa gilaa nahii.n karate
tere firaaq men ham dil buraa nahii.n karate

Gar aaj tujhase judaa hai.n to kal baham ho.nge
ye raat bhar kii judaaii to koii baat nahii.n
Gar aaj auj pe hai taala-e-raqiib to kyaa
ye chaar din kii Khudaaii to koii baat nahii.n

jo tujhase ahd-e-wafaa ustavaar rakhate hai.n
ilaaj-e-gardish-e-lail-o-nihaar rakhate hai.n

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‘Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad’

Imran Khan, arrested last week under the anti- terrorism act after Islamist students handed him over to the police, is now lodged in a jail with hardened criminals.

Niazi (said) that Imran was being kept in a cell with common criminals, some of them suspected of murder and other violent crimes.

Imran was taken to Dera Ghazi Khan from Lahore where he was held by radical Islamist students during a protest on Wednesday and handed over to the police, who charged him under the anti-terrorism act. (link)

Yet, Musharaff would have the world believe that the so called emergency is against the Islamists and that Pakistan is on the road to democracy! This is what he said on Nov 3:

“Pakistan is at a critical point. Terror has also taken roots even in Islamabad. Hardliners are spreading fundamentalist ideas about Islam across the country,” he said.

These are the lines by Faiz that immediately come to mind.

Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad

(That stones and bricks are locked up, and dogs free). (translation by via sankarshan)

The full nazm, the famous nisar main teri galiyon pe ai watan ….here

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Why the Military Coups in Pakistan?

Tarek Fatah writing at the National Post points to the changes within the Pakistani army since the 1958 coup staged by Ayub Khan.

Most of us who were born in the “Land of the Pure” have gotten used to men in uniform bullying their countrymen into submission. But what happened in Pakistan last week was unique, even by Pakistani standards. General Pervez Musharraf — who staged a coup in 1999 overthrowing an elected government and proclaimed himself president of the country — staged yet another military coup on Saturday, this time to forestall any future possibility of a challenge to his power.

What differs today from 1958 is justification; the spectre of communism has been replaced by the spectre of Islamic extremism. There is another difference of note. The Pakistani Armed Forces of 1958 and that of 2007 are vastly different entities. The professional army led by Sandhurst-trained officers in 1958 has been replaced by a vast military-industrial machine that is led by a network of immensely wealthy officers commanding a million men recruited from the poorest of the poor. They are ill fed, ill-equipped and demoralized.

When the Pakistani President claims that Pakistan has sacrificed nearly 1,000 soldiers in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, he is referring to the ordinary Pakistan ” sipahi,” not the officer who treats these men like latter day slaves. Pakistani officers have rarely fought in battles. Earlier this year when a colonel, two majors and 300 troops were confronted with a dozen jihadis, the Pakistani colonel surrendered without a fight.

So why does Musharraf want to cling to office? The answer lies in the massive US$20-billion business operations ranging from corn flakes to cement production, from missile production to municipal taxation, that the Pakistani Armed Forces are involved in.

Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa writing in her book, Military Inc., notes that General Musharraf alone has real estate holdings of over US$10-million. His only job has been that of an army officer. Her book is banned in Pakistan. The country’s military is more of a holding company that runs businesses, hotels, shopping malls, insurance companies, banks, farms and an airline as well.

For 50 years the Pakistan Armed Forces have justified their interventions by depicting civilians as incompetent and corrupt and insisting that only they have the capacity and capability of managing the country of 150 million people.

read the complete article (Thanks to HD for the link)

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Pakistan is on the Road to Democracy

via the Emergency imposed by a military dictator. A sad day for the country, and the sub- continent.

Addressing Pakistan’s ‘friends in the West, especially the European and the United States,’ Musharraf said Pakistan needs time to achieve the level of democracy and civil liberties that the Western nations today enjoy. “We too are moving towards your level of democracy and civil liberties, which you have achieved in centuries. We are doing it well. Please give us time,” he said.

Benazir Bhutto has rightly called this ’emergency’ a euphemism for martial law:

“This is martial law and not Emergency,” she told Dawn News. “The President has declared Emergency to avoid averse ruling from the Supreme Court. We want the martial law to end and constitution to be revived,” she said.

Dictators, tin pot or not, BTW, make good topic for satire. There is no dearth of parodies on Mush at youtube. Sample one below (in biting, earthly Punjabi). And if you understand Punjabi, you would note the religious right wing overtones in the song. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable.

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Why BB’s return is good for Pak

aaye haath uthaaye hum bhii
hum jinhe rasm-e-dua yaad nahin
Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Writing for The Jang, Raza Rumi explains the popular sentiments demonstrated in the reception to Benazir Bhutto on her return, something that has got overshadowed by the subsequent bombings.

The foreign media, usually proficient in the rant on Talibanisation, gun-totting radicals and burqas were also at a loss on how to comment on this day. The castle of stereotypes on Pakistan had fallen: men and women were dancing spontaneously, often together on the loud, tacky party songs. There were very few burqas, no guns and no favourite signs of a west-hating native populace. This was a day heralded as a watershed in our recent times, from the left to the right and from the khaki to the mufti. Not because there was a revolution in order but that the real face of the many millions, who aspire for better livelihoods in a secular framework, had been rediscovered.

Raza blogs here.

In the same newspaper, Imtiaz Alam, points to the support that BB has mobilized among the younger generation of Pakistanis (though I wonder how he got to that 85% figure when he states that “above 85 per cent of those present at the rally were below the age group of 25 years”)

Both the hearty welcome along with the bloody tragedy make the October 18, 2007, a unique day in our political calendar: the magic of the majority support of the people that vindicated one of its most popular leaders yet the even more widespread anguish the nation expressed over the tragedy during the three-day mourning period declared by the steadfastly liberal PPP. Due to a focus on comparison of numbers between this rally and the one in 1986, which Ms Bhutto has exceeded far above her own record of 1986. It is important to note that in comparison to the participation of youth in 1986 rally — above 85 per cent of those present at the rally were below the age group of 25 years.

They even lack a sense of what they are in fact endorsing or strengthening, by vilifying Ms Bhutto. On the other hand, the masses are pragmatic and learn their lessons or form views through their own experience. Their cognitive process perceives the Bhuttos to have been persecuted from the start from the hanging of the elder Bhutto to two brothers’ being murdered, a mother’s loss of memory ending with Benazir’s vilification and dismissal of two governments resulting in her husband’s incarceration for eight long years leaving her to single-handedly raise parent her children.

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Picture Source

Who bombed BB?

Journalist Ahmed Rashid points to speculations that it was not the jehadis, but some people within the regime who have targeted Benazir Bhutto:

there is speculation that the attack was not carried out by Islamists, but by certain groups within the regime who don’t want Bhutto in the country. The leaders of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party are accusing the government and the intelligence services of not having done enough to prevent the attack.

In a piece that appeared in last week’s LRB, Tariq Ali offered an insightful views on “Pakistan at Sixty”.

The European and North American papers give the impression that the main, if not the only, problem confronting Pakistan is the power of the bearded fanatics skulking in the Hindu Kush, who as the papers see it are on the verge of taking over the country. In this account, all that stops a jihadi finger finding the nuclear trigger is Musharraf. Alas, it now seems he might drown in a sea of troubles and so the helpful State Department has pushed out an over-inflated raft in the shape of Benazir Bhutto…

The notion that the soon-to-return Benazir Bhutto, perched on Musharraf’s shoulder, equals progress is as risible as Nawaz Sharif imagining that millions of people would turn out to receive him when he arrived at Islamabad airport last month. A general election is due later this year. If it is as comprehensively rigged as the last one was, the result will be increased alienation from the political process. The outlook is bleak. There is no serious political alternative to military rule.

and in an interview with Democracy Now, he points to an aspect that goes pretty much unmentioned in the Western coverage on BB: (link via American Leftist)

In the way that she’s — everyone knows that she and her husband went in power incredibly corrupt. The evidence is there. And in a country where the ordinary people are already alienated from the political process, to inflict this on them isn’t going to improve matters.

and the always acerbic Ardeshir Cowasjee has a trenchant criticism of Musharraf’s ordinance that enabled BB to return:

THE New York Times, August 6, 2003: ‘Bhutto Sentenced in Switzerland —A Swiss magistrate has found former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband guilty of money laundering.

They were given six-month suspended jail terms, fined $50,000 each and were ordered to pay US$11m to the Pakistani government. The six-year-long case alleged that Ms Bhutto, who lives in exile in London and Dubai, and her husband, Asif Zardari, deposited in Swiss accounts $0m given them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal.’

Swissinfo (swissinfo.org/eng), Oct 9, 2007: ‘Amnesty spells trouble for Swiss Bhutto case — … Daniel Zappelli, the general prosecutor of Geneva, is facing a quandary. Should the politician and her husband stand trial now that Bhutto has been granted an amnesty by her own country?…The couple was first convicted of simple money laundering in 2003 by a Geneva investigating judge who handed down a six-month suspended sentence.

The Bhuttos appealed against the magistrate’s decision but were later accused of  more serious money laundering offences…

One positive — nay, excellent — factor to emerge from the promulgation by a man unable to relinquish power of the disgusting National Reconciliation Ordinance, which has had the opposite effect to reconciliation as far as the people are concerned, is the reaction of the literate and illiterate 170 millions of Pakistan.

They know they have been duped, that they do not know the truth, and have no fear in saying so in no uncertain terms. This ordinance, promulgated by a man who preaches enlightened moderation, stands equally ignominious and abominable (for different reasons) as the Hudood Ordinances of the reviled President General Ziaul Haq.


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Unsecular Ambiguities of Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Pervez Hoodbhoy, physicist, scholar, activist, has a most dispassionate appraisal of Jinnah’s attitude towards the secular state in the current issue of EPW (“Jinnah and the Islamic State: Setting the Record Straight”; Issue : VOL 42 No. 32 August 11 – August 17, 2007). He concludes that Jinnah’s attitude was at best ambiguous and often suited towards the inclinations of his immediate audience. The oft quoted part of his speech:

“You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

made on 11 Aug 1947 regarding the attitude of the state towards non Muslims, Hoodbhoy feels is a valiant but insufficiently grounded attempt to project Jinnah as a secularist.

I think it is pointless to seek a consensus on the nature of the state that Jinnah wanted for Pakistan. He certainly did not want a theocracy or a Taliban state, nor one in which the non-Muslim minorities would be persecuted and harassed (as they are today). But Jinnah’s statements at different times and circumstances are far too widely spread out to conclude anything substantial beyond these truths. Not being sufficiently wellversed in Islamic history or theology, Jinnah’s allusions to establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan cannot be taken seriously. The future of Pakistan – how secular or how Islamic it is to be – can only be decided by the citizens of the country that Jinnah made.

In a related post comparing the speeches of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru, this blogger had observed:

Anti- Nehruvians who currently dominate the Indian scene blame Jawaharlal for the statist model of development that India followed, his perceived “softness” on Kashmir and for “pampering the minorities”.

In the same vein, Jinnah may also be held responsible for some of the faults in Pakistan today- for creating a State based on religion, and also for not having reared the next line of leadership.

But death deprived Jinnah the time and possibility of leading Pakistan- something that he shares with Mahatma Gandhi, which is probably the reason for the adulation that the Quaid e Azam still gets in Pakistan, like Gandhi gets in India, compared to the rather beleagured stature of Jawaharlal Nehru in India today.

In Pakistan, the view is that the country did not live up to the ideals of the Quaid e Azam.

In India, it is Jawaharlal Nehru who is blamed for not living up to the possibilities of India.

Hoodbhoy’s article just goes to underline how onerous the task for liberals in Pakistan is, with a very fragile defence for secularism in the speeches and writings of Pakistan’s last Congressman.

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Ibn e Insha

A Hamid recalls the time spent with the Jalandhar born poet Ibne Insha when both lived in Lahore in the late forties. Ibne Insha is the writer of that magnificient little book urdu ki aakhri kitaab and numerous nazms, ghazals and geets often written in the easy flowing sing song purabia style. A humourist par excellence.

Of the many battles that have been fought throughout history on the fields of Panipat, Ibne Insha wrote, “Till that time of which we write, only one battle had been fought at Panipat. No second battle had taken place. The people of Panipat waited long but when no second battle looked like taking place, leading citizens of the town went in a delegation to the court of the Emperor Akbar and submitted that a second battle of Panipat must take place so as to ensure that hose who supply fresh produce to the army, sharpen swords and bury the dead remain in business.”

Link via Huma Imtiaz

Listen to Insha’s nazm yeh bachcha kiska bachcha hai

Or better still, watch this touching video

link to Video via All things Pakistan

His well known ghazal sung by Jagjit Singh: kalchaudhvin ki raat thi

Some of his poetry at Urdu Poetry

One of my own favourites, among many others is sab maya hai

sab maya hai , sab dhaltee phirtee chaya hai
iss ishq mein hum nay jo khooya jo paya hai
jo tum nay kaha hai, faiz nay jo farmaya hai
sab maya hai

Some more poems at Ibn-e-Insha blog

Where Onions can cross Borders, but not Art

It’s Wagah that is being referred to here by Salima Hashmi, who is “as non conformist as her father”.

Her father being a certain poet by the name of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

That’s why she can spot silver lining in the cloud of intimidation that threatens Indo-Pak peace: “This is a moment of triumph for our nations, a moment when those who have the vision must stay poised and be magnanimous. We must scrap visas. I would also love art to travel cross border as freely as music, poetry and literature. It’s sad that onions can cross over from Wagah, but not art. Art is no missile, after all.”

But art can be very caustic, admits Hashmi, whose paintings have often left governments red in their face. Her works were pulled out of the national exhibition when Zia-ul-Haq’s men saw political content in it. “They saw right. I paint political themes. These might assume different forms in my works, but ultimately these are about speaking aloud — something the establishments have been very uncomfortable with,” says Hashmi, in Patiala today to attend a seminar at Punjabi University.

Back in Pakistan, Hashmi has fought many a battle for academic freedom. Former principal of National College of Art, Lahore, she still remembers how tough it was. “But we managed to secure our independence. Our college was like an island in Pakistan’s academic map. We did away with the British form of pedagogy and trained our students not to be painters but to be thinkers,” said the livewire, making references to her father’s poetry.

Begum Nawazish Ali


The talk show host making waves in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (and  apparently Kashmir) is purportedly a stylish, middle-aged, socialite widow of an army colonel. Her monologues are often laced with sexual innuendo, she flirts openly with her guests, and sometimes embarrasses them with probing questions about their private lives. Her guests include some of Pakistan’s most well-known personalities: the urban elite, film and television stars and even some top politicians. Most are nevertheless thrilled to be invited to appear on a program millions are watching.Viewers are obviously fascinated too. Dinner party conversations here in Karachi are often peppered with anecdotes about her risqué banter and sly digs at Pakistani politics. Women call the television station to inquire about the tailoring of her sequined blouses and where to buy her glamorous saris.

The thing is, Begum Nawazish Ali is actually a man. Ali Saleem, the 28-year-old man who dons lipstick, mascara and a wig to Begum Nawazish Ali, has managed to break many taboos in conservative Pakistan through the character.(more)

More than Begum Nawazish Ali, I found Etiraz Hussain’s responses fascinating. Hussain, a parliamentarian and lawyer, is one the invitees to the show along with the Pakistani actress, Nirma in this episode. Besides the delectable Urdu couplets, his passing remarks on Pakistani politics and society delivered with well tempered flamboyance are matched by those delivered somewhat more gregariously by the ‘Begum’. This comes out more in part II below.

Youtube Link Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Link via 3Quark

Midnight’s Children- Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah

This post reflects on the speeches that Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru made on 11 August 1947 and midnight of 14/15 August 1947 respectively.

Independence Day of Pakistan is on 14 th August, that of India, 15th August.

Thanks to Adil for his wonderful post at All Things Pakistan, and the comments there, that led me to read the two speeches in their entirety.


Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were delivering the most important speeches of their lives on the eve of India/Pakistan’s freedom from British rule.

Both had lead their peoples from the front and carried immense responsibilties on their shoulders. Both must have been aware that their speeches were historic not only for them as individuals and leaders but also in the life of their respective nations.

It is to be presumed, therefore that these were carefully prepared and sought to both paraphrase the past and look into the future.

As one reads the two speeches, one finds them startingly similar.

Their thrust is similar, the challenges that they foresee for their nations are nearly the same- in fact, each speech, with very little changes, could have been delivered in either country- Jawaharlal’s in Pakistan and Jinnah’s in India.

They differ only in their style and to some extent in their stress on certain themes.

Jawaharlal’s speech is full of literary, some would say even rhetorical, flourish while that of Jinnah is more pragmatic and straightforward.

Both speeches are, trusting that internet versions are faithfully reproduced, relative short. JLN’s speech is about 1100 words, and MAJ’s about 1700.

Both the speeches dwell very little on the British and look more into their own people.

Jawaharlal seeks to place the independence in context of a long, even mythical, history:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long supressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of Inida and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

On the other hand, Jinnah speaks of much more practical issues like bribery, corruption and nepotism and the role of the State in ensuring law and order:

The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.

The second thing that occurs to me is this: One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering – I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse – is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.

Black-marketing is another curse. Well, I know that blackmarketeers are frequently caught and punished. Judicial sentences are passed or sometimes fines only are imposed. Now you have to tackle this monster, which today is a colossal crime against society, in our distressed conditions, when we constantly face shortage of food and other essential commodities of life. A citizen who does black-marketing commits, I think, a greater crime than the biggest and most grievous of crimes. These blackmarketeers are really knowing, intelligent and ordinarily responsible people, and when they indulge in black-marketing, I think they ought to be very severely punished, because the entire system of control and regulation of foodstuffs and essential commodities, and cause wholesale starvation and want and even death.

The next thing that strikes me is this: Here again it is a legacy which has been passed on to us. Along with many other things, good and bad, has arrived this great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery. I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism or any any influence directly of indirectly brought to bear upon me. Whenever I will find that such a practice is in vogue or is continuing anywhere, low or high, I shall certainly not countenance it.

But both underline the need for a secular State in their respective countries. JLN says:

We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

Jinnah devotes a lot more words than Jawaharlal on this theme and is much more emphatic:

We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

Again, Jinnah spends a lot more words on the justification of the partition (nearly 400 words):

I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of everyone of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all. But you must remember, as I have said, that this mighty revolution that has taken place is unprecedented. One can quite understand the feeling that exists between the two communities wherever one community is in majority and the other is in minority. But the question is, whether it was possible or practicable to act otherwise than what has been done, A division had to take place. On both sides, in Hindustan and Pakistan, there are sections of people who may not agree with it, who may not like it, but in my judgement there was no other solution and I am sure future history will record is verdict in favour of it. And what is more, it will be proved by actual experience as we go on that was the only solution of India’s constitutional problem. Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen. All the same, in this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities being in one Dominion or the other. Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be on end to the progress you will make.

On the other hand, Jawaharlal, speaks more about the need for economic and distributive justice, while Jinnah spares a sentence on this theme without, however, using the words “workers and peasants”. Clearly, the socialist inclinations of JLN contribute to this.

To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.

However great the stature of the leaders, it would be too much to expect them to sum up the past and the future aspirations of the millions of people of the sub- continent with surgical precision.

But one cannot help noticing that between the two of them, they are pretty much right in the priorities that they set out for their nations.

The future developments in both the countries have belied the hopes that their speeches contained. Nearly all the challenges that they indicate continue to plague the two nations. The speeches are rather contemporary in that sense.

And it is also here that the similarties between Jinnah and Jawaharlal end.

Anti- Nehruvians who currently dominate the Indian scene blame Jawaharlal for the statist model of development that India followed, his perceived “softness” on Kashmir and for “pampering the minorities”.

In the same vein, Jinnah may also be held responsible for some of the faults in Pakistan today- for creating a State based on religion, and also for not having reared the next line of leadership.

But death deprived Jinnah the time and possibility of leading Pakistan- something that he shares with Mahatma Gandhi, which is probably the reason for the adulation that the Quaid e Azam still gets in Pakistan, like Gandhi gets in India, compared to the rather beleagured stature of Jawaharlal Nehru in India today.

In Pakistan, the view is that the country did not live upto the ideals of the Quaid e Azam.

In India, it is Jawaharlal Nehru who is blamed for not living up to the possibities of India.

Picture Courtesy: The Hindu

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A google search for Sahir’s Parchaeyaan brings Himayun to a post on this blog.

Himayun- whose parents were born in India and migrated to Pakistan.
Me- whose parents were born in what is now Pakistan and migrated to India.

Does that make him a Pakistani of Indian descent ?
And me, an Indian of Pakistani descent ?

The word desi makes it easier to define ourselves- it makes us one.

Desi, a small, plebian word, contains the world for us- demolishes boundaries, nations, nation- states in one swift sweep two syllables long.

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