Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Pakistani Dream (including some Goats being sacrificed)

It all started from a tweet. I don’t remember who tweeted it. All I know is that it mentioned a fantastic opportunity. I was facing a rough time in those days. Due to a quirky mixture of fate, my own failings and administrative errors, I was among the three people from my class of medical graduates that didn’t get a job. I spent days marching up and down the corridors of my college and the hospital attached to it, in pursuit of the job. There was little light at the end of that tunnel, and at times, it felt as if there was no tunnel either. I was surrounded by despair. I seriously thought about leaving the profession at one stage. It was only because of my parents and their supportive phone calls from hometown that kept me going. Amidst all that, I saw that tweet.

It was about a fellowship in the United States(by a Think Tank)  being offered to fifteen young Pakistanis with leadership skills. I should confess that I have never been comfortable with the title ‘leader’ ( too much resposibility on my frail shoulders eh). Anyhow, I thought I had the relevant experience to be considered for this fellowship.It was already the last ten days of April and the deadline for submitting the application was on the first of May.  I filled up the form, answered the lengthy essay questions, contacted two people to provide references(one was my Professor of Pathology, the other was one of my editors and mentors). I managed to send it before the deadline. 

I managed to get the job at the hospital after countless pleadings and arm-twisting. Within a fortnight, I had received a call from the Think Tank. There was a Skype interview, which went reasonably well(at least according to my standards). Then there was an in-person interview in Lahore for which the interviewer flew all the way from the US to Pakistan. That went alright as well(I still think I gave some stupid answers ). After a few hiccups in the selection process created by certain people with whom I had been associated in the past, the final call came.

I was sleeping in the living area of my house on a mattress, and woke up at the usual time to get ready for hospital(6:50 am, Pakistan Standard Time). A week before that, there had been a major strike in our state’s hospitals and most of the doctors(including myself) had abstained from working at the hospitals due to attack on one of our hostels and arrest of many of our colleagues. I had spent that whole week glued to twitter and had written three emotional blogs on that topic for Pakistani newspapers(Self-Promotion Alert:My work was even mentioned in Foreign Policy Magazine during that time). While the strike had ended after a week, we were facing a high patient load in our wards. I was supposed to fly to Karachi that evening(for the first time in my life) to attend the inaugural Indo-Pak Social Media Summit.

As has been my routine over the last few years, my first chore after waking up is to stop the alarm and then check my mails and facebook. There was a mail from the Think Tank’s director. My eyes were still hazy when I opened the mail. After going through the first line which mentioned that I had been selected, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt as if I was still watching a dream. I read it again. And again. And again. And then I jumped. I jumped up and down the living room. It was a moment of pure joy, something I had waited too long for. I don’t remember what happened during the rest of the day, partly because I was delirious. Until I reached the airport for the Karachi Flight. It was Thursday, 12th July, 2012.

Three months after that day, I was waiting for my Visa. I had submitted the Visa application and had undergone the interview process. Six people out of fifteen from our group had received their visas within a month. I was among the people who hadn’t gotten it yet. We had a pre-departure briefing a day before the flight. Despite the uncertainty that I might not make it, as my visa was yet to materialize, I decided to drive to Islamabad anyway.At that point in time, six people out of fifteen had yet to receive the Visas. I packed my bags and left Lahore. I was almost a 100 Kilometers away from Lahore that I stopped at a gas station. There was a long queue there so I checked my email during that time. There was an email from our contact at the U.S Embassy. He wrote in the first line: I have good news and bad news. Three out of six have gotten their visas, the other three are still on the waiting list.
My heart sank. I didn’t want it to go all downhill at that point. I had invested too many hopes in this venture. At first, I didn’t want to read those three names. What If my name was not there? What would I do? Go back? No, I thought, I am NOT going back, come what may. After making that mental decision, I glanced at my mobile screen again. The first name wasn’t mine. Nor was the second. Then I read the third name. I HAD MADE IT. I had almost the same feeling that Archimedes had, while discovering the principle now used in fluid dynamics. While Archimedes was in a bath at that time and ran out naked, shouting Eureka! Eureka! I was not in a bath, and not naked. So I just decided to share the happiness around. Called my dad and texted all the friends who had cared enough to keep tabs on my progress.

The drive(of more than 300 Kms) from Lahore went smoothly until I was almost 90 Kilometers from Islamabad. My car engine got very very hot and the thermostat needle was going through the roof. I had fortunately brought a spare bottle of car coolant with me. I tried pouring it at the requsisite place. It didn’t work. I had no chance but to drive somehow to the nearest service station. It was about 20 Kilometers away and I couldn’t drive at a speed more than 20 Km/hour on the best built motorway in Pakistan. Somehow, I managed to reach the place. It took the mechanic almost four hours to fix the problem. Thankfully, I was in Islamabad by mid-night.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4 a.m. on 27th October, 2012. It was Eid-ul-Azha in Pakistan on that day. It was the first time in my life that I was not going to be home for an Eid. During the 17 hour journey, I kept remembering everything we usually did on Eid Days.

A typical eid day at my house starts very early, by the call for Morning Prayers. I usually sleep late on the nights before eid, so it is always hard waking up so early. The grumpy, sleepy me then take a bath and get ready for Eid Prayers. Eid Prayers have different timings, with our sect(the Wahabbis, similar to the Saudi version of Islam) leading this race. I have had to participate in prayers as early as 6.15 am.!! Other sects have prayers a little later(many people just wake up and drive around to find which time suits them the best and join that congregation). Traditionally, eid prayers are supposed to be held in big grounds, so that more people can participate.  During the drive to the place, the roads are clean(probably the only time in the year, courtesy the municipal corporation) and slaked lime is scattered along the roads, giving the whole occasion a festive look. People dressed in traditional shalwar kamees dresses move towards the Prayer place.

After the prayers, there is a small sermon(although it depends on the Mullah, who tries his best to prolong it) followed by a prayer for proseprity in the coming year. Afterwards, evevryone hugs their relatives/friends(this goes on throughout the day).Due to some quirky reason that I have yet to find, people hug each other three times, in a robot-like sequence(I refuse to do this and almost wrestled a few cousins in the last two years by putting a kibosh after one hug). On Eid-ul-azha, people are in a hurry as soon as the prayer finishes. This is because they want to find butchers to sacrifice the goats/cows. Because of a disparity between the number of customers and service-providers, a lot of makeshift butchers also throw their hats in the rings. People who can’t find a butcher in time resort to trusting the temporary butchers(a diverse category actually, some are clerks, some are policemen, some from other professions).

After the sacrifice, the meat has to be divided into three equal parts. One part is supposed to go to people who can’t afford to buy meat, one part for relatives and the last part is for the consumption of the family that made the sacrifice. I personally do not witness the act of slaughter(despite watching enough blood and gore in the hospital) but many parents ask their kids to watch, a practice that I find disgusting. Following the sacrifice, people make packets of meat in shopping bags, for the purpose of distribution. People who sacrifice every year find a horde of beggars outside their homes, begging for the meat packets.

While men are busy in all this fuss, the real enjoyment on Eid is reserved for the ladies. They get to wear new and sometimes fancy dresses, apply henna on their hands, wear bangles, and visit relatives.
Following eid, most streets of Pakistan resemble sets of Zombie apocalypse movies, with intestines and offal of slaughtered animals littering the streets. Happens every year. Is not a pretty sight to watch.

Being the Grinch that I am, I do not always enjoy Eid. I feel that its terribly boring. I spend a good part of the day sleeping or on the Laptop. During med school years, I was usually worried on Eids because of approaching exams. But even after graduation, my enthusiasm didn’t increase. In fact, I was on duty last year on the third day of Eid-ul-Fitr(which follows the month of Ramazan).

My cousins who live abroad, tell me that they can’t feel the ‘spirit of Eid’ when they are in other countries. I wonder if I would miss this as much If I leave?    

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dr Abdus Salam-The Forgotten Son of Pakistan

On the eve of another Pakistani on the verge of a Nobel Prize,I am reproducing the biography of Dr Abdus Salam(the only other Pakistani to be awarded a Nobel, in 1979), as recounted by eminent historian, K.K Aziz in his book THE COFFEE HOUSE OF LAHORE, from page 200-209.
I hope Malala doesn't suffer the same fate.

   DrAbdus Salam

Salam was the son of Chaudhri Muhammad Husain, a schoolteacher of Jhang and Hajirah who belonged to Faizullah Chak near Batala. Muhammad Hussain was Jat and Hajirah a Kakkezai. Faizullah Chak was an almost exclusively Kakkezai Village. The Kakkezais were a close-knit community. Born in 1926 and educated at the Government High School and Government Intermediate College, Jhang, Government College, Lahore and St. John’s College, Cambridge, he made it a habit to excel in every examination he took. He stood first in 1940 in the matriculation of the Punjab University and again in 1942 in the F.Sc. Examination. He joined the Government College, Lahore in 1942 to study mathematics A and B and honours in English. He graduated in 1944 winning every laurel in sight: 300 out of 300 marks in Mathematics, 121 out of 150 in English Honours, standing first in the University and breaking all records in the B.A examination. In 1946, he took his M.A in Mathematics, scoring 573 marks out of 600, and topping the list.
In September 1946, he left for Cambridge on a Punjab Peasant Welfare Fund Scholarship to study Mathematics at St. John’s College as an undergraduate (Its worth mentioning here that this fact was recently mentioned in an article by Javed Chaudary, and the origin of the said fund was the money that was left over from the War tax, after the war had finished-AM). If in India, his academic career was brilliant, in Cambridge, it was dazzling. He got a first both in preliminary in 1947 and Part II in 1948, and then gave up Mathematics for the time being because on the higher level it could not be fully mastered without a good knowledge of physics. In an unprecedented performance, he read Physics for one year and took its Part I and II together in 1949; scoring a first and surprising even his teachers.
His scholarship was extended for two years (it should have been three years) to work for his Ph.D. He came to Pakistan in the summer, married Ummatul Hafeez, and returned to Cambridge in 1949, deciding to tackle theoretical Physics for his doctoral thesis.
The year 1951 was the time for him to harvest the fruits of his labour. He completed his thesis(though he could not get his PhD till the following year because the university statutes required that the candidate spent nine terms before being eligible to receive his doctorate), won the smith prize(From Wikipedia: The Smith's Prize was the name of each of two prizes awarded annually to two research students in theoretical Physics, mathematics and applied mathematics at the University of Cambridge,Cambridge, England-AM), was elected Fellow of his College, and named Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University.  Pending the award of his degree, he came to Lahore and was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Head of Department of Mathematics at both the Government College and the Punjab University. In 1952, he went to Cambridge for his viva voce and to receive his doctorate.
His problems began almost as soon as he took up his job at the Government College. Instead of honouring him for his brilliant achievements, he was humiliated by the College and the Education Department. He was not given an official residence, as was his right. Temporarily he stayed with Qazi Muhammad Aslam, the professor of Philosophy at the College, and continued his efforts to get a house allotted to him. Disappointed with the indifferent attitude of the officials he asked for an interview with the Minister of Education, Sardar Abdul Hameed Dasti. Salam told him that he had a family to accommodate and was entitled to a residence. The minister brought an end to the interview by refusing any help and declaring: “If its suits you, you may continue with your job; if not, you may go” (Translation from Punjabi-AM). Salam was so frustrated with that he was considering a resignation, but soon a house was found for him and he stayed on.
But that was just the beginning. A little later, the Principle, Professor Sirajuddin, asked him to do something to earn his keep besides his teaching. He was given three choices: to act as Superintendent of the Quadrangle Hostel or to supervise the college accounts or to take charge of the college football team. Salam chose to look after the footballers. Occasionally, at the end of his chore at the University Grounds, he would drop in at the Coffee House and tell me (K.K. Aziz, the writer-AM) about his bitterness on being forced to waste his time. A man who had worked 14 hours a day at Cambridge as a student had now hardly any time to read new literature on his subject, and the facilities in the college laboratory were dust and ashes compared to the Cavendish Laboratories where he had worked as an undergraduate and a doctoral student. It was not difficult to take the gauge of Salam’s frustration.
A more serious contretemps occurred in the Christmas Holidays of the same years. Professor Wolfgang Pauli, the 1945 Nobel laureate of physics and a friend of Salam, was visiting Bombay on the invitation of Indian science association. He sent a telegram to Salam wishing too see him and asking him if he could come to Bombay. Salam, who had been craving to talk to a peer in his field, at once left for India, and spent a week with Pauli. On his return to Lahore, he was charge sheeted for absenting himself from his station of duty without prior permission. Salam was shocked. He was used to European freedom of movement and had been part of Pakistani bureaucratic set-up for a mere three months. The principal made so much fuss about the incident that Salam feared that he might be dismissed from the education service. At this point S.M. Sharif, the director of Public instruction of the Punjab, intervened and the period of Salam’s absence was treated as leave without pay.
When Salam had been elected a fellow of St. John’s College in 1951 he had accepted the honour on the condition that he would be allowed to go to Lahore and teach there and live in St. John’s only during the long vacations. St. John’s was so anxious to have him that it made an exception and accepted his condition. This was a measure of Salam’s love for the Government College; he was prepared to forego the considerable honour of a fellowship of St. John’s for the sake of the prospect of teaching at the Government College. But he had been insulted and humiliated so often by the College he loved so much and for which he had sacrificed the full facilities of the St. John’s fellowship that he now forced to look somewhere else for his professional future. As luck would have it, in the middle of the same year (1953), the Stokes lectureship at St. John’s fell vacant. The holder of the lectureship, Nicholas Kemmer had been offered the Tait professorship of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He had been Salam’s teacher at St. John’s and a fellow at Trinity College. He was so keen on Salam’s succeeding him at St. John’s that he wrote to the Punjab University, pleading that Salam should be persuaded to accept the offer. The vice-chancellor, Mian Afzal Husain, had kept in touch with Salam since his departure from Cambridge and 1946 and had great admiration for his work. He advised Salam to accept the lectureship and go to Cambridge. Salam’s love for Pakistan and the Government College was boundless. Notwithstanding the treatment he had received from the authorities of College, he was still reluctant to snap the umbilical cord that tied him to his alma mater. Finally, s.m. sharif solved the problem by suggesting and sanctioning an arrangement that satisfied Salam. He was to go to St. John’s on deputation from the Government College for an unspecified period and would receive a deputation allowance of Rs. 181 per month. He left at the end of 1953 and took charge of his lectureship on the new year’s day of 1954.
He stayed at St. John’s for exactly three years, and on 1st January 1957 took up a professorship at the Imperial College of science and technology in London; he was then 31 years of age, and thus won the distinction of being the youngest professor in the British Commonwealth. He retired from here in 1993 for health reasons. Between leaving the Government College and his death, his march to the summit of his profession was phenomenal. At St. John’s he taught some advanced courses and made his reputation on the international level by the research papers he published and by his work as scientific secretary of the first United Nations atoms for peace conference in Geneva in 1955. His research and teaching at Imperial College attracted favourable attention of the greatest scientists of the world. He acted as the chief scientific advisor to the president of Pakistan from 1961 to 1974. In 1964, he established the International Centre of Theoretical Physics and served as its Director from 1964 to 1994 and its President from 1994-1996. 
He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979(he had come very close to winning it in 1957). Immediately after the news of his Nobel Prize was published in October, Government of India and Indian scientific bodies invited him to tour the country. There was no reaction from Pakistan until the Pakistan high commissioner in London informed his Government of India’s invitation. Only then did the Government of Pakistan ask him to visit his home country. Salam decided to visit Pakistan first and India a year later.
In December 1979, on his arrival in Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad, he was received by junior army officers who were military secretaries to the provincial governors and the president. The convocation of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad summoned to bestow upon him the honorary doctorate of science was cancelled because of the warning from the students belonging to the right-wing Jamaat-i-Islami to disrupt the function, and the venue was shifted to the hall of national assembly. In Lahore, his lecture arranged to be held at the campus of Punjab University, had to be moved to the senate hall in the city because certain groups had demonstrated earlier and threatened to murder Salam. The University of Punjab refused to honour him with a degree. The Government College did not even invite him to visit its precinct.
A year later when he was in India, five universities gave him honorary degrees, including the guru dev Nanak university of Amritsar where he delivered the convocation address on 25 January 1981 in rural Punjabi, and the university, on his request brought to Amritsar four of his old teachers who has taught him in Jhang and Lahore. The Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, invited him to her residence, made coffee for him with her own hands, and sat on the carpet throughout the meeting near Salam’s feet saying that was her way of honouring a great guest. Later in his tour of several Latin American countries including Brazil, he was received everywhere at the airport by the head of the state.
In 1986 the director general-ship of the UNESCO fell vacant and nominations were solicited. Salam wanted to be considered and everyone was sure that he would be elected. But the rule was that a candidate must be nominated by his own country. Pakistan nominated Lt. General Yaqub Khan, a retired army officer. Both Britain and Italy offered to nominate Salam if he agreed to become their national. He refused. The Pakistani general received ONE vote. A French member, when pressed by her Government to vote for the Pakistani candidate, resisted, protested and then resigned, saying “An Army General will run the UNESCO over my dead body”.
Salam died, full of honours and laurels from across the world, on 21 November 1996, in oxford. His brother, who lived in Lahore, asked the Government if it would like to provide protocol on the arrival of the coffin. There was no response. He was buried in Rabwah, on 2 November at 11 A.M at the foot of his mother’s grave.

For Reference
Aziz K.K. Abdus Salam. The Coffee House of Lahore. 1st ed.Lahore; Sang-Meel Publications;2007. p200-209.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Its not Just the Jeans

Courtesy "Rants of a Pakistani Citizen" page on Facebook
Latest Notification from NUST, courtesy Syed Nadir El-Edroos from Twitter

The recent debate over the issue of NUST students getting fined for "wearing Jeans" or "Not wearing Dopatta" started with one blog and amalgamated into a critical mass that forced the Rector of NUST to actually come forward and clarify the stance of University Administration. On the social media front, that qualifies as a success of "new media" and how individual blogs can be powerful enough to influence opinion. Although it appeared on news pages of Dawn as well(and ET published a Blog on this issue), which was basically bad rep for the University and they had to do a face-saving exercise. 

Anyhow, this issue is just the tip of an iceberg. The concept of individual liberty, or the right to wear what you want to wear, without getting judged, is non-existent in Pakistan. While the right to choose does not mean running in the streets naked, as is usually considered, it does mean that within certain limits, everyone irrespective of gender should have the right to wear clothing that they like, without getting judged. 

While civilized societies have usually moved beyond this point, Pakistan is still lurking behind. Even in this day and age, women who dress a certain way are judged as being "immoral" or possessing "loose character". The Rector of NUST reportedly said, "What is wrong with giving you a culturally acceptable dress code?". He also mentioned security as one of the issue that caused increased surveillance "inside" the campus. 

What is a culturally acceptable dress when we don't even have a well-defined "culture". Hijab and Three piece suits are not part of "our" culture. If the erstwhile Rector wants to know what our "culture", he needs to visit rural areas of Punjab and Sindh, or even cities like Lahore, Karachi or Rawalpindi. If we go simply by "cultural dress", both men and women would all be dressed in Shalwar Kamees. 

But I can't argue about this, because people like me were specifically pointed out in the Rector's spiel as "outsiders" who have no stakes in the University and should mind their own business. Plus, the rules regarding dress code are present in the prospectus and students should know that before joining the University.(If the latest address by the Rector is being reported correctly, he is pointing fingers at foreign NGOS and CIA for all our problems. Thus proving my original point: Its not Just the Jeans)    

I should remind readers that NUST is not the only educational institute with dress code issues. I remember going to Government College University, Lahore, couple of years ago to participate in some competition when I was stopped at the gate. The guards informed me that I could not enter the premises because I was wearing Jeans. I was flabbergasted. I told them that I was not even a student at GCU and had only arrived to take part in a competition for which I had been invited. I had to call my hosts who ushered me in after some discussion with the guards. 

Most Universities in Pakistan do not welcome outsiders and one has to provide some form of identification for entry. Compare this with foreign Universities. I have been fortunate enough to visit Major Universities in the United States and in Turkey, and no such hassle was present there. I admit that the security situation of Pakistan is much worse than that in other countries but the feeling of "Intellectual Freedom" that I felt in those campuses is non-existent in Pakistan.  

In my own medical school(and reportedly in some others), teachers behaved differently with students who dressed "liberally" and who were seen with members of the other gender frequently. I recently had to explain this awkward situation to a foreigner and I could not enunciate the exact "setting". He kept questioning me about how it was possible to study with members of the other gender and still be expected to "not be seen together". I could not muster a clear answer. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

On Social Media and Importance of Loneliness

I have not written a casual blog for a long time now. But a few things that I read/saw yesterday coupled with my current condition forced me to get back on the blogging chair. The article in question was titled Diary, by Rebecca Solnit ( and the video was an interview of Louis C.K ( Both of these items said the same thing, but in different ways. Rebecca Solnit wrote about how new technology makes us anxious and constantly-on-the-hooks. She wrote,

Another study found that students, when left to their own devices, are unable to focus on homework for more than two minutes without turning to web surfing or email. Adults in the workforce can make it to about 11 minutes.’

Nearly everyone I know feels that some quality of concentration they once possessed has been destroyed. Reading books has become hard; the mind keeps wanting to shift from whatever it is paying attention to pay attention to something else. A restlessness has seized hold of many of us, a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing, or doing at least two things at once, or going to check some other medium. It’s an anxiety about keeping up, about not being left out or getting behind”.

I have felt this lack of concentration ever since I became active on twitter (almost two years ago) and since then; facebook and twitter have become an addiction for me. The first thing that I do on waking up daily, for the last many years, is to check my Gmail inbox, Facebook and Twitter. At times, when I wake up during the night, the same routine is repeated. I know that many of my friends and contemporaries face the same issue, day in day out. I can’t read a book for long, can’t focus on studies, can’t converse with someone without intermittent glances towards the phone. I did not have an iphone till this year, and having one has simply compounded the problem.

I remember being in Saudi Arabia two years ago, and due to my own stupidity, I didn’t take my Smartphone there, thus I had to pay 10 Saudi Riyals per hour(I can get internet on my phone for a whole month in Pakistan) at shady internet cafes in Mecca and it felt so horrible at that time. I remember going to Shandur,the highest polo ground in the world(located in North Western Pakistan) and feeling helpless because there were no signals there and I couldn’t post my facebook status or tweet about the marvelous surroundings. For me, ‘informing others about the moment’ had become more important than the ‘ moment’ itself.(I feel the same way about photo uploads. I think that these days, we are more interested in taking pictures of places that actually enjoying those places themselves. We capture the moments that we ourselves fail to live).

My first impulse after watching a great movie, or listening a great song, or having a tasty meal, or arriving at a beautiful location, is to ‘broadcast’ those impulses via social media. I believe that I am not the only one afflicted with this condition(the only thought that brings me any solace). The ‘anxiety’ of being always on the edge, of being always connected, is present around me. I don’t know how it crept on me and when it took over control. I tried to use twitter initially as a means to promote what I write and to keep informed. While both these objectives were achieved, I also became involved in twitter activism, primarily because of the doctors’ movement that I was a part of. During a major strike last year, when most doctors at public hospitals had resigned from work and didn’t show up at the hospitals for a week, I was busy confronting people on twitter and facebook, all the time(I had little sleep during that week, despite having nothing to do).

Now, I am supposed to study for my post-graduate exams but the lack of focus and concentration has made it almost impossible for me to resume my studies with the same fervor as two years ago. Despite being afflicted, I’m thankful at the same time to social media, for introducing me to some wonderful people(whom I met later, in “real life”). I gave up watching TV two years ago, because I can’t stand the non-stop Monkey business that Pakistan’s news channels have to present. I took refuge in Social Media to get away from the clutter and voila, twitter is awash with the same clutter now. I even introduced some of my relatives and friends to twitter, and they also noticed the addictive potential of twitter.

Regarding Louis C.K. and his dislike for smartphones, I agree wholeheartedly with him. Smartphones have deprived us from the feeling of ever being lonely. As long as the phone is connected to either Cellular service or Wi-Fi, we are not alone per se. And it’s not a good thing. As Louis C.K said and I’ve read somewhere else, loneliness is not an essentially bad thing. We can’t appreciate great art or music unless it is accompanied by the feeling of genuine loneliness. As if Facebook and Twitter were not enough, smartphones brought us Viber, Whatsapp, Kik and so on. All these services are there so that we don’t feel “alone”. And all this in the age of individualism.!!

I don’t know how I can get rid of the addiction of checking my phone after every five minutes, might I miss a “Like” on my latest Instagram photo, or a DM from someone asking me to retweet their work, or a whatsapp group message saying “Hi everyone”, or a missed call from some random number on Viber. In the days gone by, it never happened. I remember being in boarding school in early 2000s and the only two ways of communication with the outside world were; Letters and a phone booth that was supposed to be used to 500 people. I still get letters, but they are mostly cheques from the newspapers that I occasionally scribble for. The feeling of getting a letter, the excitement, the joy, in the early 2000s, can’t be explained in words (despite the fact that only my parents sent me any letters and nobody else).

At another boarding school, parents of around 80-100 people were supposed to call between 8 or 9 am and 5 pm, on Sundays. So, whenever someone got a call, his name was shouted by the person deputed to attend the call, until that person arrived. The “high” of listening your name being shouted, was more than actually talking to parents. The “high” of that shout, the joy of the received letter, was due to an element of surprise, due to the uncertainty. I believe that my generation has lost that surprise, that uncertainty, that joy, in communication. When Skype calls start replacing actual encounters and emoticons on Whatsapp replicate human emotions, something somewhere deep inside us, starts dying.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

سرفروشی کی تمنا اب ہمارے دل میں ہے

ہمیں  آزادی  نہیں  چاہیے،  ہمیں  ایسی  آزادی  نہیں  چاہیے  جس  میں  انگریز  حکمرانوں  کی  جگہ  مقامی  اشرافیہ  لے
  لیں۔  ہمیں  ایسی  آزادی  نہیں  چاہیے  جس  میں  استحصال  اور  غلامی  کا  یہ  ذلت  آمیز  نظام  قائم  رہے۔  ہم  ایسی  آزادی  کے  لیے  جدوجہد  کر  رہے  ہیں  جو  سارے  نظام  کو  انقلابی  تبدیلی  کے  ذریعے  بدل  کر  رکھ  دے‘۔

یہ  زریں  الفاظ  مارچ  1940میں  منعقد ہ  مسلم  لیگ  کے  سالانہ  اجلاس  کے  کسی  مقرر  کے  نہیں،  نہ  ہی  ان  الفاظ  کو  مارچ  2013 کے  ’سونامے‘  میں  شامل  کسی  راہنما  نے  ادا  کیا۔  ان  الفاظ  کو  ادا  کرنے  والا  شخص،  برصغیر  کی  آزادی  میں  نمایاں  کردار  ادا  کرنے  والا  ایک  سپاہی  تھا،  جس  نے  اپنے  مقصد  کی  تکمیل  کے  لیے  اپنی  جان  نچھاور  کر  دی۔  افسوس  کی  بات  تو  یہ  ہے  کہ  جس  وقت  مینار  پاکستان  کے  سائے  تلے  تبدیلی  کے  علم  بردار  فن  تقریر  کے  جوہر  دکھا  رہے  تھے،  عین  اسی  وقت  لاہور  کے  ایک  دوسرے  حصے  میں  چند  افراد  ’سرفروشی  کی  تمنا‘  رکھنے  والوں  کی  یاد  تازہ  کر  رہے  تھے  اور  ان  کو  نہ  صرف  گالیوں  سے  نوازا  گیا  بلکہ  ہاتھا  پائی  کی  بھی  بھرپور  کوشش  کی  گئی۔

ہ  طوفان  بد  تمیزی  برپا  کرنے  والے،  ’اسلامی  تشخص‘  کے  ان  ٹھیکے  داروں  نے  بینر  اٹھا  رکھے  تھے  جن  میں  سے  ایک  کے  مطابق  ’شادمان  فوارہ  چوک  کو  بھگت  سنگھ  کے  نام  سے  منسوب  کرنے  کی  جسارت  پر  ہم  بھر پور  احتجاج  کرتے  ہیں‘۔  جمہوریت  کا  تقاضا  تو  یہ  ہے  کہ  پرامن  احتجاج  کی  آزادی  شہریوں  کو  حاصل  ہے،  لیکن  مخالفین  پر  تشدد  کی  اجازت  کوئی  قانون  نہیں  دیتا۔  اسی  روز  اخبار  میں  خبر 
چھپی  کہ  ’بھگت  سنگھ  کے  چاہنے  والے  فوارہ  چوک  کا  رخ  نہ  کریں،  ہم  کسی  صورت  بھگت  سنگھ  کو  اہل  اسلام  اور  اہل  پاکستان  کا  ہیرو  بننے  کی  اجازت  نہیں  دیں  گے۔منجانب  بھگت  سنگھ  نامنظور  ایکشن  کمیٹی
 ان  جاہلوں  نے  کبھی  تاریخ  کا  سرسری  سا  مطالعہ  بھی  کیا  ہوتا  تو  انہیں  چند  بنیادی  حقائق  کا  اندازہ  ہو  جاتا۔پہلی  عرض  تو  یہ  کہ  ہیرو  بننے  کے  لیے   کسی  بھی  انسان  کو  شادمان  کی  تاجر  برادری  کا  سرٹیفیکٹ  نہیں  چاہیے  بلکہ  تاریخ  خود  اس  چیز  کا  تعین  کرتی  ہے۔ دوسری  بات  یہ  کہ  بھگت  سنگھ  نے  کبھی  کسی  مذہب  کی  حمایت  کا  دعوی  نہیں  کیا  بلکہ  وہ  تو  مذہب  کی  بنیاد  پر  تفریق  کا  سخت  مخالف  تھا۔ 

بھگت  سنگھ  نے  برصغیر  کی  آزادی  کے  لیے  جدوجہد  کی،  کسی  مخصوص  فرقے  یا  مذہب  کی  آزادی  کے  لیے  نہیں۔  اگر  بھگت  سنگھ  شادمان  کے  شاہینوں  کی  طرح  تنگ  نظر  ہوتا  تو  کبھی  ایک  ہندو  راہنما  لالہ  لاجپت  رائے  کے  قتل  کا  انتقام  نہ  لیتا،  نہ  ہی  گاندھی  کی  مخالفت  کرتا۔  اور  یاد  رہے  کہ  یہ  لالہ  لاجپت  رائے  وہ  صاحب  ہیں  جن  کا  ایک  خط  جناح  صاحب  نے  23مارچ1940کی  اپنی  تقریر  میں  پڑھا۔  اس  خط  میں  لالہ  جی  نے  لکھا  تھا  کہ میں  مسلمانوں  کی  تاریخ  اور  فقہ  پڑھ  کر  اس  نتیجہ  پر  پہنچا  ہوں  کہ  ہندو  اور  مسلمان  اکٹھے  نہیں  رہ  سکتے  اور  ہمیں  اب  کوئی  راہ  نجات  نکالنی  چاہیے۔ 

یہ  ہمارا  قومی  المیہ  ہے  کہ  ہماری  نصابی  کتابوں  سے  محض  سطحی  اختلافات  کی  بنا  پر  بر صغیر  کی  تاریخ  کے  اہم  کرداروں  جیسے  بھگت  سنگھ،  لالہ  لاجپت  رائے  اور  سبھاش  چندرا  بوس  کو  حذف  کیا  گیا۔  ابن  خلدون  نے  کہا  تھا  کہ  تاریخ  کا  کوئی  مذہب  یا  عقیدہ  نہیں  ہوا  کرتا،  لیکن  اس  بات  کا  خیال  ہمارے  اربا ب  بست و کشاد  کو  کبھی  نہیں  آیا۔

تاریخ  کا  جنازہ  صرف  شادمان  چوک  تک  ہی  محدود  نہیں  رہا  بلکہ  مینار  پاکستان  کے  سائے  تلے  بھی  تاریخ  کی  آرتی  جلائی  گئی۔  کے  کے  عزیز  صاحب  نے  اپنی  کتاب  میں  لکھا  کہ  ہمیں  قرارداد  لاہور  سے  متعلق  تاریخ  غلط  پڑھائی  جاتی  ہے  کیونکہ  آل  انڈیا  مسلم  لیگ  کا  سالانہ  اجلاس  24مارچ  تک  جاری  رہا  اور  طریق  یہ  ہے  کہ  کوئی  بھی  قرارداد  اجلاس  کے  آخری  روز  پیش  کی  جاتی  ہے۔  23مارچ1940 کو  جناح  صاحب  نے  تقریر  تو  ضرور  کی  لیکن  قرارداد  لاہور   24مارچ  کو  پیش  کی  گئی۔  سونامی  پارٹی  نے  اپنے  ’تاریخ  ساز‘  جلسے  کے  میدان  کو  پانی  پت  سے  تشبیح  دی  تھی۔  تاریخ  کے  طالب  علم  واقف  ہیں  کہ  پانی  پت  کے  میدان  میں  تین  بڑی  جنگیں  لڑی  گئیں۔  سب  سے  پہلے  وسطی  ایشیا  سے  تعلق  رکھنے  والے  تیموری النسل بادشاہ  بابر  نے  1526میں  ابراہیم  لودھی  سے  جنگ  کی۔  پانی  پت  کے  مقام  پر  دوسری  بڑی  جنگ  1556میں  بابر  کے  پوتے،  شہنشاہ  اکبر  نے  راجا  ہیمو  کے  خلاف  لڑی۔  اس  مقام  پر  تیسری  بڑی  جنگ  افغان  بادشاہ  احمد  شاہ  ابدالی  نے  مرہٹہ  سرداروں  کے  خلاف  لڑی۔  

ہمیں  کوشش  کے  باوجود   اس  دن  کسی  اخبار  یا  نشریاتی  ادارے  کی  خبروں  میں  جلسے کے  دوران کسی  طرز  کی  لڑائی  کا  تذکرہ  نہیں  ملا۔  چند  خواتین  نے  البتہ  یہ  شکایت  ضرور  کی  کہ  بارش  کے  باعث  بھگدڑ  مچنے  کا  چند  من  چلوں  نے  ناجائز  فائدہ  اٹھایا  اور  اس  طرز  کے  ’معرکوں‘  کو  پانی  پت  سے  مشابہت  دینا  ناانصافی  ہو  گی۔  البتہ  خان  صاحب  کو  بابر  سے  ضرور  تشبیح  دی  جا  سکتی  ہے  کیونکہ  بابر  کا  بہت  مشہور  قول  ہے 
بابر  بہ  عیش  کوش،  عالم  دوبار  نیست‘  اور  خان  صاحب  نے  اپنی  کافی  ساری  عمر  اس  قول  کے  عملی  نمونے  کے  طور  پر  گزاری۔

اگر  سونامی  پارٹی  والوں  کی  مراد  پانی  پت  کی  آخری  جنگ  تھی  تو  ان  کو  یہ  بات  باور  کرانے  کی  ضرورت  ہے  کہ  احمد  شاہ  ابدالی  نے  صرف  مرہٹوں  کو  شکست  نہیں  دی  تھی  بلکہ  دہلی  کی  بھی  اینٹ  سے  اینٹ  بجا  دی  تھی،  یعنی  وہاں  بھی  ایک  طرح  کا  سونامی  آ  گیا  تھا۔  اس  سونامی  کے  نتیجے  میں  دہلی  کا  کیا  حشر  ہوا،  اس  کی  تفصیلات  پھر  کبھی  سہی۔  خان  صاحب  اور  انکا  ٹولہ  کس   کے  ایما  پر  کس  کی  اینٹ  سے  اینٹ  بجانا  چاہتے  ہیں،  علما ء  اس  معاملے  پر  ابھی  تک  خاموش  ہیں۔

ابھی  یار  لوگ  جلسے  کے  حاضرین  کی  تعداد  پر  ہی  بحث  کر  رہے  تھے  کہ  خبر  آئی  کہ  سونامی  پارٹی  نے  جماعت  اسلامی  کے  ساتھ  انتخابی  الحاق  کا  اعلان  کیا  ہے،  گویا  کہ  پہنچی  وہیں  پہ  خاک  جہاں  کا  خمیر  تھی۔  اس  عمل  سے  صاف  ظاہر  ہو  گیا  کہ  شادمان  کے  تاجروں  اور  سونامی  کے  دعوے  داروں  کی  سوچ  میں  کوئی  خاص  فرق  نہیں  اور  جیالے  لاکھ  نعرے  لگا  لیں،  لیکن  بھٹو  مر  چکا  ہے  اور  مودودی  ابھی  تک  زندہ  ہے۔

Pakistan's Jewish Vote

(Originally published in The News, on 3rd April, 2013)

Magain Shalome Synagogue - Karachi Pakistan
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are around 800 Jewish voters registered in Pakistan out of which 427 are women and 382 men. This statistic seems odd because there are almost no Jewish people in the public sphere in Pakistan and they are not even considered as a minority group during policy discussions.

Historically, thousands of Jews were part of Karachi’s population at the time of Independence. Pakistan hasn’t treated its minorities well and Jewish people were not the only group to be neglected by the state.

Another factor that needs to be considered regarding not just the Jewish voters but our political and intellectual culture as a whole is the prevalent anti-Semitism (here it is strictly taken to mean anti-Jew) in the country.

Mehdi Hasan, a former editor of a British newspaper, recently wrote about the “banality of Muslim anti-Semitism”. He mentioned how Lord Nazir Ahmad blamed a traffic accident that he was involved in and his subsequent conviction on a Jewish conspiracy during an interview with an Urdu channel. For the political right, in Pakistani, blaming the ‘Jews’ is an established norm.

According to Bernard Lewis, the anti-Semitic ideas of the Christians first entered the Muslim world because of Islam’s conquest of Europe, which resulted in many Christians converting to Islam. Prejudices existed in the Islamic world, as did occasional hostility, but not what could be called anti-Semitism, for there was no attribution of cosmic evil to the Jews. Greek Orthodox Christians who found themselves living under Ottoman rule are said to have introduced the notion of the blood libel into the Middle East.

One of the most notorious books cited by people believing in the ‘Jewish’ conspiracy theories is the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. It is a collection of articles concocted in 1895 by the Russian Czar’s secret police in order to depict the growing strength of Marxists as a Jewish conspiracy.

It was first published in Russia in 1903, and claimed to expose a plan by the Jews to achieve global domination. It was published again after the 1905 Russian Revolution, when the ruling monarchy, stung by the mass uprising, blamed the Jews for instigating the workers’ strikes, peasant uprisings, and military mutinies.

The monarchy had also invoked The Protocols when it blamed the Jews for Russia’s defeat at the hands of Japan in 1904. When the czar was overthrown in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, anti-communist Russian exiles used The Protocols to blame Jews for that upheaval too. They depicted the Bolsheviks as overwhelmingly Jewish and executing the plan embodied in The Protocols.

In the 1920s, the London Times exposed The Protocols as a forgery. The newspaper revealed that much of the material had been plagiarised from earlier works of political satire having nothing to do with the Jews.

In 1951, Syed Qutb wrote an essay that clearly defined his view of the Jewish world. Titled “Our fight against the Jews”, the essay was later included in a collection published in Saudi Arabia in 1970. The Saudi booklet bore the same title as Qutb’s essay and was widely circulated in the Arab world, where it became a defining text. The 1970 Saudi version linked Qutb’s work with the discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Qutb’s essay is pock-marked with footnotes by the Saudi editor who used The Protocols to prove Qutb’s allegations against the Jews.

There are a lot of similarities between Muslims and Jews that are often overlooked due to prevalent anti-Semitism. Mustansar Hussain Tarar, the ace Urdu writer, once explained the similarities between Jews and Muslims in an article titled ‘The Jews and the Muslims (Dawn, February 26, 2006) as “Jews greet each other with ‘Sholom’ and we say ‘Salam’ when we meet. We consider the pig totaly haram and the Jews also refrain from eating it.

We only eat zabiha meat and the Jews have their equivalent of kosher meat. Like us, they fast. Their skull cap is similar to our namazi topi, and their dress code is very strict. On the streets of New York you will come across neatly dressed Jews, men in black suits and woman in ankle-length skirts and they never wear jeans or revealing dresses.....They are very strict as far as personal hygiene is concerned. And they, like us, get circumcised.”

Despite whatever a certain political party wants us to believe, it’s already a New Pakistan in quite a few respects. We have transgenders, television hosts and film actors competing in the national elections. There is no Jewish person running for political office yet and 800 is not a sufficient number to ensure that in terms of community and identity politics. Moreover, there is no political party that has tried to woo the Jewish voters for the coming elections. Perhaps there will never be. No party has dared challenge the conspiracy theories either, perhaps that can happen in the new Pakistan in the process of being and becoming.

Till then we can only wait to see which way the ‘Jewish vote’ goes, if it goes anywhere.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

یہ وہ سحر تو نہیں

1947 کی بات ہے۔ پاکستان معرض وجود میں آ چکا تھا۔ فیض صاحب دہلی سے لاہور منتقل ہوئے تو نئے ملک کی حالت دیکھ کر دم بخود رہ گئے اور اپنے جذبات کو کچھ یوں بیان کیا:
یہ داغ داغ اجالا، یہ شب گزیدہ سحر
تھا انتظار جس کا، یہ وہ سحر تو نہیں
اجالا بیشک داغ داغ تھا لیکن تقسیم کے بعد شہر لاہور کی ادبی محفلوں کو چار چاند لگ گئے اور اس وقت جو ادب تخلیق کیا گیا، اس جیسا آج تک نہیں کیا جا سکا۔
وقت تبدیل ہوا۔ ابتدائی دنوں کا خمار ٹوٹا اور لاہور کی ادبی سرگرمیوں میں کمی آئی کیونکہ روزگار کے غم دلفریب ہونا شروع ہو گئے۔
وقت گزرتا گیا اور ادبی محفلیں کثیر تر ہوتی گئیں۔ طواف کو نکلے چاہنے والے، نظریں جھکا کر اور جسم و جاں بچا کے چلنے لگے۔ لبوں سے آزادی چھین لی گئی اور ’بول‘ کی صدا لگانے والے ملک بدر کر دیے گئے۔ پاک ٹی ہاؤس ٹائروں کی دکان میں تبدیل ہو گیا، کافی ہاؤس بند ہوتے گئے۔
اس جمود کے عالم میں لاہور ادبی میلے کا انعقاد ایک خوش آئند قدم تھا، اور امید ہے کہ اس طرز پر ہر برس کم از کم ایک تقریب ضرور منعقد کی جائے گی۔
تقریب کا آغاز معروف صحافی مظہر علی خان کے صاحب زادے طارق علی کی تقریر سے ہوا۔ موصوف نے دنیا بھر کے انقلابیوں کا ذکر کیا لیکن ادب سے متعلق کوئی بات کرنے سے گریز اختیار کیا۔
اسی دن کے ایک اور سیشن میں جناب نے سونامی پارٹی کی حمایت کا اعلان کیا جس پر وہاں کثیر تعداد میں موجود برگر بچوں نے خوشی کا اظہار کیا۔ ساری عمر بائیں بازو کی سیاست کا نعرہ بلند کرنے والوں کو سونامی پارٹی میں کیا خاص بات نظر آئی، علماء اس معاملے میں ابھی تک خاموش ہیں۔
ایک دانشور عزیزالحق صاحب نے ایسے لوگوں کے بارے میں کہا تھا کہ ’رہے ساری عمر یوپی کے نواب کے نواب اور سکھاتے رہے اہل پنجاب کو مزدور تحریک کے اسرار و رمو ز‘
تقریب میں ہمارا پسندیدہ سیشن پاکستانی فلموں کے بدلتے کردار سے متعلق تھا۔ ہم نے دیکھا کہ وقت ڈھلنے کے ساتھ کس طرح پاکستانی فلم سازوں، ہدایت کاروں اور لکھاریوں کی ترجیحات بدلتی رہیں، حتی کہ ایک وقت ایسا بھی آیا جب چنگیز خان کو مسلمان دکھایا گیا اور وہ ’اللہ کی رحمت کا سایہ‘ کہلایا۔
لاہور ادبی میلے سے ہمارا سب سے بڑا گلہ یہ رہا کہ تمام اہتمام ایک مخصوص طبقے کے لیے رہا، حتی کہ لاہور کے مہنگے ترین تعلیمی اداروں (جن میں سے ایک کا افتتاح برطانوی واسرائے نے کیا اور دوسرے کو برطانیہ کے گرامر سکولوں کی طرز پر قائم کیا گیا) کے طلباء پر ادبی میلے میں حاضری لازم قرار دی گئی۔
ان بچوں کی موجودگی کے باعث چند مضحکہ خیز واقعات بھی رونما ہوئے۔ ایک سیشن میں انتظار حسین صاحب نے جب دو چار منٹ اردو میں بات شروع کی تو ہال خالی ہونا شروع ہو گیا، اور یہ لازوال فقرہ سننے کو ملا :’چلو بھئی یہاں تو اب شعروشاعری شروع ہو گئی ہے‘۔ لاہور جیسے شہر میں اردو کا اس طرح جنازہ نکلتے، نہ پہلے دیکھا، نہ سنا۔
ایک موقع پر منٹو صاحب پر ہونے والے سیشن میں ان کی بھتیجی ڈاکٹر عائشہ جلال سے اصرار کیا گیا کہ گفتگو انگریزی میں کریں۔ مانا کہ بہت سے غیر ملکی مہمان بھی وہاں موجود تھے لیکن لاہور میں منعقد میلے میں منٹو پر بات اگر اردو میں نہ کی جا سکے تو یہ شرم کا مقام ہے۔
خورشید کمال عزیز صاحب، جو کے کے عزیز کے نام سے بھی جانے جاتے ہیں، اپنی کتاب ’تاریخ کا قتل‘ میں لکھ گئے کہ پنجاب کے لوگوں نے کبھی اپنی زبان کی قدر نہیں کی، پہلے اردو کی ترویج و ترقی کا بیڑہ اٹھایا تو کبھی انگریزی کی جانب راغب ہوئے، جبکہ حقیقت تو یہ ہے کہ نہ ہی اردو ہماری زبان ہے نہ ہی انگریزی۔ یہ دونوں زبانیں تو نوآبادیاتی زبانیں ہیں اور ہماری زبان تو دراصل پنجابی ہے۔
لاہور پنجاب کا دارلحکومت ہے اور یہاں منعقدہ ادبی میلے میں پنجابی پر کچھ نہ کچھ بات ضرور ہونی چاہیے تھی، لیکن جس طرز کا طبقہ بلایا گیا تھا ان کے ہاں پنجابی صرف انکے ڈرائیور حضرات ہی بولتے اور سمجھتے ہیں۔ وارث شاہ، بلھے شاہ، بابا فرید، منیر نیازی، استاد دامن اور امرتا پریتم کی ارواح کو اس طرح کی زیادتی پر بہت تکلیف پہنچی ہوگی۔
اردو پر دو عدد سیشن ہوئے جن میں سامعین تو ایک طرف، چند مقررین نے ہی تشریف لانا گوارا نہیں کیا۔ منٹو اور فیض کا تذکرہ تو بہت ہوا لیکن یار لوگ تو اب صاف کہتے ہیں کہ فیض اور منٹو ادب اور جدوجہد سے زیادہ فیشن کی علامات بن چکے ہیں، یا بنا دیے گئے ہیں۔
ہمیں انگریزی لکھنے والوں سے کوئی پرخاش نہیں مگر جس ملک میں ایک آبادی کی ایک بڑی تعداد آپ کی لکھائی نہ پڑھ سکے، وہاں آپ انگریز ی کی بجائے ولندیزی زبان بھی لکھ لیں تو کچھ مضائقہ نہیں۔ ہاں اگر آپ نے باہر کی دنیا کے لیے لکھنا ہے تو بصد شوق لکھیے، خیالات کسی ایک زبان کی میراث نہیں ہوتے۔
ادبی میلے کے خو ش آئند پہلووں میں بچوں اور نوجوان لکھاریوں کے لیے کیے گئے سیشن شامل تھے۔ اسی طرح ادب میں طوائف کے کردار پر ایک عمدہ سیشن ہوا۔ ادب اور خواتین پر بھی ایک سیشن رکھا گیا جس میں پاکستان میں سب سے زیادہ پڑھی جانے والی خواتین مثلاََ عمیرہ احمد کو مدعو ہی نہیں کیا گیا۔ میلے میں شریک ایک صاحب کے مطابق، جو ایک ہسپتال کی ڈسپنسری میں کام کرتے ہیں، میلے کا ماحول اور اس کے شرکا ء کسی دوسرے سیارے کے مکین لگ رہے تھے۔
کے کے عزیز نے پنجابیوں کی ایک اور صفت بھی بیان کی تھی، یعنی ’سارے جہاں کا درد ہمارے جگر میں ہے‘ لیکن اپنے علاقے اور اس کے لوگوں کی ہمیں کوئی خاص پرواہ نہیں۔
قابل عزت صحافی اور قلم کار محمد حنیف صاحب نے گم شدہ بلوچوں کا نوحہ پڑھا جو قابل داد ہے لیکن ان ہزاروں ’پنجابیوں‘ کا ذکر تک نہیں کیا جن کا واحد جرم صرف یہ تھا کہ وہ پنجابی ہونے کے باوجود بلوچستان میں رہائش پذیر تھے، ان ہزاروں معصوموں کا نوحہ کون لکھے گا؟
بہرحال حنیف صاحب نے کم از کم فوج کے پنجابی ہونے کی غلط فہمی اپنی آزاد نظم کے ذریعے ضرور دور کی اور کہا کہ ’نواب نو روز خان کو جس کتاب پر ہاتھ رکھ کر جھوٹا وعدہ کیا گیا، وہ کتاب پنجابی زبان میں نہیں تھی، اس کے بیٹوں کو جس پھانسی کی رسی سے لٹکایا گیا وہ رسی اچھرہ سے نہیں بھیجی گئی تھی، وہ راکٹ جو اکبر بگٹی کو لگا کوئی سیالکوٹ سے تیار ہو کر نہیں گیا تھا۔ فوج نہ سندھی ہے، نہ بلوچی، نہ پٹھان، نہ پنجابی، فوج تو بس فوج ہوتی ہے‘
ان تمام تلخ حقیقتوں کے باوجود ہم اپنی کشت ویراں سے ناامید نہیں اور توقع کرتے ہیں کہ آئندہ سالوں میں ادبی میلوں کے انعقاد میں بہتری دیکھنے کو ملے گی اور اجالا مزید داغ داغ نہیں رہے گا۔

Friday, 1 March 2013

ثنا خوان تقدیس مشرق کہاں ہیں؟

چند روز قبل ایک سعودی باشندے فیہان الغامدی نے اپنی پانچ سالہ بیٹی کے ساتھ جو سلوک کیا، وہ نہ صرف ناقابلِ بیان بلکہ ناقابلِ فراموش بھی ہے۔ اسلام اور شریعت کے نام لیواؤں نے البتہ عدل کی مثال قائم کرنے کے بجائے بیٹیاں زمین میں گاڑنے والے معاشرے کی یاد تازہ کردی اور موصوف کو ایک کثیر سی قید اور چند سکے ادا کرنے کی سزا سنائی گئی۔ ابنِ تیمیہ کی تعلیمات پر قائم ریاست سے ہمیں یہی توقع تھی۔

اس واقع سے یہ بات تو واضح ہوگئی کہ سعودی عرب میں چوری کرنے پر تو آپ کے ہاتھ کاٹ دیے جائیں گے، نشہ آور چیزوں کی درآمد پر آپ کا سر قلم کیا جائے گا، لیکن اپنی بیٹی یا کسی سری لنکن آیا کو جان سے مار کر آپ سرخرو ہوسکتے ہیں۔
انسان چاند تک پہنچ گیا لیکن سعودی عرب میں آج تک عورتیں قانونی طور پر گاڑی نہیں چلا سکتیں، کیونکہ سعودی ابھی تک تیرھویں صدی میں رہ رہے ہیں۔

حال ہی میں سعودی حکومت نے حاتم طائی کی قبر پر لات مارتے ہوئے خواتین کو فارمیسی کی دکانوں پر کام کرنے کی اجازت دی ہے۔ یہ خبر پڑھنے کے بعد سے ہم حیرت میں مبتلا ہیں کہ آخر ابھی تک سعودیوں نے حاتم طائی کی قبر منہدم کیوں نہیں کی؟ ابنِ تیمیہ کی روح تڑپ رہی ہوگی۔
تمام عالم میں مسلم اُمّہ کے نام کی ڈگڈگی بجانے والے، اپنے ملک کی شہریت تک تو دینا گوارا نہیں کرتے بلکہ اُمّہ کے دیگر ٹھیکے داروں کے لیے ڈرون طیارے بھی ان کی سرزمین سے اُڑائے جاتے رہے ہیں۔ ایمان سے بتائیے، اگر یہ کھلا تضاد نہیں تو کیا ہے؟ خواتین کی ڈرائیونگ سے تو یقینا ایمان خطرے میں ہے لیکن شام، بحرین، یمن اور پاکستان میں دہشت گردی کی کھلم کھلا ترویج کس شرعی حکم کے مطابق ہے؟

ملک اسحاق اور حافظ سعید کو سالانہ بنیادوں پر ملنے والا ’چندہ‘ جن نیک کاموں میں استعمال ہو رہا ہے، اس کے متعلق سوال کیوں نہیں اُٹھایا جاتا؟ ہندوستان اور جنوب ایشائی ممالک سے جو لڑکیاں غیر قانونی طور پر سعودی عرب لائی جاتی ہیں، اُن کی عصمت اور غیرت کا خیال ثنا خوانِ تقدیسِ مشرق کو کیوں نہیں آتا؟
ہمارے معاشرے میں سعودی عرب کو کچھ زیادہ ہی عزت سے نوازا جاتا ہے۔ اس عزت افزائی کی ایک وجہ تو وہاں پر ہمارے مقدس مقامات کی موجودگی ہے، اس کی ایک وجہ ہمارے وہ عزیز اقربا بھی ہیں جو 80 کی دہائی سے وہاں دن رات کی محنت کے بعد ریال (اور چند کرم فرماؤں کے مطابق شدت پسندی کے جراثیم) اپنے گھر والوں کو ارسال کر رہے ہیں۔
اس عزت اور عقیدت کے مارے ہم عقل اور استدلال کا دامن ہاتھ سے چھوڑ دیتے ہیں۔ تاریخ کا مطالعہ کریں تو معلوم ہوتا ہے کہ موجودہ حکمران خاندان کی حکمرانی 1925 سے پہلے محض نجد کے علاقے تک محیط تھی اور پچھلے چودہ سو سال میں کبھی بھی انہوں نے مقامات مقدسہ پر راج نہیں کیا۔ خلافت عثمانیہ کی بندر بانٹ کے بعد انگریزوں کی حمایت اور امداد کے بل بوتے پر جزیرہ نما عرب پہ قبضہ کرنے والے آج خود کو ’خادمین حرمین شریفین‘ کہتے ہیں۔
بات چل ہی نکلی ہے تو لگے ہاتھوں اِبن تیمیہ صاحب کی کہانی بھی سُن لیجیے۔ تُرکی کے ایک گاؤں حران سے تعلق رکھنے والے تقی الدین ابن تیمیہ نے سلف یعنی ابتدائی دور کے مسلمانوں کے اعمال کو شریعت سمجھنے کے لیے ایک معیار قرار دیا۔
قادریہ سلسلے سے تعلق رکھنے والے ابن تیمیہ نہ صرف اہلِ تشیع کے سخت مخالف تھے بلکہ مزاروں کی زیارت کرنے کو بھی شرک سمجھتے تھے۔ انہوں نے پہلی دفعہ قانونی طور پر فوجی عدالتوں کو گواہی کے بغیر یک طرفہ طور پر سزا ئیں سنانے کا اختیار دیا۔
علاوہ ازیں، حالت جنگ میں دوسرے مسلمانوں کو قتل کرنے کی اجازت بھی جناب نے عطا کی (ان فتاویٰ کو موجودہ دور کے تکفیری آج تک استعمال کر رہے ہیں)۔ ابو غریب اور گوانتامو پر اعتراض کرنے والے نہیں جانتے کہ قید کے دوران تشدد کے حق میں قانونی توجیح تاریخ میں پہلی دفعہ ابن تیمیہ کے خاص شاگرد ابن قائم نے پیش کی۔ سن 1326 میں ابن تیمیہ کو مزار پرستی کے خلاف آواز بلند کرنے پر قید میں ڈال دیا گیا اور دو سال بعد قید کے دوران ہی انکا انتقال ہوا۔ وفات کے بعد دمشق میں واقع ان کے مزار پر کئی صدیوں تک زائرین کا تانتا بندھا رہا۔
ہماری سعودی عرب یا اس کے حکمرانوں سے کوئی ذاتی پرخاش نہیں، مجھ عاجز کی تو آپ سے محض یہ التجا ہے کہ براہ کرم اپنے گریبان پر نظر ڈالیں اور عقیدت کے بھنور سے باہر نکل کر حالات و واقعات پر نظر دوڑائیں۔
انصاف کا تقاضا یہ ہے کہ جس طرح عافیہ صدیقی کی سزا پر واویلا مچایا گیا ویسے ہی اس پانچ سالہ معصوم بچی پر کئے گئے ظلم کے خلاف آواز اٹھائی جائے۔

گورکھ دھندا

ولی رضا نصر امریکہ میں ایران اور مشرقِ وسطی سے متعلق بین الاقوامی امور کے استاد ہیں۔ ان کی دو ہزار نو میں تحریر شدہ کتاب ’اسلامی سرمایہ داری کا عروج‘ میں ولی نصر صاحب کا موقف تھا کہ مسلمان ممالک میں کاروباری طبقے کے پاس پہلے کی نسبت زیادہ سیاسی طاقت موجود ہے اور اس طاقت کو استعمال کر کے انتہا پسندی کے عفریت کو شکست دی جا سکتی ہے۔

اس موقف کو واضح کرنے کے لیے انہوں نے دبئی، ملایشیا، ترکی، ایران اور ابوظہبی کی مثالیں پیش کی ہیں۔ ظاہراَ تو یہ بات معنی طلب لگتی ہے لیکن اس نظریے میں کئی سقم پائے جاتے ہیں۔ عموماَ کسی بھی ملک کا کاروباری طبقہ ملکی حالات میں امن اور تواتر چاہتا ہے کیونکہ امن کے بغیر تجارت ممکن نہیں ہوتی۔
پاکستان کے معاملے میں البتہ گنگا ذرا اُلٹی بہتی ہے، چنانچہ شدت پسندی اور انتہا پسندی کو فروغ دینے میں تاجر برادری کا بھرپور حصہ ہے۔ نوے کی دہائی میں کشمیر ی ’مجاہدین‘ کے لیے چندہ اکٹھا کرنا ہو یا ناموس رسالت کے نام پر ملک گیر ہڑتال کرنی ہو، پاکستان کی تاجر برادری ہمیشہ صفِ اوّل میں رہی ہے۔ یہاں اس امر کی وضاحت ضروری ہے کہ تاجر طبقے سے ہماری مراد درمیانی سطح کے کاروباری حضرات ہیں، بڑے بڑے کارخانوں کے مالکان اور کریانہ فروش نہیں.
ہمیں اپنی تاجر برادری کے کچھ بنیادی تضادات کو سمجھنے میں اکثر دشواری پیش آتی ہے۔ چور بازاری، ذخیرہ اندوزی اور ملاوٹ میں تو کوئی کسر نہیں چھوڑی جاتی لیکن نماز کا وقفہ بہرحال لازم ہے۔ اپنے ملازمین کی تنخواہ بڑھانے کے خیال سے ہی ہول اْٹھتا ہے لیکن مساجد کے لیے چندہ دینے میں کبھی بْخل سے کام نہیں لیا۔ حکومت کو ٹیکس دینا گناہِ کبیرہ سمجھا جاتا ہے مگر ’مجاہدین‘ کے لیے جان بھی حاضر ہے۔
کتاب پنجابی طالبان کے لکھاری مجاہد حسین کے مطابق سن دو ہزار دو میں لشکرِ طیبہ کو روزانہ لگ بھگ دو کروڑ چندہ مل رہا تھا۔ یہ چندہ میرے اور آپ کی ریز گاری سے نہیں بلکہ تاجر برادری کی فضیلت سے اکٹھا ہو رہا تھا۔ یاد رہے کہ یہ وہی تاجر طبقہ ہے جس نے چند سال قبل ویلیو ایڈڈ ٹیکس VAT کے نفاذ کے خلاف کہرام برپا کردیا تھا۔ امریکی جھنڈوں کو ہفتہ وار آگ لگانے والے بیوپاری نیٹو کے ٹرکوں سے لُوٹا ہوا مال برسرِعام فروخت کرتے ہیں۔
چند احباب کے خیال میں پنجاب کے تاجر باقی صوبوں کے کاروباری حضرات سے زیادہ بنیاد پرست ہیں۔ پنجاب کا تاجر پنجابی شاؤنزم یعنی بالادستی کا علم بردار ضرور ہے مگر یہ تصور کرنا محض خام خیالی ہے کہ کراچی اور پشاور کے تاجر کوئی دودھ میں دھلے ہوئے ہیں، وہ بھی اِسی گھِن چکر کا حصہ ہیں۔
دلچسپ بات یہ ہے کہ پاکستان کا تاجر طبقہ انتہا پسندی کی پشت پناہی میں منفرد نہیں اور ایسی مثالیں ہمیں ہمسایہ ممالک میں بھی دیکھنے کو ملتی ہیں۔ ہندوستان میں ہندو مہا سبھائی تنظیموں کو ہمیشہ ’بازار‘ کی پشت پناہی حاصل رہی ہے۔ ایران میں انقلاب کے بعد مذہبی راہنماؤں کے عروج اور بائیں بازو کی جماعتوں کے زوال میں کاروباری طبقے کی مرضی شامل تھی۔
تاریخ دان جناب حسن جعفر زیدی کے مطابق انگریز کے دور میں وسطی اور بالائی پنجاب میں منڈیوں کے ارد گرد شہر بسائے گئے اور ان شہروں کے تاجر طبقے نے پاکستان بننے کے بعد کے بگاڑ میں نمایاں کردار ادا کیا۔ لاہور سے شائع ہونے والا ایک اخبار، جس نے نہ صرف پاکستان کو نظریاتی ریاست بنانے کا ٹھیکہ اٹھایا بلکہ غیر جمہوری اقدام کو پروان چڑھانے میں بھی مہارت حاصل کی، ہمیشہ سے کاروباری طبقے کے مفادات کا ترجمان اور محافظ رہا ہے۔

خدا لگتی تو یہ ہے کہ بنیاد پرستی پاکستان کے بالائی یا زیریں طبقے کا مسئلہ نہیں بلکہ ہمارے نو دولتی طبقے کا پھیلایا ہوا ناسُور ہے۔ اس مسئلے کو حل کرنے کے لیے ہمیں پہلے اس گورکھ دھندے کو سمجھنا ہو گا اور تب ہی ہم کسی قسم کے حل تک پہنچ سکتے ہیں۔

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Aboard the First Metro

(Published in The News on February 13th, 2013)

Public transport is an essential component of urban planning. All major cities in the world have some form of public transport system to facilitate the daily commute for their denizens. The various kinds of public transport systems include underground subway tracks, trams, designated buses and rapid transit networks.

Unfortunately in Pakistan, there is a serious lack of viable public transport in all major cities. Karachi, with a population of 20 million people, Lahore with almost half this population and other cities like Peshawar and Rawalpindi have no real (public) transport facilities for their residents.

A subway system for Lahore was planned by the previous provincial government but it had to be abandoned due to technical and political reasons. Our country does not have enough power sources to fuel a subway system efficiently. To counter the over-flooding of roads by vehicular traffic, political administrators across the country have used a similar but flawed agenda: build more roads.

In the last decade, Karachi saw its fair share of digging and paving of roads, resulting in a network of bridges, underpasses, overhead bridges and expressways. This planning was short-term and in a few more years, roads are going to be clogged again. Lahore has a different story to tell.

According to a survey conducted last year, only about eight percent of the population has access to a private automobile in Lahore. Nearly twenty percent of the city commutes by bus and 40 percent gets about on foot.

The report also highlights that collectively Lahoris take an estimated 9.8 million trips a day. For a city of nearly 10 million, this figure is less than half of other cities of comparable size. In addition nearly 65 percent of Lahore’s population lives in about 10 percent of its footprint (the areas north of GT Road and the railway station) and the remaining 35 percent of the population occupy the remaining 90 percent with a low-density sprawl.

Over the years, many attempts have been made to solve Lahore’s traffic problems. The widening of Jail Road and Ferozepur Road in the 1990s; the construction of underpasses and the widening of Canal Bank Road; and the construction of Ring Road.

All these efforts have resulted in temporary relief for a few years followed by a return of congested roads. Meanwhile, nothing has been done to improve the archaic public transport system or to make the city bicycle-friendly.

Against this backdrop, work on the bus rapid transport system on Ferozepur Road was initiated. After eight months of toil, we finally have a new transport route in the city. I attended the inauguration ceremony for the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Lahore and got a chance to take a ride on one of the first metro buses.

During the inauguration ceremony, we were regaled with the usual technical details about the project, followed by a lengthy address by the deputy prime minister of Turkey.

It should be noted that the Turkish government helped the local government with the infrastructure for the project due to their expertise with similar projects in Istanbul. The ceremony itself was grand with more than 3000 participants, including politicians from different parties, civil society members, civil servants, vice chancellors, businessmen, members of the media and students. After the ceremony, a ride in the buses was arranged across the length of Ferozepur Road.

Despite my scepticism, I found the buses comfortable with a separate space for women and adequate standing and sitting space for male passengers.

Our buses were welcomed by cheers throughout the 27 kilometre long journey by not only the ‘PML-N faithful’ but also from people standing on rooftops and travelling in their own vehicles. I believe this is a step in the right direction and similar projects have to be started in other cities of Pakistan.

However, one of the biggest concerns with the project is the fact that people who already have vehicles will not prefer to travel on the BRT buses. There are no parking spaces near the stations and the number of people who will stop using their own cars to use this facility is negligible.

Thus, this system will cater to people who are already travelling via public transport. This hardly helps the situation since the idea should be to ensure a safe, cheap method of commute that all citizens can use.

And then there is the huge economic cost of the project. For a pilot project, the amount spent has been extravagant. Punjab’s overdraft limit has already been exceeded and after spending Rs6 billion on the sasti roti scheme and a 40 percent overdraft on the laptop scheme, this kind of spending is not advisable.

In conclusion? Whatever the merits of the BRT system, it is not economically feasible for the province. Now that work has been completed and the project has started, one can only wish it the best of luck and hope that it is successful.