The fateful day of 9/11

By Fazila Gulrez


Today, the world will observe the first anniversary of the fateful day what is now popularly known as 9/11. The day, the twin towers of World Trade Centre came crashing down in New York as the world looked on, bringing down with it thousands of innocent lives and leaving many more maimed bodily and emotionally forever.

The day was a terrible reminder of power games gone all wrong besides being a devastating blow to the ego of the only superpower in the international arena, the US of A, and more particularly to the great American guy President Mr Bush. Who has now taken upon himself the noble task to rid the world of terrorists and bring enduring peace to the globe.

The task is indeed very noble, but the real issue here is the ‘true intention’ behind this noble act, which may be hidden from the gullible and naive population of the US. That is why Mr Bush gets away with his wile remarks and actions, but not from the discerning few, who can see through the ‘oily’ smokescreen, but can do little to change the course of actions that are being planned and taken to achieve those oily gains.

The Tuesday 9/11 was a day that changed everything in almost every part of the globe. It brought out in the open the deep- seated hatred that the world (not just the Muslim world) felt towards the US government and for which the innocent people had to pay such a heavy price.

The question that we may ask today is: Has anything changed since that day? Has the US government done anything to improve on its image to win the affection of the general populace of the world? Today, if the truth is written without mincing words, the US is more isolated than ever before except, of course, for Tony Blair of Britain and President Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Instead of talking peace, the great policeman of the world wrought more death and destruction. Be it Afghanistan, the Palestine or the terrorist attacks in Pakistan or those against Muslims in the west. There was more hatred, more terror and more blood-letting as the world watched in horror and disbelief.

It does not end here. Mr President Bush, taking advantage of the sympathy vote, immediately announced the existence of the axis of evil “Iran, Iraq and South Korea,” the three countries which refused to play the American game and have stood firm in its defiance.

Since the US cannot open front with all the three, so Iraq has been made the scapegoat. The US of Mr Bush has been vociferously denouncing Saddam Hussein as the greatest evil of all times just as Mr Reagan denounced Iran of Ayatollah Khomeni at one time, assuming, of course, that the US is the saint and upholder of all that is good in this world.

It is obviously clear that the government of America has very short and devious memory, sifting like sand through the minds. He is the same Saddam Hussein, America’s great hero and ally against Iran in the 12-year Gulf War. Fighting the great evil, Iran, with American guns and tanks, pouring in all kinds of chemical weaponry needed to annihilate Iran. Today, the same US is using its power and position in mobilizing world opinion in its favour for an attack on the same ally and hero, only because Saddam Hussein will not succumb to its demand and mainly because Iraq is the second biggest country with oil reserves.

Iraq, an oil-rich country, has been suffering for defying the superpower through the sanctions imposed on it and where thousands of children and sick people have died for want of medicines denied by the saintly US and its allies. By going to war with Iraq will only bring more misery, death and destruction and further strengthen the cause of the terrorists and intolerance towards the people of America.

There are always two ways of doing things; one is by force and the other by love. It is obvious from the actions of Mr Bush that he follows the former. For him it is more important to teach Iraq a lesson for defiance and to remind the (Muslim) world in general “where the real power lies. But in all this dirty game of strength and power, what Mr Bush should not lose sight of is that 9/11 in a much worse form could happen. And the cry for enduring peace will forever become elusive not only for the people of the US but also for the whole world. The first anniversary of 9/11 should not see the beginning of another major tragedy, whether it is Iraq or the US. The people must not be made to pay for the follies of their leaders and that is exactly the message of 9/11. People of America must wake up to the realities of the games that its government plays for its own vested interest at their cost. Don’t let it happen to you, your children and not even to ours. It is indeed the saddest day and though it happened in New York, someone, somewhere in the world lost someone close on 9/11, and this is why we all share the pain of all those who forever departed on Tuesday, the fateful day.

Urdu in Bangladesh

WHENEVER I read a book or an article claiming Urdu’s presence in Bangladesh prior to the emergence of Bangladesh I want to know whether the writer is a ‘pure’ Bangladeshi or a naturalized one or someone from Kolkata, in particular, and West Bengal, in general. One can ask me why is it so? Then my answer would be that I do not want to make my Bangladeshi friends uncomfortable.

But having gone through two works — Dr Abu Saeed Nuruddin’s Tarikh-i-Adabiyat-i-Urdu in two volumes, and the other by Prof Umme Salma, Head of the Department of Urdu and Persian at Dhaka University, — the one published in 1997 by the Maghribi Pakistan Urdu Academy and the other by Hamari Zaban, Delhi, and having ascertained that both authors are Bangladeshis, I believe that the past, present and future of Urdu could be discussed without raising the eyebrows of Bangladeshi nationalists.

I am not taking into consideration what Prof Iqbal Azeem and Wafa Rashdi and Shanti Ranjan Bhattacharya have written on the subject. Maybe their works are thought to be the works of non-Bangladeshis. How strange it is that claims of Persian’s domination in Bengal are made and accepted, but when it comes to discussing Urdu, a language closely related to Nabi Ji Bhasha, it is politics which calls the tune and the whole issue is messed up. It was, perhaps, James Joyce who said that nationalism could not press ‘objectivity’ as a tool because it had its own perception of history and logic. A nationalist should not lose his case. I admit it to be a sound assertion.

Prof Umme Salma has exhaustively written under the topic Biswin sadi mein Bangladesh ka nasri Urdu adab as recently as August 2001. She has taken an almost same position which Dr Nuruddin took in his two- volume work published in 1997 in Lahore — 26 years after the emergence of Bangladesh.

Dr Nuruddin’s book has been praised as one of the most important books published in 1997. Disregarding certain criticisms of some of the facts — mainly dates of birth and death and claims of ideological orientations about certain authors, Dr Nuruddin’s work proves that Urdu has a past, present and future in Bangladesh, a region where the first religious school teaching Persian and Arabic was established by Bakhtiar Khilji, Commander of the first Muslim ruler of the subcontinent, Shahabuddin Ghauri. The place was Rangpur and subsequently more than 300 religious schools were functioning in that province within one hundred years of the founding of the first religious school in the subcontinent. It is but natural that a mixing of Persian and Bangla should have taken place and it lends support to what Dr Nuruddin and Prof Umme Salma have recently talked about — a dialect sticking out its face.

In our times we find that the Government of West Bengal publishes even its gazettes and notifications in Urdu along with Bangla besides supporting an organization for the promotion of Urdu, the Maghribi Bengal Urdu Academy, to cater to the needs of the Urdu- speaking population and those familiar with the language in West Bengal — quite a good number of that lot being Bengali-speaking. In fact, Kolkata has a large number of people whose first language is Urdu/Hindi.

Prof Umme Salma claims that Urdu has been popular in Bengal right from the Fort William College days. More so due to the East India Company’s policy of giving encouragement to the Persian-script Urdu and the Devnagri-script Hindi. Also, the colossal bulk of Persian, Arabic and Urdu archival wealth treasured in the learned bodies of that area proves the point that it was more because of the wrong policies of the central government of Pakistan which fuelled hostility against Urdu.

It is a fact that the protection of Urdu against the onslaughts of militant advocates of Hindi became the raison d’etre for the founding of the Muslim League in 1906 and Urdu figured as the language of Muslim India right up to the 1946 All-India Muslim League Election Manifesto. As Hindi didn’t let any regional language come forward and enjoyed monopoly as the language of a Hindu Rashtra in Mahatma Gandhi and Congress ‘politics,’ so Urdu was considered to be the language of the Muslims. There is no denying the fact that with the exit of Hindi from the areas comprising Pakistan today, the regional languages moved into the centre- stage.

It means what was a parallel fact during the Freedom Movement became an important political issue after freedom. It is understandable and we should have sympathies with all those who wanted protection of their language disregarding the pre-1947 consensus on the language issue.

Prof Umme Salma discusses Mirza Jan Tapish, Abdul Ghafoor Nassakh and Syed Mohammed Azad who were important figures of Urdu literature in Bengal in the 19th century. In the 20th century, Hakim Habibur Rahman is credited with a remarkable work. He collected all the Arabic, Persian and Urdu books written in Bengal over more than 40 years and published a catalogue under the title Sulasa Ghusala, which has recently been published in the periodical Kitab Shanasi, brought out from Islamabad. Had this work of cultural importance been given wide coverage in the days of united Pakistan, people in both parts of Pakistan would have been in a better position to make cultural adjustments. Culture is a two-edged sword.

It can be used by congenial and hostile forces alike. A group of people embarked on a whirlwind campaign to prove that Urdu was the common product of Hindus and Muslims, and the other group used all of its energies to prove that nothing could be farther from the truth. Likewise, we could pay tribute to the British orientalists and civil servants for illuminating us about our languages, history and geography, and we could condemn them for sharpening the swords of tyrants by undertaking such studies.

Umme Salma names almost all those Urdu scholars, poets and fiction writers who matter and our books on histories of literature mention their names with a sense of gratitude.

Naushad Noori: Starting from Nassakh, Qateel, Raza Ali Wahshat and Ashk, we come to Naushad Noori. Noori was a well-known progressive poet. He died recently and there is hardly any Urdu magazine of India and Pakistan which did not mourn his loss.

His second collection, Rozan-i-Dar, was launched last month in Dhaka. It was a happy sign that Shamsur Rahman, a prominent Bangla poet, presided over the launching ceremony. Ahmed Ilyas, another important progressive poet, read out a keynote paper on Noori’s poetry. And Rahman exhorted his government and people not to deprive Urdu of its legitimate place in Bangladesh — as a language spoken by a minority. It cannot be a threat to any language, the least of all to Bangla. Rather Urdu can serve as a bridge between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Prof Umme Salma has been lamenting that no attention is being paid to Urdu literature of Bangladesh in India and Pakistan. Rahman has also demanded equal rights for the linguistic minorities.

There are signs of accommodation and welcome for languages other than Bangla.

Couple on a fund-raising mission by road

ON the night of July 4, 2002, Fiona and her husband, Peter Molloy, were attending a fund-raiser in London for the CARE International, a non-governmental organization working to reduce poverty, fight hunger and counter global inequality.

Besides securing funds for the NGO, Fiona and Peter were busy talking to people about their road travel, beginning the following day, to Sydney, Australia, from London. People were asking all sorts of questions. Some of them with raised eyebrows, while the others were shaking their heads in complete disbelief. Was it safe for two Londoners to take the land route to Sydney through such a high-risk country as Pakistan when all the foreign nationals were discouraged from visiting it?

But Peter and Fiona Molloy’s bags were packed, their specially converted Land Rover was equipped and customized to meet road travel necessities, and most of all, their enthusiasm to see the multi-cultural world was too compelling to think of uncertainties. The answers would have to wait till March, 2003, the deadline set for the couple’s return home in London. They were not going to drive 25,000 miles, across 20 countries, thinking about high-risk regions and unpredictable misadventures. Peter and Fiona were allowing themselves the solitary, travel-luxury of believing in the inherent good in people, no matter on which side of high-risk they stood.

And so, on July 5, 2002, the two set off from their world to discover that human beings are essentially the same, divided, not by geographical but political borders. “Back in London, people always asked us if we were not afraid to travel at a time like this. After being in Lahore, I can say that I find it less of a risk to walk down The Mall at 2am here than in London,” says Peter Molloy.

The couple crossed over from Iran into Pakistan through Balochistan and were provided with security guards by the provincial government. “It was nice of the local government to take care of our security in Balochistan. But other than a few awkward stares we were not made to fell unfriendly,” explains Fiona. In fact, the husband and wife found the people’s hospitality in Iran and Pakistan extremely surprising. “I understand that it is part of the Muslim religion to welcome guests in a generous, friendly way. Many times,” continues Fiona, “people would refuse to accept money from us or simply not let us pay for things.” Fiona and Peter’s travel might sound like a perfect tale of the year old married honeymooners, voyaging round the globe in an idyllic setting. Their Land Rover certainly looks romantic enough to encourage travel enthusiasts to put a four-wheeler to work. But that is a primer which would soon fade away with the brutality of extreme temperatures. Customized to include two sleeping bunkers, a sink, a hotplate and a convertible roof, the vehicle cannot be passed for a de luxe mode of transportation. “We have to cope with camping in a huge range of temperatures from desert conditions in Iran and Pakistan to the freezing winter of the Himalayas. Then there are the mechanical problems and the probability of breakdowns,” highlights Peter.

The odds against the 30-year-old husband and wife are not as high if compared to the advantages of going on such a journey. Apart from the culturally maturing experience of understanding ethnic and religious diversity, Peter and Fiona will be helping to raise the profile of CARE, their sponsors. “Even though the expedition is totally self-funded, we will be visiting the organization’s overseas projects to produce a short film highlighting the importance of its work. The entire sponsorship money raised will be going to CARE to help fund its work in the developing countries”, explains Peter Molloy, a former investment manager of Hermes, an investment management company in London.

Like her husband, Fiona too has a successful career as a freelance television director in Britain. Both of them gave up their jobs to take up this travelling adventure. “I was working for the BBC and have also worked for numerous independent television companies. It was too years ago that Peter and I decided that we wanted time off from working in London. It is a very competitive place to live in and the workload simply does not give you time to explore life”, confesses Fiona.

Their nine-month trip will allow them to cross the borders of Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, through to Laos, Thailand and South East Asia, bringing them to their final destination, Sydney. “We fly back home from there,” says Peter. The two will be using the least possible amount of sea travel.

They will be going back with first-hand knowledge, as they put it, about Pakistan. “It is a grossly misrepresented country by the media. We hope to remove some of the misconceptions our people have about the Muslim countries,” claims Fiona. If these two individuals can make an effort to cross the long distance of culture and religion, so can the world leaders who are making it harder for that distance to be covered.—Shehar Bano Khan

Lot of chiefs for so few Indian (Red Indians)

THE rain in Nairobi came as a friend and Pakistan was spared the blushes of going down though it had more runs on the board this time, thanks mainly to some repair work by Misbah-ul-Haq and a rampaging half century by Abdul Razzaq. The Australian reply had been 67 for one in 9.3 overs and in these overs, Pakistan had already bowled 12 wides and three no-balls. The gifting of these extras throughout the tournament was a true measure of the indisciplined cricket Pakistan had played.

Apart from the triumvirate of manager, coach and captain, the think-tank also has available to it, an analyst, doctor, trainer and a psychologist. That’s a lot of chiefs for so few Indians (Red Indians). Shoaib Akhtar was not playing the final, being unfit. There has been very little news about his injury, television commentators barely mentioned it and the print media, relying on agency reports, has remained silent. One presumes that he will be fit for the Champions Trophy in Colombo. Although selected for the final, the bottom-line is that Mohammad Sami did not bowl a single ball in the tournament. He did all his bowling in the nets. Yet he is expected to be the spearhead of a future Pakistan bowling attack. Will he already be a veteran by then?

After Morocco one had hoped that Pakistan would put its less than inspiring performance behind it. To that, must now be added Nairobi. That’s two consecutive tournaments that need to be consigned to the dump of bad memories. Will any lessons have been learnt?

Whenever Pakistan does not perform to its potential, we turn to extraneous factors and once again there is ‘informed’ speculation that there are rifts in the team. But these are professional cricketers and their market-value depends on their performance. Setting aside for a moment that they are playing for their country, no one would want to buy products endorsed by losers!

We find comfort too in the belief that Pakistan is an unpredictable team and has the knack or genius of rising to the big occasion. It didn’t do so in the final of the World Cup 1999 and in the Natwest final last year. This ‘spark of inspiration’ theory is too unreliable and is not a substitute for consistency.

Both in Tangier and Nairobi, Pakistan did not have a game-plan. Instead of dictating terms, it allowed terms to dictate to it. A stable batting order is a requirement and a preferred way to a lottery. Misbah was adjudged as the player of the tournament from Pakistan’s side. The supreme irony is that he would have not have played had Yousuf Youhana not been sent home in circumstances that have not been fully explained. Unless I have missed it, there has been no statement from the manager or captain not even regrets that this most accomplished batsman was being missed, as time and again, Pakistan’s batting faltered.

All one can say is that Pakistan should get its act together. How many times has one written this before? Why does Pakistan, as a team, go off the rails, so often? Whenever Australia lose, which is not often, one gets the impression that there is a lot of soul-searching and any mistakes made are corrected.

Australia also give the impression that they have done their homework against their opponents and they rarely relax, a sure sign of which is that the fielding is always from the top drawer even against Kenya. The Australian fielders don’t have on and off days. Pakistan looked out of sorts in Nairobi. We must try and find out the reasons for this. We must not leave it until the World Cup.

I learnt with great sadness that Geoff Boycott has been diagnosed with cancer. As a player, Geoff was not always popular even among his own team, the perception was that he played for himself rather than England.

But as a television commentator, he has many admirers and his forthrightness and blunt language, calling a spade a spade, is refreshing even though he sometimes talks like an irritated and impatient school teacher.

I hope that he will be able to fight cancer with the same steely resolve and grit he showed as an opening batsman against the world’s best fast bowlers. I send him my best wishes.

As I write this, the contract row is not yet resolved, Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, has had a meeting with the Indian players. In doing so, he brought a certain flexibility to what was ICC’s rigid posture. In doing so, has he not surrendered some of ICC’s authority?

After all, other countries have signed the ICC contracts. Is there some special reason why an exemption is being made in the case of India? When Pakistan wanted to be compensated for the loss of its ‘home’ series, the ICC refused point-blank. Double standards? Not really. India is where the sponsors are and cricket is now all about money. That is even more potent than having Tendulkar in your team.

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