Torment of separation and belonging

Unfinished Histories, a small book by Harris Khalique and Indian writer Rohini Kohli, is not about Francis Fukoyama’s End of History thesis that most Uncle Toms of the world have now junked in the revered belief that history, nay, the cosmos itself, was reborn on 9/11 last year. Unfinished Histories is less presumptuous. It merely presents snatches of chintzy conversations and glimpses of stray encounters heard and seen in London pubs that South Asian students and sundry settlers from here and there frequent. The purpose is to uncover the spaces between hate and love, fear and longing, and those between remembering and forgetting Partition and between the desire to be together in some way and to be totally separated, that are noticed when South Asians come together in neutral settings.

London is probably the eastern-most city of the west where South Asians can still be themselves beyond the second generation. The churning to emulsify in the general milieu is not so strong and if expatriates have the means to eke out an evening from work they have more congenial space here to unwind socially and spread stiffened cultural legs than anywhere else where South Asians live in any strength. The stories that such intermingling generates often hark back to pre-Partition days and are invariably related to issues and concerns that division has thrown up. What might amaze someone who has not been to the subcontinent and is not familiar with the shared traditions is the way people can set aside post-Partition animosities to strike up unconditional relationships. The issues pop up every now and then, as they must until resolved, but beyond heating up discussions they do not result in any great collateral damage. Friends continue to meet and eat and drink together.

In these stories of what Harris and Rohini call “separation and belonging,” the most typical and to my mind the one that truly personifies the confusion of the divide is the Indian army Major Ravi Veer’s who is in UK to do a masters degree. Loaded with pride in being a Punjabi, in being an Indian, in being a competent army officer, he wants to build peace in South Asia because it is only the Punjabis who get killed on both sides of the border. Being the bravest, the most enterprising, generous and skilled, he believes Punjabis are also the most innocent. They fall an easy prey to the machinations of evil politicians from UP, Bihar and the South. To save the Punjabi blood Major Ravi wants Kashmir issue to be resolved. He so loves peace he does not want to be addressed as Major, just Ravi, “your brother”. Yet he is quick to point out the professionalism of the Indian army: it has never interfered in civilian matters, never shown high-handedness and achieved the goals in Kashmir without killing people! The Kashmiris now understand what it means to be an Indian, he claims. But in the same breath he accuses them of being ungrateful. They would be sorted out in the end, he said, as land was more important than lives. He is against the Pakistan army but holds General Ziaul Haque in high esteem because he avoided war with India and probably also because he hailed from the same district of Punjab as did the Major. But the inner most contradictions of the man struggling with himself to appear to be tolerant and liberal are most pitifully exposed when he warns Indian girls against befriending Pakistani men who were “out there to desecrate Hindu women and Hindu temples”. He also wrote this all to Sukhvant, a British girl of Indian descent he had fallen in love with. The lady who thought this to be very funny spilled the beans before her Pakistani friends. The poor Major felt shamed and apologized for his indiscretion but was furious with Sukhvant. “You have brought it all on me. You didn’t even think about the bad name it would bring to the Indian army. Though you are British but you have Indian roots, don’t you. And what will happen to my personal security? These Pakistanis are mad. It is just because of them that we are all called Paki in Britain. I just hate that we look the same. They could do anything to harm me while I am here.”

Major Ravi was contrite and remorseful, perhaps genuinely, but he had lost the trust of his less divided friends.

When countries are cut up and divided, nationalities also get sliced. Laila is from Jerusalem, she has a Jordanian passport, an ID issued by Israelis, but she is a Palestinian. Her nationality is recorded as “uncertain” by the British registrar. Are there any other people like her anywhere? Not just one but 200,000 in South Asia. They live in refugee camps of Dhaka. They have no nationality. All the three countries they could have belonged to have disowned them. The second partition of the subcontinent has deprived them of both their original and chosen nationalities. It is some comfort they are remembered as data of some kind in far- off Britain.

In another piece people back home are described as a stuck up lot with no movement in their lives. How will this sound to the young woman who teaches the alphabet to her ardent pupils in a small school of Gulmit, a remote hamlet in the Karakoram near the Khunjerab Pass.

Unfinished Histories, though poignant in a suggestive way, presents the lighter side of the picture in the gaiety of London’s evening life. The heavier scenes were recently enacted on the streets of Gujarat. The agony of “separation and belonging” continues in all of its imaginable shades. And probably it will continue until a process (akin to South Africa’s) is started to call all those to account who perpetrated crimes against humanity during the Partition days, be they Muslims, Sikhs or Hindus. There may still be some of them alive and living amongst us who murdered infants, raped women and looted and burnt homes of their neighbours. Let them come forward and confess and seek forgiveness. Or keep simmering and get dried up.

Forming a coalition government

By Javed Bashir


LAHORE: The crucial task of forming the government after the election was never so arduous as it is today. Even nearly a week after the polls, no clear signal seems to be coming from any political quarter of the likely pattern of a future coalition government, the inevitability of which is a foregone conclusion in the backdrop of the split verdict given by the electorate.

The PML-Q followed by the PPP and the MMA, having divergent positions and yet holding the balance in a future parliament, have emerged as the major winners. The independents and the National Alliance, too, can influence the future shape of things to come, depending on which way the wind is blowing. What seems obvious, however, is that it would be difficult to break the logjam without any give and take or relaxation in hardline stands.

The current international situation as it impinges on Pakistan’s security also demands a pragmatic approach. Indian foreign minister Yashwant Sinha’s statement in the background of the MMA’s victory that the world should take note of the developments in Pakistan puts the danger in perspective. However, politics being the art of the possible, bridging the chasm and arriving at an understanding in the larger national interest becomes the biggest challenge facing the main parties. The government’s bid to indemnify its acts of omission and commission and alter the basic law has not helped matters. However, reports suggesting some attenuation in the well-known stands of political parties on divisive issues coupled with behind-the-scene contacts and confabulations to help find a modus vivendi are encouraging.

In view of the inevitability of the MMA forming governments in the key frontier provinces of the NWFP and Balochistan as also the ambition of the religious grouping to participate in the formation of the federal government, a major responsibility rests on the alliance. Yet, the general impression is that the religious leaders lack pragmatism and political finesse. Buttressing this perception are the late Justice Munir’s findings based on his inquiry into the 1953 riots in Lahore and interviews of various religious personalities. The judge had then observed that they (the religious leaders) would be discredited in six months if entrusted with political power.

With the PML-Q emerging as the largest party, a definite understanding between it and the MMA perhaps might be the only practical course open under the constraints of a split verdict. One obvious benefit of it would be that the federal government, sharing power with the MMA at the centre, would find it easier to interact with them in the NWFP and Balochistan to implement its policies and carry on with the task of governance. Remember how Nawaz Sharif as the Punjab chief minister scuppered Benazir during her first term as prime minister.

While the MMA’s participation in government will demonstrate respect for the people’s verdict, the former, in line with the exigencies of responsible governance, would also be expected to show flexibility. Pakistan’s joining of the anti-terrorist coalition was a realistic decision in view of the security dangers involved. A coalition of the PML-Q and the MMA plus independents and other like-minded members presents a feasible option in the current situation. Only the practical operation of policies have to be discussed in order that their impact on foreign policy and the economy can be determined for a smooth working relationship. As against the MMA, a coalition of the PPP and the PML-Q, given the president’s open rejection of the former’s top leadership, seems to be much more difficult.

It is also likely that the PPP might put forth demands which may neither be acceptable to the PML nor the establishment. At the same time, efforts for a consensus on a broad governing coalition might not go far, given the consequences of unseemly jockeying for key ministerial positions by the participants. Then those parties which will be left out will create difficulties for the new government.

However, the MMA, in view of the country’s international and economic commitments, will have to show flexibility for cohabitation and smooth running of the government. Overnight, a solution of the long-festering Kashmir dispute cannot be found, nor is it possible to eliminate riba immediately. Therefore, such steps should be taken as do not deal a sudden jolt to the country’s security and economic interests and also make transition to a political administration as smooth as possible.

This will be the real test of the parties.

Sir Syed’s importance in the emerging situation

VERY few friendships have been as stable and strong as that of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mohsin-ul-Mulk. Such a high level of respect for difference of opinion was possible in those days.

A research journal from Lahore, Sahifa, has recently carried an article, titled Riaz-ul-Akhbar Aur Sir Syed Ahmed Khan by Akbar Hyderi Kashmiri. Riaz-ul- Akhbar was brought out by Riaz Khairabadi, known for his Khumriat (wine-loving poetry), in spite of being a puritan. It throws new light on Sir Syed’s and Mohsin-ul-Mulk’s relationship. Mohsin-ul-Mulk had a chequered career in the service of Nizam of Hyderabad, and it was after his retirement from Hyderabad service that he assumed the role of the right-hand man of Sir Syed.

Born in Etawah in 1837, Mohsin-ul-Mulk began his career as a serishtadar in the North-Western Province (later on known as UP) and rose to the position of deputy collector - perhaps the highest rung of the ladder which an Indian could rise up to. He joined the Nizam’s service in 1874 and served there up to 1893, and it was during his service in Hyderabad that he was awarded the title of Mohsin-ul-Mulk. While in Hyderabad’s service he did all he could do to help the Aligarh Movement. From the study of some of the archival material preserved in the Andhra Pradesh State Archives and Research Institute - a bit of it has been collected in a book, titled Naqoosh-i-Taban by Dr Syed Daud Ashraf, one learns that some British officials did not like Mohsin-ul-Mulk’s sympathies for Sir Syed and Aligarh and thought that his commitment to Aligarh was more than perfunctory; rather it exceeded the limits.

He came to Aligarh in 1874 to serve a great cause, and became Sir Syed’s successor in 1899. He had some differences with his friend, but these did not come in the way of Sir Syed’s zeal for the Muslim cause. Some of his articles published in Tehzib- ul-Akhlaq prove his intellectual mettle, and a letter of Sir Syed published in Sahifa’s latest issue even proves that Sir Syed had intellectual advantage over Mohsin-ul- Mulk. The letter which I am referring to should attract the attention of all those research scholars who are working on Sir Syed’s Movement. Sir Syed rises head and shoulders above Mohsin- ul-Mulk and tells him, in a subtle manner, that the principles he has been following in his exegesis of the Holy Quran are very clear; and it is surprising for him (Sir Syed) that Mohsin-ul- Mulk is not able to understand the basic principle that for him (Sir Syed) the Word of God has to be in consonance with the Act of God and, therefore, he is averse to all explanations and interpretations of the exegesists who are bent upon attributing indefensible anecdotes to God.

While accusing Mohsin-ul-Mulk of following a reactionary and lopsided line of interpretation, he asks him whether the right faith and wrong arithmetic can go together. Sir Syed says: “Suppose that a believer is deficient in common sense and is situated at the opposite pole of wisdom, and an unbeliever holds an opinion that is justifiably correct and, humorously enough, arithmetically correct as well, it won’t be wise to fault his correct answer just because he is an unbeliever.”

Some of the articles of Mohsin-ul-Mulk, published in one of the volumes of selected articles of Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq, were deep and subtle enough to put Mohsinul-Mulk a notch higher than Sir Syed, but the argumentative subtleties of Sir Syed, in the domain of religious studies, go a long way to prove that Sir Syed was more well versed in religious studies than a Fazil from a Madressah because he could make use of English, Latin and Hebrew writings through his assistants.

It means that he was a scholar in the modern sense of the word, capable of retrieving necessary excerpts from diverse sources of scholarship and this is what scholarship ought to be. Sir Syed’s polemical writings - especially Khutbat-i- Ahmediya - prove him a formidable scholar, and the way he had blunted the arguments of Sir William Muir’s book Life of Mohamet places him on a higher plane. His modesty in not trumpeting his scholarship should be taken as a mark of respect for the high level of scholarship to which he aspires. His Khutbat-i-Ahmediya is the first ever defence of Islam which a Western student would be impressed with because it has been written in the tradition of Western scholarship. Sir Syed appears to be a Barrister from a London Inn, excelling in logic, jurisprudence and, above all, comparative religion.

Sir Syed concludes that he has found it absolutely necessary to have absolute faith in God Almighty’s irrefutable logic, and those scholars who fault him with doing away with Israeli absurdities (untenable anecdotes popular with the Arabs of the Prophet’s times) should applaud him all the more for not having accepted frivolous anecdotes.

Sahifa has done a real service by producing a letter of historical importance in its proper context which proves Sir Syed to be a highly accomplished scholar. Akbar Hyderi’s article also shares for the first time, perhaps, the views of two well-known Delhi contemporaries of Sir Syed, Nawab Shamsuddin Dehalvi and Munshi Sadruddin Dehalvi, who opposed Sir Syed in a highly improper language - which turns Deputy Imdad-ul- Ali, Nabi Bakhsh Khan, Wajid Ali Khan and Munshi Sajjad Husain’s level of disagreement not so virulent as theirs. This is all about Sir Syed’s antipathy towards the Congress. The other critics were pro-British, and yet anti-Sir Syed. Quite a new angle that a look into Riaz-ul-Akhbar has made available for the first time. Sir Syed’s Delhi critics were Congressites and opposed him for not supporting the organization. Nothing wrong with this stance, but the language they use is simply nothing short of being ‘unparliamentary.’ Mirza Hairat Dehalvi used to attack Sir Syed’s Urdu prose considering it to be loaded with English words, but it is strange that he did not care to look for English vocabulary in his own Urdu. His writings in favour of the British rule are, in particular, studded with ‘English’ words.

It is quite heartening that we are now witnessing an upsurge in pro-and anti-Sir Syed works. Dr Arif-ul-Islam’s work Masih Kaun — Sir Syed Ya Azad, Siddiqa Arman’s work Sir Syed Tehrik Ka Radd-i-Amal, Dr Tahir Taunsvi’s compilation of articles on Sir Syed - already published in Multan College of Education’s Journal, Maslak, Prof Rashid Ahmed Siddiqui’s book Sir Syed Ka Maghribi Talim Ka Tasawwur Aur Us Ka Nifaz Aligarh Mein and this writer’s work Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Aur Jiddat Pasandi, are some of the recent works which seek to dispel wrong notions which some stereotyped works against Sir Syed disseminate. They ignore the ‘arch-traitors’ practical cooperation with the British government - and single out someone who wanted to see his compatriots take to modern education emphasizing his liking for science and technology as this was the only way to gain their importance in the modern world.

Sir Syed was undoubtedly a supporter of the British administration, but he knew that those who believed in Jihad - like the remnants of the Wahabi Movement — had gone over to the British side such as the rebels of Tonk and Swat. Sir Syed knew what the post-Ambala situation was; and it is amazing that some of his detractors’ descendants were studying in the West. I wish that every one of us went through Khutbat-i-Ahmediya to know that Sir Syed’s love for Islam was intellectually more satisfying and truly in keeping with the teachings of Islam. Sir Syed’s close friends Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Waqar-ul-Mulk and Maulvi Chiragh Ali also became, gradually, the advocates of an enlightened Islam. We see many a Western scholar being influenced by Sir Syed’s views on Islam. Now a different situation is emerging. We need Sir Syed’s way of defending Islam all the more.

Water: source of food security: World Food Day today

By Dr Abid Hasnain


The World Food Day is celebrated every year on Oct 16 to memorize the founding of FAO by the UN during the year 1945. Every year a new theme is announced by FAO and symposia, conference, seminars, lectures and other programmes on that theme are arranged in all member countries. For this year, the theme is “Water: Source of Food Security”. This theme may be considered a call for the governments, civilians and all those who are concerned and realize the importance of water.

In this world, which has a population of about 800 million under-fed people, the theme reflects the importance of water in relation with food productivity. Fresh-water plays an essential role in feeding the global population and ensuring food security. Although water covers three quarters of the Earth, only a small quantity is available as fresh water. About 70 per cent of fresh-water is used for the agriculture and only 30 per cent is available for other purposes, including potable water for drinking, municipal uses, industries etc. Considering the increasing need of food production for this rapidly growing population, an ample supply of fresh-water is essential. The agricultural productivity not only depends on water supply but it also needs efficient use of available water. There are regions where enough water or sometimes excessive water is available but its use is not efficient. On the other hand, there are many fertile pieces of land where water is not enough for irrigation. This situation is creating two major problems i.e. waterlogging and salinity in areas where abundant supply of water is available but proper and efficient use is lacking.

It is observed that flood and sprinkler irrigation system gives more than the needed water to crops. An efficient method known as drip irrigation system that provides only the required amount of water for a particular crop as it drops water only where it is needed has shown significant reduction in water quantity and it saves the loss of agricultural land due to excessive water. The technique that was initially developed for saving water may also help in saving the land.

Another area, which accounts for 20 per cent consumption of fresh-water, is the industrial sector. There are many industries, which are not using water in efficient and economical way as they are getting it cheaply. Those industries must be checked and audited for the water they are using. It is needed that policies and strategies must be made on national level to educate both the agricultural users and the industrial users of water. There must be legislations to regulate and observe the efficient use of water and persons or organizations may be fined with penalties on its inefficient usage.

In a country like Pakistan, the situation becomes more intensified when we see our water resources. The agriculture in different areas depends on either river-water, rainwater stored in lakes or only the rains. The improvement in water management thus becomes most important and has to be given prime importance so that our water resources could be efficiently utilized. Pakistan needs reforms in irrigation system as it is evident that the areas that were very fertile and rich in water resources have turned into areas with waterlogging and salinity problem. This is due to lack of attention given to proper drainage of excess water. As a result, it has now become an environmental problem in those areas. Use of better seeds, fertilizers and other modern agricultural techniques may also help use the available water resources in an efficient way as it would result in more yield per hectare.

The author is an associate professor at the department of food science and technology, University of Karachi.

Why Pakistan crumbled in Sharjah?

WHEN an airliner crashes, the first thing that the accident investigators do is to search for the ‘black box’ and the cockpit voice recorder which might provide clues about the likely cause for the crash. No such ‘black box’ or cockpit voice recorder is available to explain what might have happened to the Pakistan team in Sharjah that it should have been battered in cricket’s desert storm.

I stared at a blank sheet of paper for a long time to find an appropriate ‘intro’ to this column and agonized whether I should give vent to my feelings which would have been to call Pakistan’s performance as ‘spineless’ or ‘shameful’ or both. But that would have been an emotional and an unthinking response and we would have been none the wiser about what went wrong.

It would be convenient to say, if one was making apologies that it was an inexperienced team that just got ‘blitzed’ by the world’s best team.

But this same inexperienced team had given the Australians the fright of its life in the first Test match at Colombo and had gone into the last day of the Test in the strong position of winning it, if it had held its nerve. The Australians had been rattled. What went wrong between Colombo and Sharjah? Why did the young lions revert to becoming cubs? I wish I knew.

What I do know is that the Australians went back to the drawing-board, examined every detail of that Test and came up with a new game-plan or a modified one. They did not sit on their haunches. They had been stung by the closeness of that Test and came into the second, fully prepared.

Though Steve Waugh lost the toss, the body-language of the Australians suggested that this was no big deal. They took the field, in the sweltering heat, in a positive frame of mind, as if, they had no intention of staying in the heat too long.

From the first ball of the Test, Australia looked in control. Cricket is a mind-game and Australia won its hands down. I think the Pakistan team-management is as much to blame as the inexperience of the young players.

By no stretch of imagination can the PCB Chairman, Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia be held responsible. He did the honourable thing by resigning, accepting the responsibility and I sincerely hope that President Pervez Musharraf will not accept the resignation. Honourable it might have been but it seems to have been a spur of the moment reaction, unwise and untimely.

It is unthinkable that there should be a change in the PCB with the World Cup being less than five months away. But that’s not the only reason why he should stay. There is more to cricket than just fielding the national team. There is the game itself that has to be promoted at various levels.

The PCB has done an outstanding job in the infrastructure development. Against this, the defeat at Sharjah pales into insignificance. I have known most of those who have headed the Pakistan Cricket Board. In their own way, they did the best they could.

But Tauqir is someone who feels for Pakistan cricket, his spirits rise when the team wins, he worries when it loses. He is a friend of mine and I know from personal chats and discussions that I have had with him that his commitment to Pakistan cricket is total. His resignation itself is proof of that. Rather than blame the players and the team management, he has deflected criticism away from them preferring instead to all on his own sword.

Pakistan are without Inzamamul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana. Some senior players opted to rest Waqar Younis himself passed a fitness test on the morning of the match and Rashid Latif did his hamstring or was done by a pinched nerve almost immediately when he came into bat and had a runner in both the innings. He did not keep wickets and young Taufiq Umar was inducted to do the job.

As if, this was not enough, Abdul Razzaq got injured and will be out of cricket for six weeks. Pakistan’s troubles came in battalions. True that the Australians were simply magnificent but there is still a Test to be played and plenty to cricket after that. We just can’t put the shutters up.

We need to come back and re-discover our self-belief. The ball is in the court of the players, not the cricket board. I think too that Waqar and Richard Pybus should stop harping on the inexperience of the young players and instead provide some leadership and pick up this young team. Raise its morale.

If anyone should be discouraged it should be me. I have been associated with Pakistan cricket since 1954 and have seen most of the highs and lows. I am disappointed but not shattered and I still think that Pakistan is a serious contender for the World Cup. Patience and shuffle the cards is the wisdom of a Spanish saying. That would be the way to go.

I hope that President Musharraf will ask Tauqir to carry on and the PCB chairman will do so with renewed vigour. He should have got over his disappointment by now. He has done a fine job but there’s still a lot to do. The news of his resignation was received with shock. That should convince him that the cricket public in Pakistan has confidence in him.

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