DAWN - Features; 27 June, 2004

Published June 27, 2004

Need to promote handicraft

By Majeed Gill

The city is known for various types of handicrafts, particularly embroidery work. In addition, camel skin, woodwork and pottery are prepared here by artisans. Above all, the vast desert of Cholistan enjoys a worldwide reputation in respect of cottage industries which needs promotion within and outside the country. A majority of artisans are poor womenfolk struggling to earn their livelihood in this backward area of south Punjab. They need help to develop their trade.

This object can be achieved if a handicrafts house, a training workshop or a display centre is established in Bahawalpur by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). The Bahawalpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) may manage the registration of artisans, and provide them patronage. It may ensure them due reward for their work, which may compete in the international market and earn foreign exchange. The EPB could also involve Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEDA) in this matter.

BCCI has expressed its willingness to cooperate in the setting up of a display and training centre. In this connection, BCCI president Sheikh Abbas Raza has also intimated EPB and impressed upon it that such a centre will prove beneficial for poverty alleviation in this remote area. If it is approved, it will produce encouraging results in tackling unemployment and poverty.

* * * * *

Expressing concern over the law and order situation in the district, the new DPO Mr Arif Nawaz, at his first formal get-together with journalists the other day, held out an assurance to make it 'ideal'. The DPO said his office will remain open for the needy and oppressed applicants, who will have easy access to him.

He also announced that his secret telephone No 950100 will be open for the people who may call him for any sort of information, which will be kept highly confidential. The DPO announced that Rescue-15 will in future serve the ailing humanity and on the telephone call of any deserving and poor patient, the ambulance of Rescue-15 will take him to hospital emergency and also drop him back home free of cost.

* * * * *

Sammasatta is an important railway junction on Karachi-Lahore railway line. Both the male and female students of this area have to travel to Bahawalpur for college education in the absence of a boys or a girls college in their home town. The students also face other difficulties. The roads linking Bahawalpur are in a poor condition and public transport is not easily available. The students have to rely on passenger or mail trains.

If a bus service is introduced from Sammasatta to Bahawalpur, they will be able to attend their classes in Bahawalpur regularly. The Punjab government should help establish at least an intermediate college for boys and girls to enable them to continue their college studies without putting extra burden on their parents.

* * * * *

Islamia University, Bahawalpur, the other day awarded "roll of honour" for individual performance to Mr Waseem Malik, student of MA English (final) here.

Earlier, Waseem Malik, who is an old Sadiqan (of prestigious Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur) and has a brilliant record in O'level and Intermediate examinations, was also awarded a certificate of distinction with a cash prize of Rs5,000 at Students' Convention of Pakistan, 2004, by President Gen Pervez Musharraf last month. He was among the several students of Islamia University selected through a lengthy process supervised by the Punjab governor, who judged his abilities at a gathering held at the Governor's House, Lahore.

A quiet week amid uncertainty

By Nusrat Nasarullah

One heard with that lingering familiar uncertainty at the back of one's mind, a TV anchor person say at the end of a talk show on current affairs on Thursday night, that it is time that those who mattered in the country's power corridors should resolve the problems that are being faced in Quetta, Karachi, and Wana.

By now, most of us have heard umpteen references to what happens in this city, which is linked to other places in Pakistan. References that, by default or design, reflect the way this city has grown in the past two decades, making it what is sometimes called a "suicide city". Indeed suicide bombers have struck here too, mirroring the globalization of terrorism and how vulnerable we are.

One hates to say so, but sometimes one wonders whether this city is fated to live in fear and uncertainty, two states of collective mind that characterise the mood of the city, even when nothing disastrous or dreadful happens. The week gone by has been one, when no terrorist activity has been reported till the writing of this column on a Friday evening. No traffic jams either! Of course, there is crime and other urban frustrations that Karachi offers aplenty, and a gang war in Lyari, which left four people dead, and five injured.

It is hard for the poeople living in affluent areas of the city to understand what kind of a place Lyari is?

This "trouble-free" week did not mean that all our problems had been resolved. One spoke to some citizens, who were either cynical about this uneasy calm or felt that this was a "lull period," and a friend of mine quoted Doris Lessing as having said that "one certainty that we all accept is the condition of being uncertain and insecure." Perhaps this quote describes our state of mind that we are unsure, and with the passage of time becoming still more.

Stories are developing, political and otherwise, in the federal and provincial capitals. Speculations and rumours flowing out from those cities indicate uncertainty of some kind and lend insecurity. Of course the federal budget has been passed by the National Assembly, and so have the provincial budgets, but a cynicism remains; a collective cynicism which draws its strength from dissent that is spread across the land? In Karachi, this skepticism is especially widespread, and shall we say acute?

Perhaps there is some relevance in this context to mention that Sardar Ataullah Mengal spoke in Karachi on the "right of minority" under the auspices of the English Speaking Union of Pakistan on Thursday evening. There truly was much to contemplate about what he said, about the state of affairs as he visualised them, warning repeatedly that we were heading to a point where "things could reach a point of no return."

He took a very grim, dim and strong view of the way all minorities were being "treated" in this country and to a questioner he said: "We have never been allowed to be Pakistanis." He touched upon a variety of themes, national as well as regional, from the feudal and Sardari systems to the religious parties, and the particular situation in Balochistan, referring to the lost part of the country several times.

Mr Mengal spoke with characteristic candour, and forthrightness, but only for about ten of the allotted 40 minutes. He told his audience that they were free to ask him questions and that Karachi audience asked a bagful of them. This lasted for almost an hour, the interaction clearly reflected the deep concern that citizens have about the national and the regional scenario.

Rather surprising, that the speech and the question-answer session were not reported in the press. There was much to talk about, and he said that he was speaking for "oppressed nations in Pakistan." I found his spontaneity very impressive and his anger very obvious, indicating the kind of political experience that he had had over the years.

Let us return to the week that has been. With the canvass being free of bloody violence and terrorism that hit us in May and extended into June too, citizens were able to return to some kind of a routine, but perhaps with a caution.

For example, many of us can possibly realise that this was also school vacation time, or rather that colleges and universities were also closed and that the students in particular, and the youth in general, were saddled with plenty of time. It makes that old question so alive once again: "What do they do with their spare time? Do we have constructive activities lined up for them in these vacations or they will just spend these without thought? Perhaps the studious amongst them spend more time with their books, and the not so studios find it an excellent occasion to get away from them.

Thoughts drift to the young, especially the student community in this city, in the light of the politics that goes on, and the terrorism that takes place. Bear in mind that student unions are banned in educational institutions and there are of course two views on this subject. One has read with interest a report saying that the posting of the Rangers personnel inside the Dawood College of Technology has been a subject of some contention. The colleges meant for academic purposes have law-enforcing agencies inside the premises. That is the attitude here and elsewhere as we all know.

In a way, this has been a week with the awareness of summer, with its dusty and windy days, and with cloudy weather being indicative of the monsoon season that lies ahead. So the average Karachiite thinks of the level and degree of preparedness that the KESC and the city government have for monsoon-2004. There are signs that some effort is being made, but because we have such an experience of being let down by our systems and institutions in all walks of life that most citizens prefer to keep their fingers crossed, and hold onto their doubts.

As a city we even fear the rain! I must mention mangoes that are being enjoyed at this time of the year to have a look at the positive side of the life. Indeed, mango time is a feasting time in a way, and with the thought that the rains are here soon, plans of mango meals and get together are being drawn up in plenty.

Let us look at the positive side a little more, and take notice of the fact that the authorities have promised that the Clifton beach, opposite the Sea View apartments, will be opened to the public from Saturday? One hopes that this commitment is honoured, as for the common man, Karachi's summer evenings often mean going out there for some respite from the weather, and the pollution of the city. lt may be recalled that the beach was closed on Tuesday after the wreckage and cargo of a dhow (left unattended in the sea) floated onto the Seaview beach. It reminded us of the Tasman Spirit oil spill.

Talking of Karachi's beaches one is compelled to refer to the Hawkesbay and Sandspit beaches, where I think four people were drowned this June, and one of them was a young banker. Once again the fearful insecurity of our beaches, and how undeveloped and unattended they are, stares at us. One sees no public service advertising on this subject by the corporate sector or the advertising agencies. Like other failures in our lives, we take even this for granted that we all know what to do when we go to the beach.

Having mentioned the word failure and the absence of good governance in this society and Karachi being a representative example, one is reminded of a quote from Elbert Hubbard, who said that "there is no failure except in no longer trying." Perhaps, that is what has happened to us, argues a Karachiite, who has lived here all his life. He is one of those who had the opportunity to reside abroad, but found it hard to give up his roots, he pleads. He sees in this city a subconscious acceptance of failure and an attitude of resignation.

He insists that the Pakistani people have chosen the convenient stance that under the circumstances we can do no better. That it is better to relax in the comfort of confessing failure than struggle for higher goals that promise better living. They have been deceived by their leaders, decision makers, writers, poets and teachers and a whole lot of educated people in this society, that they have lost that will to achieve. So failure, as an option, is at least stress-free?

But let me return to the week that was. Conversations remained focused on what kind of a future lay ahead in the light of new realities in the Sindh government setup, with the changes being made, and with new deadlines and options that were coming to the surface. The new Sindh cabinet is to be announced any time, and what will it mean to the man on the street. Will it mean anything, really?

The man on the street is also focused on the MMA's 'Peace March,' scheduled for June 27 (today). In public conversations and silence, both, is it people's yearning for peace that is perhaps keeping them upright, and going?

Yakkey pit gaiy, yakkey pit gaiy

By Majid Sheikh

Lahore has always had its fair share of lunatics. The city has always had enough of them over the years, some really worth remembering, may be as a reminder that sanity could really be a curse.

In the 1960s and 1970s, two persons became 'trademark' Lahori lunatics, both of whom almost everyone remembers. The first was known as "Yakkey" and the second was "DC Sahib". Both were two very different personalities, from different backgrounds, yet "disturbed" in their own way and for very different reasons. I feel calling them 'insane' is rather unjust, as we assume that our norm is the measure of everything. It is best to call them 'disturbed' persons.

Their stories are fascinating, and worth narrating. The story of Yakkey is that he was a wealthy person living on McLeod Road. I am not using his name out of respect for his kith and kin. He had interests in films, in property, in business and even in the fine arts. He was a man of the world, dressed elegantly, ate and drank as most men of his class still do. He went to the races as all people of position then did in Lahore. But then he also gambled excessively, as all excitable, compulsive people do. The quick buck syndrome has been the undoing of many.

As Lakshmi Chowk was the 'in' place in those days, he sat playing cards in an old hotel in Royal Park. At poker he had to show, and he bluffed with 'four aces'. His bluff was called. Sadly, he had bet his entire building on McLeod Road, all his money, and, sadly, even his wife. He, witnesses claim, sat there in a state of shock. He sat for a full ten minutes silently. He then got up and yelled "Yakkey pit gaiy" (the aces have been beaten). He kept repeating this phrase and walked out of the hotel. For the rest of his life this is the only thing he ever said.

Over the next 22 years, he roamed the streets of Lahore yelling, when he was excited, "Yakkey pit gaiy, yakkey pit gay". As a school-going child I remember seeing him, sometimes running away when he was approaching. I went to college seeing "Yakkey" walking furiously up and down The Mall and along McLeod Road. Then I became a journalist and still saw a lot of him.

Then one day, a report came that a man had dug his own grave in Miani Sahib and was refusing to leave it. We rushed there and the police was struggling to get him out of his final resting place. He was shouting "Yakkey pit gaiy". I left in silence and could not sleep the night. What drives people to such extremes, I could never understand.

A year later, so one source claims, he managed to bury himself alive. The ace of Lahore - Yakkey - had silenced himself. In the long years that he had roamed the streets of Lahore, he never uttered another word. His tragic situation had been frozen in time. By the time he silenced himself, he had etched his 'situation' in the minds of a whole generation.

The other well-known 'disturbed' person was rather a sedate man. He belonged to a well-known family of Lahore, went to the best school and the best college and joined the Civil Services Academy. He was known as a brilliant officer. He had the right connections, the right family background, and with time got married, had children, and soon became the deputy commissioner of Lahore.

He was, in every sense a "decent sort of chap" as the Victorians loved saying. DC Sahib then had to face a set of new military bosses. He was honest to the core and followed the rules. One day he resigned. Why, no one ever knew. Since then he never spoke a word, not even to his wife and children. Maybe they asked him to shut up.

Over the next 17 years, DC Sahib walked up and down the Upper Mall area, near the Civil Services Academy, the Gymkhana Club and along the canal road. Always dressed correctly, he smoked a lot, deep in thought. His wife looked after him well. She remained faithful to his 'honest ways and respected him immensely'. Even today she speaks of him with love and affection, as a principled man. We saw him over the years, and heard a lot of stories about him, none of which are worth repeating, as I cannot vouch for them. Then one day we learned that he had died in his sleep. His silence was forever, and yet they speak volumes of the times in which we live.

One day, not very long ago, I went to Lahore's Mental Hospital to check out a lost person. What I saw there convinced me that there was a need for a major study of the way we look after our disturbed persons. Saadat Hasan Manto's vision of a man on a tree not wanting to go to Pakistan or Bharat speaks of our inability to transcend our understanding of a norm. Given the 'disturbed' manner in which we see a lot of people walking the streets of Lahore make one wonder whether all of us, in our unguarded moments, are really normal. We are an unhappy people, it seems. In a way 'Yakkey' and 'DC Sahib' were at peace with themselves.

A word about Jagan Nath Azad

By Ashfaque Naqvi

I saw Tilok Chand Mehroom when still at school in Lahore and was greatly impressed by his personality. A tall, robust, figure, dressed in a long coat with a 'lungi', he had long whiskers. He looked every inch a Muslim, but I was told that he was a Hindu and headmaster of a school in Mianwali, the place to which he belonged. And then I read his poems which happened to be in our Urdu textbooks. One was about the pathetic condition of the last resting place of the Mughal empress, Nur Jahan. I still remember two of its touching lines:

Din ko bhi yahan shab ki siyahi ka saman heh

Kehtey hein keh yeh maqbara-e-noor-e-jahan heh

Well, that was long before partition. Even in those days his son, Isakhel born, Jagan Nath Azad was counted among the prominent poets of the Punjab. It is not commonly known that after the establishment of Pakistan, the first national song (qaumi tarana as we like to call it) broadcast from Radio Pakistan was not by Hafeez Jallandhri or Faiz Ahmed Faiz but by a Hindu called Jagan Nath Azad. It ran like this:

Aey sarzameen-i-pak

Zarrey terey hein aaj sitaron sey tabnak

Roshan heh kehkashan sey kahin aaj teri khak

His devotion to Allama Iqbal has been intriguing for many. But then, he has himself said:

Merey yaqeen ko dekh amal par nazar na kar

Mera yaqeen heh daulat-eeman liye huey

Ahl-i-haram mujhey na hiqarat se dekhna

Kafir hun eik qalb-e-Musalman liye huey

I am grateful to Dr Syed Moeenur Rehman for sending me books which keep adding to my knowledge. It is never too late to learn, as they say. I knew a lot about Jagan Nath Azad but the book sent by him tells me much more about him. It is the thesis written by one of his students, Aasma Aziz, for her master's in Urdu. Somehow, it has been printed and produced by Crescent House Publications of Jammu in Occupied Kashmir. It only deals with Jagan Nath Azad as a prose writer.

Third in line after the more famous Azads - Maulana Muhammad Hussain and Maulana Abul Kalam - Jagan Nath was born in 1918. After doing his MA in Persian from the Punjab University in 1944, he served in different capacities in some Urdu and English newspapers. He also remained assistant editor of the important Urdu journal, Adabi Dunya.

After serving for a while as a lecturer of Urdu at Lahore's DAV College, he moved to Delhi after partition. Securing a job in the Press Information Department, he was posted to Srinagar. Offered the professorship of Urdu in the Jammu University, he moved there in 1977. After retirement, he continues to be there as professor emeritus for life.

Jagan Nath Azad has been attending mushairas and delivering lectures and has written about most of his foreign trips. However, while writing about Pakistan he never calls it a foreign country. Even Gen Ziaul Haq told him that he should consider it to be his own country and come here whenever he felt like it. He openly accepts that the reception he receives in Pakistan is totally different from what he experiences in other countries. His love for Pakistan is evident from his verse:

Sham key saey mein Jamna ki ravani dekh kar

Mujhko aey Azad Ravi ka saman yad aa gaya

Jagan Nath Azad has won several awards from Pakistan, India, Russia and other countries. For the naats composed by him, he was given the Seerat-i-Pak Award by Bradford Publications of UK. Not only that, Jagan Nath Azad has written a long poem condemning the destruction of the Babri Mosque. Says he:

Hamarey dil ko tora hey imarat ko nahin tora

Khabasat ki bhi had hoti hey aey had torney waley

The books authored by Jagan Nath Azad include some on literary criticism while about eleven, both in English and Urdu, are on Iqbal. It would be interesting to know that soon after partition, Iqbal was almost banned in India. It was only through the efforts of Jagan Nath Azad that Iqbal is as highly respected there today as Khusrau, Meer or Ghalib. Even in Pakistan, it was Jagan Nath Azad's whisper into the ears of Gen Ziaul Haq that led to the establishment of the Iqbal Chair in the Punjab University.

Many Indians, like Iqbal Singh and Hira Lal Chopra, have done extensive work on Iqbal. Dr Chaman Lal Raina has gone to the extent of converting his verses into Hindi. On his part, Dr Rafiq Zakaria, former chancellor of the Urdu University in Aligarh, has written a full book under the title, Iqbal: The Poet and the Politician, in which he has expressed surprise why Iqbal is not revered in India.

It goes to the credit of Jagan Nath Azad that he has all along tried to emphasise the fact that great and durable poetry transcends all barriers of caste, creed and colour. Being a humanist, Iqbal's poetry echoes the sentiments and feelings of humanity at large. There is no denying that he has championed the cause of the exploited and oppressed people of the world.



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