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DAWN - Features; 31 October, 2004

October 31, 2004


The Sharif behind the Sharifs

By Ashraf Mumtaz

Lahore: The death of their father has deprived Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and rest of the family of their main Source of guidance. Octogenarian Mian Muhammad Sharif was a man who could see into the future far more clearly than his sons could despite their greater knowledge of worldly affairs and their sources of information.

A man of steel nerves, he had mastered the art of dealing with difficult situations and striking the iron while it was hot. He kept Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif together even when the two had different opinions on various issues. He effectively thwarted all moves to drive a wedge between the two brothers when the younger one was being given seductive political offers.

Mian Shahbaz Sharif, family sources had told this reporter when the military establishment was in contact with him, was offered the post of prime minister as a replacement for his brother Nawaz Sharif. Mian Sharif vetoed the plan out of hand, telling Shahbaz that it was a conspiracy to tear them apart. He was also told by his far-sighted father that if the elder brother was not being tolerated, the younger could not expect a different treatment.

It is difficult to say how Shahbaz Sharif would have responded to the offer if the father had not intervened. What can be said without fear of contradiction is that the Sharifs outfoxed most of their political rivals because of the guidance available to them from their father.

The future would prove that even his decision to leave the country along with the rest of the family was the best in the given situation. He saved Mian Nawaz Sharif by preferring pragmatism over foolhardiness. Having overthrown Mr Sharif in October 1999, Gen Pervez Musharraf had said that Nawaz Sharif was his enemy No 1.

The former prime minister was facing a number of cases and his fate was at the mercy of the general. Although Mian Shahbaz was opposed to the idea of leaving the country, Mian Sharif was not willing to take any risks. It is because of the decision of their father that all sons and their families are safe - though in another country - and can think of a viable future for themselves.

It is hard to believe that Rafiq Tarar, handpicked by Mian Sharif, would have stayed on as president despite the overthrow of the PML government without the consent of his 'benefactor'.

He was allowed to remain head of state to prevent Gen Musharraf from taking any unpleasant decision against the prime minister he had toppled. After migrating to Pakistan from Jati Umra (India) well before partition, Mian Sharif had started a small steel business. He enjoyed the confidence of his six brothers.

Their business made rapid progress, thanks to their enviable unity. As a result of his hard work, the slim and smart Mian Sharif made the Ittefaq Group one of the biggest industrial empires of the country. Due to the guidance of his father - and support from generals Ziaul Haq and Ghulam Jilani Khan - Mian Nawaz Sharif reached the heights of politics in a shorter time than it has taken many others in the field.

Mian Sharif won the hearts of the bureaucrats holding important positions in the Sharif government. He treated many of them like his children because of which they became loyal supporters of Nawaz Sharif.

When the father of the prime minister or the chief minister treats his sons' aides like his own sons, they can't be expected to hatch conspiracies or go for backstabbing.

This way the father used to strengthen the hands of his sons. He had declared even Gen Musharraf as his fourth son. In the beginning relations between the Sharifs and Gen Musharraf were exemplary.

Mian Sharif once acknowledged that he advised his son on various important issues. For example, when Mr Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister during 1990-93, Mian Sharif said in an interview that he had asked him to improve relations with India. "I have told him to hold talks with Narasimha Rao (then Indian prime minister)", Mian Sharif was reported to have said in an interview. Mian Sharif set up the famous Ittefaq Hospital (Model Town), the Sharif Medical City and the Sharif Education Complex (Raiwind). The medical projects are equipped with the latest facilities.

Thousands of people are treated there every year. A few years before being banished to Saudi Arabia, the industrialist family also developed an interest in farming. As a result, over 360 acres of land were purchased at a place in Raiwind the family named Jati Umra after their ancestral village in India. It is where Mian Sharif will be buried.

Irrigation water shortage

By Majeed Gill

The delay in the shifting of Sabzi Mandi to its proposed site near Karachi Morr has caused numerous problems both for the people and the commission agents. In fact, the shifting plan should have been implemented years ago, but due to reasons best known to the district government and the market committee, it has been delayed unnecessarily, creating problems for the residents particularly of the thickly-populated areas around the market.

After the scheme was finalized to shift the Sabzi Mandi outside the city, the purchase of land for it had been an issue. But it too was resolved, and now a vast tract of land measuring 78 kanals has been purchased at a cost of Rs10 million by the market committee. Now the crucial phase of the allotment of plots for the construction of shops by commission agents will be taken in hand.

According to the market committee chairman, the boundary wall of this site will be constructed soon. But so far even basic amenities have not been provided. This task needs immediate attention of the district government and the market committee.

* * * * *

According to the farming community, following allocation of the water quota for Multan and the newly-created Dera Ghazi Khan irrigation range from Mailsi-Syphon link, Bahawalpur district has been deprived of 1,500 cusecs of water.

Despite repeated demands of cultivators, the Punjab Irrigation Department could not restore the share of the district and have argued that due to overall shortage of canal water, Bahawalpur district is also facing the scarcity. The other reason for reduction in irrigation water is stated to be the closure of non-perennial canals of Cholistan desert.

These canals were earlier run up to September, but this year due to the shortage of canal water, they were also closed before schedule, which created problems for Cholistan's cultivators. Due to the shortage, the underground water level has dropped here creating difficulties for the tubewell owners, who had to install new tubewells for irrigating their fields. The landlords and notables of the area have urged the irrigation department to restore Bahawalpur's share of 1,500 cusecs when there is a normal supply of water in the rivers.

* * * * *

UCH Sharif is an historic town, but its residents are facing problems in respect of girls education, roads and sanitation.

The town has many mausoleums which need immediate repair. The road from Shamas Chowk to Jahania Road is in a shambles and needs repair as the majority of the devotees going to various 'darbars' use this thoroughfare. Overflowing gutters are a great nuisance, but the sub-tehsil office has never bothered to repair the sanitation system.

The Ahmedpur East Tehsil Council should draw up a sanitation project for Uch Sharif. Besides, the girls college is without its own building due to non-availability of funds. Syed Samiul Hasan Gillani, tehsil Nazim, Ahmedpur East, donated land for the college and as such the government should allocate funds for the construction of its building.

Of private and official security

By Nusrat Nasarullah

Friday afternoon. It was all a matter of seconds, almost. Two large, modern fire engines waited in a short queue at the PIDC House traffic intersection. In front of them was a private car, and a medium-sized bulletproof vehicle of a private security agency. The fire engines were in a hurry, and were blowing their hooters, with the sound screaming through the relative quiet of an October afternoon. The two vehicles in front did not make way, and when the traffic lights turned green, life moved on. Stop, and contemplate here.

The fire engines were going in emergency, and perhaps, so was the security vehicle (the kind that handles cash for banks?). Who was to come first, I thought. To me it mirrored two dimensions of Karachi's hectic, troubled, tense, life, to say the least about the way this city goes, daily. Where were the engines going? What had happened, for they were blowing their hooters? The sound of the sirens can be fearful too.

But then, on the other hand, in a city where private security has grown enormously, and somewhat disturbingly, the private armed security vehicles may also be rushing in to meet a challenge. Come think of it, the fact that private armed guards have swelled in number, and have become so integral to our lives everywhere in the country, brings out the failure of what may be describe as the traditional police force. That is an old long story.

That no one bothered to make way for the two fire engines was understandable. It may hurt our national pride, but, the citizens here normally don't even make way for ambulances, even though they hear their impatient sirens. That's community or civic sense, in our lives. As soon as one makes this caustic observation, a vocal citizen rises to defend the community to contend that with the kind of insecurity that we live with, and grapple with in fact, it is this kind of heartlessness and indifference that will be the natural outcome. He was adamant about what he said.

The conversation with him was worrying, if not altogether anxious, as our attention turned to what one newspaper described as "Money changers, private security firms in a row". This row, which is among many other disturbing things in our lives, began with this: "two security guards of a private security company took away US dollars equivalent to over Rs20 million from a senior official of a money exchange company in Saddar on Wednesday evening (Oct 20)."

Details allege that the two security guards hired by the company hit the senior official with a rifle butt, who was shifting that cash from his office.

The most disturbing aspect of this incident is that the very same guards whose business and duty was to protect the company officials decided to strike. This brought us to the perception that in many cases these very guards might be the culprits. That may or may not be a fair perception, and admittedly, there are black sheep in every fold. Then there are the registered and unregistered private security companies.

Relevant to mention here is the fact that Mr Ikram Sehgal, who heads one of the largest security agencies was quoted in this newspaper, earlier this month, as saying that "in Karachi alone there are about 60,000 private security guards", employed by what he calls "legitimate private security agencies". Then there are the unregistered security agencies, which obviously reflect the demand there is for private guards. For citizens feel unsafe and insecure otherwise given the kind of crime graph that exists here.

Let me return to the row mentioned above, for it reflects a disturbing situation. Both the money changers and the private security agencies have reportedly threatened that private security would be withdrawn from the money changers' offices if an "impartial inquiry" is not carried out.

The All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA) has said that it was likely that if an impartial inquiry was not carried out into the robbery, then all security guards would be withdrawn from the money-changing establishments by Nov 3, besides banks and other financial institutions.

And the APSAA and the Forex Association of Pakistan have reportedly informed the Sindh home secretary and the Sindh police chief that those involved in the two robberies in the forex companies have not yet been arrested. And here comes the deadline from the FAP saying: "we'll see it till Eidul Fitr, and if the situation remains the same, money changers would not be able to continue business in such an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty". The FAP has also threatened they would stage a sit-in outside the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies.

One is reminded of the very recent situation wherein meat merchants and milk traders had threatened that if the official rates were compulsorily enforced, they would go on strike. Then take the case of the government colleges' lecturers, who were on a strike against the denationalization of the St Joseph's College For Women and the St Patrick's College For Men. That is the collective mood which prevails. Impatience, anger and threats.

In the context of security agencies, it is imperative to note that Karachi, reportedly, has 28,000 policemen, of which 21,000 are on duty on any given day. The number of private security guards is stated to be at least 25,000, according to an APSAA spokesman. This reflects the degree and nature of the insecurity Karachi has, and the inadequacy of the police force to meet the varied and growing challenges, both with regard to terrorism and crime.

A major question that the society will have to answer is whether it is willing to pay more for quality vis a vis security personnel. For if there are underpaid policemen in the force, there are underpaid or grossly underpaid men working in the ranks of the private security companies too. Security guards are paid Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 or so, every month. And look at the responsibility they are given. Does that match? asked a citizen, who felt that like everything else, security would also cost more in the days ahead. Not only will there be a need for more security, but its quality will have to be improved visibly.

Book on Ashfaque Ahmed

By Ashfaque Naqvi

Quite a number of books and journals have accumulated on my table and I feel like paying attention to them this time. But first I must pay tribute to Aizaz Ahmed Azar for the tremendous effort he has put in to produce a book of almost 400 pages about the late Ashfaque Ahmed a day before his Chehlum.

The death of Ashfaque Ahmed was widely mourned in the country and almost everyone of note had something to say about the loss caused by his passing away to literature and intellectual discussions. Every newspaper carried articles about him and the literary monthly, Adab-i-Latif, announced that its next issue would be entirely devoted to the late writer. Some other magazines were also planning on the same lines.

However, Aizaz Ahmed Azar beat everyone and produced a book aptly titled Zamana Barey Shauq Se Sun Raha Tha. It carries all that has been written in different newspapers and magazines. It is indeed a stupendous effort accomplished in record time. The book would provide valuable guidance to all those conducting research on Urdu literature or choosing to submit a dissertation to a university for a doctorate on the life and works of that great writer and intellectual of the 20th century.

* * * * *

I really do not understand why those who have not been able to put enough life into their own mother tongue appear jealous of all that is being done for the advancement of Sindhi in the university at Jamshoro. At times, even a sort of negative propaganda is carried out against the Sindh University totally forgetting that it is paying equal attention to other languages as well. I say this on the authority of Tahqiq, the research journal published by the Urdu Department of the University.

Tahqiq is a 600 page compendium, the first 250 pages of which have been devoted to Qazi Ahmed Mian Akhtar Junagadhi who was called Aftab-e-Kathiawar by no less a person than the Baba-i-Urdu, Maulvi Abdul Haq. Qazi Sahib joined the Sindh University in 1953 as professor of Islamic Culture and served it till his death on August 6, 1955. As such, full details of his life have been given in these pages together with a list of his publications, writings and other achievements.

Rest of the journal carries several articles of indepth research shedding light on the first ever memoirs of a woman, the truth about Divan-e-Ghamgheen, a survey of the different phases of Urdu literature, and such like topics. It is a journal of which the Urdu department of any university could well be proud.

* * * * *

I had read about Asad Multani during the days Maulana Salahuddin Ahmed was publishing the Adabi Dunya. I also knew that Asad Multani had received the first prize for his poem during his student days at the Government College, Lahore. The well known poet, Tasaduq Hussain Khalid, who was his contemporary at the college, got second prize in that competition.

I have now received a detailed biography of Asad Multani which is the result of the efforts of the Bazm-i-Saqafat of Multan. The person asked to write it is some Abdul Baqi who, I understand, is some sort of a professor. However, while going through the book I was rather disappointed with the proficiency of the author. The matter is so loosely constructed that it does not appear to be the work of a learned person.

Moreover, there are repetitions galore. Saying again and again that Asad Multani was a very intelligent person loses its value. Anyway, the book would be useful to any one who thinks of conducting a research on the poetic trends of the 20th century Muslims.

* * * * *

In the October issue of the monthly Adab-i-Latif, the lead article about Col Muhammad Khan as a translator has been written by a 'doctor', evidently, a PhD, but it gives the impression that it has been penned by a school boy. Construction of the sentences are enough to shake the reader. However, another article in the same issue by Yusuf Imtiaz of Toronto is highly appreciable. It is a detailed writeup about Azmatullah Khan, a relatively unknown writer but one who has all the qualities which make a person known.

So far as the running travelogue of the Holland-based Farooq Khalid, which appears in this issue, is concerned, I would suggest that the year should also be mentioned together with the month and date of the diary. At present, the narrative becomes confusing for one who has spent more than three years in Saudi Arabia, seen all that has been mentioned, but missed the initial part of this travelogue.

The Model Town that lost its ideals

By Majid Sheikh

In the 1950's going to Model Town was almost always a two-day affair, for it was considered so far away that one slept the night there. As all my father's uncles and aunts resided there, it was like second home. We called it the "town in the forest". But if ever there was a dream 'town' that the people of old Lahore built for themselves, this was it.

Model Town, which was originally conceived as an ideal town, was the brain child of a lawyer of Bhati Gate called Dewan Khem Chand. He claimed that the idea came to him as a "vision" when he was only 14 years old... for he did not like the narrow winding streets of the old walled city. He dreamed of an open city in the middle of the forests where: "one could run with no end in sight". During his studies in England Dewan Khem Chand put his idea on paper in January 1921 and titled it "My Scheme". His dream was to buy 1,000 acres of land and to build a'modern town'.

On his return to Lahore, he improved on his original "My Scheme" and wrote another paper titled "Ideal Town", a place where people of every religion and faith lived in perfect harmony. "To achieve this, it is essential to allow humans to have sufficient space to achieve a serene state of mind". With this in mind he went to meet the original Father of Modern Lahore, Sir Ganga Ram, a man we today love to forget.

Sir Ganga Ram was a very practical and generous man. He immediately rejected the idea of having this "ideal town" on the other side of the River Ravi near Shahdara, saying that his 'ideals' would be swept away by flood every third year. Seeing him so dejected, Sir Ganga Ram got up and took Dewan Khem Chand in his car to see the "Rakh Kot Lakhpat Reserved Forest". Later Khem Chand was to write he "immediately fell in love with the place.

On the advise of Sir Ganga Ram, Dewan Khem Chand applied for 1,963 acres of land from the government, after a new society was formed as a company and was registered under the Co-operatives Societies Act. The Forest department would just not agree to the scheme of this "town in the middle of their forest". For two years Dewan Khem Chand ran from pillar to post. In the end he asked Sir Ganga Ram for ideas. We do not know which string Sir Ganga Ram pulled, but within days he got his permission. On January 5, 1923, the land was handed over to the Model Town Co-operative Society.

The first meeting of the society was held in the Lahore Town Hall on February 27, 1921, in which Sir Ganga Ram was elected the first chairman and Dewan Khem Chand the first secretary. In this meeting the word 'Model Town' was suggested and adopted "till such time a more suitable name was found". After the meeting the plan was presented to Raja Narendra Nath, who on reading the 'scheme' threw it into his waste paper basket. It was when Sir Shadi Lal mentioned that it was very practical, and that Sir Ganga Ram thought it was an excellent idea, that he sent for a new copy and backed it to the hilt.

For the planning of Model Town, an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper with the stipulation that it should incorporate the best of our "own culture, as well as the best of Western culture". A grand prize of Rs.1,220 was offered. A total of 32 plans were received. They were placed on The Mall for public comment. Four plans were selected, and as the 'selection committee' liked all four they divided the prize money among all four.

The second prize winner was paid an additional Rs.500/- to incorporate all the four plans into one. "The town is square in shape with a circle in the middle. Four rectangles link the square to the circle, with eight triangles making up the residential quarters". The society bye-laws stipulated that there could be only one house per plot allotted with two-thirds being left for open for lawns and gardens. The plot sizes were also planned a being of six kanals, four kanals and two kanals only. They were classified as A,B and C class plots.

The membership was selected with great care. Dewan Khem Chand was to write later: "All members are literate, belonging to the upper and upper middle class, and people with clean records". The society hired a well-known architect by name of M.C. Khanna, who designed a total of 100 houses. The first "flush system" houses in Lahore were introduced using the "Kentucky pattern", which worked with great efficiency. Dewan Khem Chand himself built a 'C' class house in 1930 within a record 32 days at a cost of Rs.6,500.

The Model Town Society banned all commercial advertising as it "debases residential living". They banned beggary in the society. A massive community services plan was launched which included a dairy farm, a poultry yard, an orchard and six acres were reserved for children to play in a nursery.

The most remarkable aspect of Model Town was how well they integrated people of every religious community. Special funds were raised to built a Mandir for Hindus, a Mosque for Muslims and a Gurdwara for the Sikhs. A cremation ground was set aside, and a graveyard planned.

Over the years, Model Town has undergone a dramatic change. From the original 184 members in 1920 with a population of less than 2,000 persons, by 2002 the population of Model Town had grown to 70,000 plus. Crass commercialism has taken over and even commercial establishments allowed within residential houses. Like the rest of Pakistan, commercialism has beaten back the private space and lives of the citizens of this ideal town.

Recent attempts to reverse this commercial thrust have been beaten when elected office-bearers were ousted by political-cum-commercial interests. Slowly and steadily, the original dream of Dewan Khem Chand is being pushed back, as house sizes get smaller, residential spaces are being used by commercial offices... the movement to reach a slum status is approximately half achieved. The bus service has ceased to exist. The dairy closed long ago. The Father of Modern Lahore, Sir Ganga Ram, had no idea just how badly the city he loved so much would be pushed back in time.