DAWN - Features; August 11, 2007

11 Aug 2007

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Khwaja Masud — a teacher par excellence

By Ashfaq Saleem Mirza


INTELLECTUALS, academics, scholars and students are celebrating the 85th birth anniversary of Prof Khwaja Masud, a teacher par excellence, today.

Khawaja sahib joined Gordon College, Rawalpindi, in 1944 as lecturer of mathematics and has not looked back since. Following great mathematicians, he did not confine himself to the field of mathematics but liked to wander in the vast horizon of philosophy and social sciences.

Khwaja Masud was born at Campbellpur (Attock) in 1922. His grandfather Allama Alifdin Nafees was a renowned scholar and a friend of Allama Iqbal. His father Khawaja Mahmood was a legal practitioner. The whole family was involved in the Freedom Movement and played active role in All India Kashmir Conference. Following Sir Syed and Iqbal they were trying to redefine character of the Muslim youth for coming challenges of independence.

He got his early education from Scotch Mission School Daska and graduated from Murray College Sialkot. Finally he got his masters degree in mathematics from government college Lahore in 1944 and joined Gordon College Rawalpindi as a lecturer in the same year.

Those were turbulent times. The Muslim youth of the subcontinent were keenly observing various freedom and revolutionary movements of the world. People in the early 20th century gasped to see Czarist Russia changing into USSR and a point of reference for the workers of all countries to unite against colonialism and imperialism. Under the impact, youth was dazed.

It was their romance, love and physical involvement. People left their homes, love ones, traditional comforts for unknown destinations never to return. Some of them were lost for ever after suffering from torments. At that time they were tasting ruthlessness of revolution and romanticism of the movement.

Prof Masud attracted by Marxist thought started reading Marxist literature along with Russian classics of Chekhov Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky. During this period he also joined study circles and inspired young students like artist Ali Imam and Abid Hassan Manto. During this period Democratic Student Federation was also launched and Progressive Writers Association was formed in Rawalpidni.

He was also associated with the group of the Marxists, working with military officers for toppling the government of Liaquat Ali Khan. The incident is labelled as “Pindi Conspiracy Case” in the files of the government. He saw the group integrating and disintegrating and later on men like Gen Akbar, Maj Ishaq, Capt Zafarullah Poshni, Air Commodore Janjua, Col Latif Afghan, Sajjad Zaheer, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mohammad Hussain Ata, Sibte Hassan and many others were languishing in various jails of Pakistan.

During this period he was a great help for the promotion of trade unionist movement at Progressive Writers Association in Rawalpindi.

Prof Sahib became principal of Gordon College in 1972 and retired in 1982. During period of Ziaul Haq he was transferred to Bahawalpur as punishment, but he never went to join there. As principal of the college he was strict disciplinarian. But in one of his earlier interviews to Ayesha Shoukat he said: “I never took any disciplinary action against any one teacher and student. I just disciplined myself. I had earned the right to be severe after teaching for 30 years and having taught their fathers”.

Apart from the present vulgarised connotation of the word enlightenment, Khawaja Sahib is the man of enlightenment in its true sense. He tries to approach readers through reason. All his articles in different journals and newspapers are testimony to this approach. Nothing is left from his scathing eyes but his criticism is positive and reflects character of a gentle teacher. In his articles he discusses everything from Heraclitus theory of change to postmodernist bias against metanarratives. He is founder member of Islamabad Culture Forum and Islamabad Philosophical Society. The former has been working for the last 15 years.

Today his mind is a mixture of Marxian-cum-Gramician thoughts, Iqbal’s view of Islam and Sufism. He tries to justify one another with Marxist and Wahdatul Woojudi approach, which seems to be little bit confusing sometime for the common reader. But all these approaches are against orthodoxy, fundamentalism and obscurantism. He always served the cause of free inquiry and skepticism and who can learn without taking refuge in them.

Gordon passes the ‘poodle’ test

By M. Ziauddin


DATELINE LONDON

SINCE Tony Blair left the scene it is almost too quiet here on the political front. You can clearly listen to the sound of soothing political silence. Political spinning has largely disappeared. Now you get what you see. Not what the leader would like you to see. Gordon Brown, the new prime Minister does not seem to like the idea of speaking when there is no need to do so. His cabinet colleagues too seem to like the idea of speaking only when there is a dire need to do so.

Of course, this is the holiday season here for the government. House of Commons will come alive again on Oct 8.

The performance of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government in its first month until July 27 when the holidays began seems to have been largely free from any major political slip-ups.

On the domestic front nothing much appears to have demanded the immediate attention of the new government. That is, if one were to ignore the subdued sounds of snap elections coming from Labour sources. The idea was aired because some of the Labour think-tanks believe that the popularity of the Conservatives and their leader David Cameron had somehow dipped too far below and they should strike when the iron is still hot.

However, well-wishers of the party have warned them against trying this option as according to them in the first place there is no compulsion on the party to do so as it was the party which was given the mandate for five years by the electorate and it would again be the party which would be asking for another mandate if it went for snap election, not Mr Brown. Secondly, they said the electorate may not like the idea of going to the polling booth so early in the day and out of pique vote against the party.

On the foreign front, the moves so far made appear to have been approved both by the electorate and the media.

Europe was rightly attended first on priority basis. Next was the US. In between an on the spot look-see of Afghanistan. And Darfur was appropriately taken up by the PM himself at the UN.

Prime Minister Brown was watched very closely by both the media and the people of his country during his visit to the US. And what they saw seemed to be fairly satisfactory. Brown came out of the visit not looking like a poodle of Mr. Bush. But he also did not do anything to damage the special relationship that the UK and the US have been enjoying now for most of the years since WW2.

That he had no intention of changing his mind on the British troops’ withdrawal time-table from Basra was too palpable for his hosts to have missed the point. That Britain now wants to focus on Afghanistan alone and not dissipate its military capabilities, physically not so vast, on two fronts by keeping its troops in Iraq as well was also made very clear to Washington.

Reassuring the people of the US that he is only distancing himself and his country from the not so popular policies of President Bush and not from the US itself, Gordon Brown very appropriately quoted Winston Churchill: “The great principles of freedom and the rights of man that are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, trial by jury and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence”.

According to one British newspaper, it was these principles that had led the Anglosphere nations to fight against the enemies of freedom in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and, now, in the jihadist training camps.

The media here has also regarded the government’s formal request for the release of the five British residents from the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay as a highly political gesture designed to show the Brown government’s distaste for Guantanamo. The five are not British citizens, and there is no obligation for Britain to take them. This is also regarded as the first tangible outcome of the change of posture in the government towards the US. And it was considered disingenuous of the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to depict the request as simply a helping hand to the Americans as they “move towards the closure of the detention facility”.

While the personal equation between the US President and the Prime Minister of UK is undergoing a qualitative change, the relations between the two countries are expected to further deepen and widen in the coming months and years. They would surely work together closely on issues such as Darfur and the stalled trade talks where the two agree that there was a need for progress.

Military and intelligence co-operation is expected to deepen in what is being seen here as an uncertain world. Britain is buying a new Trident nuclear submarine system with American missiles; two new aircraft carriers will be equipped with American fighters and helicopters, and the US will use its air base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire for its controversial missile defence system.

At the political level, Mr. Brown hopes to develop even more closure links with the US when as is being expected the world over the Democrats take over the administration after the 2009 elections.

The media here believes that Mr. Brown has very good relationships within the Democratic Party and therefore would be more than forthcoming in joining hands with the new administration for a new approach in handling the various issues confronting the world today including the menace of terrorism and climate change.

As one British scribe put it, in fairness, it is Brown's America that is now in the ascendant, both in terms of electoral gains and of the growing popular demand for an evacuation from Iraq. If Mr Brown can pull off a withdrawal without alienating Washington, his opinion poll bounce might be only the beginning.



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