KARACHI: Associations should not be personality-driven and if there are any rifts among the members then these should be resolved as amicably as possible.
These thoughts were expressed by former Karachi commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui on Saturday while referring to recent power struggles within the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu.
“When the squabble between members of the Anjuman seemed irreparable I called in a meeting and frankly told everyone present whether they wanted to serve the cause of Urdu or continue fighting amongst themselves.” The matter was eventually resolved when elections took place last year and new office-bearers were elected, he added.
Highlighting the role of literature in society, he said: “When literature takes a back seat, intolerance and terrorism come to the fore. Soft activities such as those organised by the Anjuman and other literary organisations are necessary. And when print and electronic media cover their activities, the world comes to know that our country is beyond terrorism and intolerance. I believe there can be no terrorism in literature-loving societies.”
Giving the example of Qudrutullah Shahab and Jamiluddin Aali, he claimed that bureaucrats had always been the lovers of Urdu literature and promoted the cause of Urdu wherever possible. “I, too, tried doing the same,” he added.
The ex-commissioner was invited to the office of the Anjuman where he was commended by its office-bearers for his services to Urdu during his tenure from April 2013 to January 2016.
Dr Fatema Hassan and Prof Sahar Ansari, honorary secretary and treasurer of the Anjuman, respectively, praised the ex-commissioner for his efforts in sorting out internal rifts within the Anjuman and supporting their decisions.
Prior to Mr Siddiqui’s arrival, two expatriate writers who have made the US their permanent abode i.e. Najmul Hasan Rizvi and Zafar Qureshi, were invited by the Anjuman to discuss their current works.
Journalist and short story writer Najmul Hasan Rizvi read out his story titled ‘Aakhri Aaramgah’ with relocation, new beginning, old havelis and death as some of its themes.
For Mobin Mirza, Mr Rizvi’s short stories have well-etched characters with a global perspective. “He highlights societal ills with humour in his stories, which make for an engaging read.”
Prof Sahar spoke highly of Mr Rizvi’s novel Marvi aur Marjina. “Both Marvi and Marjina are strong female characters with their roots in legendary folk tales. Marvi was made immortal by Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Marjina is from ‘Ali Baba aur Chalees Chor’. The author has recast these characters in contemporary times in his novel.”
Mr Rizvi who has recently penned his memoirs Awaz-i-Pa was praised by Mr Mirza and Prof Ansari for not only providing his personal account but also political history.
Urdu in New York
Journalist, translator and columnist Zafar Qureshi read out a brief note on Urdu in the US. “New York is the second largest centre for Urdu after London. Nine Urdu weeklies are printed in the city which are distributed for free. The New York Aligarh Alumni invites poets from India and Pakistan and arranges their mushairas in different cities of the US. There are a couple of Halqa-i-Arbab Zauq that arranges literary sittings regularly where serious discussions take place.”
He said there was a neighbourhood in New York where the primary means of communication is Urdu. “The residents are from Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and the only way they can communicate with each other is by Urdu or some version of it that they have learnt by watching Bollywood movies.”
Giving a snapshot of Mr Qureshi’s journalistic career in Pakistan, his colleague Khwaja Razi Haider said: “When I began my career with Hurriyet newspaper back in the 1960s, Zafar Qureshi started his with Mashriq newspaper. But later when Hurriyet’s ownership changed, Zafar, too, joined Hurriyet. Farhad Zaidi was the editor and Raza Ali Abidi was news editor. Zafar was tasked with column and editorial writing. He used to translate columns of Ehsan Ghori of the Morning News which was much appreciated by Ehsan Ghori.”
Because of his criticisms directed at Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his governance, Mr Qureshi had to go underground in 1979, Mr Haider said. “He had to face financial difficulties and soon after he migrated to the US from where has been taking out an Urdu newspaper Pakistan Express.”
Speaking about the short stories that he translated, Mr Haider said: “Zafar Qureshi has translated numerous American short stories which were published in eminent literary journals in Pakistan.”
Sarwar Javed spoke about Mr Qureshi’s association with the Karachi Press Club. “Zafar Qureshi was with the Burna group and a committed left-winger of his time. He was an active member of the KPC and at a time when it was the golden period of print journalism.”
Towards the end, two books were launched Najmul Hasan Rizvi’s Awaz-i-Pa and Ada Jafri’s Ghazal Numa.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2016