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One of highly informative and interesting sessions on the last day of LLF 2016 on Sunday was about the Partition memories of Pasha Yusuf Haroon.

Titled ‘Pasha Haroon: Gilded Memories of Early Pakistan Years’, the session attracted a good number of people who enjoyed the nonagenarian lady’s remembrance of her life journey.

Pasha Haroon sat down with Hameed Haroon and Nusrat Jamil to reminisce about unique events of her life and Pakistan’s untold history which she witnessed before and after the Partition in 1947. She narrated stories from her early life, social and political life at Seafield in Karachi where she moved after her marriage to Yousuf Haroon in the 1930s and experiences as a member and later commander of the National Guard after the formation of the Muslim League.

In particular she talked about her experiences with various Pakistani leaders such as the Quaid-i-Azam and Ms Jinnah who came to live at Seafield with them as houseguests whenever they visited Karachi, Liaquat Ali Khan and Begum Liaquat, Yahya Khan, Iskander Mirza and his wife Naheed and Zulfikar and Nusrat Bhutto.

One of the most incredible moments of the session was when Ms Haroon sang the birthday song she had sang for none other than the Quaid-i-Azam during his last birthday dinner, hosted by him in 1947.

She concluded the session by urging all Pakistanis to unite rather than fighting among themselves and make it the country the founding fathers had envisioned it to be like and people like her had struggled to get.

The other interesting session titled ‘Making Museums: Preserving National Heritage in Stressed Society’ was based on the destruction of museums and historical and heritage sites in war zones around the world, with focus on Afghanistan and Syria.

The panel comprised the legendary Nancy Dupree who was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement award by the LLF during the session, Noor Agha, Abdul Hafeez and moderator Ahmed Rashid.

Nancy began the discussion by narrating events about how various historical sites in Afghanistan were reduced to rubble by the Taliban and objects from the museums were looted and later sold by the Afghan people to private collectors in the 1980s and 1990s.

Condemning the events, she said: “Such destruction diminishes the sense of identity and belonging of a country and no development is thus possible”.

This led to the discussion about the attack on the National Museum of Afghanistan in May 1993.

Abdul Hafeez, who is part of the preservation efforts of the museum, showed the appalling images of destroyed site. He also told the audience that with the help of various national and international organisations, restoration work for the museum began in 2003, urging the international community to take steps to save the heritage sites before they come under attack.

Noor Agha said it’s more important to change the mindsets of the people to start taking ownership of their heritage and understand notions like statues are not ‘un-Islamic, in order to preserve the museums more effectively. Nancy added by saying that it is about time the heritage was not mixed with politics as “it’s over and above it”. She also said young individuals should be taught about their heritage and history in every part of the world.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2016