ISLAMABAD: Attaul Haq Qasmi’s Safar Naamey was launched on Wednesday at the Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad.
The event took place at the Social Sciences Expo 2016, a two-day event organised by the Inter-University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences (IUCPSS) and the Jang Media Group, featuring various sessions and activities.
As part of the expo, a collection of travelogues by Mr Qasmi was launched by the National Book Foundation (NBF).
Safar Naamey is a collection of four travelogues by the former diplomat, which covers his travels around the world, starting with his first trip abroad to the United States.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Qasmi recalled the trip he took in 1970, travelling from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Turkey and finally to the US. He said he had travelled with Rs7,000 (then equivalent to $700) - which he had collected by selling a 50cc Honda motorcycle and taking money from his father and brother.
Mr Qasmi stayed in the US for a year and a half. He said he missed Pakistan immensely while he was away, and decided to return in 1971. He worked as a blood technician at a hospital while abroad, and joked that he lost faith in the American healthcare system because someone like him was hired to be a part of it.
Mr Qasmi recalled his return to Pakistan, despite being told by his friends in America to stay in the country. He said that even though his life was objectively better in the US, he would never forget the happiness on his father’s face when he returned home, or sleeping outside on his first night back, looking up at the stars.
“After that it was back to the Rs323 job, a three-bedroom house, travelling by bus — because the motorcycle I had before I left was gone as well. But I thought of myself as the world’s luckiest person when my feet were on my own soil,” he said.
Poet Nabiha Arif also spoke at the launch. She said that despite how much Mr Qasmi has travelled, his ‘Pakistaniat’ was never in question and never faltered. She said his attachment to Pakistan is clear throughout his writings, from the first to the fourth travelogue.
Ms Arif said Mr Qasmi had a way of sugar coating harsh truths and making them palatable. She added that rather than burdening a reader with the weight of his knowledge, Mr Qasmi’s writing was more like a dialogue.
Special assistant to the prime minister, Irfan Siddiqui said Mr Qasmi had been a friend and a mentor to him. He said Mr Qasmi had given him advice on his writing and positive, critical feedback during his time as a columnist.
Mr Qasmi’s travelogues allow you to visualise his stories, Mr Siddiqui said and that he paints very vivid pictures with his writing.
Following the launch, certificates were awarded to participants of the expo’s Kitab Mela.
The recipients included Siddiqui Rare and Antique Books Lahore, New Horizon Islamabad, Paramount Publishing Islamabad, Caravan Book House and Iqbal Academy Lahore.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2016