KARACHI, April 5: Scholars highlighted the invaluable services of noted archivist and oral historian Lutfullah Khan at a literary reference held to pay homage to him at the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) auditorium on Thursday. The event, organised by the Pakistan Academy of Letters, was presided over by SSUET chancellor Z.A. Nizami.
Eminent critic Dr Mohammad Ali Siddiqi said he had known Lutfullah Khan (who passed away on March 3, 2012) since 1958 and interacted with him for 47 years, a period during which the archivist recorded the voices of no fewer than 100 poets and writers. “We are a nation that tends to either distort history or give it a shape that we like, but the late Khan recorded it with honesty and sincerity,” he remarked.
He told the gathering that Lutfullah Khan was a senior broadcaster than Z.A. Bukhari and Pitras Bukhari, yet he had never been remembered as such. He claimed if one was to listen to the material that Lutfullah Khan had recorded, one would require at least three-and-a-half nonstop years, adding that he was able to save contemporary history to a great deal.
Dr Siddiqi said Lutfullah Khan had preserved voices of as varied poets as Faiz Ahmed Faiz and N.M. Rashid and political leaders such as Maulana Azad, Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The late Khan had recordings of the great shehnai player, Bismillah Khan, spanning more than 17 hours, not to mention almost all the works of Madam Noor Jehan. He said Mr Khan was an admirer of Mushfiq Khwaja, who introduced a lot of poets and writers to him.
“He was a committed individual. Nations which have committed individuals in their ranks progress and succeed. Sadly, we don’t have such people amidst us,” he remarked, and said: “We should request Mr Khan’s wife and daughter to preserve his material, because in the hand of a government institution it might not be preserved.
Poet Sarshar Siddiqi said he had a 50-year-long association with Lutfullah Khan. To let the audience know about the quality of his work, he narrated an interesting incident. When poet Jigar Muradabadi died, he (Sarshar) wanted to do a programme in his honour. For that he needed some of his couplets in his own voice. He went to Radio Pakistan but the institution had nothing on the distinguished poet. Then someone told him to talk to Lutfullah Khan. He did that and Lutfullah said he had Jigar’s poems in his own voice and he (Sarshar) could use them for his event, but he would not allow anyone to make their copies. He’d run the original stuff himself.
Lutfullah Khan was synonymous with passion (junoon), Sarshar Siddiqi said.
Poet Fatima Hasan read out a paper that discussed the body of Lutfullah Khan’s work. She said he had documented more than 5,000 voices and had catalogued them in a proper manner. He was a multifaceted man who entered the world of archives through his love of classical music. However, it was being an archivist that overshadowed the rest of his talents. She then briefly touched on the four books that Lutfullah Khan penned – Tamasha-i-Ahl-i-Qalam, Sur Ki Talash, Hijraton Ke Silsiley (biography) and Zindagi Ik Safarnama.
Academy of Letters chairman Abdul Hameed, who had flown in from Islamabad to take part in the literary reference, said the academy would like to receive suggestions to preserve Lutfullah Khan’s work and would do anything within its ambit. Z.A.
Nizami, on behalf of the Sir Syed University, also expressed the same desire.
Earlier resident director of the academy Agha Noor Mohammad Pathan welcomed the guests. Haider Bux presented kalam-i-Latif.
The programme was conducted by Rashid Noor.