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Crazy Diamonds – II

Published Nov 08, 2012 05:05pm


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Like any other country, Pakistan too has been producing geniuses in various fields.

But this piece is not about them.

It is about those highly talented Pakistani men and women who experienced the flip side of genius – an awkward and often torturous state of being that some describe as being a kind of madness.

In the second part of this series, we continue our study of those promising Pakistanis whose lives had been touched by that strain of overt brilliance whose cost has sometimes been mental anguish, social isolation and unfulfilled (or only partially realised) talent.

Crazy Diamonds-I


Mustafa Zaidi

Just like enigmatic Pakistani poet, N M. Rashid, Mustafa Zaidi too lived a double life.

But unlike Rashid, Zaidi was not so secretive about his life outside that of a civil servant.

As Rashid quietly expressed his esoteric and erotic escapades in his poetry, while overtly exhibiting his other life as a straight-laced civil servant; Zaidi on the other hand, kept crossing the line, turning into a high-strung poet with a vivacious sexual appetite in full view of the public.

Zaidi was initially educated in an Islamic madrassa in India before his family moved to Pakistan.

After earning a Masters degree in English Literature from Government College Lahore, Mustafa’s family persuaded him to join the Civil Service, which he did in 1954.

All the while he kept doing what he loved doing the most: Writing Urdu poetry.

Though hailed as a talented poet by critics, and befriending many leading Pakistani poets, such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Zaidi somehow could not gain the kind of commercial and critical recognition that he believed his work deserved.

By the 1960s Zaidi the civil servant was doing well but Zaidi the poet was becoming increasingly bitter.

A time finally came when he began to struggle to keep a balance between his life as a bureaucrat and that of a poet.

His drinking became a problem and almost all of his affairs with an assortment of women ended disastrously, further embittering his already shaky mental and emotional disposition.

In the late 1960s his poetry also became highly sarcastic, in which he taunted his contemporary poets for failing to recognise his talent. He also taunted poetry fans for being like sheep that failed to appreciate individuality.

By now Mustafa was married with kids, but he continued to have affairs, until he thought he had finally found a soul mate and the perfect muse in the shape of Shahnaz Saleem, a famous socialite of the time.

It was a torrid affair in which Mustafa asked Shahnaz to marry him but she refused, instead marrying a rich businessman (and whom Zaidi accused of being a smuggler).

This was also the period Zaidi wrote his most intimate and insightful poetry that was published in his 1969 collection, ‘Koh-e-Nida.’

Many of his fans believe that in a number of ways, Zaidi talked about committing suicide in this collection.

The most continuous theme in his poetry (that of being a misfit), is the strongest in ‘Koh-e-Nida.’

But his failed affair with Shahnaz was the one he just could not come to terms with.

Dismissed from his job, alienated from his family and contemporaries, and in a state bordering psychosis, Zaidi decided to perform one final act that (in his mind) would not only embarrass the creative community and society, but also gain his work the recognition that he always felt it deserved.

In 1970 he booked a room in a Karachi hotel and asked Shahnaz to meet him there. Shahnaz reluctantly agreed.

He called room service and asked for two coffees. He quietly slipped sleeping pills in Shahnaz’s cup.

Once she had fallen asleep, he took a heavy dose of poison, collapsed and died.

He was right. It was only after his tragic and dramatically enacted death that Zaidi became the widely hailed poet he always desired to be.

His collections suddenly started to sell big. But, unfortunately, the man behind the now famous poems was not there to experience his own rise.

How could he be? It was a rise he knew could only be achieved by killing himself in a way both the press and poetry fans would ‘appreciate.’

He was just 40.


Hassan Nasir

To the leftists of Pakistan he was their first ‘martyr.’ To his family this ‘martyrdom’ was something that it could never entirely recover from.

Hassan Nasir was an exceptionally bright and charismatic young man born in an aristocratic Muslim family in Hyderabad Deccan in India.

He got admitted to UK’s prestigious Cambridge University where he came into contact with various young British and Indian Marxists.

He was soon converted. On his return to India (and against his family’s wishes), he took an active part in an intense armed peasants’ uprising in the Telangana region.

In 1950 he migrated to Pakistan and joined the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in Karachi.

Though just 22 years old, he greatly impressed the party leadership with his in-depth knowledge of Marxism and his activism.

His militant outlook and popularity among students, peasants and industrial workers got him arrested by the Pakistani government in 1954.

He was severely tortured and then forcibly flown into exile for a year.

In 1955 he was back. Since the CPP had been banned in 1951, Punjabi and Urdu-speaking leftists joined up with progressive Sindhi, Baloch, Bengali and Pushtun nationalists to form the National Awami Party (NAP). Nasir was made the party’s Secretary General in Karachi.

He soon turned his office into a busy working and planning area for leftist students and trade unionists.

Though his aristocratic background could have easily guaranteed him a rich and comfortable living, he chose to live among poor labourers in make-shift shanty towns of Karachi.

In 1959 when the pro-US Field Marshal Ayub Khan launched a military coup, he ordered a heavy crackdown against leftists. Nasir went underground to organise an urban workers’ uprising against the military dictator.

In 1960, Ayub, while being briefed about the action against opposition parties, lost his cool when Nasir’s name came up. He is reportedly to have lashed out and shouted, “Oh, that bloody communist! I think he should be executed!”

Nasir was finally located and picked up by the police and taken in chains to a special cell set-up by the police in Lahore’s historical Lahore Fort.

Here he was continuously tortured, beaten up and refused food and water for days. Then finally, he was murdered there. He was 32.

A 1993 article about Hassan Nasir in a leftist Urdu weekly.

The news of his death is said to have had made his father suffer a mental breakdown, while his mother refused to agree with the police that the mutilated body that they had shown her was of her son’s. She returned empty-handed to Hyderabad Deccan. Till this day nobody is quite sure what happened to the young communist’s body or where is it buried.

It should also be noted that Hassan was the only member of his family who had decided to migrate to Pakistan from India.


Sarfraz Nawaz

Unlike Wasim Raja – the cricketer we discussed in the first part of this feature last week – Sarfraz Nawaz did a lot more justice to his talent.

But there are still those who believe that as a fast bowler he was 300-plus- wickets material.

In a Test career spanning 14 years, Nawaz bagged just 177 wickets, a tally that is certainly not compatible with the prodigious bowling talents and skill he possessed.

In the attitude department however, he was quite like Raja. He too was continuously at loggerheads with his captains and the cricket board.

But whereas the prodigious Raja’s disposition was that of a loner and an introvert who let off steam through his flamboyant batting and (at times) by plunging into drunken rages, Nawaz was more boisterous, outspoken and an enthusiastic brawler.

It was this attitude that restricted Nawaz from playing as many Tests and ODIs as he should have.

His genius lay in the canny way he actually invented the art and science of what later became to be known as ‘reverse swing bowling.’

Later exponents of reverse swing like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Yunus have all cited Nawaz as the originator of a technique in which the fast bowler is able to get swing with the old ball by keeping one side of the ball rough while obsessively shining the other side.

Some experts also have a date on which reverse swing was fully introduced to the game. It was during the first Test between Pakistan and Australia in Melbourne in March 1979.

Just as the Aussies seemed to be cruising towards victory, Sarfraz suddenly send them crashing in a late spell of stunning reverse swing bowling, bagging nine wickets for just 86 runs!

For almost a decade Nawaz formed a penetrating opening bowling partnership with Imran Khan.

Khan not only became his most astute student but his best friend as well.

Sydney, Australia, 1976. Sarfraz is congratulated for taking another Australian wicket in a Test that was won by Pakistan mainly due to the fast bowling exploits of Nawaz and Imran Khan. Seen in the picture (from left): Sadiq Muhhamad, Mushtaq Muhammad, Sarfraz, Zaheer Abbas (hidden), Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Gary Cozier (batsman).

In their respective autobiographies, former Pakistani cricket captains, Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan have both described Nawaz to being an almost bipolar personality who would give his all on the cricket field but was prone to break every rule laid out by the board and the team management.

For example, Mushtaq was always astonished to discover how Nawaz regularly broke team curfews by slipping out of hotels and ‘drinking, womanising and partying’ at clubs till the wee hours of the morning but would then be the first one to arrive on the ground!

Another former captain, Intikhab Alam, suggests that it was Nawaz who (during Pakistan’s 1974 tour to England) introduced Khan to the wonders of nightlife and club-hopping, something Khan’s elder cousin Majid Khan became very concerned about.

On the field Nawaz is also credited for being the first Pakistani cricketer (along with Javed Miandad) to have adopted the Australian tactic of ‘sledging’ – in which a bowler/fielder hurls distracting abuses and taunts at batsmen to unnerve him.

Mushtaq and Khan describe how Nawaz and Miandad became ‘terrors’ on the field, especially between 1976 and 1979.

Nawaz would spit abuses (in Punjabi!) at the Australians but his main target remained to be India’s classy opener, Sunil Gavaskar, who (during India’s 1978 tour of Pakistan), had to approach Pakistani skipper Mushtaq on numerous occasions, asking him to ‘control Sarfarz.’

During the 1979 Cricket World Cup in England, Sarfraz developed differences with Pakistan’s new captain Asif Iqbal.

Later, Nawaz refused to play under Asif and opted out of Pakistan’s 6-Test tour of India. He later claimed that he found Asif to be ‘corrupt.’

Nawaz returned to the side under Miandad’s captaincy but joined a rebellion against him by 10 players led by Majid Khan.

He was coaxed back into the side by new skipper, Imran Khan.

Nawaz was also a passionate supporter of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its chairman, Z A. Bhutto.

During a side game against the visiting England side in 1977 (when Ziaul Haq had toppled the Z A. Bhutto regime and thrown him in jail), a PTV camera and microphone accidently picked up Nawaz hurling abuses at Zia while talking to a reserve fielder at the boundary line.

The game was being telecasted live and the camera immediately jerked, quickly moved away and began focusing at an empty spot in the stands.

Four years after his retirement (in 1984), Nawaz joined the PPP (now under Benazir Bhutto).

After contesting the 1988 Punjab provincial election, he was made a sports advisor in Benazir’s first government.

Known for being a compulsive ‘womaniser’, Nawaz understandably married more than once in his life. His last wife was famous Pakistani actress, Rani.

He actually met and married her when the actress was told that she had cancer. Though the couple divorced, Nawaz was seen constantly at her bedside and in tears when the cancer finally took her life in 1993.

Still thick friends with Imran Khan, Nawaz finally had a falling out with him in the early 1990s when Khan first became a ‘born-again Muslim’ and then an extreme critic of the PPP.

Nawaz accused Khan of being a hypocrite and Khan retaliated by calling Nawaz ‘mad.’

Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz at a nightclub in Melbourne, Australia, 1981.

In the late 1990s, when Pakistani players like Rashid Latif, Aamir Sohail and Basit Ali came out and accused a number of their teammates of being involved in match-fixing, Nawaz became their biggest supporter.

He championed himself as a crusader against match-fixing, but when he also began to take names of former cricketers like Gavaskar, Asif Iqbal and Miandad, they too retaliated by calling him ‘crazy.’

In 2011, he quit the PPP and joined the MQM saying it was Pakistan’s most progressive and secular party.

Today Nawaz lives alone and refuses to take back any of his accusations against his former teammates and board officials, even if this means that he would most probably never be able to find any worthwhile position in Pakistani cricket anymore.


Junaid Jamshed

Once in early 1993 while sharing a beer with Vital Signs’ vocalist, Junaid Jamshed and founder, Rohail Hayyat, I thought I saw something snap in Junaid when he began sarcastically poking fun at the music of The Beatles and Pink Floyd, accusing it of being ‘deviant.’

Maybe it was just the potency of Pakistan’s classic Murree Beer talking, but even then I did believe that JJ would evolve into something none of us could even imagine.

Throughout my stint as a cultural reporter and ‘music critic’ in the 1990s, I had always maintained that JJ was perhaps the finest, most melodic and sensitive pop vocalists Pakistan has ever produced.

But he was a troubled soul, a fact that was well known by Rohail and the mighty Signs’ mentor, the brilliant Shoaib Mansoor.

But it was also a fact that was unfortunately ignored or just kept under wraps by them.

JJ joined the Vital Signs in 1987 when he was still an engineering student at a college in Lahore. His voice and sense of melody were two of the leading reasons behind the Signs’ meteoritic rise between 1988 till the group’s demise in 1997.

He was also an incurable romantic. Though most of his band mates had a series of flings with a host of women, in 1989 Junaid got embroiled in a torrid affair that pushed him on the brink of suffering a nervous breakdown.

Though not noticed much at the time, even during the height of the Signs’ fame in 1994-95, JJ had already started his gradual slip (flip?) towards a state of mind that would eventually land him as becoming the puritanical Tableeghi Jamaat’s poster boy.

Cover of Vital Signs’ Greatest Hits album (1993). From left: Rizwanul Haq (guitarist), Rohail Hayyat (Synth-player/producer); Shahzad Hassan (bassist); Junaid Jamshed (vocalist).

Soon after the release of the Signs’ fourth album, Hum Tum, in 1995, Junaid started to mail letters to various newspapers complaining that their music pages were promoting and glorifying “druggie music” and bands whose members were “Satan worshippers.”

Though by then his two closest allies in the music business, Rohail and Shoaib, had become aware of the growing conservatism in the religious and social ideas held by Junaid, they still couldn’t see through the obvious fact that in front of them was a man spiralling downwards towards a situation in which he would ultimately start questioning their faith!

The mid and late 1990s was also a time when a number of Islamic evangelical outfits had begun to mushroom in all the major cities of Pakistan. They almost squarely targeted young middle-class urbanites as recruits and for this they began to ‘covert’ and conscript famous personalities from the Pakistan cricket team and the show-biz scene.

Though the Tableeghi Jamaat was far more established, it was in the 1990s that they began to approach young urbanites that were associated with cricket, show business and the military.

Junaid’s conversion into becoming a Tableeghi Jamaat man was not sudden. It was a gradual, slow and rather painful process, unfolding piece by piece.

He was the hungriest for success and stardom in the band, not only in pop music but also in film and television.

This made him one of the hardest working members of the group and he actually wanted to continue recording with the band beyond Hum Tum (the Signs’ last album).

He is on record as saying that music was his life as he went on to release two impressive post-Signs solo albums.

But more and more he was falling prey (rather willingly) to his frustrations, as his desire to work again with the Signs got no serious response from Rohail and his dream to star in a Shoaib Manoor film only got him lazy chuckles from the director.

In spite of the fact that Rohail’s liberal mindset, tastes and lifestyle always clashed with Junaid’s idea of being an artiste (even though he himself was leading a rather posh and lavish life), this undercurrent eventually turned into open resentment by the time Rohail did come around and agreed to reform the band in 2002 for a special Nazia Hassan tribute concert.

It was interesting to note how Junaid responded to Rohail’s call. Only a few days prior to the concert, Junaid had already announced to the press that he was joining the Jamaat full time and would quit making music.

In fact he had been spending his time preaching and being preached at a congregation in Raiwind when he suddenly reappeared on the day of the concert flanked by two members of the Jamaat but with his long, flowing beard (that he had begun to sport from 2001 onwards) now trimmed into a neat, stylish goatee.

When asked by the press about his earlier statement regarding his retirement from music (and that ‘music was unIslamic’), Junaid said that after consulting with some elders in the Jamaat, he has been assured that there was nothing wrong with playing music.

Wearing a T-shirt, denims and with a stylised goatee, Junaid played an excellent set with Rohail, Shahzad and the original VS guitarist, Salman Ahmed.

However, at the end of the concert he looked anguished as he started making his way towards his two Tableeghi comrades waiting in the wings to gather him back.

Junaid Jamshed after quitting music and becoming a full member of the puritanical Islamic evangelical group, Tableeghi Jamat.

Then he refused the lead role in Shoaib Mansoor’s 2007 film, ‘Khuda Kay Leeay.’

He publicly criticised the way Mansoor portrayed jihadis and Islamic evangelists in the film, saying that it is Shoaib who is confusing the youth about Islam and not him.

But, of course, Junaid’s own confusion regarding the subject is now well documented and his lectures and statements never fail to sound contradictory as he goes about denouncing the material and the ungodly nature of music and showbiz, but continues his long-standing stint as an expensive clothes’ designer and a naat-reciter.

He released his naat albums through exactly the same immoral promotional and distribution channels used by his pop music counterparts.

After finally deciding to let go of his need for fame and attention through music, he has ironically found almost an equal amount of fame and fortune as a naatkhuaan, televangelist and designer.


Salamullah Tipu

History records Salamullah Tipu as the man who planned and undertook one of the longest airplane hijackings in history (13 days).

To many of his contemporaries Tipu was a cold-blooded murderer and a hooligan. But to others he was a hero of sorts albeit easily exploitable.

This self-styled Marxist revolutionary was actually born into a conservative Urdu-speaking (Mohajir) family in Karachi.

His father’s favourite son and a brilliant student at school, he wanted to join the Army and fight India.

However, by the time he was in the 8th grade, he began to get into fights and indulge in petty theft.

He did enjoy a small stint as a soldier but was dismissed once the military realised that he had a criminal record.

Disheartened, Tipu joined college. Here he was courted and then recruited by the IJT, the student-wing of the fundamentalist, Jamat-i-Islami (JI).

While reading essays written by JI’s founder and Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi, Tipu began to compare these writings with articles on Marxism and socialism he found in the progressive Urdu weekly, ‘Nusrat.’

During his second year in college, he began to befriend members of the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF).

This did not go down well with his IJT comrades who also admonished him for his growing liking of whiskey and of visiting Karachi’s red light areas.

During one student union election at his college, he suddenly turned against the IJT by supporting one of their opponents belonging to a progressive student’s alliance.

Dismissed from the IJT and then by the college administration for getting into regular fights, Tipu got back into committing petty thefts.

His favourite hobby became stealing brand new cars, driving them (at top speed) to the city’s red light district, picking up women from there and spending all the money that he had made by selling the car’s expensive parts on booze and at nightclubs.

On his concerned father’s insistence, he rejoined college in 1975. In this college he joined the NSF. He wanted to run for student union elections but was asked by the NSF leadership to become its ‘security in-charge.’

Tipu thus became a feared muscle-man of the progressive student groups and formed a unit of hooligans and ‘street fighters’ whose job it became to tackle the militant wing of the IJT (the Thunder Squad).

In 1976 when he again asked his NSF comrades for a party ticket they told him he was still not versed well enough in Marxism.

After challenging them to a debate on the subject, he quit NSF and plotted to get his political career going by joining another progressive student group, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) – the student-wing of the ruling PPP.

His college mates of the time say that Tipu wanted to become a politician and would have made an excellent leader because of his sharp knowledge of the electoral dynamics of both student union and parliamentary elections in Pakistan.

In 1977 he finally got the opportunity to fight a student union election when the PSF chose him to be one of its candidates. By now he had also started to admire Prime Minister Z A. Bhutto and was desperate to meet him.

However, just before the election, he accused his IJT opponents of trying to harass his supporters and then got into a violent brawl that left two IJT members with broken bones.

He was eventually dismissed by the college administration. It is believed that the PSF would have done the same had Bhutto’s regime not been toppled in a military coup in July 1977.

In 1978, with the spectre of the growing violence of IJT and the crackdown against progressive student groups by the reactionary military dictatorship, PSF ended up promoting him to become the student outfit’s president in Karachi.

But most of Tipu’s time was spent escaping police raids. In 1979 after the IJT introduced the AK-47 in student politics at the Karachi University, Tipu decided to arm the PSF as well.

In early 1980 he, along with some progressive and leftist student activists led a raid on a van carrying arms for IJT members. They beat up the driver, stole the arms and Tipu then distributed them among his closest PSF confidants.

The same year progressive student outfits while protesting against the Zia regime at the Karachi University, set fire to an Army Major’s jeep.

The IJT, that, like its mother party was supporting Zia, intervened and caught hold of some students and handed them over to the police.

One of them was a close friend of Tipu’s. The next day an enraged Tipu entered the university with an armed posse of PSF militants and got into a fire fight with a group of IJT boys, one of whom was killed.

Pursued by the police, Tipu escaped to Kabul in Afghanistan, where Bhutto’s sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz had set up a left-wing guerrilla outfit, the Al-Zulfiqar [AZO] with the help of the then Soviet-backed communist regime in Kabul, Qaddafi and PLO.

In 1981, he re-entered Pakistan and with three other PSF men hijacked a Peshawar-bound PIA plane.

He forced it to land in Kabul where Tipu shot dead a Pakistani diplomat onboard who (Murtaza mistakenly thought was a pro-Zia operative). He wasn’t.

March, 1981. Salamullah Tipu waves from the cockpit of the plane he hijacked (with three other men).

Though Tipu was able to get Zia to release over 50 political prisoners rotting in Pakistani jails, the meaningless murder turned the tide against AZO.

The PPP’s co-chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, who was in jail at the time, too denounced her brother’s organisation.

The hijacking saga lasted 13 days. This was because Zia refused to release the prisoners even after the Pakistani diplomat was shot dead.

Then Tipu came up with another plan. He told the Pakistani authorities that he would begin to kill the American passengers on the plane if Zia did not meet his demands. Within a matter of hours, Zia capitulated and released the prisoners.

Though initially hailed as a triumph by Murtaza, the hijacking actually triggered a power struggle within the AZO.

Raja Anwar (who had joined AZO in 1980 but was jailed by Afghan authorities on the insistence of an increasingly paranoid Murtaza), suggested that Murtaza planned Tipu’s downfall by making him murder a man close to the Afghan intelligence agency.

Murtaza was getting concerned about Tipu’s growing influence in AZO, and also because Tipu seemed to have convinced the Afghan authorities that he (Tipu) was the real Marxist revolutionary and brain behind the AZO and that Murtaza was just a feudal lord pretending to be a revolutionary.

According to Anwar, Murtaza did pretend to mend his ties with Tipu though, and then ordered him to kill a man in Kabul.

When the Afghan authorities got to know that Tipu was the murderer, Murtaza (who had by then moved out of Kabul), refused to own up that it was he who had ordered the murder.

Tipu was arrested, tried and condemned to die by an Afghan court. In 1984, he was executed. He was just 29 years old.

His father tried to locate his body but failed, and nobody knows exactly where in Kabul he is buried.


Julius Salik

Calling Julius Salik eccentric would actually be an understatement. Some may even call him mad, but none can doubt his sincere and deep compassion, not only for his fellow Pakistani Christian community but for the human condition as a whole.

Born into a middle-class Punjabi Christian family (his father was in the Army), Salik spend most of his youth being a passionate supporter of Z A. Bhutto and his PPP.

As a young man he took an active part in a number of movements and rallies against the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq and was arrested and tortured on a number of occasions.

His style of protest was always unique and the authorities were sometimes baffled about what to make of them. He would stick an injection in his veins, draw out blood and then sprinkle it on the ground saying he is giving blood back to the mud that moulded him.

He would lead processions sometimes carrying a huge cross on his back or ‘his own coffin.’

By the late 1980s he became an unsurpassed leader of Pakistan’s Christian community. And when the PPP under Benazir Bhutto returned to power in 1988, Salik was made a Minister.

But this didn’t tone him down. As a Minister he reached war-torn Bosnia along with his family members.

When his only son pointed the life hazard, J.Salik silenced him saying that ‘the dead bodies of father, mother and son reaching Pakistan on Christmas would not only help arouse world conscience but also enhance Pakistan’s prestige.’

Then riding on an army tank he left the airport to express solidarity with the oppressed Muslims of Bosnia.

In 1995 when residential plots were being allotted to members of the Parliament under a parliamentary housing scheme, Salik announced at a press conference that he would not accept an official plot until each and every poor man in Pakistan owned a house. He held the press conference while sitting inside an old bathtub (see picture).

When Benazir Bhutto’s second government was dismissed by President Farooq Laghari, Salik left his residence allotted to him by the government by first letting a couple of camels live with him in his living room (see picture) and then using the same camels to load his belongings.

Disillusioned with politics, he quit the PPP and decided to work full time as a human rights activists. This got him a nomination for the Noble Peace Prize.

Salik continues with his ways. But age seems to be catching up with him. He even sounds lonely because when religious intolerance in Pakistan began to grow; his family (wife, parents and sons) all decided to migrate to the US. Salik, however, refused.

Salik pours ash over his head.

Today he says he could have become a Minister many times, but that would not do justice to what he always set out to do. Make Pakistan a strong, proud and progressive country where the poor are treated with respect.

During a recent interview on a Punjabi TV channel in which he sounded bitter and even exhausted, Salik said: “Class, dress and glass. Yes, glass. The rich refuse to drink from the same glass as the poor. It is a symbolism of the emotional and societal divide. Some call me mad, some laugh at me, tease me, but all I ask them is to look inside themselves. What do they see there apart from misery and strife? For them, life itself is madness …”


Rafi Khawar (aka Nanah)

Pakistan has produced some of the finest TV and film comedians in the region. Some had a natural gift of gab (such as Munawar Zarif, Lehri, Ali Ejaz, Majid Jahangir, and Omar Sharif), and some were masters of the slapstick (Rangeela, Nirala, Ismail Tara, etc.).

But then there was also Rafi Khawar (aka Nanah). A comedian with a sharp wit and a natural talent to pull off hilarious slapstick bits.

The truth is he was always hard to pin down, mainly due to the fact that (quite like Ali Ejaz and even Rangeela) he seemed equally good even in the few serious roles that he played.

Growing up in Lahore in the 1960s, Nanah was a passionate theatre fan and wanted to be a stage actor. But when roles did not come his way, he began attending functions as a stand-up comedian.

His jokes were funny but when audiences saw them being performed by a chubby fellow they laughed even more. A film producer took note.

But when the producer introduced him to a director, the latter told Nanah that he was better off trying his hand at wrestling than acting.

Disheartened, Nanah began doing radio plays. Here he ran into the intense stage actor and writer, Kamal Ahmed Rizvi. Rizvi wanted to write a TV play in which he would be able to attack societal ills through comedy.

One look at Nanah and Rizvi’s mind lit up with an idea. He would set a play on the concept of Laural & Hardy but in which the thin Pakistani Laural (Rizvi) would be a scheming and amoral fraud and Hardy (Nanah) would be his innocent, impressionable and extremely naïve sidekick.

The concept became the series ‘Alif Noon’ that became a massive hit.

Nanah and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi.

After the success of ‘Alif Noon,’ film offers came pouring in and by the mid-1970s, Nanah was one of the leading film comedians in the country.

His most famous and successful films were with Ali Ejaz and with female comedian Tamana.

Even at the height of his film career, Nanah remained painfully shy with women.

A number of times he fell in love with actresses but just couldn’t articulate his interest in them fearing that they would not take him seriously, or reject him because of his weight.

Then, when the Pakistan film industry began its slide downwards, facing competition from the VCR and suffering badly at the hands of the censor board enacted by a post-’77 military regime, Nanah attempted to make a comeback on TV.

He reunited with Rizvi for another round of ‘Alif Noon.’ The series again was a hit but was cut short when Rizvi was stopped from mocking the military dictatorship.

During this period, Nanah again fell in love. This time with famous dancer and actress, Naazli.

He confided his feelings in Rizvi who advised him to talk to Naazli. But Nanah, by now 41 and still chubby continued to fumble and change the topic every time he tried to talk to her.

This inability of his was slowly turning into a painful emotional malaise in him and he soon fell into a deep depression and heavy drinking.

Then one day in 1986, he finally decided to go and tell Naazli what and how he felt. But while he was on his way, he was again gripped with the terror of being rejected and maybe even made fun of. In panic, he returned and locked himself in his room.

The next day, he woke up, quietly pulled out a gun from a drawer, put the barrel in his mouth and shot himself.

Naazli didn’t even know that this shy, good humoured and sensitive man had been in love with her for almost three years.

He was 42.


Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (88) Closed

HMirza Nov 10, 2012 09:06am
Marvellous. I still remember Haroon Rahim partnered with either Saeed Mir or Munawwar Iqbal for a Davis cup tie played in Pakistan against Australia( Tony Roche and someone else). The first set went to 14 -14 before the Australians broke ahead and won. Do you think Obaidullah Aleem and Jon Elia belong here. Maybe a part III?
Anwar Suhail Nov 10, 2012 02:15pm
Outstanding piece. Thanks
HMirza Nov 10, 2012 09:16am
Absolutely agree!! Specially the JJ bit.
sohail Nov 10, 2012 04:28am
Obviously Post of pro Jj are being censored by Dawn here.... but NFP is so biased. JJ has become a much better person then he was ever was. he is a philanthropist now. All what he earns from his naat albums go to charity. NFP all you want is a pakistan swimming in pool of bear with bikini clad woman on its sides.
HMirza Nov 10, 2012 09:13am
Yes, but only from 1971 to 1974. After that Imran was his partner and Asif Masood played sparingly ( as did Naseer Malik and Sikandar Bakht later) and became a shadow of his initial self. He retired after the Australian tour of 1976 under Mushtaq.
Saf Fan Nov 09, 2012 06:54pm
Yes, but from 1976 till 1983, Khan and Nawaz used to open the bowling. Masood retired in 1976. His last test was against Australia in 1976.
Imran Nov 09, 2012 07:09pm
I agree. I kept reading on as if something astonishing about Tipu would suddenly emerge. It just ended in a whimper. If anything, it sounds like he can be considered a forerunner of terrorists in Pakistan. Not much more than a glorified thief and a thug. NFP,is there anything about Tipu that we can be proud of?
Ahmed Saeed Nov 09, 2012 04:11am
Outstanding piece. Stay blessed
Ahmed Saeed Nov 09, 2012 04:10am
Outstanding peace. Stay blessed
Imran Nov 09, 2012 07:10pm
Oh yes..........the great Dr Abdus Salam. Print this.
mehrish Nov 09, 2012 03:19am
loving the series of crazy diamonds.. keep writing this and disclosing hidden crazy diamonds,
observer Nov 09, 2012 03:07am
Ahmed j, NFP has written just a newspaper article. NFP is not responsible for your way of making moral judgments.
observer Nov 09, 2012 03:04am
I agree. Junaid Jamshed does not deserve a place in an article like this.
Muhammad Ahmed Nov 10, 2012 03:14am
Yaar, ghaur say parha karo. How the heck is Dr. Abdus Salaam a genius who was not appreciated or who died in anguish? He became a noble laureate and achieved the zenith which scientists can only dream about. It will be more appropriate to list him among NFP's "legends" series. This series is about people/ geniuses who could have achieved more than they were able to because of pressures of society and ruined their talent because of addiction or other dependencies. (NFP should also write about how he almost ruined himself in early nineties. There were some major experimental drugs and alcohol involved in that part of his life. I respect him for overcoming his addiction. I still have the feeling that he pretty much burnt the side of the brain which could have allowed him to approach religious nuttism more pragmatically.
Fahad Saeed Nov 08, 2012 05:11pm
"Disillusioned with politics, he quit the PPP and decided to work full time as a human rights activists. This got him a nomination for the Noble Peace Prize." This statement is incorrect. No one can know about the nominations at least 50 years after they had been done.
Obama Supporter Nov 08, 2012 06:32pm
What are you talking about? It is a wll known fact. Did you know that President Obama won the nobel peace prize in 2009.
Saeed Nov 09, 2012 10:29pm
All these people except Mr Tipu , are one who believe in something and stick to there believe without harming any other.In this process most of them suffer money wise ,emotional wise some bare physical torture. All these people gave us to think as a individual not to follow the crowd. I think Junaid Jamshed is one these individual.
Maleeha Nov 10, 2012 07:47am
The link to part 1 of the series is given at the end of the into.
Nauman Nov 10, 2012 07:38am
So do you want people chanting Allah ho Akbar and hurling grenades at each other?
s Nov 08, 2012 05:41pm
democracy will make people of pak peace and happy.
Ali Nov 10, 2012 06:58am
The summary, NFP seems to know all drunk guys past and present.
ram01234 Nov 08, 2012 06:42pm
Just to suggest that let us THANKLESS Pakistanis know about those who helped in creating this nation. Now almost 100 yrs passed and people are forgetting them. They inspired and sacrificed themselves for minorities in India and brought back Jinnah from seclusion to join League(against his dislike. From 1900 to 1950s Allama Iqbal and Zafarali they left Congress and how they revered Agakhan 3rd by replacing themselves to horses at Lahore Rail station...calling to be proud of carrying buggy of Prince of Islam.... How one Mr.Basaria gave scholarship to Mr.Jinnah for study in England(jinnah said so when he visited Rahim Basaria Orphonage/academy) There are many. I am very old and away from country
Farhan Nov 09, 2012 10:50am
Cha gaye ho Paracha saab.....bohat aala! Farhanrashid76
Babar Shameem Nov 09, 2012 01:12pm
Excellent blogs on Genius Unraveled, Mr. Paracha ... Your posts are well-informed, progressive and, to an ex-patriate from Karachi, Pakistan to the U.S., you often help refine the edges of golden memories ...
Abubakr Nov 10, 2012 08:00am
So is JJ doing what you have suggested? What's wrong with someone who runs his own company and recites naats? Its time u looked through the prism of fairness rather than unguarded biases and ingrained prejudices that seem to cloud ur judgment
Karachi Wala Nov 09, 2012 09:57pm
I second your comments. Words for words!!!
Fawad Nov 08, 2012 07:33pm
Why are some people here resenting the presence of Salaullah Tipu in NFP's list? First of all, in both of his articles on the topic, he is neither presenting the people that he chosen as heroes nor as villains. He is simply offering an insight to the ways of those artists, sportsmen and political personalities who either went off the track due to some mental and emotional anguish or those who allowed themselves to be mislead by their illusions. Secondly, I am sure all those angry about Tipu making NFP's list, saying he was a terrorist, would have kept very quiet, or worse accused Paracha of being a CIA agent had he written about a religious extremist or a suicide bomber. I was with Tipu at college and yes he was a hothead and radical, but he was not half as violent as his Jamati opponents. In Kabul he was misled by an egoistical man Murtaza and as Raja Anwar notes in his book, Tipu greatly repented killing the diplomat. Tipu finally got what he dererved. But let me tell you, he was an extremely intelligent man who read a lot of literature of both the Jamaties and the Marxists.
Ahmed j Nov 08, 2012 07:15pm
How did Tipu find his way in? criminal diamonds suits his caption
Serendippp Nov 09, 2012 06:13pm
If I recall correctly, it was Asif Masoud who formed the new ball bowling pair with Sarfraz Nawaz, rather than Imran Khan, who was still a rookie at the time. Would someone please correct me, if I am wrong here!
s Nov 08, 2012 05:40pm
pak needs a strong democracy at any cost.
Goga Nalaik Nov 09, 2012 08:24am
Great article as usual. In my opinion, you should have avoided Junaid Jamshed (even if you liked him as a singer). Your fan
Beena Nov 09, 2012 07:53am
I think you skipped the intro. NFP clearly mentions that this piece is not about geniuses, but those people who experienced 'the flip side of genius.' Also, geniuses can be found in any field. Arts, politics, sports, etc.
Shumaila Khan Nov 09, 2012 01:03am
Of all the crazy diamonds, j.j nd j. salik seem to have a satisfactory ending.
Tahir Nov 09, 2012 09:46pm
Why should Salamullah Tipu find an entry here. He has no redeeming quality whatsoever. He was a common criminal who became a murderous thug, He should have been dispatched a lot sooner.
Butt Nov 08, 2012 05:03pm
Proud of you. This suits you better. With two articles you have started to change how i think rather than a 100 anti Punjab, anti Imran Khan articles.
raw is war Nov 08, 2012 11:07pm
good article
ghayyoor Nov 08, 2012 05:38pm
shine on... YOU !...crazy diamond !
Arif Nov 09, 2012 12:00pm
I wonder how only Marxists/Communists were the flip side of genius.
ahmed Nov 08, 2012 04:27pm
interesting read form the leftist for the leftist. from reading about Tipu, heaven sake what good has he done for Pakisgtan, he just killed people, he did nothing for any postive. i actually salute Julius Salik. Salaam Salik. Ahmed USA
Shahid Masud (@HotMasud) Nov 10, 2012 02:47am
Salamullah Tipu was not a born terrorist, he was moulded into a terrorist by selfish corrupt society which exploited him for it's personal gains , need of the hour is to develop a fair and healthy society where our innocent kids don't turn towards terrorism.
Seeb Nov 08, 2012 04:28pm
Is Salamullah Tipu an inspiration for one of the main characters from The Satanic Verses? The plane hijacking and all makes me think of that book.
Yawar Nov 08, 2012 03:58pm
It's stunning the way you capture such stuff, NFP. Kudos.
Saba Anvery Nov 10, 2012 01:10am
Shahriar, Dr. Abdul Salam is not a crazy diamond. He is a true diamond and a real hero. He did nothing self destructive to himself, like the other people NFP has mentioned. True, he never got the fame and respect in Pakistan that he deserves but that is not because of anything he did.
Ahmad Jehangir Nov 08, 2012 04:35pm
Absolutely wonderful series of writings. All kudos for Nadeem Paracha and Dawn. Ahmad Jehangir USA
Basil Nov 08, 2012 04:22pm
this compilation is awesome!. good work
Dilawer Nov 08, 2012 05:22pm
You missed Saghar Siddiqui and his genius. Bhooli hui sada hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Bhooli hui sada hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Tum se kahin mila hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Manzil nahin hoon, khizar nahin raah-zan nahin Manzil ka raasta hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Meri nigah shoq se har gul hai devta Main ishq ka khuda hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Naghmon ki ibtida thi kabhi mere naam se Ashkon ki intiha hoon mujhe yaad kijiye Gum sum khadi hai dono jahaan ki haqeeqatein Main unse keh raha hoon mujhe yaad kijiye SAGHAR kisi ke husn-e-taa'nafal asha'aar ki Behki hui adaa hoon mujhe yaad kijye.........
Arifq Nov 08, 2012 04:32pm
Another brilliant yet depressing post by NFP, this country of ours has never been kind to the genius who refused to conform or the talented young soul wishing to fly on their own. Great post Nadeem
Rafi Nov 09, 2012 01:25pm
Don't u know NFP has a soft spot for jiyalaas. He even even called AZ a leader till the very recent past.
Cyrus Howell Nov 08, 2012 09:33pm
"In the second part of this series, we continue our study of those promising Pakistanis whose lives had been touched by that strain of overt brilliance whose cost has sometimes been mental anguish, social isolation and unfulfilled (or only partially realized) talent." . Social Isolation is the worst of it. Vincent Van Gogh, the modernist painter is a perfect example. People want friendship, love and interaction with the masses, but geniuses must cut themselves off from people who don't believe in them (or those who are just along for the ride with the successful ones). Others like Picasso did quite well and were quite normal and friendly. Picasso of course went through the Spanish Civil War and was thrown together with the rest of a struggling Spain rejecting the old nobility. It was a time of pure survival. Many of those coming through it knew how lucky they had been. They declared their country neutral in World War II They had seen enough. . Usually geniuses are the "only child" or first born in the family who get more nurturing, and for whom expectations are higher. The only child is already alone in the family. One has to separate from others to do their independent work. People like Earnest Hemingway would write in the morning and seek out friends at night. Writing and painting are lonely occupations. You go a little mad. Then look at Mozart. He was completely off his rocker, but he loved the adulation of the crowd. He was driven to be great, but people stopped associating with him because they could not stand to be around him. His ego was too much to bear.
farid Nov 08, 2012 04:50pm
Great article
Muhammad Ahmed Nov 09, 2012 11:48am
Lamenting the actions of gone; deciphering their inability to conform Putting those in perspective who really would smirk at such blasphemies Reviving fond old memories on behalf of mysteries of complex minds Depicting half truths and labeling from our own limited virtues
Shahid Latif Nov 09, 2012 08:36pm
Junaid Jamshed certainly does not belong to this list of the people. He has provided joy to so many for so long and he is continuing to do so in his new outfit to his new fans. His practice of religion should not bracket him with the likes of Salamullah Tipu. Just a normal person who has a courage to live by his belief and put at stake his stardom. Why paint him which he is not?
Shahid Masud (@HotMasud) Nov 08, 2012 10:24pm
NFP you make me cry but I still love to read each & every word you write. Please keep up the good work.
Ahmed j Nov 09, 2012 09:12am
"Tipu shot dead a Pakistani diplomat onboard who (Murtaza mistakenly thought was a pro-Zia operative). He wasn
Abu Humzaah Nov 09, 2012 12:51pm
Urdu main ek kahawat hey "Mari hoowee jaron ka naa ukharo" meaning's, "dead root's don't need to be dig out" rather look after/plant new ones. there are still many geniuses, like yourself! whom have tried/trying to show the light, lets not loose anymore.
Saeed Nov 08, 2012 11:22pm
What is his talent.Is suicide bomber is consider crazy diamond. We can find angry crazy young man everywhere This is the worst worst example for young generation This is the first time NFP disappoint me .
Almanar Nov 09, 2012 08:12pm
Kahwat kuch aisay hai, "Garay huay murdon ko na ukharo." Let the sleeping dogs lie. Waat laga di aap nai kahawat kee..
Edwardian Nov 09, 2012 08:02pm
@observer...If you can't observe properly, better not to comment.
Krish Chennai Nov 09, 2012 03:52pm
For anyone in India who read this article, because of the shared history maybe, it's just gripping.
Cherian (Melbourne) Nov 09, 2012 12:46pm
Had Pakistan Cricket Board handled with care, Sarfraz would have surpassed Imran. Just my humble viewH
innohunter Nov 09, 2012 12:36am
Except Salamullah Tipu ( a thief and cold blooded murderer). Good list of people.
khoso Nov 09, 2012 05:56pm
vey well done
Yawar Nov 09, 2012 02:56pm
But Sarfraz never played in India. He only played against them in Pakistan, first during the 1978 series and then in 1982.
Dummy_Identifier Nov 09, 2012 01:58am
dummy, read the statement again. Being an Obama supporter does not make you sharp.
Dilawer Nov 09, 2012 02:10am
I read the article twice and reached to this conclusion that this crazy diamonds list is incomplete, and lopsided. There many other crazy diamonds that one can count but NFP failed to mentioned their names. Why do you need fillers (photos) while there are so many brillliant people you could mentioned. Do you not think that you have taken lot more space to cover one or two personalities than they deserve.
Yusuf Perth Nov 09, 2012 02:18am
Good article about a lot of people, and especially enlighting us about Salam ullah Tipu. I didn't know he was low level thief. He was a criminal with political ambitions. Any way not different from the political lot we have today.
Rafi Nov 09, 2012 12:37pm
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto , the Don of crazy diamond league.what say NFP.
Omar khan Nov 09, 2012 02:40am
Great job NFP, best writer in the media!!
r Vijay Nov 09, 2012 01:53pm
While in school in the 70's, I had been a fan of Sarfraz Nawaz. As a matter of fact there was a fan club for him and Wasim Raja in my home town, Madras, India. He might been an eccentric but he would always congratulate any Indian Player who scored a century. Even at one time asking Gavaskar, whether he wants a lose ball to hit a four to get to his century. There is one distinct feature that I remember about Sarfraz Nawaz. While bowling, he would bowl the first ball of the over with his white seaters on and when it was time for the second ball, he would remove the white sweater and give it the umpire. The crowd in Madras stadium would erupt on seeing this sentimental feeling of Sarfraz Nawaz.
jam Nov 09, 2012 06:01am
Shine on you NFP.
observer Nov 09, 2012 06:57am
Omar Khan, NFP is certainly one of the very few in Pakistani media that have integrity, consistency of approach, soundness of opinion, quality of content, etc. I don't want to name (because Dawn loves to reject my comments) but there are so many in Pakistani electronic media that are clearly sold to someone and are furthering someone's agenda in the name of journalism.
observer Nov 09, 2012 06:52am
Dilawer, Please write your own crazy diamonds article the way you like. Be assured that I will not even look at your article. I took time from my very hectic schedule to read NFP's article and I loved it. It is not an ideally written article. There are no ideal article in the real world. But NFP's article is still great.
Mustafa Nov 08, 2012 06:23pm
Why is Junaid Jumshed in this crazy list?
Abubakr Nov 09, 2012 07:15am
Absolutely mind boggling to put geniuses like Wasim Raja, Manto etc in the same category as tragedies like Salamulla Tipu. It is well known, NFP's nostalgia for NSF.
Ahmed Nov 08, 2012 06:47pm
Indeed Saghir Siddiqui was a fantastic poet yet another troubled soul, led a tough life, wrote and sold his "unnamed" poetry on rubbish papers in exchange for drugs, sat on the side roads in old Anarkali for years but relatively unknown to many in that period..
Luqmanali Nov 08, 2012 06:50pm
How does he do it? This guy Paracha is truly multifaceted. His understanding of Urdu poetry, pop music, cricket, politics, faith, film ... I can go on, is impressive. But after reading both parts of this feature, his own greatest talent lies in his empathetic understanding of the emotional and intellectual states of those we call mad. Well done, Paracha, for yet another top article.
Ahmed j Nov 09, 2012 10:00am
Yes we all know "a president waging two wars" (Iraq & Afghanistan) wins a "Nobel Peace" award. One wonders was it peace or pieces?
AZ Nov 09, 2012 10:23am
As a regular reader of your column or whatever you write, I am disappointed at your choice of including TIPU as a "Diamond" !! How did a petty criminal who qualified from thefts to car jacking to high jacking a plane was a "Diamond"? In what way he contributed to the social, political or literary growth of this wretched country of ours?? What do you want to tell the next generation of readers?
Javed Nov 08, 2012 06:58pm
I was lucky to be actually present at the Melbourne cricket ground, and watch Sarfaraz take all those wickets....pure magic. Never felt greater to be a Pakistani on that day.
Capt C M Khan Nov 08, 2012 07:00pm
Mr Paracha you keep taking me down the memory lane everything yoou have written is correct. I remember Shahnaz Saleem said in an interview after Mustafa Zaidi's detah' Quote;" I liked him he had a 60 minute stamina" Unquote. I was lucky to watch live on a B&W TV in 1979 the match Sarfraz won for Pakistan against Australia. When the commentator asked him how he is going to celeberate he replied Quote."Just a few drinks....oh...oh ...I mean soft drinks, you know alchol is banned in our country" Unquote, this lead to a roar of laughter at our end in Pakistan.
Dilawer Nov 09, 2012 03:01pm
I hate flattery. you are a apple polishing sycophant.
Anwar Suhail Nov 09, 2012 03:12pm
Brilliant piece. Waheed Murad wasn't crazy but met very sad ending. Junaid Jamshaid is neither crazy nor a gem.
Ranjit Biswas Nov 10, 2012 06:13am
Fantastically written. How can I read the Part I? I am an Indian and is in love with columns published in the Dawn as I can visualize Pakistan and feel its people through these writings. Also, if possible, please bring back Ayaz Amir as a regular columnist.
ram Nov 08, 2012 07:09pm
Will any one can suggest him to write about almost forgotten ones who helped in creating this that these Thankless people may be reminded?
Yousaf shah Nov 10, 2012 08:23am
amazing, we love you dawn, need more similar spicy stuff in the future, thanks once again.
Anon Nov 08, 2012 05:57pm
Why is Tipu on the list? A thief, a hijacker, and a murderer.
observer Nov 08, 2012 05:57pm
Another bold one, another NFP brand.
Shahriar Shirazi Nov 09, 2012 06:07am
Great series. Not sure what Mr. Tipu is doing on the list. Furthermore, I disagree with Junaid Jamshed being a diamond here. NFP, please dont make the mistake of forgetting Dr. Abdul Salam in your diamond series to follow ....