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Islam and the Cold War baroque

When “empire” strikes back, but the Force remains strong – in the arts and academia of contemporary Muslim countries. I spared with Sadia Abbas

As the world moves into a maddening phase of Islam versus the West, Pakistani academic Sadia Abbas presents a layered narrative in her book, At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial […]

August 14th, 2015|Extremism, History, Published in The Friday Times|1 Comment

Book review: Poetic resistance to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s murder

As a young student I obtained a tattered copy of ‘Khushboo ki Shahadat’ from an old bookstall in Lahore’s Urdu bazaar. This was the mock glasnost era of General Zia-ul-Haq when he had allowed a handpicked legislature to function under his authoritarian control as Chief of Army Staff. In those days we grew up with polarized notions such as democracy cannot function in Pakistan and thus dictatorships were essential; or that Bhutto was the greatest leader Pakistan had but he asked for his death at the hands of a tainted judiciary. Thus Bhutto was a mythical figure hated by Zia’s cronies, of which there was no shortage in that era, and loved by his “ignorant, treasonous, and misled supporters”.

So you can imagine that picking up a collection of poems regarding the death and martyrdom of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was not an easy feat for a confused middle class teenager. As I brought the book home and started to read the poems, my first impression was that of the deep commitment and bond the poets were sharing with their readers for a fallen hero who was not even accorded a decent burial in his village somewhere in the Sindh province. Of course this was also the province that resisted Zia valiantly and bitterly and continues to challenge his hypernationalism, which ironically was popularized by Mr Bhutto during his turbulent career.

My copy of the collection is still buried somewhere in the heaps of books that will not be read given how fast Pakistan is turning into an anti-knowledge and anti-culture land of zealots. But as they say, great literature rarely goes into oblivion; and so this volume of poems has been published several times under the three beleaguered PPP governments. More importantly, the celebrated academic and translator Alamgir Hashmi has edited a volume of translations and had it published as “Your Essence, Martyr; Pakistani Elegies”. The extraordinary creative outburst at the time of Bhutto’s judicial murder in April 1979 appears and reappears; it is a wandering ghost of history. Bhutto’s legacy, controversial for sowing the seeds of contemporary Islamism and jingoistic nationalism, as well as his stellar refusal to bow down before the military dictator, lives on. […]

August 24th, 2013|Arts & Culture, Poetry, Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments

K K Aziz: Historian Extraordinaire

The state, society and intelligentsia in Pakistan had forgotten about this towering scholar of our times. His books on Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, Sir Agha Khan III, the Pakistan Movement, the political system of Pakistan and other topics shall always be remembered and perhaps keep his legacy alive

On Habib Jalib

Kazim Aizaz Alam has sent this piece on the great poet for publication at Jahane Rumi.

I was recently introduced to someone who had been a companion of Habib Jalib. Khurshid sahib now works at the Karachi-based afternoon paper, Qaumi Akhbar, and sometimes reminisces about the good times he shared with people associated with the film industry. Being a film/theatre reporter for 59 years now (yes, he started his journalistic career in 1950!) Khurshid sahib has come in touch with every notable film star, director, writer, poet, musician and singer of Pakistan.

One of his dear friends was Habib Jalib. According to Khurshid sahib, whenever Habib Jalib was in town, his Vespa (that he still drives) would serve as the poet’s conveyance. Last time when he met Jalib sahib, he was in Karachi for a book-launch ceremony. In those days there used to be a UBL hostel in Saddar. The then president of the UBL was Jalib sahib’s fan who had arranged his stay at the hostel. Khurshid sahib picked him up from there and took to the Arts Council of Pakistan where the ceremony was to take place. He clearly remembers that Jalib sahib’s health was not good and he looked too frail. The poet walked into the venue with the help of Fehmida Riaz and Khurshid sahib. Benazir Bhutto was the chief guest and was accompanied by Begum Nusrat Bhutto. He says that both the distinguished ladies rushed forward and welcomed the ageing poet with utmost respect. Such was Jalib sahib’s regard that despite his bitter criticism of Benazir Bhutto’s policies during her first government, she had come to pay homage to the great revolutionary. […]

February 8th, 2009|Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|4 Comments