Monday, 20 February 2017

Understanding Pakistan Episode 4

Dictators, populists and then the line was cut

Editor: Aamer Raza
Presenters Aamer and takhalus
Artwork Ghulam Shabier
Music courtesy: Omar Aziz

Reading list:


-The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger,
and a Forgotten Genocide by Gary J. Bass (ISBN: 9780307700209 )
-A Journey to Disillusionment
Mazari, Sherbaz Khan
Published by The University Press Ltd (2000)
ISBN 10: 984051525X
- Witness To Surrender
by Siddique Salik  1997 Oxford University Press
-Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan 1967-1977 by Rafi Raza
- Bhutto a Political Biography
by Salmaan Taseer June 1980.
- In search of solutions : an autobiography of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo
B. M. Kutty 2009
-Aur line Kat Gai by Kausar Niazi

Thursday, 16 February 2017

QK archives: The sardars of Balochistan


DAWN - the Internet Edition


17 April 2005 Sunday 07 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1426



EXCERPTS: The sardars of Balochistan

By Taj Mohammad Breseeg

Taj Mohammad Breseeg explains the Baloch tribal set-up.

James Bill wrote that in the Middle East "the politics of development and modernization is profoundly influenced by the patterns and process that mark group and class relationships". Even in the late 19th century when modernization and urbanization had reduced the importance of tribes and tribal organizations, the influence of tribal patterns was not destroyed. The existing tribal patterns and processes continued to influence development and modernization in the rural areas in the Middle East. The same has been the case with Balochistan where the informal, paternalistic patterns of control through family networks (the tribes) have continued to have relevance - particularly since tribal support or lack of it has been crucial to the success or failure of nationalist movements.

Dr Nek Buzdar, a specialist in international economic development, is of the view that the Baloch society, by and large, adheres to a traditional way of life. He believes that despite the emergence of political parties in Balochistan, tribal organization and political leadership still play a dominant role in the local and provincial administration. The tribes in Balochistan are divided into the shahri (sedentary) and the nomadic. The shahris have been the backbone of the feudal order predominant in central and southern Balochistan (Makran), while the nomads have been the cornerstones of the tribal order in the northern tribal areas.

Both groups, however, were bound together by a set of historically evolved relationships based on economic, social, political, military and lingual interactions. Possibly, this separation of the tribes between the nomad (warrior nobility) and the sedentary shahris (peasants) had led many to conclude that the sedentary population may have been the original inhabitants of the land who were conquered by nomads who arrived later.

The Baloch tribal system is segmentary. Describing this system, Salzman wrote, "By the 'segmentary system' we mean a set of equal lineages allied relatively and contingently for political action, decisions being made by assemblies and councils, with no offices and hierarchy of authority, and thus no top."

Thus a centralized authority is absent in such a system. The tribes are constituted from a number of kindred groups. There are many sub-divisions or clans who claim to have blood relations with one another through common ancestors. Kinship, which has its characteristic form in clan and family structure, provides the basic ordering mechanism for society. Thus it is a major factor in regulating and systemizing individual behaviour, which in turn influences the formation and sustenance of the socio-political organization of the entire tribe.

While the colonial government exercised control over the Baloch tribes, the British themselves were light on the ground, and in return for the chieftains' loyalty gave them a free hand to keep the tribal way of life largely unchanged. But the position began to change in the last decades of the Raj. The creation of Pakistan and the annexation of the western part of Balochistan by Iran changed the situation. Furthermore, the growth of education, market forces and electoral politics drew the Baloch into regional and national networks both in Iran and in Pakistan. However, the tribal power structure is still very important in Baloch rural society. Selig Harrison counted 17 major tribal groupings in Balochistan in 1981. Each of them was headed by a sardar (chieftain), selected usually from the male lineage of the ruling clan in each tribe. Harrison mentions some 400 tribal sub-groupings headed by lesser sardars.

Probably the most widely known and generally loathed features of Baloch society are the sardari and the jirga institutions of tribal organization and leadership. Under the traditional administrative set-up of Baloch tribes, every tribe had its separate jirga (council of elders), which acted as a court of law. Then this system presented itself at all the administrative tiers of the tribe. The jirga at the tribe's level operated under the leadership of the sardar.

All other personalities of the tribe's administration like muqaddam, wadera and motaber were its members. Besides, at all the administrative tiers of the tribe, the jirga functioned above the tribal head. The jirga dealt with important matters concerning the tribes and disputes arising among them, the election of a new khan or the inevitable external threats. The head of the confederacy himself was the head of this jirga.

Providing the Baloch society a historical, social and political structure, the jirga remained intact for a long period and helped the Baloch cope with anarchy, chaos and an emergency situation. However, under the British rule in the 19th century, the traditional pattern of the Baloch jirga began to change. Having masterminded the political set-up of the Baloch country, Sir Robert Sandeman introduced a new kind of jirga, the "shahi jirga" (Grand Council or the council of the main tribal sardars) where only sardars and aristocrats could sit. The shahi jirga was held at Quetta, Sibi and Fort Munro once or twice a year. The new jirga could impose taxes on property and labour; while only the Political Agent could review its decisions. As described by Janmahmad, the shahi jirga was a shrewd mechanism of indirect rule with powers vested in a few carefully selected tribal elders loyal to the British and ready to act against their own people.

The other well-established and widely known institution in Baloch society is the sardari system. This system appears to have had its origins in the Mughal period of Indian history, but is believed to have assumed its present shape rather late, during the period of British colonial rule. In contrast to the marked egalitarianism that pervades tribal organizations among the neighbouring Pakhtoons, the sardari system is highly centralized and hierarchical. At the apex of the system is the sardar, the hereditary central chief from whom power flows downward to waderas, the section chiefs, and beyond them to the subordinate clan and sub-clan leaders of the lesser tribal units. The sardar's extraordinary authority within this structure probably stems from the essentially military character of early Baloch tribal society. This authority may also have originated in the requirements of the Baloch pastoral economy. The tribesmen's seasonal migrations and isolation in scattered small camps would seem to have justified the emergence of a powerful and respected central figure who could obtain pasture lands and water, arrange safe passage through hostile territory for herdsmen and their flocks, and in other ways provide a shield against an unusually harsh environment.

Modernization has changed much of the tribal system. It was first challenged by the demarcation of international boundaries at the end of the 19th century. The new frontiers partitioned Balochistan between three states, dividing some of the large tribes between countries and prohibiting the traditional summer and winter migrations of nomads and semi-nomads. The Naruis, the Sanjaranis, the Rikis and the Brahuis were divided among Iran, Afghanistan and British Balochistan. The second challenge occurred between the world wars, when the British and the Persians largely pacified Balochistan. From 1928, Tehran used its army to forcibly subdue the Baloch, often exterminating whole tribes in the process.

The termination of the traditional nomadic economic system devastated the tribes. In the case of Iranian Balochistan, to force sedentarization, Reza Shah introduced land registration. Land which had previously been considered the property of the tribe as a whole, became the sole property of the tribal chief in whose name the land was registered. The chiefs, with income from rents, could now move into cities and towns. This increased their distance from the tribe.

The sedentary farmers, tied to the land through debts and contracts, could no longer align themselves with rival chieftains. This increased the landlord's control over the peasant, but the peasant's loyalty to the landlord decreased as monetary ties replaced ties of sanguinity or of mutual self-interest. Baloch society lost its cohesiveness, and both landlord and rentier turned to the central government for protection of their "rights".

Simultaneously with the decline and disintegration of tribalism in Iranian Balochistan, the sardars also lost their base of power and influence there. This has been the case particularly during the 1960s and the 1970s, as the rapid growth in urbanization, expansion of modern means of communications, spread of modern education, and economic modernization in the province began to drastically undermine the tribal socioeconomic structure. These changes in turn brought with them a new Baloch elite identified with the middle class. It must be borne in mind that the cooperation of the sardars with the Shah's regime representing "Shiite Gajars", also served to undermine their traditional legitimacy among their peasant and nomadic followers politically.

Over the course of time, therefore, the traditional social organization of the Baloch to a great extent has changed. There is now a widespread Baloch national consciousness that cuts across tribal divisions. Islamabad and Tehran, however, ignoring this emergence of nationalism, tend to think of Baloch society solely in terms of its traditional tribal character and organizational patterns. Most sardars have attempted to safeguard their privileges by avoiding direct identification with the nationalist movement, while keeping the door open for supporting the nationalist cause in times of confrontation between the Baloch and the central government, as in the case of the 1973-7 insurgency. Similarly, the Iranian revolution of 1979 inflicted the most significant blow to the influence of the sardars in western Balochistan.

However, in a traditional tribal society a political ideology such as Baloch nationalism would be unable to gain support, because loyalties of tribal members do not extend to entities rather than individual tribes. The failure of the tribes to unite for the cause of Baloch nationalism is a replay of tribal behaviour in both the Pakistani and Iranian Baloch revolts. Within the tribes, an individual's identity is based on his belonging to a larger group. This larger group is not the nation but the tribe. However, the importance of the rise of a non-tribal movement over more tribal structures should not be underestimated. In this respect the Baloch movements of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s provide us a good example.

In the post-colonial period a visible change in Baloch society was the rise of the urban population mainly due to the detribalization and to some extent the land reforms under Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The differentiation and specialization in urban economies introduced new social strata. A small Baloch working class formed in the mine industry, construction, and a few factories. Small workshops required auto mechanics, electricians, mechanics, plumbers and painters, while services and transport employed many others. A modern bourgeoisie emerged, comprising mainly professionals rather than entrepreneurs - doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, bank managers, lawyers and journalists. Migrant labour travelled as far as the Gulf States.

Thus, with the appearance of the Baloch middle class, even though small, and the decrease of the traditional role of the sardars, the modern Baloch intelligentsia seems to be more eager to assume a political role of its own. Highlighting the new changes in Baloch society, in 1993, Mahmud Ali, a specialist on South Asian politics, wrote, "In the absence of traditional leaders, the dynamic of socio-economic change has precipitated a new kind of leader - younger men of 'common', i.e. non-sardari, descent". The Baloch have devised a nationalist ideology, but realize that tribal support remains a crucial ingredient to any potential success of a national movement. By accepting the support of the tribes, the nationalists fall vulnerable to tribal rivalries.

Economic development

In 1892, Lord Curzon stated that in the greater part of Balochistan, the Baloch were sedentary and pastoral. Despite the passage of almost one hundred years and the increase in urbanization, Curzon's view is still fairly accurate (although there are more farmers and fewer shepherds). Describing the Baloch economy in the early 1980s, a prominent authority on the subject of Baloch nationalism, Selig S. Harrison wrote, "Instead of relying solely on either nomadic pastoralism or on settled agriculture, most Baloch practise a mixture of the two in order to survive."

The economic grievances of the Baloch are dated from the British era. As the British developed industries and agriculture in Sindh, Punjab, and the NWFP, they ignored Balochistan. Thus there is a widely held view that the British rulers neglected the economic development of Balochistan. Perhaps it was not merely a case of neglect, but what might be called purposeful sidetracking, even suppression. Of course the British had their own imperial interests to protect.

This is a case study in nationalism which focuses on the Baloch. It probes into the question of whether the Baloch have a national consciousness and if it is expressed as their will to maintain their national identity.



Excerpted with permission from Baloch Nationalism: its Origin and Development

By Taj Mohammad Breseeg

Royal Book Company BG-5, Rex Centre Basement, Zaibunnisa Street, Karachi-74400

Tel: 021-565 3418, 567 0628

Email: royalbook@hotmail.com

ISBN 969-407-309-X

444pp. Rs895


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

QK Archives: The Taliban Strike Back

Cover Story

The Taliban Strike Back
June 2006 newsline



By Zahid Hussain



A New Proxy War?
Over a hundred people gathered last month at a mosque in the small village of Mahmoudabad, a mile from the Afghan border, in the Chaman district of Balochistan. They were there to pray for the soul of a local boy killed in battle with coalition forces near Kandahar.

"He was a soldier of Islam who laid down his life fighting the infidels," a bearded and black-turbanned Taliban commander said.

Abdul Baqi, 24, a local madrassah student, had joined the Taliban insurgents last month as fighting intensified in Afghanistan. He was killed during an attack by American jets on a Taliban stronghold in Janjawi district, Kandahar. "We are proud of him," says Abdul Qadir, his older brother.

Across the Chaman district, hundreds have crossed the border to participate in the fighting since the madrassahs closed for the summer. Baqi was not the only Pakistani volunteer killed in the recent fighting in southern Afghanistan. Azizullah, a religious student from Qila Abdullah, died in Helmand province, another Taliban stronghold. His grave has been turned into a shrine with a stream of people coming to pay their homage to the young "martyr."

Maulana Abdul Ghani, a 75-year-old cleric who heads the Al Jamia Islamia, one of Chaman's largest madrassahs, said the students had gone to fight in Afghanistan of their own will. "The situation is fast changing in Afghanistan in favour of the Taliban," he says. " There is no dearth of people willing to join the fighting. The fear of American military might has vanished."

Most of the madrassahs are run by clerics like Maulana Ghani who is a top leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, the major partner in the coalition government in Balochistan. Thousands of Afghan students are also enrolled in those schools from where the Taliban movement initially emerged in 1994. The same madrassahs have now become the main recruiting centre for the insurgents fighting the US-led coalition forces. A large number of Afghans who had taken refuge in the area are also going back to join the fighting.

The dusty border town of Chaman has become a base of Taliban activities and many of their commanders are thought to have been operating from the area. After being routed in December 2001, the Taliban had found safe sanctuary in Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province. They were backed by the MMA, which came to power in these two key provinces. There they set up training camps and developed a major logistic hub.

The insurgents can move freely across the long and porous border. According to a source close to the Taliban, the guerrillas started crossing into Afghanistan some two months ago, ostensibly for the poppy harvest." It was all planned for the spring offensive," he says.

Five years after the ouster of the Taliban regime, the American-led coalition forces are facing the most intense resistance from the resurgent Islamic rebels. More than 400 Afghans and 34 coalition soldiers have been killed in the unprecedented offensive by Taliban insurgents. This is the highest number of casualties suffered by the coalition troops since December 2001.

The rebels, who are now more organised and better equipped, control as many as 20 districts in Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Helmand provinces, where NATO forces have replaced US troops. Some 9,000 troops from Britain, Canada, Holland and other NATO countries are being deployed in those provinces and their number will increase to 18,000. NATO officials say their troops are there for reconstruction work and not combat duty, but they are already engaged in clashes with the Taliban guerrillas in many places.

Many government officials in the region are closet Taliban supporters. They may be doing government jobs in the day time, but turn Taliban after dusk. According to Taliban officials, they are getting increasing support from Afghans. "Each incident of bombing by the American jets killing innocent people adds to our support," says a Taliban fighter who just returned from the front. "People are more willing to give us shelter and food." The public outrage was palpable following the killing of some dozen civilians by US air bombings near Kandahar.

The number of Taliban guerrillas has grown significantly this year. Mullah Dadullah, the chief commander of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, claims to have 12,000 men under arms. The Kabul administration last month claimed to have captured the one-legged deputy to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. However, Dadullah, who has been spotted in Chaman many times in the past, called journalists by satellite phone to contradict the report.

The increase in their support base has made the Taliban much bolder. Instead of hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, they now regularly engage Afghan government and coalition forces in pitched battles. Scores of rebel fighters recently overran a town in central Uruzgan province and seized the local police station and district headquarters. The insurgents regularly resort to suicide bombing to cause extensive damage.

According to a Taliban official, more than 600 volunteers were being trained for such attacks. "Suicide attacks are our most effective weapon against the coalition forces," says Samiul Haq, a Taliban fighter who recently returned from Afghanistan. He says hundreds are prepared and waiting for their turn to take part in such attacks. More Afghans and allied soldiers are also being killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) planted by the insurgents on the roadside. Samiul Haq says the fighters returning from Iraq have helped in using the IED more effectively.

There seems to be no shortage of funding and weapons for the Taliban. They are receiving money not only from their sympathisers among the Pakistani Islamic groups but also from private Saudi sources. "We are also using weapons seized from the Afghan and coalition forces," says Haq.

The Pakistani authorities deny they are using Pakistani territory as a base, but senior Taliban commanders admit that they receive indirect support from local officials. "We cannot fight for long without support from our sympathisers in the local administration," says Samiul Haq, who predicts an escalation in the fighting in Afghanistan in coming months.

Most observers agree that the current Taliban resurgence reflects the failure of policies adopted by the coalition and President Hamid Karzai's Afghan government. There has been little improvement in the life of the common Afghan over the last four years. Most of southern Afghanistan is ruled by the same warlords who were responsible for the tragedy of Afghanistan. They have been propped up by the American forces to fight the Taliban, but they are feared and hated even more than the Taliban by Afghans.

The strife-torn country has once again become a narco state, producing almost 90 per cent of the world's heroin. US forces look the other way, as the drug trafficking involves some of their key allies. Many top government officials are said to be involved and part of the drug money is going into financing the Taliban insurgency. Despite promises by the international community, Afghanistan has received far less funds for reconstruction than national rebuilding efforts elsewhere. All that has fuelled huge resentment, particularly in the Pashtun areas.

It was not surprising that a deadly traffic accident in Kabul caused by a United States military convoy on May 28 instantly turned into widespread anti-American riots, leaving more than a dozen Afghans dead. The violence, the worst of its kind since the Taliban were driven from power, exposed the latent resentment against the American presence.

The current situation in Afghanistan provides a very conducive environment for the Taliban and other rebel groups fighting the coalition forces. The war in Afghanistan has already extended to the Pakistan border areas inhabited by Pashtuns. The escalating insurgency has given a huge boost to pro-Taliban elements in areas already controlled by the Islamic parties. The rise in the Taliban-like movement in Waziristan and its spillover effect in the settled areas of the North West Frontier Province and northern Balochistan is largely influenced by the situation in Afghanistan. The second coming of the Taliban and its fallout on Pakistan now present a grave threat to the security of the region.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Allahdad Khan: A tribute to the Music Man of Peshawar

Allahdad Khan: A tribute to the Music Man of Peshawar
S. Amjad Hussain
Published September 2004


A few weeks ago Allahdad Khan passed away in Peshawar. His untimely passage from the scene went mostly un-noticed because his life and his accomplishment had remained hidden from the public at large. It was only in recent years that some people in our hometown had started to take note of this remarkable man.
He was a connoisseur par excellence and an ardent collector of Indo-Pakistani music. At the time of his death he had collected close to 14000 (it is fourteen with three zeros) 78 rpm records of Indian and Pakistani music dating back to the very early days of music recordings in India. His is a fascinating and interesting story.
Allahdad Khan was born in a lower middle class family in Peshawar. As a young lad he was more interested in movies and music than in studies. He would often skip school to catch a matinee of an Indian movie at one of the theatres on the cinema row in Peshawar. Along the way he started collecting music records and movie memorabilia. He did that, he once told me, to help keep the movie scenes fresh in his mind. He dropped out of high school in the early fifties and somehow landed a job in the city government as a draftsman. He acquired an old Motorola gramophone and embarked upon a life-long journey that was still in progress when he suddenly died of a heart attack at age sixty-eight.
As a young man he did a lot of financial juggling to balance the needs of a growing family and his passion for collecting music. On a limited fixed income of a draftsman he managed both rather well. As his reputation spread among other private collectors, some of them in India, a bartering system developed between them where extra copies of records were exchanged to fill in the gaps in their individual collection. Many of those collectors also sent him unconditional gifts of music that he reciprocated. All told at the time of his death, in addition to the massive collection of 14000 records, he also had hundreds of videos of old Indian movie, songbooks, movie posters and other memorabilia. In time he became a walking encyclopedia of Indian movies and music.
Our paths crossed about 10 years ago when on a visit to Peshawar I heard of the man and his collection. I called him with some trepidation for I was not sure he would allow a stranger into his secluded world. He turned out to be a typical Peshawari who could (and did) ‘inflict’ his hospitality to the limits.
My first impression of seeing his collection was no different than of a kid in a candy or toy store. The shelves and cupboards in his hujra were stacked high with cardboard boxes bearing names like Saigal, Kamla Jharia, Jag Mohan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Miran Bakhsh, GM Durrani and hundreds of other singers.
We sat Peshawari style on the carpeted floor with bolsters and cushions and he played my favourite music on an old electric record player. He knew his collection well and could, had I asked, find a record from his collection blindfolded. As he played music he would tell me about the particular score, the year that record was cut and interesting anecdotes about the singer. He played for me the very first record cut in Calcutta in1905 by Gohar Jan who incidentally was from Peshawar and had gone to Calcutta in search of fame and fortune and had found both. He also played a rare and now almost forgotten early 1940’s song Allah Allah Hosla Hai Quaid-i-Azam Tera by Sitara Kanpuri. She was the one who had sung the immortal song Pardesi Kyun Yaad Aata Hai.
Next day he came around to my place and left cassettes of the music we had enjoyed the previous day. Thus started a rather special friendship between us that lasted for the remaining days of his life. A sitting with Allahdad Khan became the highlight of my periodic visits to Peshawar. Every Friday afternoon he would open his hujra for his friends and even strangers to enjoy, over tea and refreshments, the offerings of forgotten melodies from the past.
Allahdad Khan reminded me of another connoisseur of art, in this case visual art, who single-handedly collected a vast array of minimal and conceptual art. Herbert Vogel, a salaried employee in the post office and his wife Dorothy, a reference librarian in a public library in Brooklyn, New York started collecting modern and contemporary drawings and sculptures in the early 1960s. They became interested in art because of their friendship with a then obscure artist by the name of Sol Lewitt whose work they patronised. In due course they also started adding the works of other budding artists to their collection. Along the way came the works of Robert Mangold, Donald Judd, Christo (famous for shrouding buildings and monuments with fabrics), Carl Andre and dozens of other artists. Since they could display only a small portion of their collection in their rather small apartment the bulk of the art remained crated and unopened. Their collection, according to art historians, surpasses in range, complexity and artistic quality that of any known private collection of conceptual art in the world. A few years ago the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC acquired part of the collection and housed it in a special gallery named after Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. The museum is committed to acquire the remaining collection as well.
I look at Allahdad Khan’s single-minded devotion to collecting and preserving music in the backdrop of a bizarre spectacle I witnessed 56 years ago in the lawn of Radio Pakistan, Peshawar. A huge pile of music records was being smashed to smithereens by a number of peons. It seems some hare-brained official had ordered the destruction of the fabulous music collection because at the stroke of mid night on August 14, 1947 most of that music did not fit in the new order ushered in by the partition of India. In the post-independence xenophobia the arbiters of a new cultural order had embarked upon constructing a new cultural highway by destroying the vestiges of the shared traditions of the old. Perhaps the bits and pieces of the smashed records were to be used to pave the fictitious new highway. From that day on Saigal, Jag Mohan, KC Day, Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmud and Muhammad Rafi were banished forever from Radio Pakistan. I consider the brutality of Hulagu (we call him Hallaku in Urdu) in destroying the fabulous library of Baghdad in 1258 or the absolute ban on music by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the same category.
And while this brutal onslaught on our music heritage was being waged by our new cultural custodians at Radio Pakistan and elsewhere in our new country, the wiry Allahdad was busy preserving what he could and what he preserved, and here is an oblique parallel with the Vogels of New York, boggles the mind.
In the past years I had been talking to Allahdad Khan about the future of his collection. The plastic records have a finite life and when left to the wild temperature swings of Peshawar they would eventually deteriorate. I suggested converting the entire collection into digital format and then preserving the original 78 rpm records somewhere in a museum, library or archives. He was agreeable to the idea and in preparation one of his good friends Haji Aman Durrani had already catalogued the entire collection. But it was not to be. The fatal heart attack got to him before he could see the project off the ground.
Like art music has no geographic boundaries. It transcends all barriers - cultural, religious and ethnic - and depending on individual tastes effects the very inner core of our souls. In the end heritage is not preserved by the politically correct nationalist or emotionally charged religious zealots but by eccentric visionaries like Allahdad Khan who are able to transcend racial, political and religious barriers to achieve something that others are either incapable or unwilling to achieve.
S. Amjad Hussain is an op-ed columnist for the daily Blade of Toledo, Ohio. He is also professor emeritus of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Medical College of Ohio.

QK Archives: Romance and the Mannequin

Romance and the Mannequin Man
Maryam Babar
May 18 2004
Statesman Peshawar
Mamoon is a 32-year-old man who lives in Azakhel. As a boy, he used to go for after school tuitions to the house of an older cousin. This cousin was one of four brothers with a youngest sister, Khalida. Khalida had been born with multiple heart defects and was a quiet, pale, sickly child. But, Mamoon fell in love and nothing could stop him.
Orphaned at a young age, Mamoon was the doted upon youngest sibling. His family was horrified at the idea of him marrying such a delicate flower. How would they be able to support her and her constant medical bills? They urged him to forget her and concentrate on his studies. They threatened to disown him and eventually his dedicated pursuit of his romantic dream forced him to leave his home.
He rented a small room for himself and his prospective bride. He was warned that not only would she be an immensely expensive burden, she would also not be able to bear children or rear them. He declared that children were not an option he was willing to even consider. He just wanted to marry Khalida!
One night she, accompanied by her family and a Qazi came to his little room and she was married to him. There was no dowry, no festivities or even an exchange of gifts. Contrary to all dire predictions and the warnings of the doctors, she bore him three healthy sons.
The medical bills kept piling up and supporting his young family drove Mamoon to seek work in Lahore. There he worked as a daily wage labourer on construction sites. Though he was unused to such hard, physical work he strove to make enough money to feed his family.
One day, during the short rest period they were allowed for lunch, he sat down next to the site carpenter. There was a piece of wood scrap lying on the ground and Mamoon started drawing on it. Now, Khalida was his first love but Mamoon had another passion. Drawing and painting. An unusual hobby for a mazdoor! Looking over his shoulder, the jealous carpenter disparaged his work and an argument ensued. Hurt by the unasked for criticism, Mamoon threw away the bit of wood and said he only drew for his personal pleasure so why was the other man being so aggressive.
However, another of the men on the site had seen Mamoon’s work and spoke about it to an acquaintance of his, a local artist, Sohail Khan Mamdot. This man was to have a profound effect on Mammon’s future.
Sohail Khan came to the site and spoke to Mamoon and asked him to come and work for him.
However, when Mamoon went to see Mr Mamdot, he was told that he would be expected to work as a house servant, earning Rs2,000 a month and that his duties would include helping Sohail Khan in his studio. He was also told that he would have to present a reliable person as his guarantor.
As he knew no one in Lahore this was impossible and he never went back. But, Sohail Khan had been so impressed by the work of the young artist that he told him to come see him again.
Mamoon went back and discussed his problems. He was told that he should continue to work as a labourer but, to earn his board and lodging, he would have to work in the artist’s studio in the evenings. Thereby started his training as a professional artist. He often worked till 2 o’clock in the morning and though he was happy with what he was learning, it started to take a heavy toll on his energy.
Mr Mamdot suggested that he give up being a construction worker and start earning his living with his skills as a painter and artist. Mamoon started designing elaborate embroidery patterns for Zari karigaars in the city markets. He could sell a butter paper tracing for sometimes as much as Rs250. This seemed to him to be easy money... to get paid for what he best loved doing!
After a while it became clear that Khalida’s health was fast deteriorating. He knew he would have to find some way to earn the money for the surgery she needed. He left for Karachi.
There he started working in a small factory that made mannequins for shop windows. His excellent painting soon won him the coveted task of painting the faces. After serving as an unpaid apprentice for a short while, he started making the molds and casting the whole body. He soon earned enough to be able to pay for the three operations that his wife needed.
And he also had a new dream. He wanted to start making his own mannequins.
He came back to dusty Azakhel, reconciled with his family and moved into the very room he had been born in with his wife and three sons.
He found a small house and set up business. But, no matter how hard he tried, his production was slow and he didn’t have the capital to start a real factory. Then he learnt that while he had been away his village had organised itself into a community and his brothers were members of the tanzeem. He joined the committee and learnt about the micro credit facility. He borrowed Rs20,000 and contributed a similar amount from his fast depleting savings. It should be pointed out that he has already returned the borrowed amount and established a good credit reputation.
Having heard about Mamoon I went to take a look at his factory. A fancy name for a pretty shoe string operation. It consists of an overgrown grass patch, two mud rooms and a shed. One room has a rickety charpoy, a chair and some shelves heavy with drawing pads and unframed paintings. Perhaps the neat drawings should have prepared me for the surprise in the next room! If anyone has seen a more unusual sight then I would like to hear about it! The room is full of the most beautiful mannequins. Elaborately painted faces and gracefully cast limbs look more like sculptures than mere shop window mannequins.
I asked him if, in these changing times, he was doing something to which his village community objected. He said that not only did they not object, he was actually popular in the village as he employed six local craftsmen and was also training another young artist from Azakhel. He even has a man in charge of marketing who goes around the local boutiques with a catalogue and gets regular orders. As his mannequins are well known all over Pakistan for their delicately painted faces, he sends his finished products as far away as Karachi and Kabul.
The next time you go into a bridal shop and pick out a pattern to embroider on your duppatta, spare a thought for the person who painstakingly drew that intricate design. When you drive down Tahkaal Road, look into the shop windows and be proud that our own little Azakhel is providing the stately mannequins. And when you watch the next episode of the Bold and the Beautiful, think of our locally grown Leila and Majnoon and the strength of a love that made them rise above all the constraints of poverty and society and build a life for themselves. How many of us can claim to be living with the love of our lives and earning a decent living doing what we like best?
I thought this whole story utterly charming. Star crossed lovers, a struggling artist and the modern miracle of micro credit. Our very own La Boheme if only someone would write the musical score.

QK Archives: Searching for real Peshawar

Published originally by the Statesman, Peshawar Mashriq group 2007
Searching for real Peshawar
S Amjad Hussain
I have lived away from Peshawar, the place of my birth, for over forty years and still in so many ways it feels as if I never left. It is not the awful traffic, widespread pollution, clogged sewers, deafening street noises or the call for prayers broadcast over the ever-powerful and amply-amplified speakers that gives me the re-assurance of continuity; it is the peaceful and tranquil slice of the old city that still connects me with my early life and which can still be found but only at odd hours of the day. For that one has to venture into the maze of brick-lined narrow alleys of the old city. While the haphazard urban sprawl has swept away the ancient city wall and the 16 gates, for some of us diehards, the city of yore remains even if for a few fleeting moments.
There is a tiny mosque located about 100 yards from our house in Mohalla Kazi Khelan where I, when I can, attend the first prayer of the day an hour before sunrise. A short flight of stairs leads to a tiny courtyard at the end of which there are two large carpeted rooms that serve as prayer area. On a recent morning there were about 15 worshippers from the neighbourhood who, wrapped in wool blankets and shawls to ward off bone-chilling cold, came for congregational prayers just as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers had done before them.
I am always amazed and envious of their devotion to faith and family that surpasses mine in so many ways. An elderly worshipper was praying fervently for his family, his city and the world beyond through a steady stream of tears flowing down his grey beard. He was repeating the ancient prayers that have, because of mere repetition, lost their real meaning for many of us. Just as these men, people in other parts of the city as well respond to the call for prayers and show humility that is becoming a rare commodity in this violence-prone world. As opposed to the grenade-tossing, machine gun-totting fanatics who kill and maim in the name of this very religion, these simple people from every walk of life are the real believers. It is a privilege to be in their company.
There used to be a Quranic school in this mosque where the neighbourhood children, both boys and girls, would come in the afternoon to take lessons in memorising or reading the Quran. I profiled the school and its imam the late Ustad Khurshid in a cover story for Toledo Magazine in 1993. Many of those kids still live in the neighbourhood and have become responsible citizens and good neighbours. I see an occasional one at the morning prayers.
On my way to the mosque there is the neighbourhood baker’s shop. Every day before dawn Anwar, the owner, fires up the large underground clay oven. The aroma of the freshly baked bread wafts through the neighbourhood. On the way back from the mosque I greet him and his early customers and ask if he would bake me a thin flat bread call lavash. As a special favour he bakes one for me. By the time I reach our home half of the bread is gone. No one has heard of Dr Adkins and his diet in these parts. A breakfast of freshly baked bread and sweetened cream called malai is enough to gladden any heart in this town including that of a hopelessly romantic native son from America.
Eating breakfast sitting around the sandli in the kitchen is another tradition that connects me with my past. Sandli is an old Peshawari tradition where in winter months a charcoal basket is placed under a low table and an oversized large quilt is spread over the table. Family members sit around the sandli with their feet under the quilt. In the dead of winter the families start using sandli not only to ward off bitter cold but also to have the entire family gather in one place to talk, to tell stories and to enjoy food or snacks in an intimate and comforting setting. The stories and fables we heard from our elders have, over the decades, been passed on to the younger generation in this setting.
Another thing that has not changed is the way people come to offer condolences. Unlike in the West and for that matter the rest of this country, long-time city residents come whenever they can to visit. Our family went through that process when the news of my wife’s death reached here. Upon my arrival a few weeks later the process started again. Some of them bring an offering of food as a token of their affection. A poor woman, a distant acquaintance, brought a handful of spinach leaves that she most likely had gathered in the fields on the outskirts of the city. It is the equivalent of neighbours bringing a cake or food for the bereaved family. The visitors raise their hands, bow their heads and utter the familiar verse from the Quran, ‘To God we belong and to Him shall we return’.
It is comforting and re-assuring to find a few old traditions that are still in vogue here even though the city I knew and loved has ceased to exist except of course only in the minds and hearts of some of us.
A die-hard Peshawari, Dr. Amjad Hussain returns to his favourite city a few times a year to reaffirm his deep-rooted attachment to the city of his birth. In his other life he is a professor emeritus of surgery at the University of Toledo and an op-ed columnist for the daily Blade of Toledo, Ohio. E-Mail: aghaji@bex.net

QK Archives : Alamzeb a friend of the masses

11th February is the death anniversary of ANP MPA Alamzeb. Killed in a brutal 9n February 11 2009

Alamzeb - a friend of the masses published February 2009 by the Statesman Peshawar

By Dr. Muhammad Hafizullah

“If it takes a life of an MPA to be sacrificed for the sake of peace, I will be the first one to present my life,” he announced with tears in his eyes.
One of his favourite topics was peace of NWFP. He was a firm believer in dialogue and politics as against militancy and power. He was a born politician but of a different kind! His aim of life was neither to earn money and nor fame. He was born to solve the problems faced by his poor voters, with whom he would spend most of his time. He felt great pride in living in a 6 marla house in periphery of Peshawar. He would 'let it be known' that though he had his rots from Dir he has taken permanent residence in Peshawar to serve the underprivileged.
I make no claims of knowing him very well; my only interaction with him was in his capacity as a member of institutional management committee (IMC) of Lady Reading Hospital. Initially when we received the list of new IMC members, two names were totally new. Alamzeb was one of the two. But his interest in the affairs of hospital and sagacious approach won respect and admiration of all. He was honest and took pains in his assignments. He was obsessed with the determination to improve the quality of services of the hospital.
In the maiden meeting of IMC, some of the members wanted access to paramedical and nursing staff. He was one of them. He made special efforts to attend the meeting with both delegations of nursing and paramedical staff. He addressed them and made a fervent appeal for 'change in attitude'.
He promised to solve all their problems and offered his all out but conditional support. His sole request was to respect the patients and extend maximum courtesy to people in stress. He was passionate in his request and carried his point across very well.
"My poor brothers and sisters demand only one thing from you- care, respect and love," he told the participants of 24th Advanced Cardiac Life Support Course held at auditorium of Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar. Cardiology department has the distinction of providing practical hands on training in cardiac resuscitation to doctors and paramedical staff of all the hospitals of NWFP. He was the chief guest and distributed certificates of attendance among participants of course. He was warm and shook hands with all with affection. He had a compliment to present to all. He kept on emphasising his point of 'change of attitude' with all during distribution of certificate ceremony and tea break.
A fortnight after our first meeting, he came to the office of Chief Executive of Lady Reading Hospital, visibly annoyed and disturbed. It transpired that the night before he had visited the Accident and Emergency department and had noted some deficiencies. He was very vocal and presented me a list. Most of the things were already taken care of like renovation of building and equipment of operation theatres and trauma room. We shared the orders already placed and presented already approved PC 1 developed by the director for the development of Accident and Emergency department. That left us with some furniture items and more importantly 'change of attitude'. His change of hue and expression on learning that most of his points were already taken care of revealed his internal joy.
Though one hand he used to constantly complain about deficiencies in operation theatres, outpatient department and in-hospital care, yet on the other hand he would stand by Lady Reading Hospital at every forum. During a PAC meeting on which he was sitting on the side of 'appraisers' he took a firm stand for Lady reading Hospital. He threw an open challenge and offered his own personal guarantee. We in the administration appreciated that in the house he was perennially asking us to improve the services but in the outside world he would hold the flag of Lady reading Hospital very high.
The bomb blast at 'Zanghali' was one of the worst blasts. Casualties poured in large number without any premonition. Hearts were sad and all human eyes were wet on witnessing the mutilated and charred bodies. There were a large number of dead bodies which needed to be shifted to a respectable place. We had enough doctors, paramedical staff and nursing staff to look after the patients but the main problem was security. Keeping the unnecessary people out of trauma room was an uphill task. Alamzeb was there in Accident and Emergency department and helped us in organising and triaging patients.
He was instrumental in bringing the Chief Minister to the hospital. Amir Haider Hoti was satisfied with the arrangements made and announced a special package for the staff of Accident and Emergency department. Alamzeb kept his words and took these lists personally to the chief minister for processing and approval. At one time we were wondering as to which names should be included in the list, he insisted on adding maximal names and stressed on better representation of lower staff.
"What is happening to Peshawar Institute of Cardiology?" he would frequently ask me. He had visited Cardiology and Cardiac surgery departments of Lady Reading Hospital and was very enthusiastic about enhancing of Cardiac services. While waiting for a meeting, he went through the detailed structure designs of the project, in my office. He appreciated the designs and was very excited about the plans for the services especially for the poor and underprivileged. Only a week before he lost his life he accompanied me and Prof Riaz Anwar to the site at Hayatabad. His radiant face exhibited his inner mirth on seeing the physical work under progress. He promised to invite the Chief Minister for the stone laying ceremony and offered his all out help at every step. But alas, he left us even before he could see the realisation of his and our dream into reality.
His words still echo in my ears, "I have a unique present for the people of Peshawar -first of its kind -a Commerce College only for girls." He went through the details of his project. He described in details how he conceived the idea, acquired the college building, and staff- all without much investment from the provincial government. He was most excited when he revealed how he had arranged for a hostel for girls from far flung areas and their free food. In a way, he was encouraging us to undertake patients' welfare projects.
The news of attack on Alamzeb spread like a fire in a jungle in the hospital. It was heart wrenching to see him being operated upon in the newly refurbished theatre boasting of a new operation table, new light and new anaesthesia machine. All members of staff had sadness written all over them, when he was struggling for his breath in his last moments in the ICU which had been upgraded recently doubling the strength of beds and ventilators.
Though upgraded Lady Reading Hospital with a 'changed attitude' tried her best to ward off the icy hands of death from him but then who can fight the dictates of luck. In the death of Alamzeb Lady Reading Hospital lost an enthusiastic supporter and the city has been deprived of a great friend whose life was dedicated to the down trodden and underprivileged.