Wednesday, 4 April 2018

April 2013 Mass migration in Tirah

Mass migration in Tirah
April 2013 published by The NEWS on Sunday
After falling to TTP, around four thousand people have moved down from the valley and still more are coming
By Javed Aziz Khan

They were killed, houses set on fire, villages occupied and made homeless to look for shelter as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kohat, Hangu and Peshawar. The people of Tirah Valley would have never thought to be wandering for shelter after leaving their homes in one of the most beautiful valleys at the mercy of militants.

Tens of thousands of Afridi tribesmen have come down from Tirah to the settled areas of Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu as well as the tribal Kurram and Orakzai agencies after militants have taken control over most parts of the remotest valley of the Khyber Agency.

The clashes in the valley were going on for the last many months as militants wanted to take control of the area and make it their stronghold to control operations in Peshawar Valley. The local tribesmen supported by an armed group, Ansarul Islam (AI), were offering stiff resistance since a fresh attack in January. However, the AI and tribal volunteers had to surrender after inflicting heavy losses in terms of lives and properties. They had to leave Maidan, the main town of Tirah Valley, which has now fallen to the militants associated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and supported by Lashkar-e-Islam (LI).

Leaving Tirah was never an easy decision for the Afridi tribesmen. Some of them had never gone out of the valley in their entire lives but they had no other option, only to pack up and go down the mountains. Climbing down the rough mountains for up to seven hours or taking a ride on ponies was the only option for those leaving their homes. They had to walk, take pony ride and then board a coach, truck, tractor trolley or whatever they got in their way to Orakzai and Kurram Agency.

Till a few years back, Tirah was known only as the summer hill station for the tribal Khyber and Orakzai Agencies. People of Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram Agencies used to spend their vacations in the area, mostly with their relatives since it was not a developed tourist spot. The access to the area was not that easy as one had to walk up the mountains for several hours due to the road condition.

Located close to the Durand Line, Tirah remained virtually independent since the colonial times. It was in 2003 when, for the first time, Pakistani forces entered the Tirah valley after militants started spilling over to different tribal areas, first from Afghanistan and later from the North and South Waziristan.

The huge mountains along with the difficulty of its passes and the fierceness of its inhabitants protected it from all the invaders whenever they tried to take control of the valley, comprising the major towns of Maidan, Rajgal, Waran, Bara and Mastura.

The five chief valleys are Maidan, Rajgul, Waran, Bara and Mastura. Maidan, the summer home of the Afridis, lies close under the snow-bound ridges of Koh-e-Sufaid. The hot summer used to take the tribesmen of Khyber and Orakzai Agency to this remote hill station which has now been vacated by even its own inhabitants.

The authorities are receiving the IDPs coming down from Tirah at Kalaya town of Orakzai Agency from day one. They are being provided with transportation and other facilities from Kalaya to take them to New Durrani Camp or Jalozai camp near Peshawar, Adnan Khan, the spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority (PDMA) told The News on Sunday.

The PDMA authorities have unofficially estimated that around 4000 people have come down from Tirah already while more are feared to come down to the settled and tribal areas due to the situation in the valley.

Around 274 families have so far been registered at the Jalozai camp located in Nowshera district, close to Peshawar. They are being provided assistance by the PDMA after registration. The assistance includes cooked food for first week and once they are settled, they are provided with ration and other facilities, said Adnan Khan.

There are reports that PDMA and the Civil Secretariat for Fata are looking for a suitable site somewhere in Peshawar where these IDPs can be registered and later taken to Jalozai. However, the district administration of Peshawar is hesitant in allowing registration in its area because of the law and order situation in the provincial capital. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also halted its assistance to the Tirah IDPs till security arrangements are made.

The UN body suspended its operations temporarily after a bomb attack at the Jalozai Camp last month when a large number of people were waiting for their turn to get ration from a food distribution center. At least 17 people, including a female worker of a local NGO and a government official, were killed and several were wounded in the blast. The situation further added to the miseries of the IDPs.

Apart from UNHCR, a number of foreign and local NGOs are working to help the Tirah Valley people, who were initially not being considered even as IDPs for technical reasons by most of the world bodies. The Al-Khidmat Foundation was one of the first local NGOs to have rushed to help the coming IDPs. They have set up camps at various places to enlist the Tirah IDPs and have appealed for assistance so the helpless and homeless tribesmen can be facilitated.

We are registering those who are coming down at different points. There are still a large number of people who are coming down the valley,said Shah Faisal, the tribal chief of Al-Khidmat Foundation. Shah Faisal said those coming down the valley are narrating horrifying ordeals while many disclosed that over 200 bodies of those killed in the fighting with militants remained unburied for several days.

A number of IDPs from Tirah Valley on April 2 protested at Jalozai camp for not being provided basic facilities. These IDPs gathered outside the camp of the PDMA and protested that they are being forced to share tents with those displaced from Bara. The situation has not only bothered the new IDPs but the old residents of the camp are also unhappy with the decision of the authorities.

A large number of families and individuals are temporarily residing with their relatives, some have hired rented homes while others are still looking for shelter in or off the camp in Bara, Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu. Media reported that LI men have distributed pamphlets in Bara area of Khyber Agency, warning the locals not to shelter those coming down from Tirah or face the music. Many of these pamphlets were found pasted on the main squares, mosques and important building in Bara.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

QK Archives: Kafir Kot

Dera’s mysterious fort
Ghulam Ali
Published march 2004 Statesman

Kafir Kot or “infidels’ fort” in the Khasore hills outside the village of Bilot Sharif on the road to Chashma in Dera Ismail Khan has been ignored by the archeologists. Deserted and rocky, it would have been an unremarkable place but for the group of seven extraordinary buildings, all Hindu temples, that crown its top. From the number of the temples, it is obvious that this fort was a college for the Vedic learning. There is absolutely no mention of this fascinating place in any historical work, ancient or contemporary. It is strange that a place of such opulence should have escaped the notice of men like Mehmood of Ghazna or Timur the Lame. John Wood, the 19th century explorer, who journeyed up the Indus to discover the sources of the Oxus River, paused to explore another Kafir Kot, called Kafir Kot Tilot. It lies almost 30 kilometres north of Bilot Sharif. This fort also finds mention in the works of Alexander Burnes and Charles Mason, but it is amazing that all of them failed to catch the glimpse of this great fort.
The temples of Bilot and Tilot mark the line of an ancient route, the Rajapatha, or the royal highway. Collectively known as the Hindu Shahiya temples, they are believed to have been built by the kings who ruled Kashmir, the northern part of Punjab and the NWFP just before the Ghaznavid explosions. The period following the end of the Maurian Empire in the late 3rd century BC right down to the 6th century AD was one of endless flux and upheaval, but after the white Huns were defeated by a Rajput army in 528 AD, there followed nearly 500 years of peace. There were no incursions into the subcontinent from the north-west until the last years of the 10th century when Mehmood made his first foray. In that period of peace, kings set to construct these fortified temples. It is remarkable that of the entire set of the Hindu Shahiya temples, only Nandna is clearly mentioned by the celebrated 11th century historian, Abu Rehan al-Beruni.
In the absence of historical reference, lore invents a Raja Bil, who founded this mysterious fort, while his brother, Til, founded Tilot long before the advent of Islam in this part of the land. A third brother, Akil, is said to have been the founder of Akilot, now marked by the mound of Akra just outside district Bannu. It is said that at the time of the Muslim invasion of Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 AD, the rajas of these places, particularly Raja Bil, sent his forces for the reinforcement of Raja Dahir’s army. In an age when the Rajput princes were given impressive names such as Latyitaditya, Yashodharman or Durlabhavardhan, even a poor potter’s son would not have carried the name as meaningless as Til or Bil. Consequently, I don’t believe there were rajas called by such ridiculous names. These appear to be the inventions of the local historians attempting to explain the names of Bilot or Tilot. That does nothing to reduce the significance of the ruins of Kafir Kot. Even if there has been no inquiry as to the background of the area, Bilot is an impressive milestone from our misty past between the 6th and 10th century AD.
Before the Tughlaq rule, Bilot was the bastion of the Hindu mythology. Then, during the Tughlaq rule on the subcontinent, Shah Esa’s ancestors migrated from Uch Sharif (Bahawalpur) and settled down here for the propagation of Islam. Due to the hectic efforts and devotion of Shah Esa and his lineage, most of the populace was converted to Islam.
It is said that more than one lakh saints of various creeds, both Hindus and Muslims, graced the area and are buried here. Kaval Ram Sati and Shah Esa, the leading lights of mysticism, spiritualism and Sufism, are visited by a very large number of people at different seasons. Bhisakhi, a Hindu festival falling in the month of April, is attended by the Hindus from both sides of the divide. They stay here for 5 to 10 days to commemorate the memory of Kaval Ram. They offer charities at the samadhi of the legend for the benediction of their souls and spiritual uplift. According to the Hindu devotees, he was a Bakhti reformer just like Kaval Ram whose samadhi exists in Delhi, but the descendants of Shah Esa argue that he was a moneem (revenue collector) of their grandfather. They further emphasise that he was also included in the list of the malangs (one who dedicates his life to his pir) of Shah Esa. When he died, the Hindus wanted to burn him as per the Hindu rites, but the Muslims claimed that he was a Muslim. Anyhow, the dispute reached Hazrat Shah Esa and he decided that his dead body be taken to the place where his thala exists today. When Hazrat Shah Esa reached there as to decide the matter, everyone wondered to see that he was no more in his bed and so the matter got resolved.
The Hindu mystics do not agree with the hypothesis. They claim that he was never converted to Islam. As his name and samadhi suggest, it can be said that he remained true to his faith. His presence in the area is stated to be during the eras of the Lodhis and the Mughals. These were the days of the Bakhti reformers and therefore he and the Muslims had been having cordial relations. That is why his samadhi is still visited by a large number of the Muslims as well.
The story of the “Dwelling of Spirits”, attached with Bilot Sharif, is another feature. The pirs, popularly known as makhdooms, have categorised the spirits as Muslims and non-Muslims. When any psyche patient approaches them for relief, the pir, after listening to his problem, proclaims that he or she is under the spell of spirits. It is up to the pir sahib whether the spirit is a believer or unbeliever. If the spirit is a believer, its spell is neutralised at the grave or a place near the grave of a Muslim saint, called Shah Esa, or Ajmal Darya, and if otherwise, the samadhi of Kaval Ram comes to his rescue. What a fantastic magic! The affectee is charged Rs80 per spirit and again it is the pir who has to decide the number of the spirits afflicting a single soul. Sometime a dozen spirits are said to dominate a person.
This practice goes on throughout the year, but the month of March is the special occasion. What a wonder as to how people still believe in these fairies and spirits and their neutralisation at Bilot Sharif?
As most of the invaders came through these areas to conquer Hindustan, therefore this little principality had to face the wrath of almost all the attackers and gradually disappeared from the scene of history. As per the “Conferment Deed” awarded by the Mughals to Hazrat Shah Esa, the makhdooms of Bilot Sharif were entrusted the administration of the area in the name of the Mughal emperors to fill the power vacuum created due to the fall of the Hindu principality.

QK Archives: On doing Pakhtunwali

On doing Pukhtunwali
Written by Dr Aneela Z Babar

Monday, 29 May 2006

Magnus Marsden is not alone in critiquing how the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has long been represented as, Home to a distinctive kind of violence, not so much communal as well as tribal with revenge, the feud and tests of prowess and masculinity supposedly central to Pukhtun life (Magnus Marsden: Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistans North West Frontier Province, Cambridge University Press, 2005). As Benedict Anderson (Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London, 1984) reflects, Communities are distinguished not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. In an earlier column, I had touched on re-imagining the Pathan community in modern day Pakistan by exploring the Khudai Khidmatgars of NWFP in pre-partition Pakistan. The movement had during the Indian nationalist movement grappled with the Orientalist imagination of the Pathans as the martial, hyper-masculine race. They did this by going beyond a simple engagement with the Gandhian principle of non-violence and managing to execute an ideal of positive masculinity through formulating and adopting an indigenous code of what constituted ghairat (honour) and strateetop (being a complete man), from a framework of Pukhtunwali/doing Pukhto (the code of conduct for being Pathan), and Islam that was familiar to their region. Others have called for an alternative memory of partition in NWFP by studying how the adoption of non-violence by this movement did not see the scale of communal violence in NWFP that the rest of South Asia did at the time of partition. Incidents where riots were instigated, the Khudai Khidmatgar personally intervened and ensured protection to Hindus and Sikhs living in the region.

The Khudai Khidmatgars, though inspired by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, involved a conscientious analysis by even the average subaltern of this non-violent army of how he negotiated an alternative interpretation of political Islam. Women were encouraged to be involved in the Khudai Khidmatgar movement and the resultant political activism brought about an easing of purdah and segregation rules, and inclusion of concerns like womens access to education and inheritance rights.

As Mukulika Banerjees painstaking research on the Khidmatgar movement shows (The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier, Oxford University Press and the School of American Research Press), this was not an instance of an ignorant peasant movement blindly following a charismatic leader. All sections of Pukhtun society involved in the Khidmatgar movement had a careful understanding of what the movement meant for them. For some, the movements civil disobedience, for example through its refusal to pay dues, struck effectively at the authority, income and prestige of the tax collectors and the Khan community who were seen as agents and intermediaries of the British. For others, it was some semblance of fending for Islamic values by opposing British wrongdoing and promoting social cohesion. As Banerjee notes, for the Pukhtun intelligentsia the movement was seen a revival of Pukhtun culture and living, which Marsden explores elsewhere for the Chitrali Muslims as living a mindful life. Ghaffar Khan by coming up with the cooperative sugar depots tried to challenge the economic stranglehold that NWFP was placed in, and also initiated business opportunities for Pathans. True to his principles of austerity, he tried to discourage extravagance amongst Pathans and their reliance on moneylenders, which he was of the opinion living a wasteful life encourages.

It is important to study and follow the history of the movement as symbolic interactionism derived from how Khidmatgars did Pukhtunwali. At times, history should be acknowledged as a cultural studies project by understanding the Khidmatgars observation of the situation, what they took into account, and follow common peoples interpretation of their actions and what led to their selection and execution of their behaviour.

With the simple oath, In the name of God who is Present and Evident, I am a Khudai Khidmatgar. I will serve the nation without any self-interest. I will not take revenge (badla) and my actions will not be a burden for anyone. My actions will be non-violent. I will make every sacrifice required of me to stay on this path. I will serve people without regard to their religion or faith. I shall use nation-made goods. I shall not be tempted by any office, the average villager who is ignorant and follows blindly� as British intelligence reports described them, followed a life that seems alien to todays perception of the community.

BanerjeeS beautiful narration of the community distributing the charkha (spinning wheel), of men questioning gendered representations of work (that spinning thread is only a womans job), challenging what they saw as British misinformation regarding class in Pukhtun society (that weavers are low caste and weaving was frowned upon in polite Pukhtun society) and the episode when a Khidmatgar in response to taunts that carrying a spinning wheel was carrying something un-Islamic and feminine, with the retort that this is his top (cannon) with which he will blast the British, are moving. With communal weavers workshops, women no longer keep purdah in front of the weavers and there was a relaxation of any restraints on mobility.

But what is exceptionally poignant are the images of the thousands of Khidmatgars at their charkha, conscious that being at the spinning wheel would remind them of the lessons that Ghaffar Khan had taught them at training camps of being self-contained and restraining pride. Grinding wheat for flour, rape-seed oil for cooking, cleaning the house, sweeping the hujra of the khan as khidmat (service), volunteering to dig graves and latrines were all, as Banerjee has analysed, the psychological preparation for non-violence, instilling patience, stoicism and forbearance in the Pathan. That the Khidmatgars stuck to their principles of non-violence and negotiated their political goals in the face of the physical violence unleashed by the British is exemplary.

This is in direct contrast to the present NWFP leadership, which stands accused of propagating a very monotheist definition of what doing Pukhto or being Muslim signifies. The provincial and national governments Afghan policy of the 80s has left behind a violent gun culture, promoted seclusion of women and a very narrow public space for religious and ethnic minorities. Though NWFPs low social development indicators can be explained as trends that existed before the development of the Afghan-inspired gun culture, to this some like Khattak (1994) reply that the comparative improvement in other Pakistani provinces indicates that there have been retrogressive state policies that have kept social change at bay in NWFP. In post-partition Pakistan, the Khudai Khidmatgar movement has faced the brunt of political violence and economic repression by successive regimes, with family members of those involved in the movement, and their later generations, still continuing to suffer. Therefore we have lost out on the opportunity of exploring an alternative paradigm for NWFP of a movement that had sponsored and supported a dialogue to address difficult problems of inter-communal and societal harmony, and that tolerance towards diversity of belief was not alien to the NWFP province.

This included street demonstrations by the Khidmatgars protesting the acts of disruption sponsored by the Political Agent-administered tribal areas and Muslim League, appointing groups to patrol the areas hosting non-Muslim populations and supporting these communities in the wake of provocation by any rioters. There are also oral testimonies of various instances where Khidmatgars and their extended families protected the lives and properties of non-Muslim minorities. The post-Partition Pakistan state�s efforts to valorize a belligerent, rather than a more rational and pacifist attitude towards others in the community did not give any space to the Khidmatgar and their episodes of valour in the official history of partition. Therefore, a particular episode of South Asian history will remain invisible with these stories remaining unspoken, hidden and de-legitimised.

The writer is a freelance columnist with a background in academia

Thursday, 1 March 2018

QK archives: Pirpai: Chota Vilayat

Chota Vilayat
Maryam Babar
July 4 2004
Yesterday I visited the past.
It was during one of my regular visits to the various rural areas of the Frontier. Our still un-named province. As I prefer to go to these places without too much prior briefing, I was not quite sure as to exactly where we were going. I just knew that, for once, it would be a shorter trip. Imagine my surprise when I saw the car turning on to the Pirpai road. They had brought me home.
I spent the day interviewing the people I had come to meet without revealing my familiarity with the place. In all honesty, not much seemed familiar. The lanes were rutted and dusty. The houses, mainly of mud construction, were huddled together with filthy open drains and rotting garbage piled on either side. The place stank of raw sewerage. The poverty was appalling and it was difficult to believe that I was in Chota Vilayat.
As the day was ending I gently asked the young man I was talking to if he had ever heard of a man called Papare Kaka.
He looked up in surprise "How do you know of him?" he asked.
"You know he is dead?" I told him that Papare had been one of our old zamindars who I remembered. Then he asked me if I knew of his own uncle, Hasmat Ali Khan. Though I had never met him I was familiar with the name and asked if he wasn’t the man who had been Col. Mir Haider’s bodyguard. This opened up a floodgate.
He talked about the legendry colonel, who was the first Indian to be directly commissioned into the British India Army, and regaled our group with stories of him. How he had bought the Peshawar zoo during the Second World War and moved it to Pirpai. Of how he had brought the first bus stop to the village, insisted also upon having a small railway station built, and donated land for the first school. Even the irrigation canal which has turned the surrounding fields into viable agricultural land had been brought by the colonel’s nephews. He talked of the garden parties in the Baghcha when the ladies of the Raj would come in large floppy hats and gloves. Of the days when governors general and prime ministers drove in and out of Pirpai. Of the hunts and the shoots and the weekend parties. Of days of past glory.
Listening to him talk nostalgically of those days I asked him when he had been born. It was in 1972, well after the death of Col. Mir Haider! But, the legend had lived on and he had been brought up on stories, heard in his father’s hujra, of the days when Chota Vilayat had flourished.
I asked him to guide the driver to our ancestral graves in the Baghcha. He gave me an embarrassed look and told me that the Baghcha no longer existed. It has been chopped up into small plots and the graves are now an island in the middle of a completely built up area. Stoically, I ignored the desecration of this once lovely place and stood at the locked gate of the mini graveyard. I was secretly grateful that no one could find the key. The knee-high grass looked as though many a happy snake might be living there in undisturbed solitude.
As I raised my hands to pray for the eternal rest of these, my children’s ancestors, I felt guilty. I have to accept responsibility for this neglect. Not just for the uncared-for graves but a collective responsibility for the neglect of this village.
Those who lie buried there had done so much for this place but look at it now. I felt anger that this village which has produced Sandhurst Sword of Honour graduates, governors, ambassadors, generals, chief engineers, ministers, journalists, professors, doctors and lawyers galore should have been so neglected. This is another sad story of the urbanisation of our society. Success entices the Pathan away from his roots and into the already over populated city and his original home is always forgotten. The village is now only a place to which we take back our dead. The processions of cars that used to come for garden parties and weddings now come only for funerals.
Depressed at what I had seen I sat silent on the way home. But, then, I thought of something that still makes Pirpai different.
Everyone I had met that day had been educated. Even the women were all literate. Every household I visited had not thought it exceptional to say that all their children were away at school.
The people I had interviewed had talked easily and openly. When asked it they would object to their stories being published and maybe even televised they had shrugged and said that theirs was not such a conservative culture. No one seemed worried about censure from the village Mulla.
They talked about their experiences and asked us to help them start some sort of an income-generation programme for the womenfolk. The young said that earlier every Pirpai male had studied and gone on to some sort of government or semi-government job. But now their education did not equip them for such jobs and opportunities were few. They had to try and start some independent enterprise to survive. They showed an incredible will to better themselves and the work ethic was strong.
And so I acknowledged the true legacy of our Pirpai elders: Education. Independence. A progressive attitude to the hardships of life and genuine pride. Character. I recalled the bitter tone in which the man had bemoaned the fact that such a large and important family had not left any waris to keep the village alive. But, I knew he was wrong. He, and others like him, are the true warisaan of the family that used to live in the old fort. They will build the roads and bus stations and canals of the future and make Chota Vilayat proud of its name, again. It is their turn.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Peshawar Radio’s aesthetic phase when N.M. Rashid ran the show

Peshawar Radio’s aesthetic phase when N.M. Rashid ran the show
City Diary
Afzal Hussain Bokhari
25 January 2005 Statesman

With huge listeners’ mail piled up on his table, station director of Radio Pakistan Peshawar, late Noon Meem Rashid, who was later to become the founder of modern Urdu poem and earn the title of being ‘poets’ poet’, picked one letter after the other and examined the contents personally. The voice that answered the listeners’ letters in those days described itself simply as “payami” (the messenger). Quick to find a pattern in a regular phenomenon, Rashid somehow noticed that every week a letter signed just as “salami,” found its way into the radio mail. The contents of the letter showed that its writer understood broadcasting and had adequate knowledge of Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English, Pashto and Hindko.
The passion for talent hunt, for which old-time broadcasters (like Zulfiqar Ali Bokhari) were famous, dominated Rashid. He decided to reach out to the author of well-written but anonymous letters. “Payami” came on air and dished out a thinly veiled threat that in future he would not be entertaining any letter from “salami” unless it contained his complete postal address. The threat worked and the next letter said it came from 312, Dhakki Munawar Shah, Peshawar City. Without letting anyone in the Broadcasting House know of it, Rashid quietly descended on the place.
Out from the building to greet the radio director emerged a handsome, smiling young student Malik Rahat Ali who was then the editor of the Edwardes College magazine. Malik later did his Master’s in Persian, went into journalism and retired as a senior member of the daily Mashriq’s editorial section. Rashid was amazed to see that the 19-year-old college student had specially travelled to Lahore to see Maulana Chiragh Hassan Hasrat who then wrote fascinating columns for the prestigious Urdu daily “Imroze,” mostly with his byline but occasionally under the pen name of “Sindbad.”
Meetings between Rashid and Malik continued as long as Rashid stayed in Peshawar. During his tenure, writers like Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi, Sa’adat Hassan Manto and others felt attracted towards Peshawar. Qasimi even agreed to stick around and work at Peshawar Radio as script editor for some time. Rashid later left Peshawar and disappeared into the dizzying heights of fame and eminence.
Born in Ali Pur Chattha in central Punjab, Rashid has all along been an essential name on the literary scene. Soon after his birth, a Hindu astrologer worked out a horoscope and predicted that Rashid would have two male issues, which incidentally proved true. His son late Shehryar Rashid by first wife Safia became a civil servant and was later appointed Pakistan’s ambassador in Uzbekistan. Shehryar’s mother Safia is buried in Karachi. Rashid took care to get Safia’s grave cemented. Apart from Shehryar, Safia also had a loving daughter Nasreen, who by good chance is still alive. We pray for her health and a long life.
Almost every year, Rashid’s death anniversary goes unnoticed. Most of the senior names in Urdu poetry and prose feel scared in arranging a get-together where befitting tributes could be paid to the sublime art of Rashid. The main reason for this unpardonable neglect appears to be the mysterious circumstances in which his last rites were performed in London.
Rightly or wrongly, after 29 long years of the poet’s departure, his daughter Nasreen Rashid has tried to lift the curtain on her father’s death. In an article carried by the Rawalpindi edition of a major Urdu newspaper, she wrote that when her father died of a heart attack in Surrey, England on October 9, 1975, he was in the custody of his second wife Sheila, who had an Italian father. When Sheila’s father died in London, he was cremated according to family traditions.
Rashid went to see the cremation of his father-in-law but the guards hesitated in allowing him into the ritual. When he introduced himself as a retired UN officer, the guards ultimately let him in. Nasreen said that on his return from the cremation, Rashid felt so disturbed that he simply would not wish a similar end for himself. All the same, on Rashid’s death, Sheila ordered a cremation. The ashes remained preserved for some time in a crematorium in south London but these were later scattered over the Garden of Remembrance.
The rules in England were strict and gave legal wife the rights to decide about the last rites of her husband the way she liked. Nasreen said she and her brother Shehryar did not want to have the dead body of their beloved father burnt. They wanted to give him a decent burial but they were helpless. They contacted some London-based writers but everybody said he was sorry. In its obituary note, BBC’s Urdu service quoted Sheila, as having said that a cremation was what Rashid had personally desired in his will but Nasreen said she or Shehryar were absolutely unaware of any such will.
The BBC news, when reproduced by the vernacular press in the subcontinent, created immense embarrassment for Rashid’s family back home. People in general tended to dismiss the poet as a Westernised secular intellectual who did not like even an Islamic burial for himself. Nasreen denied all this as one-sided propaganda and said that she knew very few Muslim scholars who understood the Holy Quran better than her father did.
Giving an example of how deeply religious her father was, Nasreen recalled that in order to offer ‘fateha’ on her mother’s grave, Rashid took Tanzeel, his son from the second wife, to Karachi. When Tanzeel said he felt like urinating, Rashid told him to wait until they were out of the graveyard. “How could such a man want cremation as had deep respect even for the dead?” asked Nasreen.
Apart from the unending debate on being more religious or less, in the literature of the subcontinent, Rashid emerged as some sort of T. S. Eliot of Urdu poetry.
The obscurity and vagueness in his poetry, the grandiose and unfamiliar diction, the mystery and the intricately woven rhythm, and his fascinating way of co-relating the ordinary atom to the wider universe is the same as in Eliot.
Even well-read critics of Urdu literature shy away from attempting a worthwhile analysis of his poems and collections of poetry.
Aside from his wonderful translations from modern Persian poets of Iran, Rashid has left behind four beautifully challenging collections of poetry: 1. Mawara, 2. Iran mein ajnabi, 3. La = Insaan, and 4. Gumaan ka mumkin. Cremated or buried, these books will never let Rashid die, anyway.

QK Archives: A readable anthology of Hindko poetry

A readable anthology of Hindko poetry
Published Monday October 6 2003 by Statesman Peshawar

By Afzal Hussain Bokhari
It is very rare that a book in Hindko gets published from Peshawar, Abbottabad, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan or any other Frontier town where the language is spoken or understood. Idara Farogh-i-Hindko, Peshawar, therefore, deserves a pat on the shoulder that it brought out a 160-page anthology of poetry titled so aptly “Hindko ghazlaan di soghaat.”
A quick look at the contents shows that the compiler of the volume, Aurangzeb Ahmad Ghaznavi, who works at Superior Science College, Peshawar, has ostensibly taken pains to put together in book form 140 ghazal pieces by 136 writers scattered oddly across the province into cocoons of self-love. Poetic pieces picked for the anthology are not new. Those with a keen eye and a sharp ear for Hindko poetry or prose have already read or heard of most of the pieces included. The important thing about the publication is that ghazal pieces were taken out from the personal diaries of the writers and put together like a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers.
In his foreword to the anthology, the compiler has said that responsibility to determine the order of seniority (hifz-i-maratib) of the selected writers falls on Khatir Ghaznavi and Haji Mohammad Ismail Awan but at times the compiler appears to have so naively mixed up junior and senior writers that serious readers of Hindko literature receive rude shocks. For example, Mukhtar Ali Nayyar, Nazeer Tabassum and Sajjad Babar perhaps deserve a better place than the one allotted to them.
In his brief two-page history of Hindko ghazal, Khatir Ghaznavi has started from Mohammadji Wanjiara and come down to Aurangzeb Ghaznavi but he took care not to make even a passing reference to his contemporary writer Mukhtar Ali Nayyar. This situation is best summed up in an English quotation: “I do not agree with what you say but I shall sacrifice my life to give you the right to say so!”
This type of factual lapses, future historians may call it sheer dishonesty, on the part of a senior literary research scholar may render his entire research questionable. Everyone in Peshawar knows that Khatir and Nayyar are genuine scholars of Hindko to the extent of being even chauvinists. They live at a walking distance from each other but due to professional rivalry neither of them wants to see the face or hear the name of the other, which is so agonising for their admirers.
Difference of opinion with fellow writers apart, the compiler of a credible anthology of poetry should be unbiased and dispassionate. Aurangzeb has tried, wherever possible, to be precisely like that. Still there are some names in the anthology that are missing. For example, Mushtaq Shabab, Bushra Farrukh, Qudsia Qudsi, Shamshad Nazli and Nasira Sajjad Babar can write better poetry than many of those piled up in the book but not a single line by them has been included. Feeling apologetic about this in his foreword, the compiler has, however, promised to include them in his next attempt.
Somewhere inside him, the compiler probably has a latent desire that in times to come when Hindko will perhaps be taught at the M.A. level, Peshawar University may, by a sheer stroke of luck, decide to include this anthology in the curriculum of the M.A. Hindko classes, whenever that happens. Without meaning disrespect to anyone, it may be submitted that content-wise quite a few ghazal pieces especially by new and little known writers appear amateurish and mere versification of third-rate emotions of imagined love. Whether or not the book finds its way to the M.A. courses, the sheer delight of reading of reading a new anthology of Hindko poetry should be enjoyed just for the fun of it.
Sajjad Babar can write equally fascinating poetry in Urdu and his mother tongue Hindko. Had the compiler requested for a fresh, unpublished piece, Babar is the type of man who feels pleasure in obliging others in such professionally literary matters. But such a request does not seem to have gone out to any other writer as well. It may just be in the fitness of things to reproduce here the most quoted lines from Sajjad Babar: “Hor te saada wass kay chalda eh wadiyaee keeti, warkha,warkha sari album chai chai keeti!” (Having been driven to the wall in love, I was rendered totally helpless. In desperation what I did was to burn the entire album, page after page, to ashes!).
Diminishing returns at saving centres: There was a time when widows, pensioners and salaried men and women in the city queued up in front of the National Saving Centres with their hard-earned money to invest in half a dozen of highly attractive schemes. Those who invested Rs100,000 in the monthly income schemes were given a profit of Rs1,550 which after the deduction of withholding/income tax, came down to Rs1,350. Since the rate of profit was good, customers did not mind the deduction of tax. Due probably to a liberal inflow of foreign aid after the 9/11 developments, our government does not appear to be in need of public savings. Rate of interest has gradually been coming down. At present if anyone invests Rs100,000, he gets a monthly profit of nearly Rs936. On special saving (registered) certificates, the customer gets a six-monthly profit of Rs3,750 on an investment of Rs100,000. As if this was not enough, the saving centre staff deducts Rs93.75 as Zakat money and, if your investment exceeds Rs150,000 which is more often the case, a 10 percent deduction from July 2001of withholding/income tax (Rs375 on a profit of Rs3,750) is also done. So with tears in eyes, and a nasty curse in whispers, a poor, old elderly woman returns home with a six-monthly net profit of Rs3,281, which comes down to Rs546 per lakh per month. The goldsmith living next door ridicules the frail old widow and offers to give Rs3,000 every month on her amount but the woman thinks her money may not be safe with the clever goldsmith so she continues to harvest humiliation from the State-controlled exploitation centres under the pseudonyms of savings.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

QK Archives: Election Day 1997 Lakki Marwat



by Zeenath Jehan

2nd. February 1997.

9:30 A.M.

It was a wet and dreary day when the plane carrying me to Dera Ismail Khan took off from Peshawar airport. Elections (on 3rd. February) beckoned. Many of my relatives were standing from various National and Provincial constituencies, and experienced and reliable polling agents were in great demand.

Many Southern District constituencies have privately disenfranchised women; but my aunt, Kulsum Saifullah, has been working in Ghazni Khel for the last 26 years. Being a social worker since her early days, she had made women aware of this right, and had enough clout to override any reservations the men might have. So it was GhazniKhel where I was heading to, to be Humayun Saifullah's polling agent. Humayun was standing from PF 61 and PF57; Saleem from PF62 and Anwar from NA20.

Waiting for the plane to take off I had thought of how, as children, we used to argue fiercely about the merits of Khattak Vs Marwat. The Saifullah brothers still have not won the argument. It is a Khattak, their mother, who is the architect of their success, although she would prefer to give them the whole credit. Humayun, six months elder to me, was my childhood playmate and favourite cousin. He is a warm, nurturing person who can be called a 'good' person in every sense of the word, without any reservations. I remembered he always loved a good argument; enough to argue both sides if faced with an indifferent opponent. I remembered how Anwar's droll humour and his flair for mimicry used to have us in stitches. Saleem, three years younger to me, used to be a skinny, naughty child with an infectious laugh, and had to be cajoled for every morsel he ate.

Humayun's daughter, Hoor was accompanying me to GhazniKhel. It was drizzling when we took off, but we soon flew out of the bad weather. The view was breathtaking. Layers upon layers of snow-capped mountains, ringed with clouds, rose to the right. We soon ran into thick clouds again, but, in the distance some mighty mountain reared their heads still higher, and held my interest in the otherwise blank view.

Soon the terrain changed again. Now there were rough, creased bare mountains below. I asked the hostess about them. She said the slate-grey-bare ridges were the hills of Bannu. Then the hills ended abruptly, and we were flying above the wide, flat expanse of the green plains of Bannu. The desert of Dera Ismail Khel was visible in the distance, and still further were more towering peaks. As the plane gradually lost altitude, we were buffeted and enveloped by more clouds. Tipping to the right we over flew the green fields that surround DIK proper, and began our descent.

11:00 A.M.

A car was awaiting us and we set off. We were soon driving past the Lucky Cement Factory and Pezu Bazaar. There was no electioneering in progress. Although the bazaar was crowded, not a single woman was in sight. The cement-leaching Pezu hills were bare of trees, just brush, rocks and sand. The landscape kept changing, each with a charm of its own as it was so different from what I had been used to. Now it was flat, dotted with 'Keekar' and 'Guzz' trees with 'Channa' and Wheat fields beyond. Then we drove past ShahbazKhel and TatarKhel and I wondered whether the descendants of Tartars were settled there.

Finally we arrived at GhazniKhel.This is when the driver chirruped up and asked where he was to take us. This posed a problem as we did not have a clue. Finally he decided to stop at the GhazniKhel District Council Rest-house and ask someone where 'Ma'mmy' could be found. Kulsum Saifullah is 'Ma'mmy' to all the Marwats. Without a second thought a man hopped into the car and took us to the Saifullah's house in GhazniKhel. This was a simple village house, with a brick paved courtyard, two bedrooms leading off the polished verandah and a very basic kitchen. An outhouse and a 'baithak or hujra' (men's quarter) made up the rest of the house. The piles of mattresses in a corner of the verandah bespoke of many over night guests. A diesel generator and the satellite dish on the roof showed that all the comforts of modern technology were not completely dispensed with. A boy was halfheartedly chopping firewood in a corner of the courtyard. We were greeted by a bevy of waiting village women in their sunday best, (gota, kinari, the works!). Each wanted to shake the hand of "Mayun" (as Humayun is called in the village) Khan's sister and daughter and asked the usual questions of how many children we had. One old lady wondered how long it must have taken us to arrive from far away Peshawar while another showed off her worldly knowledge and said we must have flown in an airplane, which was fast. Ofcourse, politics was seriously discussed too!

They seemed amused by Imran's confession that he had no money to arrange transport for his voters. They were not impressed by the connotations of his confession. They were offended. One woman told us that he had collected a whole lot of money for his hospital and had married a rich woman and yet would not part with any for the comfort of his voters! While I had been chatting with the women, Hoor had been on the phone. She found that her grandmother was in Bannu. Getting away was a little tricky as half the women wanted to come with us. They were carrying slips of paper with 'sifarish'.

We draped ourselves in our 3 yards long chaddors and covered our noses before stepping into the car. Yes, here it is not enough that you are modestly dressed and wrapped in a chaddor; only the eyes are supposed to be visible if you want to be taken for a respectable woman.

The road from GhazniKhel to Bannu is straight as an arrow. We passed brassica fields beyond Tajazai (do descendants of Tajiks live here?). Children playing cricket in the villages that seemed to merge into the earth-toned landscape, make it all seem so familiar ... yet so very different. The number of petrol pumps made me think that Anwar must not have had anything else to do as Petroleum Minister, except give his constituents petrol pump licenses!

Next came Gambela with masses of Sohan Halwa in every shop. Every petrol pump we passed had queues of "datsuns" as they are indiscriminately called, waiting to be filled up for D-day tomorrow. Then came Sarai Naurang, where Anwar had his base camp. It is a large hodge-podge, higgledy-piggledy market town. Tongas, buses, "datsuns", cars, donkey carts, rehras, people and yet more people wandered around all over. The mud and mire add to its unattractive look.

I was fascinated by all I saw, but Hoor concentrated on her worry beads. Once away from population, I quickly pulled down the chaddor from my nose, it was suffocating. Our guide insisted on giving us messages for "Mayun Khan". It is always like this in an election. Each person proves his loyalty by whispering of the treachery of another; enough to make one feel paranoid and friendless. We finally arrived in Bannu, famous for its masala and 'naswar'. There was more mud, more 'datsun', suzuki, tongas and the everpresent sea of male humanity.

Armed men crowded the gate of the Bannu house. This is necessary in trigger-happy Bannu. Heads bent, noses covered, we hurried into the 'zenana'. The place was awash with women and girls. After freshening up I went to the durree-covered backyard where groups of women were sunning themselves and chattering incessantly. There was a lot of talk about Kabir Khan, Anwar's opponent, who had opened his coffers after the Supreme Court ruling. The gossip was that he had gone from door-to-door dishing out 1000 Rs. notes to everyone, in exchange of a promise to vote for him.

Meanwhile, groups of girls were being called up, polling station by polling station. Aunty Kulsum, newspaper in hand, tested their reading and writing ability. Many were found wanting and sent off with a flea in their ear. I do not know how anyone could make themselves understood above the din of the loud babbling voices in the open-air backyard! I finally beat a hasty retreat from the cacophony to the comparative peace of the bedroom I was to share with two other cousins.

An SOS came from the person incharge of vehicles. The Commissioner Kohat, to deploy the soldiers the next day had requisitioned One hundred and twenty-five coasters. That they had been paid for by the Saifullahs was conveniently ignored. Aunty Kulsum was up half the night trying to get her vehicles back, but no amount of arguments and cajolery worked.

We were each posted to stations that were expected to be troublesome, and began working out an election strategy, then finally turned in. We had to get up at 4:00 A.M to reach our stations in time for polling, which was to begin at 7:00A.M. Then the bedroom door creaked open and someone said "Heloo". Humayun was silhouetted in the doorway. Screaming with delight I jumped out of bed. A round of hugging and kissing took place (we are a very expressive family), and then he told us about his campaign and what we were to expect the next day. Humayun asked which station I was going to be at. MinaKhel, I told him. I knew my citified ways were no match for the bristling, crude vulgarity that village women are capable of. I was not looking forward to it. Humayun comforted me, saying he would be in Lakki Marwat and all I had to do was call for help. Then Anwar turned up. After another bout of hugging, kissing and squealing, he soon had us in stitches, relating tales of Irfanullah Marwat, mimicking him to a 'T'. Presumably, Irfan had been going along the campaign trail, with a drummer and dancing boys. His trump card at every meeting was when he proudly announced to his bemused constituents that he had earned an M.A degree in 'Badmashi' in Karachi. I for one, believed his boast!

D-Day 3rd. February 1997.

4:00 A.M

The alarm went off. I tried ignoring it. Finally Hasina turned it off. Sehri was taken in silence. I had a knot in my stomach. Tension was high. Finally, wrapping myself in my chaddor (not forgetting the nose) and pinning on my badge, I was ready to face ELECTION '97. Outside, the vehicles were starting off on their job of collecting the voters for polling. The day was just beginning to dawn when Samina and I set off at 6:15. By then all the vehicles had left and the place was eerily quiet. Samina (Anwer's wife) was to go to her father's village, IsmailKhel. We turned off the Bannu/Lakki road on to the winding road to IsmailKhel. All the roads here were surprisingly good, or not so surprising, since they led to the ex-presidents village. The Saifullah brothers had put their years in Government to good use. The quiet village seemed fast asleep, although Inamullah Khan's household (our destination) was humming with activity.The sun was now rising over the towering date palms and the brassica fields.

7:00 A.M.

The coaster driver was from Peshawar and did not know the way to MinaKhel, so an unwashed young man in a khaki chaddor was sent with me as a guide. It seems all the men here wear khaki chaddors. I am not quite sure whether that was the original colour.

By now 'datsuns', Suzuki's and coasters, flying the flags of various parties, were driving up to be loaded with their precious cargo of voters. I was getting edgy. Voting must have already started. We passed through Sarai Naurang, where the debris of yesterday still made the sleeping marketplace look untidy. Then we ran into a heavy mist. Sitting knee-to-jowl I was sure the coaster owner had picked up a few tips from the PIA. He had added as many rows of seats as was humanly possible, without making his passengers sit atop one another.

8:00 A.M

By the time we reached TajaZai the sun was piercing the clouds and we picked up speed. Deciding not to waste any more time I asked the driver to take me to Humayun's Lakki Marwat office. Here I met Neelo who looked harassed. She was glad to see me as she had discovered by accident, that two new polling stations had been set up overnight, and she had no one to staff them. Shifting to her car it still took us half an hour before we could leave, as she kept calling out instructions about gathering up girls for polling duty.

8:45 A.M

I arrived at Government School No. 2. Neither Anwar nor Humayun had an agent in the station. Of the ten contestants, only four had known of the new station. They were said to enjoy official patronage. There were ten of us in the station. Two returning officers and two assistant presiding officers, and six polling agents. One agent from Khalid Lateef's camp seemed on very friendly terms with the lady officers and my Paranoia was beginning to raise its head again. I felt like such an outsider. Luckily I had arrived when the third vote was being polled and I got down to business right away. One lady was carrying on a long conversation with the returning officer about where to affix the stamp. I objected. The other agents jumped to her support. It took almost fifteen minutes before Havaldar A.Razzaq Chowdrey, of the 21st. FF brought everything under control. He had been given the unenviable task of keeping the peace in a women's polling station. I must say his behaviour that day raised my flagging trust in the armed forces.

Neelo turned up with a local girl to help me. The lady officers recognized her and I felt a little better. Irfanullah Marwat's agents came without voter's lists. They hung around for a few minutes and then left. We never saw them again. Next the mother of an assistant presiding officer came. She asked us all whether we had any objections to her stamping the ballot paper for her mother. We did not .So she went ahead and polled the vote for her mom.

Since there was nothing to do, we all began to chat. I asked Kabir Khan's agent/relative whether it was true that he had spent crores in this election. She proudly informed us that he had kept 20 lakhs in each village as surety for the development work he had promised during his campaign. Private money for public works? This was a new one on me!

9:30 A.M

Only five votes polled so far. At this rate, with an average of one vote every thirty minutes, we could expect only eighteen votes to be polled during the nine hours from 7:00 A.M to 4:00 P.M.

A young girl came to vote. It happened that I checked up her age and found that she was forty-three. This I did not believe! I told her that I was going to challenge her vote and she would go to prison if she was polling a bogus vote. She ran out of the room. The presiding officer, Mr. Abdus Samad brought her back and said she could poll her vote and he would guarantee nothing happened to her. He tried to discourage me from challenging her vote. That is when I pulled out my press card and pinned it to my chest. He then objected to my being a polling agent and wanted to have me thrown out. But that was easier said than done. I browbeat the poor man in fluent english and he retreated.

10:30 A.M

Voters were now arriving in twos and threes, but they were mostly the opponent's voters. Two women went behind the curtained partition where they were to stamp the ballot papers. I raised a hue and cry and was accused of intimidating the voters. Then came another bogus voter. The ID card gave her age as twenty years younger than what the voter's list said. I refused to allow her to poll her vote which really made the presiding officer (Abdus Samad) very angry. After another hot exchange with him I threatened to send for Humayun. Abdus Samad called the Additional Session Judge Subhan Sher. In very bad english, Mr. Subhan Sher said it made no difference what the voter's list said and I had no right to object. When I continued to argue, he became nasty and rude, I returned the compliment, but, might is right. So according to the ruling of the learned judge, the information in the voter's list was disregarded. I found this most disturbing and he could not give me a satisfactory reply as to the function of the information on the voter's list if it was to be disregarded with impunity. This is when I began to challenge all voters who had discrepant information on their ID cards and the voter's list. The presiding officer was most displeased with me!

In all this hullabaloo one woman walked off with the stamp. After searching high and low, it was found in the shrubs. It had barely been recovered when another was caught at the door, walking off with anther stamp, she gave it up amidst peals of laughter. The Havaldar was most amused, he kept his good humour all along.

1:00 P.M

By now I had been challenging every suspect vote and was running out of change (2 Rs. per challenge). The sister-in-law of Mr. Khalid Lateef, was also very, very angry with me. She came charging up to my table and said,

" What is your name? I will report you to Begum Kulsum Saifullah for being a nuisance."

"Zeenath" I shot back at her. That is when her polling agent told her that I was infact, Kulsum's niece. She kept her distance after that.

I was hungry and thirsty from all the arguments. Three long hours to go, and the minutes were barely crawling by.

1:10 P.M

I halted the voting since two of the Returning Officers had gone off for ablutions and prayers. I told the young sipahi not to allow any voters in until the staff had returned. While waiting for the staff, we began chatting. One woman loudly asked herself whether Kabir's womenfolk had any conception about the voting process. This raised a loud chuckle. Then another told us of how his mother was found busy praying for the success of all the candidates. She was finally convinced that if they won her son would surely lose.

1:35 P.M

Voting restarted after everyone had suitably purified themselves. This is when we had our biggest 'tamasha' .One woman became enraged when I challenged the suspect voters she was ferrying in. Knowing I was an outsider, she pretended to belong to Humayun's camp. She did not realize that I had remembered her from when she had come to poll her vote and announced to all and sundry that she was voting for the 'book'. I ignored her. She then pointedly began to pray that the government of the 'angraiz' does not return. I was later told that she was calling Humayun an angraiz as an epithet. I continued to ignore her, as I could not really understand the Marwat dialect. My equanimity must have ired her, as she came up to my table waving her hand under my nose. I am glad the Havaldar heard the noise and came in before I lost my patience with her. He tried removing her politely, but did not succeed. He was firm, with even less success. She included his belt, and my reading glasses in something curses that I could not understand. He finally succeeded in removing the lady who was still frothing at the mouth.

Another lull in polling led to another round of gossip. The girls repeated, with gales of laughter Irfan's claim to an M.A degree in 'Badmashi'. They said he claimed to know more about badmashi since he had been a successful badmash in a place like Karachi. This is when I was told that the woman who had created the scene a few minutes ago was the wife of Amir Nawaz, a candidate for NA 20.

2:30 P.M.

Only eighty-three votes polled so far. The Assistant Presiding Officers seemed to be impressed by my (common-sensical) knowledge of the rules. During a long lull in polling they asked my permission to go out in the sun until the voters came. I magnanimously allowed them to do so.

They could not stay out long. Amir Nawaz's daughter-in-law, Shahana, now took her mother-in-law's place in ferrying bogus voters. I was busy writing when I noticed the Returning Officer point to me, while talking to her. I joined them at the table. Just in the nick of time it seems. Shahana was on the point of stamping the ballot paper of the women she had brought in. Flinty eyed, she turned to me. If looks could kill, I would be dead. Reading her body language I knew that she was on the verge of attacking me physically, so I judiciously kept the Returning Officer between us.

3:00 P.M.

The 91st voter entered and we almost clapped. While leaving she prayed that we should all 'pass'. The girls said we all could not 'pass'. So she satisfied herself by praying that whosoever won, we should all be happy.

3:30 P.M

Only half an hour to go. The Havaldar came in and asked if he could allow the voters into the station as he planned to lock the main gate at four O'clock sharp. I slipped into my role of GrandMaster and grandly gave him permission.

3:50 P.M

We crossed the 100 mark with a rush as a group of six women entered together.

4:00 P.M

There were no female voters within the precincts of the station. The Presiding Officer came in and declared voting closed. He took our signatures on a blank piece of paper. Now counting of the ballot papers would start in the presence of the polling agents. At least that is what usually happens. Not this time though. Open-mouthed I watched as the ballot boxes were carried away. I protested. I kept protesting the disappearance of the ballot boxes and only agreed to leave when the good natured Havaldar told me that that was that, and I had to leave.

There was no vehicle available. The lady whom Auntie Kulsum had told to make sure I reach home safely took charge and we walked off to Neelo's polling station. Neelo put me in a car and I was set off home. Iftari caught us in the middle of nowhere, but Neelo's driver was an enterprising man. He had been carrying flattened, cold pikoras for just such an eventuality. He shared them with me. I was literally starving, and they were the tastiest pikoras I have ever eaten!


One great disappointment of election 97 was that they followed Zia-ul-haq's policy of presenting the complete result. The announcement of progressive results not only adds to the interest and excitement, but also is more believable. Now came the nailbiting wait for results from the polling stations. One moment we were leading, the next we fell behind. Only Anwar's results were satisfying. He had a good lead over his nearest rival Kabir. Then suddenly the results from Anwar's polling stations stopped coming in. Humayun and Saleem's results came tumbling in and by midnight we knew they had won. If there were any doubts the wild firing outside the house convinced us.

4th. February 1997

We left for GhazniKhel early next morning. Groups from various villages in the three Saifullah constituencies were converging on GhazniKhel. Now was the time for celebration. Although Anwar had not won, there was little doubt in everyone's mind as to the cause. The grounds outside the walls of GhazniKhel were covered with tents. The women went to the house. Each band was led by drummers and heralded its arrival with loud gunfire. Then began the dancing; head bent, flailing arms, they took tiny steps to the right and left while we clapped them on.

Although the victory celebration is the best part of the whole election I had to leave, it was time for me to catch my flight.