Tuesday, 31 January 2017

QK Archives: Death in the Mines

Exposé originally published April 2006 by NEWSLINE

Death in the Mines

With no access to even basic medical amenities, coal miners continue to work in horrendous, life-threatening conditions.

By Gulmina Bilal

Deep in the bowels of the Balochistan coal mines, thousands of coal miners toil under life-threatening conditions, with little or no safety precautions in place. Bonded for their working life through contractors, young boys of 13 work till they are 30 years old for a paltry sum until their damaged lungs can no longer withstand the chronic exposure to coal dust. Digging thousands of feet below ground, in a hollow tunnel in a mountain, what are the living conditions of the coal miners? What safety standards do they operate under? What is the human cost of mining coal and do the workers get the monetary rewards that they deserve?

Coal is still a significant source of energy and is mined in many countries including Pakistan, which has extensive coal deposits: 184 billion tons in all the four provinces. In the NWFP, Cherat and Hangu have the highest coal deposits, while Balochistan has the richest coal fields in the country.

A coal miner's life is extremely hazardous and sometimes even fatal. He spends the best years of his life literally in the dark digging for a living under the most adverse conditions.

A typical day for a coal-mine worker in one of the approximately 250 coal mines in Balochistan starts at five a.m. The miner will typically be either from Swat district in the Frontier, or from Afghanistan and between 13 and 30 years. The age scale is very easily defined as typically a miner starts working at 13 and can only work a maximum of 17 years in the mine. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Mukhtiar Zaman, Chief Executive of Abasin Foundation in NWFP and Balochistan, the working life span of a coal miner is 17 years. A prominent coal mine owner from Balochistan, Shiekh Abdul Aziz, denies the charges of child labour in mining and says, "There is no question of employing children of 13 or 14. There is no child labour. We only employ workers from 15 years of age." The younger ones, with their young unpolluted lungs, are sent to the deepest part of the mine where there is even less ventilation. As the years pass, the miner is no longer able to work that long or that deep and by the age of 30, he is compelled by Pneumoconiosis to stop. According to Dr. Mukhtiar Zaman, Pneumoconiosis, also known as, coal miner's disease, is a forerunner of tuberculosis.

Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease resulting from chronic exposure to coal dust, its inhalation and deposition. All too often, when the miner is forced by crippling health problems to leave work, he invariably sends his young teenage son to replace him. According to a survey conducted by the Abasin Foundation on 107 respondents, the miners are aware of the health hazards, but with financial compulsions and lack of job opportunities, mining is often the only option available. According to one coal-mine worker, "It is unfair to say that we have a choice whether we should send our sons to mine or not. This is how our life is. Father is replaced by son and son by grandson."

So what are the financial rewards for risking their lives? The average coal miner works for 15 or 16 hours a day. All of them are daily wage workers brought to the coal mine by a contractor. This contractor works as a middle man: on behalf of the mine owner, he seeks young, able-bodied men or boys from poor families in Swat and Afghanistan. These families are mostly under debt to private money-lenders and so are more than eager to take the lump sum in cash offered by the contractor in exchange for work. The cash payments range from thirty to eighty thousand rupees and the recruit is expected to work the payment off. Since the coal miner's monthly income is 1800 to 2500 rupees, the workers are mostly indebted for life to the contractors and the mine owners. A source in the Social Security Department of the Balochistan government, who does not wish to be named, calls this arrangement "bonded labour" Even to collect this meagre wage, they have to travel several miles to collect payment. Since the services of the worker have already been bought, he is worked so hard that more often than not, he doesn't even have time to wash his hands before a meal.

According to another local development worker, Arbab Nizam, "The living conditions of coal miners can be gauged from the fact that a majority of them have an almost permanent thick coating of coal tar on the soles of their feet."

It is important to mention that in Balochistan hardly any locals are involved in mining since it is considered too much of a health hazard. Most of the workers are from the poverty-stricken Hazara tribe of Afghanistan or from Swat. The only locals are the Pathans of Toba Kakari but they prefer to work in the deepest sections which are more profitable for three months at a time. No Baloch is involved in the mining. There are coal miners who earn as much as 8,000 rupees in the mines, but there is a price to pay for the money. Payment in the mining business is done by the foot. The deeper one digs, the greater the remuneration. This is the kind of excavation that people from Toba Kakari in Balochistan are interested in. Arbab Nizam says, "The bride price nowadays is about three hundred thousand rupees. So young men from Toba Kakari come to the mines, work for a few months in the deepest and most dangerous parts of the mine, earn their bride price money and go home." Of course, there are health costs as explained by Dr. Mukhtiar Zaman of the Abasin Foundation as there is a greater probability of chest-related diseases as one goes deeper.

However, Arbab Nizam maintains that "They of course see possible death and disease but then, simultaneously, they also see the Quaid-e-Azam on the rupee note."

The coal mines employ in the thousands. Just in the 250 mines in Balochistan, there are 40,000 workers. None of these workers are provided any medical coverage. Legally speaking, in case of an accident inside a mine, according to the Mines Law of 1926, the mine owner is supposed to give compensation. However, for accidents outside the mine, the owner does not have any responsibility. According to sources both in NWFP and Balochistan, the usual practice is that in the advent of an accident inside the mine, the worker is carried out so the owner can escape paying any compensation. Anyway the compensation is not much. According to the Mines Law of 1926 the mine owner has to pay around one hundred thousand rupees in compensation. However, there is a difference in the coal-mine workers in Balochistan and the NWFP. According to Dr Mukhtair Zaman, the workers in Balochistan fare slightly better because the mines there are older and more well established. The NWFP mines are smaller, newer and thus the coal miners are bent upon "making hay while the sun shines and make a quick buck." In Balochistan, according to the Abasin survey, the miner is given slightly better health facilities. This was corroborated by the social security official in Balochistan who declared that in the event of an accident, the worker is usually taken to a private clinic because the contractor has already invested so much money in the initial payment and "does not want to see his money wasted." The money spent on medical treatment is, of course, put down as a further cash investment for the coal mine worker to pay off.

Most of the accidents in the coal mines happen because of lack of safety precautions. According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, the fatality rate at small mines in poorer countries is up to 90 times higher than in industrialised countries. Underground coal mining is one of the most hazardous operations in the world and occupational accidents occur twice as often among coal miners than among other workers, while fatal accidents occur three times as often. No reliable data about occupational health and safety (OHS) are available in Pakistan because the majority of accidents are not reported to the Labour Department.

Sardar Muhammad Ali Jogezai, another major coal mine owner of Balochistan and head of the Sardar Usman Jogezai Coal Company, maintains that the accident rate in Pakistan and Balochistan, where most of the coal mining is done, is very low as compared to China. Sheikh Abdul Aziz agrees and declares, "Our accident rates are less than China. We have had ten fatal accidents in five years but in China there were forty fatalities in two years."

According to the official record of the Inspectorate of Mines of the Government of Balochistan, there has been a decrease in the number of fatal accidents and other accidents during the past five years. However, the department officals, who preferred not to be named, claimed that, "Not all these figures might be true as most of the cases are not reported. How can the department track down every fatal accident?" The department official also claimed that media interest has also complicated matters. "The media is hungry for a story. Previously, there was not so much pressure and so if there was an accident it would be reported, compensation paid and that would be the end of it. However, now with newspapers and local channels etc, if the media gets wind of an accident, it makes it into a big story. The coal mine owner is upset and when he is upset it trickles down to the workers."

Field research has revealed that most of the workers do not even have helmets given to them. Out of a total of 101 coal mine workers interviewed by the Abasin survey, only 25 per cent used protective gear while an overwhelming 75 per cent did not. It is important to point out that protective gear translates into a helmet which 50 per cent wore, while only a small minority wore other protective gear like a mask or gloves. Digging by hand and blasting are the common methods used for mining. The majority of miners are involved in cutting, drilling and transportation of coal and thus the absence of protective gear further increase their health risks.

In spite of modernisation and technological advancement, Pakistan's coal mines use primitive methods of mining. Field research has revealed that coal mine workers as young as 13 years carry a 25/30 kg sack over a distance of 700 ft on their backs. This finding was corroborated by a number of coal miners but they maintain that there is no other choice as modern equipment is not available. The use of obsolete equipment by modern standards, leads to accidents and low production rates.

The law requires that coal miners be protected. Mines have to be regularly inspected and inspectors are authorised to stop hazardous excavations. In Balochistan there is the Inspectorate of Mines whose task is to inspect and rescue. There is a Central Mines and Rescue Station at Sinjidi near Quetta and four training and rescue stations at Shahrag, Mach, Dukki and Narwar each. These stations have staff that conducts rescue operations and provides training in safety. They swing into action when a mine caves in, burying its workers with it, or when during excavations, poisonous gas causes the death of the workers. However, in order to ensure that such unfortunate incidents are avoided, this Inspectorate at its Central Office at Sinjidi, conducts a course at the end of which a certificate, called the Mine Firdar, is issued to each of the successful course participant. The certified Mine Firdar is qualified to inspect the mines and stop hazardous excavations or halt mining altogether if the inspectors feel that safety precautions have not been taken. Each active mine is supposed to have a Mine Firdar on site. However, the situation on the ground is another matter. The Mine Firdar is definitely on the mine premises, but in the words of one mine worker, " he is out smoking a cigarette while drawing a salary from the exchequer plus a little on the side from the mine owner to turn a blind eye." According to developmental consultants like Zia Durrani, if the Mine Firdar enforces the safety standards, a lot of accidents can be avoided.

In their defence, the mine owners declare that installing safety equipments in the mines is expensive and the equipment has to be imported from abroad. Taking this into consideration, the Mines and Mineral Development Department in Balochistan, on the recommendation of the International Labour Organisation, is considering establishing a warehouse in Quetta. The project, which, according to ministry sources, will shortly be launched, consists of the government importing the safety equipment itself and displaying it in the warehouse where it will be available for rent to various coal mine owners. This promises to be a welcome step but the challenge is in the implementation. Most of the ministers of the mining industry in Balochistan are either coal mine owners themselves or at least major financial stakeholders in the mining business, including the present minister, Mr. Masoud Luni. In fact, the Minister was not available for comment and neither was his office willing to offer information when contacted.

It is recommended that the control of hazards should begin at the process, equipment, and plant design levels. When it is not always practical to provide and maintain totally effective engineering controls, appropriate individual respiratory protection equipment should be used for respiratory protection as necessary, suggests Dr. Muktiar Zaman.

In addition to the dangers posed by unsafe mines and hazardous excavation, the general living conditions of the coal miners leave much to be desired. Field research revealed that there is no sanitation facility. Government dispensaries exist but they are usually understaffed and ill-equipped. According to the official figures provided by the Mine Labour Welfare Organisation of the Mine and Mineral Department, there are three high schools, six middle schools , six primary schools, 10 dispensaries and only one hospital run by it. However, even with this modest arrangement, the Department itself maintains that the schools are understaffed and the medical facilities inadequate. The Department declares that it needs "a substantial increase in budget" to fully run these facilities. "The safest bet is to reach the nearest private clinic," says a coal miner.

According to Mr. Mazhar Mehmood, a former government officer in the Balochistan government, "There was a scheme some years back by the government to construct proper accommodation for the miners of the coal mines. However, these houses were constructed only on paper. In real terms, they were constructed in the cities and then sold off by the government officials of the concerned department at a profit." Sheikh Abdul Aziz and Sardar Ali Ahmed Jogezai maintain that coal mine owners are aware of the miners' housing needs and that they provide the workers construction material .The workers construct the houses themselves. However, for smaller mine owners such an investment is not possible.

Unless the government realises the urgency and the need to improve these facilities, the life of the coal miners will remain at risk, while mine owners continue to reap the benefits

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Random Musings of a Senile Physician

By Alaf Khan
Published with permission

Bye bye bonnie Scotland

My future brother-in-law, Malik Arif, sent me from Pakistan an advertisement in late 1969 that read: ---


My CV was in the post the next day. The Kohati girl (Lala Rukh), who was second best in NWFP in the Matric examination in 1953, had passed her MRCOG examination and was still working in Britain. I phoned her to speedily dispatch her application and CV. Telegrams from the West Pakistan Health Secretary came in about three weeks. I was offered Assistant Professorship at Dow Medical College, Karachi. Lala Rukh got posted as Senior Registrar in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar. She flew home within days and took charge of her post early in January 1970. I reached Karachi on 29 January 1970 and was posted the next day to Medical 2 Unit as Assistant Professor to Prof.(Col.) Najib Khan in Civil Hospital. Col. Najib was a man dreaded by one and all. He was always in his office a little before 8 a.m. and never left his ward before 2 p.m. He never skipped his OPD sessions nor did he ever entrust to others his duties of lecturing and bedside teaching. A man of lofty moral stature and spotless integrity, he was eschewed by most who desired all things sweet and cushy. Najib Khan and I somehow struck an instant friendship that never ruptured. An interesting dialogue between us occurred the day someone stole the wheel caps of my newly imported car. “Don’t worry,” he tried to console me.”You can buy perhaps the very same caps dirt cheap in the junk market (kabaari bazar) “I won’t do that,” I retorted. “If people like you and me did not buy stolen goods, who would then care to steal? It is we, the respectable citizens, who patronize the thieves and give them the incentive to continue their trade”. He looked stunned. “Alaf Khan”, he blurted out, “You have put me in the doghouse. Today you have added a new article to my Code of Life. God bless you”. He related that episode on many different occasions.

Home sweet home, even if foul smelling.

Ripples of excitement had kept me awake aboard PIA’s Jumbo Jet from London to Karachi on 29 January 1970. Coming home after over 14 years in Scotland was a dream that had abruptly come true. Everything in Karachi was expected to be pleasant and homely. A few things, however, soured the dreams I had about home.

Ayub Khan’s Bonus Voucher scheme entitled Pakistani passengers to a handsome percentage as rebate on arrival in Karachi if they had purchased their PIA tickets in Pound Sterling. The Habib Bank cashier in the arrival lounge checked my ticket and paid me 1,500 Rupees. Later I met someone who had travelled like me from London to Karachi and had been paid a bonus of 3,000 Rupees. The next day I went and confronted the same cashier. He touched my chin and kissed the back of my hand in a begging style: “Very sorry, sir. Please don’t tell anyone. I have a wife and small children. I will give you the balance”. “OK man”, I said to him, “but let it be your last dacoity”. He went inside his office and came out with a sealed envelope. I assumed the envelope contained the remaining 1,500 Rupees. The bastard had put in only 1,000 Rupees and withheld 500 Rupees again. I related the story to my boss, Col. Najib khan. He phoned the CEO of Habib Bank who came to the hospital in person to record my statement. The cashier was sacked the next day ---- permanently. But for Col. Najib Khan’s intervention, the CEO of HBL probably would have ignored my fate.
The stench of urine in the streets and along the footpaths, the swarms of flies everywhere and the blood-like saliva that the paan-chewing Karachiites spat out all over were irritating experiences.
The words Anti-corruption Department were written in bold script on a board above the entrance of a tall building. It seemed like an advertisement for the sale of meat-guarding dogs or milk-guarding cats.

A mystifying notice was displayed above each counter in Post Offices. It advised customers to get all their postage stamps that had a value of one Rupee or more franked (defaced) in their presence. Postmen stealing postage stamps was an embarrassing revelation I noticed for the first time.

A Standing Medical Board, headed by a senior clinician, examined for physical fitness all newly recruited government servants. When I was called in, I embarked on taking off my necktie, jacket, shirt and socks. The Chairman was the Head of the Department of Medicine in our own Dow Medical College. He asked me to sit down and put my garments on. I watched the entries he made against my name without touching me. Blood Pressure 120/80. Heart rate 72/min. Temperature 98.4. All systems NAD (No Appreciable Disease) . Vision and hearing normal. No enlarged nodes. This was my first encounter with downright amoral medical practice by a group of senior medical teacher at Dow Medical College. That Chairman of the Board later became the President of Pakistan Medical & Dental Council. It was all in conformity with an apt Persian proverb: “Where will you find Islam when unbelief radiates from the Holy Ka’aba” (cho hufr uz Ka’aba bar kheezad kujaa maanad musalmaani). Things have, regrettably, changed a good deal for the worse in the PM&DC and in the medical fraternity at large over the ensuing decades. Hundreds of obliging RMPs issue fake polio and meningococcal vaccination certificates to those flying out to Saudi Arabia or other western countries. If there were a Nobel Prize for the largest number of counterfeit documents, ours shall be unquestionably the outright winner. We, as pious Muslims, have no qualms about performing Haj and Umrah with black money and bogus vaccination certificates. And, on return, we offer Zamzam water and Medina dates to friends who come to greet us on becoming Haji Sahibs. I would not guarantee the sources of that holy water and those holy dates.

Farewell to Dow / To sir with love. 

Gen. Yahya Khan dissolved the One Unit of West Pakistan and restored the four federating provinces as from 01 July 1970. Government servants had to return to the provinces of their respective domiciles for posting in jobs similar to the ones they held on 30 June 1970. Given a joining time of two weeks, I planned to leave for Peshawar on 14 June 1970. Col. Najib Khan honored me with a farewell dinner in his home. The only other invitees were my batch of Fourth Year students. I fondly remember the man, his gracious wife, my students and that evening soaked in dense aroma of mutual respect and affection. The next evening my students came to my motel room and invited me out for a cup of coffee. I surrendered readily. They had, in fact, arranged a gorgeous dinner in a posh Karachi restaurant. The late Dr Vania was one of my students. He offered to take me to my motel “after the ……”. After what?”, I interrupted. “We have, sir”, he said, “booked seats in the cinema for all of us. This week’s hit movie—To Sir, With Love — starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu, is being screened tonight”. It was hard to say NO to a bunch of such loving and lovable boys and girls! We enjoyed the movie immensely. A package sealed with adhesive tape was handed to me in the foyer. “Shall I open it here?”. “If you wish, sir”, said Vania. Packed inside were a pair of socks, a packet of Kleenex handkerchiefs, a maroon color necktie and a fine woolen scarf. Each item had a tag that was signed by all of them and each carried the words To Sir , With Love. I held back the eddying tears in my eyes but only with partial success. A couple of the girls looked the other way to quietly wipe theirs. It was one of the most moving moment in my life. Those nineteen weeks at Dow made one of the happiest slices of my career.


Ahmad Ali Khan, Hajira Masroor & Co. 

Many memorable evenings in the company of a few great friends made the five-month stay in Karachi feel very short. Ahmad Ali Khan (Editor of DAWN) and his wife, Hajira Masroor, took me to their home 2 - 3 evenings every week. Dr Col. Azmi (Registrar of Pakistan College of Physicians & Surgeons), Mr Abidi (husband of Hajira’s sister Tahira) and Mr Habibullah Shahab (brother of Qudratullah Shahab and himself a Director in the State Bank of Pakistan) were always there at those evenings. We shall come later to an incredibly different profile of Col. Azmi when I met him last in Rawalpindi in1982.

Years later Hajira Masroor stayed with us in Peshawar for several days. Her trip to Torkham through Khyber Pass decorates our family album. Habibullah Shahab’s daughter, Sarah, is settled in Sharjah. Because of their infertile marriage, Sarah and her husband wished to adopt a newborn baby. In 1996 we received a little fairy from Shangla in Swat. The elderly Habibullah Shahab and his wife reached our home in Peshawar three days later. During those three days I had fed that little creature so many times, and she had peed on my lap so often, that I felt pangs of anguish while kissing her petite hands and handing her over to Mrs Shahab at Peshawar airport.

A Memorable reunion:

Habibullah Shahab’s daughter, Sarah Shahab, phoned us one afternoon in December 2011. “Rimsha and I are in Peshawar at a wedding for only a few hours”, she said. “We are coming over for an hour just to see you”. They came. That little fairy ---- Rimsha --- from Shangla was now a 15 years old stunning beauty. It was truly “A Reunion to Remember!”. I longed to kiss Rimsha’s hands the way I had kissed them on the fourth day of her life at Peshawar Airport.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

QK Archives: Wali Khan leaves behind his "mark of treason"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 published by the Daily Times
Wali Khan leaves behind his ‘mark of treason’

By Sarfaraz Ahmed

Soon after 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan, Khan Abdul Wali Khan would address a press conference in Peshawar. It would be his last major political activity. In that meeting with the media, Wali Khan said that had the US not attacked Afghanistan, that country would have turned into an Arab colony since Osama Bin Laden had a well-equipped army of 16,000 people which far outnumbered the trained soldiers in the Afghan army.

Exactly four years later, this writer got a chance to meet him at his Wali Bagh residence in Charsadda. He had been bed-ridden for over a year. His speech had become incoherent. Nor would his family allow visitors, particularly journalists seeking interviews. Thanks to Begum Wali, I was allowed to meet him in his bedroom.

“Who is he?”, Khan Wali Khan enquired in Pushto from Sangeen Wali, his youngest son. “Baba, he’s a journalist from Karachi,” Sangeen replied. “Is he a Pushtoon?” asked Wali Khan. “Baba he’s a journalist who has read your book, ‘Facts are Sacred’. He has questions about your book,” Sangeen said in English. “How are you?” Wali Khan now addressed me. “Good,” I replied.

We remained with him for a short while and then met again in the sitting room. Wali Khan’s undiminishing preference for “Pushto” and “Pushtoon” brought to mind, among other things, the speech he delivered at Darul Ulum Haqqaniya, Akhora Khattak, in the 70s. He told a gathering there that the ulema and NAP’s present close relations were due to their identity of views about Islam and Pushto. As a result, Mufti Mahmood was forced to make a U-turn on his statement that Urdu would remain the official language of the Frontier, stating in the provincial assembly that Pushto would be the language of the province and the adoption of Urdu was only a ‘stop gap’ arrangement.

I noticed the walls and pillars of his house, adorned with his pictures and those of major historical figures from this region, such as Bacha Khan, Dr Khan Saheb, Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the late Shah of Iran Daud Khan and Dr Najibullah of Afghanistan. He and his family had always enjoyed very cordial relations with the Congress leadership, but they have not met much since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1990. By this time, Wali Khan had also withdrawn from active politics. He could not speak much because of his poor health.

It was disturbing to find that Wali Khan could not speak of the British military operations he witnessed in South Waziristan in August-September 1946, or of the similarities with the current operation against Al Qaeda and Taliban sympathisers. He was not to be bothered for his account of Nehru’s visit to the tribal areas in October 1946, or the role played by the then NWFP governor, Sir Olaf Caroe. Nor would he draw parallels between the military operations in Balochistan in the 1970s and the current upheavals in that province. Nor would he shed light on how Gen Zia offered him a government through Gen Fazl-e-Haq and later withdrew the offer.

A highly controversial politician because of his and his predecessors’ vehement opposition to the creation of Pakistan, he was nevertheless a treasure trove of history, pre- and post-Independence. He was considered one of the most learned politicians in Pakistan, even as he neared the end of his political career. Iqbal Akhund, adviser on national security and foreign issues during Benazir Bhutto’s first government, writes in his highly acclaimed ‘Trial and Error: The Advent and Eclipse of Benazir Bhutto’:

“The opposition’s partisan agenda was very much in evidence at the joint session of Parliament that met on 10 February. Benazir opened the session in the afternoon with a speech delivered alternately in Urdu and English, sounding, as a result, ‘somewhat disjointed and not very coherent’, as one newspaper wrote the next day...

“However, the speech delivered by the opposition’s co-leader, Khan Wali Khan, struck an unexpected note and set the dovecots aflutter on all sides of the House. Kashmir, he said, was a problem inherited by the present government and it would be unfair to blame it for the existing situation. Kashmir was lost long ago, he went on, by Pakistan’s own repeated mistakes, recalling that it was Jinnah who had insisted that the rulers of princely states and not their people should decide the affiliation of a state with India or Pakistan.

“Wali Khan also referred to Pakistan’s rejection of Sardar Patel’s supposed offer: ‘You lay off Hyderabad, we lay off Kashmir.’ Why, the Khan asked, had Jinnah accepted the accession of Junagadh, a state with an overwhelming Hindu majority and not contiguous to Pakistan? He blamed Jinnah also for giving carte blanche to Cyril Radcliffe and agreeing that his award should be final and not subject to appeal, whereas India had wanted to provide for an appeal. As for the Simla Accord, Wali Khan reminded members that it had been ratified by the National Assembly, and if now they wanted to renounce it then the Assembly would have formally to abrogate it.

“Wali Khan got a big hand from the treasury benches. On the opposition side there was first a rustle of surprise and then an embarrassed hush as the Khan spoke on...”

Wali Khan remained committed to his views. He felt there was an overt British tilt towards the Muslim League. In ‘Facts are Sacred’, he writes: “I used to think that Bacha Khan had become unduly embittered with the colonial rulers because of the agonies he and his followers had suffered at their hands. I was particularly sceptical about the Congress charges that the British were responsible for fanning communal passions within the country to further their imperialistic designs. I used to think that such accusations were exercises in finding scapegoats ... But I had not imagined that the truth was infinitely uglier than their portrayal of it. The evidence was there in black and white, written and signed by the guilty ones themselves, secured for posterity in their own official library - the communications of the highest British dignitary in India, the viceroy, and the minister concerned with Indian affairs in Whitehall.”

He felt that the Muslim League was playing into the hands of the British. “Britain was resolved that there should be no election at the Centre. After the War had broken out and India too had been declared party to it, she got a good excuse. She also received encouragement in this from Muslim League leaders. Here is what the Viceroy writes on October 7, 1939, about the advice he received from Nawab Ismail, President of UP Muslim League. ‘The Nawab suggested that it was essential that any declaration should make it clear that a democratic system at the Centre is not acceptable to the Muslim community and went on to urge that the Congress claim to speak for India and to control defence was perfectly inadmissible.’

“This was strange logic. The Congress which had won election in eight provinces could not speak for India: while the Muslim League, which could not form a ministry even in a single province, had the right of veto.”

These “anti-Pakistan” views meant Wali Khan could never become a national leader. But, as his close friend Sherbaz Khan Mazari writes in ‘A Journey to Disillusionment’, he should best be remembered as a patriot: “On Sept 28 [1974] a serious attempt was made on Wali Khan’s life as he was driving to Swat. Both his driver and guard were killed but Wali Khan luckily emerged unscathed. This incident had little effect on the NAP party president. He remained undaunted and continued steadfastly with his role as Leader of the Opposition. Bhutto knew the power of the printed press and used it to destroy the image of his opponents in the eyes of the gullible public. Wali Khan was to carry this ‘mark of treason’ for many years to follow, until sections of the press supporting the government of the day decided to exonerate him ... The very same Wali Khan, twenty years later, would be welcomed as a political partner by a prime minister from central Punjab [Nawaz Sharif] and be hailed by him as a Pakistani patriot...”

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Karzai lauds rallies against Pakistan
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Palestinians go to polls today
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Transfers and postings
CM warns hatemongers of stern action
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Medical camp for women at Kotlakhpat jail
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Upgrading colleges into varsities not a success
Illegal buildings in Gulberg ‘going down’
Ravi Town approves 2005-06 budget
CM orders govt to encourage public participation in marathon
‘Men and women will run ‘in gaps’ in 5-km fun run’

Monday, 23 January 2017

QK archives: Siraiki Language and Its Poetics

Siraiki Language and Its Poetics: An Introduction
Hassan N. Gardezi
(The following article is extracted from the translator and editor's introduction to 'Tenement of Sand', an English translation of selected Siraiki poems of Syed Hassan Raza Gardezi )

Siraiki is an Indo-Hittite, and therefore an Indo-European language, with its original pre- Islamic word-hoard deriving largely from the three stages of Vedic. Sanskrit and Prakrit (the word for 'broken' in Vedic is 'bhajyate' and in Siraiki 'bhajjya) it also retains a puzzling and fascinating. smaller hoard of words and formations that have no analogues in Aryan speech and are in all probability carry over from the older Indus Valley forms of speech. Siraiki in its present geographical setting in the Indus valley had begun to evolve as a language of common discourse, distinct from the Magadhan Prakrit as early as the 5th century BC In all probability it was well established when in 325 B.C. Alexander of Macedon besieged the ancient fort of Multan and received the wound from which he was never to recover'.

References to a local speech, which is neither Prakrit or Sanskrit nor the more recent imports of Farsi and Arabic, but is Hindwi, and is spoken in the Indus Valley speech area begin to appear in the accounts of the Central Asian historians of the 10th and the 11th centuries. By the time we come to the middle sections of the Sikh Scripture, the Adi Granth. we come across a substantial body of verse in Siraiki. In these sections dating back to late 15th early 16th century, a clear evidence of the Siraiki poetical imagination begins to surface. Written references to Multani as a distinct speech community are found in an authoritative Farsi text of Emperor Akbar's period (1542-1606 AD), according to which the province of Lahore is also placed in the 'Multani' speaking belt.

Despite the ancient roots of the Siraiki language and it's oral literary tradition, rather a small body of 'written' literature in the language has survived. At the core of the Siraiki literary imagination lies, the fundamental oral imperative which, paradoxically is also the secret of its vitality and survival. It is this imperative which explains the extraordinary urgency and emotive drive as well as the unusual syncretic capacity that are the characteristic marks of the Siraiki poetics and Siraiki imagination.

For a variety of reasons, Siraiki has never been the language of the literate, political, and religious elite and priesthood who, since they were often foreigners, at various times, chose the so called classical languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Farsi, and later on, English and Urdu as their mode of written communication. As emperors, monarchs and sundry adventurers of Hellenic, Central Asian, Iranian, Turkish, Arab and British origin contended for power in the plains of the Indus Valley, turning them into bloody battlefields, the Siraiki speech community resisted domination, fiercely at times, guarding the integrity of the mother tongue by refusing to succumb to the allure of the latest variety of the 'imperial' speech. As a consequence, the Siraiki speech community failed to develop a political, and therefore linguistic power base of its own.

For those who did establish themselves as rulers, it was not advantageous to adopt the language of the ruled as the written medium of formal education, religious ritual and discourse, state administration, business and commerce. To do that would demystify their claims to superiority, wisdom and divine rights to rule. It is interesting to note as a significant aside, that when Sikhs ruled Punjab in the first half of the 19th century, they too retained Persian as the court language, despite the fact that their mother tongue was Punjabi, sister language of Siraiki, with script of its own.

Thus Siraiki never got the chance to grow within the formal precincts of the academy, the temple, the mosque, the court or the monastery. To this day, each generation of Siraiki speakers has learned the language by hearing the lullabies of mothers at home, speaking to playmates in yards and alleys and by listening to the elders, story tellers and folk singers. It has preeminently been the tongue of the truly creative living the language of essential human affections (in the Wordsworthian sense). This free and open environment of growth makes Siraiki a natural language endowed with its characteristic qualities which have fascinated many an outside observer. It has been called a 'sweet' language which objectively means that it has a mix of acoustic phonemes that strike the ear of the listener with soothing and rhythmic sounds with no sharp breaks. The 'd' and 't' sounds are uttered softly as in French. Its syntax is simple and flexible which makes it an excellent medium for composing metered and rhymed poetry. Its vocabulary is rich and self-sufficient in giving expression to the range of wants and experiences of ordinary workers, craftsmen, traders, farmers pastoralists, caravan travelers boatmen and women. Siraiki vocabulary and imagery is also a profuse reflection of' the surrounding natural environment.

The heartland of this natural environment constitutes the arid plains of southern Punjab overlapping with northern Sindh. Large tracts of these plains are now irrigated mainly by the Indus and Chenab river and yield rich crops of wheat, cotton and rice. A considerable part of Siraiki heartland is dominated by the Thar desert with its silvery sands and scorching day-time sun, unique flora and fauna, camel caravans, mysteries and optical illusions. Together these stretches of desert, cultivated fields, mighty rivers with their seasonal floods. long summers and scanty rainfalls form the natural surroundings which cradle the numerous Siraiki legends and folk tales celebrating love, beauty and self-sacrifice. These legends and folk tales continue to enrich the imaginations of contemporary Siraiki poets and artists as they have done in the past.

Finally, the Siraiki language has a profoundly distinctive symbolism which gives its speech community a unified world view and perception of the cosmic order. This symbolism has its roots in the beliefs and teachings of the Hindu Bhakti saints and Muslim saints who freely intermingled with the common people since medieval times conveying their message through song and poetry composed in the folk languages. The content of this message is well articulated in the Siraiki poetry to which we now turn.
Siraiki Poetry

As is the case with the language itself, much of Siraiki poetry also belongs to an oral tradition and has never been put into writing. it is therefore not quite feasible to reconstruct a history of Siraiki Poetry and its thematic content from its very origins, although the imprints of the obscure past can readily be discerned in more recent and written literature. In what has been preserved orally, one comes, across diverse cultural ideas and beliefs, portrayals of nature and seasons, accounts of battles and conquests, odes and elegies, legends of love and passion, each written in different verse forms. By the 15th century AD however, most of these diverse strands seem to have undergone a striking thematic synthesis into a rich tradition of Sufi poetry. Since this synthesis has left its indelible mark on subsequent Siraiki poetry, it would be in order to recapitulate its salient features, with some introduction to its Poetic exponents.
The Sufi Influence

Although many of the Sufi poets came from a background of formal learning in orthodox Islamic theology and were well-versed in- Arabic and Persian, they chose the languages and symbolism of the masses of peasants and workers for their poetic expression. In Siraiki verse, as in Sindhi and Punjabi, they conveyed their message of' human fraternity, universal love and respect for all creation. The centerpiece of this message is the concept of 'wahdat-ul-wajud', or oneness of all being. God is the primordial manifestation of this oneness, the eternal truth, visualized in Sufi poetry is the Divine Beloved. or simply the Beloved. He is the cosmic reality from which emanates all creation, from lowliest beings to the most elevated saints., prophets ,and gods of all religions, just as light radiates from the sun. By cultivating the love of God or the Divine Beloved one can see His reflection in all forms of existence. including one's own self. Obversely, it is the destiny of all creation to reunite and be one with the Divine Beloved. The Sufi God is, thus, not the personalized God of institutional religions, feared more by humans for their sins than loved.

Sufi poetry, in particular, dwells extensively on this theme of romance and passionate love with the Beloved as the most exalting spiritual experience. The Beloved is, however, not envisioned as a metaphorical abstraction but as a sensuous, this worldly being full of life and beauty. The vicissitudes of love are also expressed in the common human emotions of joy and delight at the prospect of union with the Beloved, and distress and sorrow on being separated from the Beloved. However, to be close to the Beloved one must renounce arrogance, egotistic conceit, desire to dominate others and feeling of superiority on the basis of rank, creed, caste or color. Sufi poets also stress that without the spark of love no true knowledge of oneself or of external reality can be achieved. Knowledge devoid of love remains only partial leading to the baser motivation of control and destruction of' other human beings as well as nature in general.

The objective of the Sufi poets is to articulate this entire philosophy and world view not in scholastic jargon but in the idiom of common understanding. Siraiki, with all its popularly developed linguistic resource, natural imagery, Symbolism, folk tales, and legends has provided an excellent medium through which to reach the hearts and minds of a wide audience. The rich symbolic content of the age-old heroic folk tales lends itself eminently to imparting color ,and credibility to the Sufi poets' beliefs and cosmology. 'Their poems celebrate the lives of legendary lovers such as Sassi Punnu (Punnal) Sohni, Marvi and many others. Although the tradition of Sufi poetry in Siraiki begins to take definite shape in the 14th century AD in the verse of Baba Farid Shakargang, the first great Siraiki poet widely known for his Sufi poems is Sultan Bahu (c. 1631 - 1691) who lived in Shorkat, north of Multan. He was an eminent Arabic and Persian scholar. but is best known for his Siraiki verse which was compiled for publication long after his death in the early 20th century. All his poems are composed in the same verse form known as 'siharfi' which is an acrostic on the alphabet. Words beginning with each letter of the alphabet are selected in sequence to start the first metrical line of the poem. Normally each 'siharfi' consists of four lines, each divided into two 'tukks' or rhythms. The style of Bahu's 'siherfis' is simple and unpretentious, and he relies almost entirely on the popular imagery, similes and metaphors of Siraiki to convey his message. Spiritual Gnosticism and praise of the Beloved is a pervasive theme of his poetry as illustrated in the following siharfi.

Neither Hindu nor true Muslim; they do no obeisance in the mosque In every creature they see the Lord; they who have not gone amiss

Came wise and turned mad; they who put themselves together My life be gifted to those Bahu; they who chose love's vocation

Bahu in his poems shows a special disaffection for the functionaries of institutionalized religion. He lived during the period of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, known in history as the enemy of the Sufis. Aurangzeb patronized the orthodox Muslim ulema, the learned clerics. and posted them to influential positions in the state bureaucracy as qazi. judges and prosecutors, muftis, the arbiters of Islamic law, and so on. Bahu dissociate himself from these men of learning and influence, rejecting the rewards and punishments they hold out for ritual conformity in place of real spiritual experience.

I am not a learned scholar, neither the mufti, nor the qazi Hell I do not desire, Heaven has no appeal to me

The thirty fasts I do not keep, neither do I say my prayers Communion with God is all I seek, the rest is but a false game.

The most celebrated Siraiki poet of the past, who carried the tradition of the Sufi poetry into the dawn of 20th century, is Khawaja Farid (1845 - 1901). His poems are composed in the verse form known as Kafi, most widely used by the Sufi poets of the region. Sufi poetry in Siraiki as well as Sindhi and Punjabi is always composed to be sung. Had it not been for generations of folk singers, minstrels and kawals (inspirational singers) who memorized and passed it on, much less of this poetry would have survived. The Kafi is specially designed for singing to the tunes of the prevalent musical system. Each Kafi is essentially a lyric comprising of unity of sound, imagery, feeling and subject matter. However, any one of these elements may be highlighted in a given Kafi. Thus a prominent English translator of Khawja Farid's selected poems has compiled them into sections entitled 'faith and instructions 'love and distress," "desert and rains." Farid with his mastery over the language recreates in his Kafis superb images of nature, feelings of love and lovers' distress while reflecting at the same time on the metaphysics of existence and reality. The following lines of Kafi for example stress the oneness of all existence.

The world is but an idle dream

It's shapes a film upon a stream

If you would know reality

Then listen carefully, mark and see

That oneness is a mighty sea

Where pluralism's bubbles team

The following lines of a Kafi show how Farid can skillfully combine onomatopoeic effects with a sensuous description of the beloved's charms that torment the one who is in love.

The beloved's intense glances call for blood

The dark hair wildly flows The Kohl of the eyes is fiercely black

And slays the lovers with no excuse

My appearance in ruins, I sit and wait

While the beloved (Maru) has settled in Malheer I feel the sting of the cruel dart

My heart the, abode of pain and grief A life of tears, I have led Farid

This had to be the script of my fate

Folk tales and Legends

One can truly appreciate such lyrics of love and distress, if one knows the folk tales that have circulated in the region for centuries, and from which the Sufi poets draw their imagery and symbols. These tales have to do with young lovers prevented from uniting by false family and kinship values invariably ending in tragedies for one or both lovers who defy the cruel customs by exceptional acts of daring. In the lines of the Kafi quoted above there is a reference to Marv's love for her beloved who is forced to move to the distant city of Malheer. One of the most celebrated folktales in Siraiki and Sindhi has to do with Sassi love for Punnu which figures in as many as 66 Kafis composed by Farid. This story also has an intimate association with the Thar desert, because it is here that the final act of this high drama of love and passion unfolds. It may be in order to briefly sketch this folktale for the unfamiliar readers.

According to legend, Punnu, the chieftain of a Baluch tribe from the city of Kech, arrives in the city of Bhambhore with his caravan, after crossing the Thar desert. Here lives Sassi, a maiden of renowned beauty and daughter of the king of Bhamhhore. On seeing Punnu, she passionately falls in love with him and arranges a big feast in his honor. Punnu kinsmen who do not like this affair serve strong wine to the lovers to make them drowsy. As Sassi and Punnu retire to their bed of flowers, they fall fast asleep. Waiting for this moment, Punnu kinsmen quietly sneak in, carry the slumbering Punnu away to his camel and race back to Kech. When Sassi wakes up in the morning, she finds her beloved gone. Leaving all caution aside she runs to the desert on foot in pursuit of the caravan. By mid-day, when the desert sands heat up under the blazing sun, Sassi falls to the ground exhausted and is scorched to death while still calling for Punnu. A shepherd who had been watching the scene picks up her body and buries her in a desert grave. He lives at her graveside as a fakir for the rest of his life to tell the story of how Sassi perished in the pursuit of her beloved.

The basic legend is told and retold in rich detail in the oral tradition of local story tellers, folk singers and Sufi poets like Farid who read into it profound meanings regarding love, life, death and reality. The Sufi poet puts himself in the persona of the lover, invariably a woman like Sassi to represent her feelings and experiences in natural life setting. Farid as the master of his art speaks through the Sassi persona to portray vividly the desert, in which she died, with its great diversity of appearances, changing seasons and life forms. Note the following verse of a Kafi, for example: .

Where the desert grasses twist my love Ever-shifting shapes exist my love

The crickets creak, the pigeons coo

The foxes howl, the hyenas mew

The geckoes puff, the lizards whoo

The snakes and serpents hiss my love

In these surrounding rises the voice of Sassi.

Oh, in this desert's blessed sight I'll die indeed but not take fright

As for Punnu, he becomes for the Sufi a living and pervasive symbol of divine beauty.

See Punnal's presence everywhere

All mystics mark and hear know only he is here

All else shall disappear

Siraiki Marsia

Another traditional Siraiki verse form is 'Dohra'. It normally has four metric lines, all of which rhyme in the same manner. Dohra is always written to be sung and is employed uniquely in the composition of 'marsia', elegies, commemorating the martyrdom of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed during Muharam, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Siraiki 'marsia', recited in a combination of verse and poetic prose, is so popular that its professional and semi-professional reciters are in great demand in all parts of Pakistan during the month of Muharam. As a literary genre, Siraiki 'marsia' is one of the oldest, dating back to the 13th century when Muslim migrants from Arabia and Central Asia had started settling in large numbers in the vicinity of Multan and upper Sindh. These settlers, particularly the syeds among them, started the practice of holding assemblies commemorating the martyrdom of Hussain. The 'marsia' in these assemblies was recited in the sad notes of a Siraiki composition known as maaru. Since than a number of Siraiki poets have made their mark as masters of this literary form, as the form itself changed over time. By early 19th century, the 'marsia' took its present form in which verse is combined with prose to construct a continuous narrative, depicting specific episodes and dialogues surrounding the martyrdom of Hussain and his companions. The skill of the 'marsia' composer and reciter lies in the ability to arouse an intense emotional response in the audience of mourners. That the Siraiki 'marsia' and it's recitation should achieve this objective most effectively is no doubt attributable to the versatility of the language itself as a medium of emotive expression. The following 'dohra' 'taken from a 'marsia' composed by Ghulam Haider Fida (1880-1943) is quoted as an example. It captures the tragedy of infant Asghar's killing by the soldiers of Yazid who had surrounded the camp of Hussain:

Child in arms - the son of Ali (Hussain) begs for water . With down-cast looks, says the Master of the Two Worlds

Oceans will not dry up if you give (this infant) a drink of water

Hurmil (Yazid's soldier) is ready to answer with a lethal arrow.
Note the irony built into the first two verses.

(This is the first part of a two part essay on Siraiki Poetry. In the second part Sangat will presents a review of Siraiki poet Syed Hasan Raza Gardezi's poetry)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A man to match his mountains

By Abid Majeed
“I have one great dream, one great longing. Like flowers in the desert my people are born, bloom for a while with nobody to look after them, wither and return to the dust they came from. I want to see them share each other’s sorrow and happiness. I want to see them work together as equal partners. I want to see them play their national role and take their rightful place among the nations of the world, for the service of God and humanity.” The immortal words of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan :-- a love that he had for his people, the awareness that he had of their nature and the destiny that he had thought out for them. The Khan lived for this one purpose to see his people attain what others had attained.
History says that Abdul Ghaffar Khan was born to a Khan who was not a conventional Khan in the real sense. Behram Khan was a liberal in those days when mullahs and Khan ruled the people. So the basic ingredients were there in the atmosphere Abdul Ghaffar Khan was to enjoy during his childhood and earlier adulthood. Behram Khan, contrary to the general custom and the mullahs, sent both his sons to missionary schools whereupon the younger got his first taste of what social work is when he saw Englishmen, thousands of miles away from their homeland, teaching the native for no monetary gains but for their betterment. The foundations of a social uplift movement were laid there in the young Khan’s mind , which went a long way in ensuring what he did later.
The Pathan: “The history of my people is full of victories and tales of heroism, but there are drawbacks too. Internal feuds and personal jealousies have always snatched away the gains achieved through vast sacrifices. They were deposed only because of their own inherent defects, never by any outside power – for who would oppose them on the battlefield”.
How exact was the definition by Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the hot-headed but faithful, stone-hearted but lovable people who had lived in the north-west of the English Empire for centuries. How deep was his study of the fact, can be easily verified nowadays.
That the gains of the Pathans on the battlefield or economic and financial circles were lost due to the rivalry and disunity amongst their own ranks.
But history states that the Pathans were also entangled in this crisis which they find themselves now due to destiny. The British always weary of Russian expansionist tendencies, wanted a solid border with the Russian Empire and the Pathans naturally entered the picture.
Thus started the struggle, the oppression of the Pathans and their stiff opposition. The British found it very hard to subjugate them for .. “who could oppose them on the battlefield”. The British called this part simply “The Grim”. They therefore formed the NWFP on November 9, 1901. In the words of Sir Neville Chamberlain, “To have to carry destruction if not destitution, into the homes of some hundreds of families is the great drawback of border warfare, but the savage tribes to whom there is no right but might, the only course open as regards humanity as well as policy is to make all suffer.”
“If objection is taken to the nature of punishment inflicted as repugnant to civilization, the answer is that savages cannot be met and checked by civilized warfare, and that to spare their houses and crops would be to leave them unpunished”.
The insight of Ghaffar Khan can be judged b his own words, “Our fault is that our province is the gateway of India. Because we live there the government calls us the gate-keepers. If we give them anything India will get out of our hands. We were born in the Frontier Province. And this is why we were doomed. They (the British) wanted these people should go on fighting among themselves and remain in a ruined and destroyed condition so that they might rule our country without feeling any anxiety”.
Naturally Ghaffar Khan stepped in to change the course of events and who could be better equipped than he for he knew their weaknesses as well as their strong points.
When he met Sir Griffith, Chief Commissioner of India, he asked the CC to hand over the lands of the Pathans to them. “No one can dominate us as we are willing to sacrifice everything for the protection of our country.”
The other ingredients needed, after a knowledge of his people, for a great leader in the forming, was an ideology, faith, steadfastness in what he was doing was right and the only right path. Ghaffar Khan had both to the optimum. He derived the essence of his thoughts and actions from religion – the most impregnable source of them all. In his own words. “It is my innermost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen and muhabbat (work, faith and love). And without these the name of Muslim is sounding brass and tinkling crystals”.
Ghaffar Khan saw religion as the guiding source. All his actions were guided on it, even his non-violence to be discussed later, was based on the teachings of Prophet (PBUH) namely those about love of others and sabr. Ghaffar Khan saw Islam in the light of Aamal, Yakeen and Mohabbat. He thought his aamal reflected his preaching in practical, through his yakeen of righteousness of his path, braved all hardships and through mohabbat forgave even those who had left no holds barred in making him suffer. For him, love was a sacred conviction. He once said, “the Holy Prophet (PBUH) came into this world and taught us that that man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures. Belief in God is to love ones’ fellow-men. “
All his actions had just one basis, the pleasure of God be it through prayers to Him or the service of His creatures. He had just one standard. “I have but one standard of measure and that is the measure of one’s surrender to God’.
Bacha Khan: Thus armed with weapons of firm conviction and sound knowledge of his people, Abdul Ghaffar Khan started his movement for the social uplift of his people. The first thing he saw was the firm control of mullahs over the education system and the uselessness of this system. To change all this he started an Azad school in Utmanzai.
Then he started touring the pathan land trying to setup schools. The British sensing this as a danger to their preset atmosphere of peace, ruthlessly opposed him. A school in Dir was burnt to the ground. Wherever he went the local nobles were warned beforehand not to offer any encouragement or help.
But Abdul Ghaffar Khan remained undaunted during 1915 to 1918. He visited some 500 villages in the so-called settled area of Pakhtoon heartland. He had an air of humbleness over him. The villagers were petrified and astonished to find a “Khan” among their ranks, sitting on the ground with them, eating what they ate and professing what they professed. The vacuum in Pathan leadership was filled. They all accepted this faqir of a Khan as their leader, for one they could lay down their lives. So one afternoon in a meeting in Charsadda, to express their gratefulness to him for arousing them, they titled him BACHA KHAN, the king of Khans. He was their “Bacha” now. The Pathans had at last found a leader, worthy of leading the Pathans. They had found one to guide them in the light of Pakhtunwali, the ethnic pathan code, as he himself said, “He (the Pathan) will go with you to hell if you can win his heart but you cannot force him even to go to heaven. Such is the power of love over the Pathan”, and he had won their hearts.
Satyagraha: “There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of non-violence. It is not a new creed, it was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet (PBUH) all the time he was in Makkah, and it has since been followed by all those who wanted to throw off an Oppressor’s Yoke. But we had so forgotten it that when Ghandiji placed it before us, we thought he was sponsoring a novel creed.” Inspired by Ghandhi’s firm conviction of non-violence and also his in-built creed to this effect, Bacha Khan startd preaching this idea to the Pathans.
His task was a daunting one for the ones for whom badal, revenge, was the sweetest music to their ears, who cared less for human life than their pukhto, their honour, were hard-pressed to forego their inbuilt instinct and adopt such a way of life in which opposing the enemy meant not to shoot at him but to stand before him with opposition in heart and action minus the violence. Gandhi named it satyagraha (Soul Power), the capacity to accept suffering and determination never to inflict suffering on opponents. History tells that the Bacha Khan, the heart-throb of millions, suffered, went to jails for no crime, where he was confined to ill-equipped quarters, was banned from his land and what could be more severe a punishment for a pathan not to be able to visit his watan, but Khan withstood all this. The Pathans were ruthlessly gunned down, fired upon in Utmanzai, in Qissa Khawani, their lands confiscated but they withstood all this for the Khan’s resolve for non-violence became stronger and stronger. “One learns a great deal in the school of suffering. I wonder what would have happened to me if I had an easy life, and had not had the privilege of tasting the joys of jails and all it means”.
“A coward dies but his shrieks live long after”, runs a pathan fable and the pathans made this their motto. So deep was the understandings of Gandhi’s satyagraha over Bacha Khan that he was affectionately named the “Frontier Gandhi”. As Nehru once accepted “I admired the other Indian leaders and most of them did not understand the spiritual basis of Gandhi’s work and honestly admitted it. Bacha Khan not only understood it, he lived it”.
Khudai Khitmatgars: “I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet but you are not aware of it.. that weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on the earth can stand against it”.
“When you go back to your villages, tell your brethren that there is an army of God and its weapon is patience. Ask your brethren to join the army of God. Endure all hardships. If you exercise patience, victory will be ours”. Thus spoke the Bacha Khan to the group of pathans to be the first non-violent army of the world, the Khudai Khitmatgars, the servants of God.”
The time was September 1929, and the place, Utmanzai. The King of the Pakhtoon nation was pouring his heart out and the nation listened in silence.
“There are two ways to national progress, one is the path of religion and the other is road of patriotism – Take a look at ourselves, we have hardly learned to stand on our own feet yet, we hardly see to understand the meaning of the word ‘nation’. A revolution is like a flood. A nation can prosper by it, and it can perish by it as well. A nation that is wide awake, that cultivates brotherhood and national spirit, is sure to benefit through revolution.”
“ O Pathans ! If you want your country and your people to prosper you must stop living for yourself alone and start living for the community. That is the only way to prosperity and progress”. The Khudai Khidmatgars were to do just that, they were an army of non-violent soldiers, drilled and disciplined, with officers and uniforms and, of course, a flag. Any pathan could join taking an oath.
The uniform at first was a white over-shirt but as it got dirty quickly, it was changed to red, which also was a way of gaining attention. The flag was a tricolor and jirgas were established in villages to see to the implementation of Pakhtoonwali. Their motto was freedom and their aim service. Since God Himself was in no need of service, they served His people instead. The Khudai Khidmatgars started social work in the villages, school dispensaries, and libraries were set up but eventually, Bacha Khan could not remain aloof of the political happenings and turmoil of the sub-continent and on April 23, 1930 the Khudai Khidmatgars joined the civil resistance movement. Then started the ruthless suppression of the movement at the hands of the British, for a non-violent Pathan was unthinkable – a fraud that masked something sinister and darkly treacherous.
This only helped the movement as where Khan had been able to recruit only a thousand or so Khudai Khidmatgars, British repression and effrontery converted 80,000 men and women to the movement.
As M. Younas writes, “The two years that followed formed an astounding period of darkness for the province. Shootings, beating and other acts of provocation were perpetuated against these people who had never suffered before without avenging themselves. Gunning the Red Shirts was a popular sport and pastime of the British force in the province”.
“But the Pathans, notwithstanding the fact that they had been brought up in an atmosphere of violence and bloodshed, stood unmoved by such provocations and died peacefully in large numbers for the attainment of their goal”.
“To gain independence”, Khan once explained, “two types of movements were launched in our province – the Violent Movement (the uprising before 1919) created hatred in the hearts of the people against violence. But the non-violent movement won love, not only won love but also affection and sympathy of the people … If a British was killed not only the culprit was punished but the whole village and entire region suffered from it”.
Bacha Khan bore all this with his people, sometimes in lockups and sometimes in banishment living near Gandhji and taking spiritual guidance from him.
Independence: At last 1947, Pakistan came into being. Although opposing in principle its creation, the Khudai Khidmatgars pledged allegiance to it.
Only a week after independence, Dr Khan Saheb’s government in the Frontier was disbanded and replaced by a Muslim League ministry. Shortly thereafter, a large gathering of Khudai Khidmatgars met at Sardaryab and resolved that the Khudai Khidmatgars regard Pakistan as their own country pledging to do their utmost to strengthen and safeguard its interest and make every sacrifice for the cause.
At the same time Bacha Khan asked for a united Pathan province within Pakistan in which all pathans would be reunited under “Rule of the Pathans, by the Pathans, and for the Pathans”. In this scheme, all five major peoples of Pakistan would have their own semi autonomous provinces like Bengalis in East Bengal, Sindhis in Sindh, Punjabis in the Punjab and Baloch in Balochistan, Khan argued. Pathans deserved ‘Pakhtunistan’: the land of the Pukhtoons.
Bacha Khan toured the Frontier and spoke out boldly for his plan and the democratic rights of his people. The government, at war with India over Kashmir, claimed he was disloyal and in league with India. On June 15, 1948 Bacha Khan was arrested for “fomenting open sedition” and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment. The Khudai Khidmatgars were banned and their headquarters razed. More than a thousand of them went to hail. The Pukhtoon Khan’s journal was silenced forever. Thus, with less than a year of the night that Mountbatten handed over the reins of power to India and Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated by a Hindu who feared he was pro-Muslim and Bacha Khan had been jailed by an Islamic government who claimed he was pro-Hindu.
So begins Bacha Khan’s second long ordeal in the cause of freedom. His sentence was extended twice, so that he actually served seven years before being released only to be imprisoned again the following year. During first three decades of Pakistan’s existence he would spend fifteen years in prison and seven years in exile.
Whenever he was out of prison, Bacha Khan continued to plead for a united Pathan province and the rudiments of democracy for his people. In 1956 he and three other leaders founded the National Awami Party. He was jailed several more times for ‘anti-state activities’. Since he refused to be silenced, his life since partition was a history of prison terms broken occasionally by interludes of freedom.
Thus Bacha Khan’s extraordinary saga continued and uptil his death in 1987 the non-violent soldier of Islam continued his struggle.
Immortality: Perhaps, no better way will be to end this humble tribute to Bacha Khan, than by quoting his desire of humbleness when Congress offered its Presidentship to him, the Bacha Khan refused saying “ … Let me declare that I am only a humble soldier and it is my ambition to end my days not as a general but as a soldier”.
Note: Published in the Frontier Post, January 20, 1991, primarily depending on, and copying from, “A Man to Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam” by Eknath Easwaran

Friday, 13 January 2017

Understanding Pakistan: Episode 2

Episode 2: "Tweedledee and Tweedledum"  was our look at Pakistan's turbulent and forgotten decade after partition. Specifically the post Liaqat Ali Khan assassination phase.

The views expressed in this episode are personal and do not reflect the views of Patari.pk.
Any corrections, amendments and suggestions are gratefully received. 

Title background:  Tweedledee and Tweedledum were characters from Lewis Carrolls "Alice in Wonderland"

They are based on the nursery rhyme
Tweedledum and Tweedledee.          Agreed to have a battle;   For Tweedledum said TweedledeeHad spoiled his nice new rattle.Just then flew down a monstrous crow,As black as a tar-barrel;Which frightened both the heroes so, They quite forgot their quarrel

Tweedledee and Tweedledum as seen in Disneys cartoon version of the book

The reference  by Ayub Khan was a sarcastic comment about the revolving door of politicians being dismissed and appointed in the space of months and years during this era.

There is some fairness to the comment on first look, there were five Prime Ministers in five years from 1953-1958. But if you scratch the surface there are only four real people to observe. Ghulam Mohammed, Iskandier Mirza, Ayub Khan and Husseyn Suhrawardy.

The key moment in the revolving door process was Ghulam Mohammed's dismissal of Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin invoking Raj era laws. In his order he wrote

".the cabinet of Khawaja Nazimuddin has proved entirely inadequate to grapple with the difficulties facing the country. In the emergency which has arisen I have felt it incumbent upon me to ask the cabinet to relinquish office so that a new cabinet fitted to discharge its obligations towards Pakistan may be formed."
Reference to Suharwardys contrarian stance in politics. Despite the popularity of anti west sentiment he was critical of leftist politics.

"if we say anything in favour of America or the UK we are called “stooges of imperialism” and if we say anything in favour of Russia we are called “independent”'.

When it came to the 1956 Suez crisis he was even more dismissive of pro Egyptian sentiment.

'The question is asked: why don't we get together rather than be tied to a big power like the UK or America? My answer to that is that zero plus zero plus zero plus zero is after all equal to zero. We have, therefore, to go farther afield rather than get all the zeros together'
Reference Hypocrites to the core
Ardeshir Cowasjee — Dec 18, 2010

Production work:

This episode was especially challenging in that it is such a poorly written about era. It also had a lot going on in terms of events for us to cover. There was a conscious decision to avoid revisiting issues like the passage of the Objective resolution, the assassination of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, and Pakistan's first martial law in Punjab. These events have been covered countless times in books, articles and TV debates by people far more qualified than us. 

Saying that, we will be revisiting the Rawalpindi conspiracy in detail by hopefully interviewing people who have researched the attempted coup. 

From a technical point of view:

We have a few limitations, with myself being based in the U.K and Aamer based in the USA. Also sound quality is an issue from a background sound point of view. You maybe able to hear Aamers son in the background in places! 


-I incorrectly refer to a Cabinet of excellence, Aamer correctly uses the word " Cabinet of talents"
- Akbar Khan was promoted to Major General and Chief of General Staff at the time of Rawalpindi conspiracy ;
- reference Gandhis quote about Suharwardy incorrectly: exact quote was
"Jinnah – there is your statesman; Liaquat – there is your politician; Suhrawardy – there is your leader.”


Shahid Saeed  commemorates Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, 1892-1963 The Friday Times 21-27 January 2011 link 

-The Idea of Pakistan Paperback – 30 Aug 2006
by Stephen P. Cohen

- Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography by Begum Shaista Ikramullah Oxford University Press-1991

-Iskander Mirza, rise and fall of a president By Aḥmad Salīm.

- Pakistan: History and Politics 1947-1971 (Oxford Pakistan Paperbacks) Paperback – 6 Dec 2007
by M. Rafique Afzal (Author)

- referencing provincial election rigging
Report of the Electoral Reforms Commission, Government of Pakistan, 1956

Friday, 6 January 2017

Understanding Pakistan: Episode 1

Qissa Khwani and Patari are pleased to announce our new podcast

"Understanding Pakistan".                
Episode 1 In the beginning
Presented by Aamer Raza and takhalus

Source notes

Art work by Dr. Ghulam Shabbier. 
Special hat tip to Ahmer Naqvi at Patari for inspiring this exclusive podcast series.
The original concept was for a single person monologue, looking at Pakistani history in a chronological format starting from 1947, , thankfully that approach was discarded for more of a dialogue approach with Aamer joining the project.
As someone aware of the critical eye that social media casts, i also wanted to clearly define the parameters the show would operate under. Conceptually that meant defining what the show was not as well as what it was.

From a technical point of Aamer was the key to resolving our initial technical issues. We also struggled with the title of the show from my tongue in cheek title "@takhalus studies Pakistan" to "Problematizing Pakistan". Another issue was introductory music. That last one is something we are struggling with, if anybody has any suggestions do drop us a line.

Corrections/Amendments/ Clarifications 

-Writer Abdul Majeed Abid has contacted us to say  "Disagree slightly with your co-host. I wrote a chapter last year on the issue of Kalat's Accession based on available documents. What happened on 11th August was a stand still agreement. The words of that agreement were dubious and it was not signed by Mountbatten at the time. Kalat did hold elections (no voting though) and the two chambers of the Kalat state assembly were merely a rubberstamp (according to Kalat's own constitution)."

- Clarification: There was no intention to minimise the impact of partition on Bengal. There was violence and displacement but the impact on Punjab was the most severe. See Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012; New Delhi: Rupa Books, 2011).


Will you be examining famous events differently or looking at untold stories in Pakistani history?

I am tempted to say the latter but I suspect the truth is a bit of both.

Who is your target audience?

I would like to think it is open to anyone with a interest in Pakistani history. The truth is some people who feel strongly emotionally invested in some of these issues will probably best avoid the podcast.

Will you be taking Questions?
Yes, tag us on twitter or use the #UnderstandingPakistan or e mail qkhwani dot gmail.com

Will you be having guests?
Yes, ideally we would like to host academics to discuss events and themes.

How long will the series be?
Originally we planned for seven episodes but that depends on the audience response.

Book references