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OCTOBER 21-27 2012

The road to Swat

What hatred destroyed, humanity has tried to rebuild

OCTOBER 21-27 2012

Cover Story

18 The Road to Swat What hatred destroyed, humanity has tried to rebuild


28 Walking with the Wakhi The Wakhan Corridor may have several claims to fame, but what makes it truly intriguing is its people


34 Escape from Oblivion - a critical analysis A former member of the Pakistan Army critiques Ikram Sehgal’s book Escape from Oblivion


38 Daadi’s Diary: Pain Pain Go Away…


Before heading for the medicine cabinet, try these natural remedies for pain relief


Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 40 Reviews: Taken to Dragon Gate 42 End Of The Line: Mission Accomplished, Immy bhai...



Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editor: Zainab Imam. Sub-Editors: Mifrah Haq, Ameer Hamza and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Maha Haider, Faizan Dawood, Samra Aamir, Sanober Ahmed. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: Printed:




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12 OCTOBER 21-27 2012


Jahanzaib Khan

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OCTOBER 21-27 2012

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OCTOBER 21-27 2012


The Road To Swat

In earlier times, when fear had not been etched in deep, incisive wound-

like lines on the insides of our eyelids, this was a road where chocolate he-

roes serenaded caramel heroines. They cavorted between majestic pine and

poplar trees lining the road to Swat, passionately crooning a sweet song of everlasting love.

Over the years, this road has carried much more than travellers wishing

to escape the oppressive heat of the plains. It has seen the movement of men

who have wanted to vanquish the valley as much as conquer the people. But this time, it was not with the message of peace, acceptance and detachment preached by Buddhist monks traversing the high mountain passes and settling into monasteries for the rainy season, reaffirming their commitment

to the dharma of their spiritual master, the Lord Buddha. That was two

thousand years ago, when the valley was known as Uddiyana, or “Royal Garden”, in Sanskrit.

In the 1920s, the intrepid scholar, researcher, archaeologist and traveller

Sir Aurel Stein wrote about this splendid kingdom: “With cascading pure rivers splashing down from ice-bound lakes high in the snowy peaks be-

yond, and quiet pools stocked with fish, with lush meadows, in raiment of every variety of wildflower, Uddiyana truly seemed a paradise on earth. No wonder people from far and wide spoke of it as a magical place, the hid-

den flower garden of the wise and compassionate Lord Buddha”. Today, the landscape is largely scarred by unplanned development, ugly structures rising out of the earth where the remains of ancient cities lie waiting to be

explored, their secrets buried beneath the detritus of history. The trees in

the inhabited areas have been felled, making way for yet more housing, and piles of garbage litter the streets as hungry dogs rummage through it for sustenance.

As we drive along the road from Batkhela to Landakai then Barikot, the

Y SB E R TU HAR C I P U ND LI GA are A d y T A e X atr led b TE RYAL h d of ett FE ns er s ettle d. o i s v s e

ne re cca atr “O ainly hey a m h w.” t T fro al la cer red. m rn o t ha reed e ete dha f h ud by is t a B s i Th atam h Ma

18 OCTOBER 21-27 2012

ancient “Bazira” of Greek times, the road becomes an artery leading to the

heart of the valley. Hundreds, if not thousands, of stupas, monasteries, viharas, forts, rock inscriptions, paintings and etchings and stelae marked

the landscape of ancient Uddiyana. Over the years, many sites have been

vandalised, looted for the treasures that lie within: sculptures of Buddha, his form as the Future Buddha or Bodhisatva, the Hindu deities of Ganesha

and Shiva, and the life stories or jatakas of Buddha which must have deco-

rated the base of the stupa and the stairs leading up to the area for circum-

ambulation. Those antiquities which escaped the avarice of the smugglers fall prey to the ignorance of the wayfarers who pelt stones at the images of idols long forgotten by even their worshippers. Only the notion of intoler-

ance and hatred prevails, convincing the “believer” in the “unbelief” of the other.

the mosque is still used to offer prayers.

Once the area was cleared of militants

At Ghalegai, across from the gently

by the Pakistan Army, a cemented access

cient times, a Neolithic era rock shelter

army in order for visitors to explore this

undulating River Swat, the Suvastu of angives testimony to the fact that the valley

was inhabited at least 3,000 years ago.

path and a culvert bridge was laid by the ancient place of worship.

High above the 10th century mosque,

Potsherds and stone implements littered

the third oldest in the country, I spot the

millennium BC. Just below it is the majes-

Hindu raja Gira. Viewing the landscape

this shelter, helping to date it to the 4th tic seated “dhyani” or meditating Buddha.

Above the relief is a small cave, known

as “Hindu Ghar”, accessible from the road by climbing a flight of 60 steps. Here we

find a defaced bearded and haloed Surya

figure standing on a pedestal supported by six lions and flanked by two figures on the

right and three on the left. The Surya fig-

ure, dating to the Turki Shahi period (7th century CE), wears a Kushana costume

outlines of the remains of the fort of the

from a distance gives one a sense of infinity: the infinite ways in which human beings have worshipped the divine, infinite

possibilities of living in harmony with other faiths which essentially answer the

same questions which have plagued humankind for an eternity: who are we, why

are we here, who created us, what happens when we die?

I climb through a small orchard of peach

similar to the robes worn by Kanishka

trees and find myself staring at the ossi-

of the historic period, bringing the region

and died on the same ground upon which

who ruled the valley in the second century

to a peak of prosperity before it was con-

quered by Sassanian rulers of Iran in 241 AD.

We continue on the road past Manyar

and Tindodag towards Udegram, a site rich with history and irony. I am told by

my guide and driver that recent excava-

tion, assisted by MPhil students from the University of Hazara, has led to the finding of two pre-historic graves with skeletons and grave pottery intact. It is here

fied skeletal remains of a person who lived

I now stood. That this elderly man, whose bones were buried with those of a young child, knew the same mountains, drank from the stream below and harvested the

fruit which grew in abundant orchards, only reaffirmed my belief that essentially

we are the same. We are both born of clay and dust, returned to the earth to return

again and again, living the space between birth and death.

I stared at the beautifully turned grave

that Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni had a

pottery which lay in clusters around the

of a Buddhist monastery. Discovered in

fashioned them, the songs that must have

mosque built, possibly on the foundations 1985 by Italian scholar Umberto Scerrato,

skeleton and wondered at the hands which

been sung as earth mixed with water and

19 OCTOBER 21-27 2012


morphed into a vessel, the fabric which must

dreds of years: a haven for peaceful

child dreamt before being laid out on the

gressive education, for its countless

have clothed the potter, the dreams that the

stone slab which cradled her for several thousand years.

According to the Italian and Pakistani ex-

perts working there, the pottery suggests a

period between the second and first millennium before the Common Era (BCE). Who

presided over the funeral and the rituals which denoted that there was a life after

death? What were the words that were spoken to the mother of the child, the wife of the dead man, his children, to

console them for their loss? Was it a

celebration or was it a tragedy? Who were these people who arranged their dead in precise rows, providing them with sustenance for the journey ahead, covering

them with large megalithic

river, its gentle slopes dotted with

terraces where crops grew to feed its

many communities: Pakhtun, Torw-

al, Ushugu, Gujjar, Kohistani, among others.

I am on my way to the hamlet of Jah-

anabad, a short distance from Manglaur

where a modern Institute of Tourism

and Hotel Management built by the Aus-

trians lies abandoned after having been

destroyed by the militants. The Pakistan

Army now occupies the shelled out cam-

pus, and young military officers based in

Jahanabad entertain me with kindness,

conversation, and a cup of tea before I begin my climb up the steep mountain.

From there, I am to gaze at the haunting

beauty of the huge rock relief of Lord Buddha

I want to stay in Ude-

outcrop of massive boulders piled up on top of

gram for a life time, but I must move on for the road awaits me and

beckons. I still have to

travel past the towns of Ba-

which graces the surface of a magnificent each other, lined with the dark stains of water and time. It is here that I am to spend the next

fifteen days, documenting the conservation process being carried out.

It is a long climb up through a thick fruit

logram and Fizaghat which saw

orchard supported by an ancient stone wall. I

and the local people before the mili-

and crickets sing a silent song. Somewhere

fierce fighting between the militants

tary stepped in several long, bloody

and unexplained years later. Here, scarred carcasses of houses, factories, schools and bridges stand testimony to that terrible time when forces inspired by the manipulative sermons of Mullah Fazlullah

unleashed their hatred for every-

thing that Swat had been for hun-

OCTOBER 21-27 2012

orchards of fruit, for its undulating

slabs which have kept their secret for millennia?


worship, for spiritual as well as pro-

stand still to listen to the solitude; birds call a child calls out, a dog answers, an ethereal

tranquility descends like a mist and envelops

me. There is something here I cannot see or

feel or touch — there is something which tells

me that this was a place of great reverence, where prayers were chanted, were human desire was subsumed in the belief that to exist is

to suffer, that the end of suffering begins with the death of desire. I do not want to shake off

this sense of another time which draws me into it

with a gentle pull, whispering secrets of the past, waiting to be heard, to be understood and cherished.

I turn away with profound reluctance. There

is a task that lies ahead and soon the sun will be setting, plunging the valley into dark-

ness. The path veers upwards towards a tiny

settlement where the dog and child greet me as if I was one of their own. I speak in halting Pushto

most of it

the Buddha. The boy takes my hand and points in


and ask them how much further to the carving of

the direction of the massive outcrop at the top of the mountain.

“That one, there?” he asks? “That buth which the

kafirs carved?”

I look at this child, all of seven or eight years old,

his shoes too big for him, his shirt too small, face

smeared with grime, a mischievous grin despite

having been



militants fighting a war in

which the only victor is death. All

that remains of the face is one ear and his

mouth, curved along the edges in a tender smile,

indifferent to the depth of the hatred and violence which tried to destroy it.

In 2007, at the height of the violence perpetrated

all that was missing. He tugs at the rope that he

by extremists, at least 50 men and women were

me over the narrow path, scattering the few chick-

renamed as Khooni or Bloody Chowk, situated in the

has tied around the dog’s neck and begins to lead ens that peck at the ground.

“Come,” he says, “I [will] take you to see this buth

which does not have a face, this kafir buth.”

The bas-relief of Lord Buddha was probably

carved in the sixth or seventh century of the Common Era. Buddha sits on a pedestal or astana, his legs

folded under him and his hands resting in his lap, a sense of peace and quietness enveloped in the folds of his garment. Indeed, he does not have a face,

executed in the now reclaimed Green Chowk, then

middle of the bustling bazaar of Mingora. Barbers who dared to shave beards, CD shop owners who

dared to sell music, women who dared to sing and

dance, ordinary people who dared to live a life free

of fear — all became the targets of the bitter venom spewed by the hydra-headed monster which is in-

tent on consuming the last vestiges of harmony and beauty in this beloved, blighted land. The same monster which tried to claim the life of a brave little girl named Malala, whose name itself mean ‘grief-stricken’. While the lust for blood was being quenched by public executions, the beatific splendour of the Buddha rock relief in Jahanabad became yet another target.

“We don’t know who did it,”

a young man standing beneath


“Come,” he says, “I [will] take you to see this buth which does not have a face, this kafir buth.”

the thirty-metre-high relief tells me. He does not look at the relief or at me, perhaps out of deference for my fe-

male status in a conservative

culture where men are taught

(Continued on page 25) OCTOBER 21-27 2012


COVER STORY not to lo ok at w omen w Who dri ho are n lled the ot “their holes in s”. Buddha th e should relief, an ers of th d o e n e on the to sha, the k p of the not of ha u sh ir n w io rn instea Gautam d of a cro a Siddha wn by rta, Prin dha? Exp ce of Lu mbini, B losives w e udre packed in then de to the ho tonated, le s a a nd p parently that was after th launche e ro ck d from acr et failed to oss the R destroy it iver Swa s target. t “They ca me in th e middle of the n ight, it was d ark, we did not them…,” see the you erected ng man continue by local s before carpente h rs, it wa e was u lo oking away at s clear th sed to w the haze o at rk in g st in difficu ances. H hovering abov aving ga lt circum e the ri th e re d e v the initia arlier trip er. I do not distu l data on , he was rb the si a n n o w the entire lence be engaged tween u in clean surface o his reveri s and jo ing f the rock e, starin in him o rg a n relief, re ic g in at the ho growth a here and moving s well as rizon inte there wit of explosi dust and rrupted h lush g the rema ve powd the pink reen terr ers. ins blossom aces and The atta s of aprico ck s on the re t trees. Amidst a lief sepa ll this be part of th rated the auty a h e face fro been com upper einous cr m the w mitted, re im all unde su e lted in th h a a d cr r study a im and beau e against e lo ss nd of const ty and th humanit The explo ituent m e diversit y sion also perience a y te o ri f cr a the hum l. eated fra . And tod fractures an exctures an ay that v in the w to be add d microiolent act all, and ressed by w fa a ce in are s going weakene men wh as direct d the su the mag o held in ly adjace ric of hea his hand gaps. His n t to the re li n g s , the wa task was will. sulting rmth of to re p a and fissu ir the cra human res and to cks The team ensure th further was led at d e b te y ri a o name an ration o foreigne d nation f the surf r, whose ality can ace did not be m not take for fear th place, p entioned at he an ossibly re d his tea sulting m may a come targ the loss in lso beets. Suff o f the enti ice it to sa re face. T a restore y th p re a he t se he is r and co nce of li nservato chens an r of anci heritage d o m rg ic anisms roent , having was also previousl of great on restori cern sin y worked conce their ng the m activity urals surr cause fu could als ing the oundrt o her imp colossal overishm Buddhas surface. ent of th Bamiyan of e . After cle Watchin aning th g him e entire climb th soft bru surface u 30-metre shes, he e sing -high tr e ated the scaffoldin resin an relief wit g d secure h a d the are as in dan ger of co l-

All that r em and his m ain is one ear ou along the th, curved edges in at der smile , indiffere ennt the hatre d which t to ried to destroy it .

25 OCTOBER 21-27 2012


lapsing. Assisted by two local men, he then

feat, a testimony to the belief in

the filling on the tenth day of the conserva-

silience of the human spirit.

grouted the cracks and fissures and began tion process. Two cameramen shot the entire

peace and harmony and the reThe lead restorer slides

process while a third camera was placed at

off the boulder and walks

in time lapse mode, capturing the changing

striding through the

strategic positions to record the entire process light and the movement of the clouds as they floated across the vast sky, witnessing an act of love and healing.

I watched this process in awe, grateful

for the opportunity to be so close to perhaps

the first effort to conserve a casualty of war which, though it did not bleed, was grievously hurt nonetheless. Watching him place his

syringe full of resin in the fissures and cracks was like watching a doctor inject a sick child.

When he placed gauze strips along large

cracks before he grouted the gaps, it appeared as if he was bandaging an injured limb. And finally, when the volumes of the missing part were filled with a slightly chromatically

distinguishable mixture of plaster and micro-

gravel, it seemed as if life was emerging out

of a deep tomb where an invincible spirit lay buried.

away with his camera,

undergrowth. I watch as

he disappears into the lush foliage,

remembering his words: “Calm, serenity, power, thirst, contentment ... this is how I

feel when I finish a restoration job, anywhere

in the world. I feel the blood coursing through my veins, but this time, with that light, the

emotion was stronger: you love the world, but at the same time you are sad, very sad,

because you realise that such a moment will never come again and just this aspect makes it extraordinary. Then you turn, you walk

with your back to the work, but for days, weeks, sometimes after years and almost al-

ways those images dance in front your eyes ‌ something indescribable has settled in you, something that makes you sigh, the sighs of a lover.�

Behind the three men, the River Suvastu

It is the fifteenth day today. The team

flows gently, meandering through fertile

rest beneath the relief, allowing

ple hungry for sustenance and dignity. The

members are seated on the boulders which them to gaze up at this magnificent

fields which give forth their bounty to a peo-

sun begins to set, casting its golden light on the relief, almost as if the universe too, and its

planets and all that lived within it, wanted to

celebrate the challenge that had been met;

a challenge which must be met if our past is to show us a path to a future where all

beings live with a sense of serenity and love,

not fear and hatred.

26 OCTOBER 21-27 2012



with the wakhi It is a stop on the Silk Route, a bridge between nations and a meeting point of great mountain ranges. But what makes the Wakhan Corridor truly intriguing is its people BY DANIYAH SEHAR

I am proud that I am Wakhi, I was Shepherd, I am Shepherd I am the language of absolute faith, I was Shepherd, I am Shepherd - Nazir Ahmad Bulbul In a far-flung corner of the world, where the tides of the Tethys

Sea once ebbed and flowed, the Himalayas, Pamir and Karakoram mountains now jostle each other for elbow room: tilting, sliding,

slipping and grinding along the vague borders of Afghanistan,

China, India, Tajikistan and Pakistan. At the junction, known


as the Pamir Knot, each giant rises imperceptibly, inch by inch every year, locked in perpetual shoulder-to-shoulder contact. OCTOBER 21-27 2012

It was here that the famous Wakhan Corridor was created as a

buffer zone between imperial Russia and Britain during the geopolitical Great Game of the 19th century. This narrow, horizontal strip of land, which has been a part of Afghanistan since the

colonial times, was once part of the fabled Silk Road connecting China with Europe. It was the harsh terrain of this route that ad-

venturers such as Francis Younghusband, Lord Curzon and John Wood dared to tread, much in the same way as conquerors and explorers such as Alexander the Great, Marco Polo and Genghis Khan did before them.

The Wakhan Corridor, separating present-day Pakistan from

Tajikistan and connecting western China with mainland Af-


ghanistan, is roughly 220 kilometres long and between 16 and 64

kilometres wide. The western part, which includes the Panj River Valley, is called Lower Wakhan, while the valleys of the Wakhan

and Pamir River and their tributaries make up Upper Wakhan in

the east. If you head further east in Upper Wakhan, you will see

the magnificent spectacle of three great mountain ranges meeting at the Pamir Knot, or Bam-e-Duniya (Roof of the World) as it is popularly known. Beyond that lies the green valley of Little Pamir, and to its northwest the Great Pamir.

Among these splendid mountain valleys and rivers, a people

called the Wakhi (derived from an old name of the Oxus or Amu

Darya) have lived for centuries. A few months back, I travelled to the Wakhan Corridor and took the opportunity to explore Wakhi

culture up close. The people call themselves Wakhik or Kheek, and

are found in the Xianjang province of China, southeast Tajikistan, and Pakistan where they predominate in northern Chitral,

Ishkoman Valley and Gojal, Hunza. They speak the Wakhi language, which appears to be a distant dialect of Persian, and continues to be vibrant in the communities where it is still used.

It is rather interesting how the Wakhis, who are known to be

content with their meagre resources and simple lifestyles as well

as their fierce independence and pride, came to settle in their present abodes in Pakistan. The first of the Wakhi refugees are known

to have crossed into Chitral in 1886 for reasons not yet known. However, the next major migration occurred after 1919 probably

due to famine and the Bolshevik takeover of Central Asia. When the rulers of Afghanistan made it compulsory for Wakhis to enlist in the army in 1937, a third wave of migration followed.

Almost all the Wakhi people, who are estimated to be 100,000

worldwide, belong to the Shia Ismaili faith. Most of them practice agriculture (called dehqani in the local dialect), much of which


is subsistence farming, while a very small number of Wakhis engage in animal husbandry (maldari). The Wakhi cultivate crops in OCTOBER 21-27 2012

He mixed the opium paste with Disprin and then heated it on a lamp with a pipe attached to it. As the paste heats up, fumes rising from it are inhaled for a supposedly calming and warming effect. I, for one, got a severe headache

FEATURE spring and move up the valley in summer to higher pastures, generally living a peaceful life, tending their goats, sheep and yaks.

They suffer from a host of problems, including poverty, illiteracy, inadequate healthcare and near-perpetual food insecurity. And in

recent years, there has been an addition to this list of afflictions

as more and more Wakhi turn to opium to help them get through the long and harsh winter. Many of them end up as addicts.

The Wakhis have no concept of villages. Instead, they reside

in hamlets called qarya and refer to the local community as the qoum. They live as a khunkhalq (household) in residential structures

called wakhi khanas that are scattered across the narrow valleys in Wakhan. Nonetheless, they remain a closely-knit community, leaning on each other in times of need.

A wakhi khana is a maze-like structure, erected in an imperfect

rectangular shape from mud and stones, covered with a flat

roofing of mud and grass, and supported by several vertical pillars and horizontal rafters, beams and tree trunks. The main

residential quarters in the wakhi khana are almost the same. The

not elaborate either: it includes salty tea made from yak milk

all four sides. The highest ledge (about one metre high) is located

made from bread crumbs), gral (meat with sesame seeds), shulbuth

main living room is rectangular with high clay ledges built on

opposite the entrance (pagah in Wakhi language) and contains the

(creamy chicken with apricot oil) and moch (chicken barley soup).

work station by the women.

yak’s milk. This yoghSurt is unlike any you have tasted before;

family hearth. This raised platform is used for cooking and as a Other platforms (about 50 centimetres high) are partitioned by

mud walls with their openings facing the centre of the house.

These small platforms are also used for sleeping by the residents

They use dairy products such as yoghurt and cream made from it’s tangy and rich in vitamin C, tingles the tongue, but is very refreshing and addictive.

The plos, a traditional black and white floor rug that is weaved

of the house, and are called dukan.

using the tail hair of yaks and sheep wool, caps and crochet work

used as fuel for cooking or heating. Whatever wood can be pro-

caps and do crochet work. I still have the colourful woven gloves

With wood being a relatively scarce resource, very little of it is

cured is instead used in construction, while animal dung and

dried bushes are used as fuel. All cooking is done on the clay

are some of the handicrafts they make. They also make beautiful and the cap gifted to me by one of my hosts.

The wild terrain of Wakhan leaves them with little opportunity

hearth, which has a narrow vertical opening along its side facing

for outdoor activity. But this doesn’t mean they are a sedentary

out to warm the rest of the well-insulated house. There is a small

Children love to play tug of war sitting on donkeys; this trains for

the centre of the room. Heat from the narrow opening radiates

ventilation outlet right above the hearth, with a lid-like attachment that can be closed during the night and in case of rain.

So heavily do the Wakhis consume opium that the strange

people; they play Buzkashi (‘pulling of the goat’) and yak polo. yak polo and Buzkashi by helping them gain a steady footing and maintaining body balance.

My porter, the little Rehmat, told me that every year, from

smell of the drug hangs in the air at all times in the wakhi khana.

July 17-19, the Wakhis bring in their yaks, decorated with cowrie

onstrated to me how they use opium. He mixed the opium paste

The contest, known as Jashn-e-Baroghil, is one of the most famous

During my visit, a Wakhi porter by the name of Juma Khan demwith Disprin (or any other pain killing drug) and then heated it on a lamp with a pipe attached to it. As the paste heats up, fumes

rising from it are inhaled for a supposedly calming and warming effect. I, for one, got a severe headache. Even his ferocious looking pet dog seemed to doze off thanks to the fumes.

shells and colourful crotchet work, to Baroghil for a polo contest. cultural events of the Wakhi community in the Pamir region of

northern Pakistan. And watching them mount yaks with mallet in hand to play polo, you realise how strong and sturdy these people are.

They are a nature-loving community and very fond of music;

A wakhi khana usually houses a joint family, and the head of the

the Rubab, Dadang, Qufuz, Duf and Surnai are used to strike melodi-

farming and weaving woolen cloths, while women look after the

enchanted land, where every house is a little house on the prairie

household is called kalani khana. Male members are responsible for


and butter and taken with a simple baked bread, malida (a dessert

house and cattle.

And like the simple lifestyles of its people, Wakhi cuisine is

OCTOBER 21-27 2012

ous tunes that transport the listener into the sweetness of a far-off

and all you can see are silver crusted mountains against the blue sky and the lush green meadows where the yak roam free.


Escape From Oblivion a critical analysis A former member of the Pakistan Army critiques Ikram Sehgal’s book BY BRIGADIER (RETD) JAVED HUSSAIN



about his experiences during a time of great tribulation that

“What I had witnessed on 25 and 27 March 1971 in Dacca had shocked me””

ments in East Pakistan on March 25, 1971. It has been reported

which suggests that he had reached Dhaka on March 25, 1971. On

jected to a critical analysis, it was found that the narrative suffers

on May 26, 1971, by Brigadier Jabbar, Commander Army Aviation

pecially those that took place after his arrival in Dhaka from West

was informed NOT to proceed to East Pakistan on expiry of his leave

are, therefore, restricted to this period only.

Karachi without authorisation and joined his unit (Logistic Flight)

kram Sehgal’s book Escape From Oblivion is a gripping narrative followed the Pakistan Army’s crackdown on the rebellious ele-

on, reviewed and written about fairly extensively. But when sub-

the other hand, the special Confidential Report written on him

from contradictions and an inadequate explanation of events, es-

Base, states that the officer who was on leave in West Pakistan,

Pakistan up until his imprisonment. The comments that follow

due to the uncertain situation there prior to March 25, but he left

“I had reached Dacca on 27 March 1971 on posting to Logistic Flight, Eastern Command, and was on joining time” 34

(page 5), while on page 124 he says

in Dhaka on March 26. From this can it be inferred that he reached Dhaka on March 25 and joined his Flight on March 26, 1971? On joining the Flight, he says:

“I was informed that orders were waiting for me to go back to West Pakistan” on another assignment, but

“I was told to continue with my joining time till I finally received my orders.” He then went to his immediate Flight Commander and informed him that

since I was on joining time for ten days I would like to go meet my unit, the 2E Bengal.” His statement that he was told to continue with his joining time till he

formally received his orders is contradicted by the Desertion Report sent by his Logistic Flight to GHQ at 0200 hrs on March 31, 1971 which says:

“PA 7374 IKRAM UL MAJEED SEHGAL deserted with personal weapon and batman after noon 29 March.”

How, then, can the same unit that sent the Desertion Report, also tell him to continue with his joining time?

“In choosing to go to 2E Bengal in Joydebpur [26 miles from Dacca] I had been led by my heart and not with my mind. It was to find out for myself after they had revolted on 28 March 1971, whether all that was being alleged against the 2E Bengal was true” (page 5) — whereas on page 4 he says that

the unit revolted on the night earlier, ie on 27 March.

The allegation against 2E Bengal was that when they revolted,


FEATURE they killed their West Pakistani officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs), and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs), including some families. The questions that arise are: When did

he hear about the allegation against 2E Bengal? When did the

killings take place? When did he leave Dhaka for 2E Bengal and when did he arrive there? If one is to presume that he arrived at 2E Bengal on March 31, 1971,

“how can one forget the vociferous adulation that the entire unit bestowed on me on 31 March 1971” (page 6), why, if he had reached Dhaka on March 25, 1971 and

reported to his Flight on March 26, 1971, it took him five days to reach 2E Bengal, and four days if, as he says, he had reached Dhaka on March 27, 1971 — road blocks notwithstanding?

By the time I reached my unit, my world had been turned topsy-turvy….one could never believe that the 2E Bengal had killed their West Pakistani colleagues. Sadly it was true (page 6)

The question then is, having found out that

all that was being alleged against 2E Bengal” was true, why didn’t he return to his Logistic Flight in Dhaka? After all, this was why he had gone to 2E Bengal (page 5, para 2).

As a result of the “vociferous adulation” that the unit bestowed on ‘their Chand Sahib’,

the look of envy on the faces of some of the Bengali officers in the unit said it all. I was a dead man. The question was when? …. For me the choice no longer remained in my hands. It was destiny that had brought me here to the unit that I loved, even though I loved Pakistan from the very core of my being. I was now left with no choice but to die in uniform among my troops whom I loved” (pages 6-7). But he had a choice: escape to Dhaka with the help

of his troops who loved their ‘Chand Sahib’. Indeed, now was the

“the original company commanded both by my father and myself”

Would it then be a fair inference to draw from this that he was prepared to lead them in missions against Pakistani troops?

“On 5 April 1971, when I refused to cross over into India, officers became doubtful whether my men would agree to cross over without me the tension among the younger officers was quite palpable, but they were powerless to take any action in the presence of the rank and file of 2E Bengal….hence I was cleverly lured away from my Company [two companies] by being told that Col MAG Osmany, who was soon to become General and Commander-in Chief of Mukti Bahini, wanted to meet me near the border…..I was taken under the escort of Major Khaled Mosharraf….When we reached the border Mosharraf said that we had to go on to the camp where Col Osmany was. The camp was near Agartala” (pages 7-8). Here, he says he was handed over to a unit of India’s Border Security Force.

This account also raises many questions: who ordered him to

cross over into India? Why did he refuse knowing that, like other

E Bengal battalions, 2E Bengal was also to operate as Mukti Bahini from sanctuaries in Indian territory? Was he ordered to go across with his companies or without them; if with them, did they also

refuse? Who lured him away from his companies? Why did he

get lured away by a scheme that was anything but clever? Did he

ask why Col Osmany wanted to meet him? When the meeting with Col Osmany didn’t materialise near the border, why did he

agree to go to his camp across the border, having earlier refused to cross over? In the event, why didn’t he move his companies up and take them along?

Be that as it may, the key question is, why were those who, on

April 5, 1971, ordered him to cross over, so keen to get him out of 2E Bengal? Surely, it couldn’t have been because of his popularity among the rank and file of the unit.

I had a date with destiny which I could not avoid” (page xiv).

“It was destiny that had brought me”

time for his mind to overrule his heart (page 5) and reshape his

to 2E Bengal (page 6) — and after he became a prisoner, “Destiny

Instead, despite the murder of West Pakistani officers, JCOs and

Last but not the least, why has the book been written forty-one

destiny to turn around his fortunes.

NCOs by the unit he loved, despite his world having been turned



topsy-turvy, and despite his feeling that he was a dead man, he chose to stay on and accept command of 2E Bengal’s Bravo Com-

had made my choice for me” (page 8). What was his choice?

years later, and why, instead of being acclaimed as a hero for his escape, and for his superlative performance in the Sindh desert in December 1971, was he dismissed from the army?


confusion at dragon gate BY NOMAN ANSARI

Watching international martial arts star Jet Li wield a Chinese Jian sword with the wind fluttering his clothes as he moves gracefully through the air may seem unusual to those unfamiliar with wuxia. It is a Chinese genre of film where the heroes, who come from working class backgrounds, are led by their chivalrous code and typically struggle against oppressive regimes. These mythical Chinese heroes are compelling to watch not only because of their strong principles but also because of their superhuman combat abilities. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is a remake by Director Tsui Hark that has some highly imaginative visuals, finely choreographed martial arts sequences and nice 3D effects. The film features entertaining swordplay and high flying action. It is set in dusty locales with plenty of action sequences involving horse-riding, which give the film an almost Chinese-Western sort of appeal. Regrettably Jet, who plays Zhao Huai’an, is a little too old for action movies now and has many of his action scenes performed by doubles, playing less of his traditional buttkicking role. That being said, here he gives a strong performance which once again contrasts with his poor choice of roles in Hollywood. The film is set during the Ming Dynasty where the imperial eunuchs are attempting to gather strength by attempting to side with either the East or West Bureaus. These are powerful intelligence organisations that oppress the weak in order to stay in

not taken by Taken 2 BY NOMAN ANSARI

I have now come to the conclusion that the title of this series doesn’t revolve around the film’s flimsy kidnapping plot but rather the fact that filmgoers have been hoodwinked by two average films into handing over their money. Taken 2 is a stereotypical action movie sequel. It piles on more of everything, except for originality, while recycling the plot of the first film. In fact, its narrative is such a shameless rehash that Taken 2 resorts to numerous flashbacks from the first film, unable to carry the narrative on its own. In the first film, retired CIA field agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) had hunted down and killed the prostitution gang that had kidnapped and tried to sell off his daughter Kim Mills (Maggie Grace). The film is set two months after Taken (2008) as the crooked Albanian businessman Murad Krasniqi (Rade Šerbedžija), who is the father of one of Kim’s kidnappers, vows to have his vengeance. Soon enough Bryan’s family is attacked once again but this time the baddies kidnap Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Although the body count in Taken 2 is certainly quite high, the action 40 sequences aren’t particularly exciting nor are they inventive as Bryan OCTOBER 21-27 2012

power. The story begins when Zhao Huai’an and his group of outlaw swordsmen foil an assassination attempt by Wan Yulou (Gordon Liu), a hit man for the East Bureau, on the Minister of Five Armies. At this point a maid of the palace, Su Huirong (Mavis Fan), escapes after it is discovered that she is pregnant, leading a jealous palace consort to order her assassination. Yu Huatian (Aloys Chen), who leads the West Bureau, uses the assassination orders on Su as a pretext to attack Zhao’s men. Ultimately many other characters become part of the story, as things finally culminate at the magical Dragon Inn, which is supposedly at the site of a buried lost city said to have unimaginable treasure. Although Flying Swords of Dragon Gate flies high, especially in the final 30 minutes, it doesn’t quite soar to the dizzying heights of great wuxia films such as Hero (2002) or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Unfortunately, the plot in the film can be hard to follow with its overabundance of main characters and most of them are given little or no attention by the narrative. In fact with the ensemble cast and the oddly paced narrative, watching Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is somewhat akin to blindly tuning into the final episodes of an ongoing TV series. effortlessly kills almost every Albanian baddie in Europe. In fact, at some point I started to feel sorry for the Albanians who were dropping like flies. Yes, Taken 2 made me feel sad for cutthroat killers and kidnappers. Moreover, the film features a ridiculously unbelievable chase sequence where Bryan and his daughter crash into the US Embassy in a stolen taxi without any major injuries. That’s the biggest flaw in Taken 2: it seems as if Bryan and his family are immortal. Intellectual properties like Die Hard, 24 and the Tom Clancy films have all had similar plots as the Taken films but they were much more successful at creating suspense because the protagonists and their family members were always close to dying or being seriously injured. Regardless, let’s just hope for the sake of the future of Albania that Bryan Mills’ family is now left well enough alone. Although with Taken 2 having already achieved box-office success on its first weekend, the next kidnapping is bound to happen in the near future. There is certainly money in it.

Are you capable of drawing a straight line? Do you have a comic or doodle that you think will have us rolling on the floor with laughter? If you’ve answered yes to all those questions then send in your creations to

42 OCTOBER 21-27 2012



The Express Tribune Magazine - October 21  

The Express Tribune Magazine for October 21st 2012