The focus of those at the helm of affairs has been on “post-disaster management”... However, no one of authority has come up with a suggestion to analyse either the virus or the mosquito which carries it— something deemed essential by experts to prevent the deadly fever returning every year with increased fury
Sunday, 18 September, 2011
The emergence of ‘unusual cases’, shifting patterns of the disease and an escalating number of cases all indicate an urgent need for an in-depth study of the virus and its carrier through vector surveillance. campaign to eradicate the mosquito. However, no one of authority has come up with a suggestion to analyze either the virus or the mosquito which carries it— something deemed essential by experts to prevent the deadly fever returning every year with increased fury. Moreover, experts insist that “vector surveillance” in necessary to a long term strategy aimed at dealing with this deadly disease not only now, but in coming years as well. They base their argument on the changing pattern of disease which initially was thought to be striking on alternate years. The number of reported cases and the most affected localities has also considerably changed this year as, unlike the last year, the incidence is greater in the posh localities. Mayo Hospital Microbiology Head Dr Tayyaba maintains that the only method to control dengue is to eradicate mosquitoes, which should be the main focus, yet is being ignored. “Climatic c h a n g e and early monsoon rains caused the outbreak of dengue with rapid transmission and a large number of infected mosquitoes… t h e authorities are currently focusing on patient or disease surveillance w h i l e ignoring the most important part of mosquito
surveillance…an epidemiological study is required by chalking areas and observing every eighth or tenth house at random from different localities and parks to study the mosquito causing the nuisance…we do not have surveillance of dengue mosquitoes to prepare a report,” she added. Dr Tayyaba further suggests that there is a greater need to focus on the reservoir of the dengue virus. “A vector (mosquito) carries the disease causing agent (virus) to the susceptible host (humans) and causes dengue. Water usually acts as a reservoir of dengue, however due to a greater incidence of disease, the human population has also become reservoirs,” she explains, underlining the fact that no research is being done on the possibility of increasing reservoirs of dengue. She maintains that the disease disappears in extreme temperatures but returns with more severity the next year, which point towards the possibility of other reservoirs which are sustaining the disease cycle over the years. Studies also suggest that primates have proven to be reservoirs of dengue in many cases which further indicate that a comprehensive plan is needed to handle the disaster. Figures reveal that Rasheeda is just one of nearly 5,000 victims of dengue so far reported in hospitals across the provincial metropolis. She has the unlucky distinction of being among the five percent of cases which enter the hemorrhagic stage which occurs when a very low platelet count causes bleeding. Even worse are the one percent of patients who experience the severest form of the sickness, the dengue shock syndrome, which results in death. The reason why some patients slip into the dengue shock syndrome resulting in death is among one of the important questions which need to be answered. Although there have been only a few deaths so far, the number is increasing and the disease has taken on epidemic proportions hitting all major cities including Faisalabad and Multan. Even Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib have a considerable number of reported cases Continued on page 7
Illustrated & Designed by Javeria Mirza
the Intensive Care Unit of the dengue ward said. Surprisingly, her blood reports show a constant decrease in the platelet count which the doctors consider “odd” in a patient given three mega platelet kits, with one kit being sufficient to raise nearly 50,000 platelets in the recipient. “There could be many reasons for this unusual behavior as everyone has a unique body immune system,” the onduty doctor said, hoping that her next blood reports will show improvement. The doctor has no doubt based his hopes for her recovery on the effectiveness of the platelet kits, however, the government as a whole has failed to devise a comprehensive plan as yet to cope with the fast spreading epidemic and the surfacing of such “unusual” cases. The focus of those at the helm of affairs has been on “post-disaster management”, which is providing diagnostic and treatment facilities to patients in the camps and the hospitals and starting a fumigation
2 Not another coup, gentlemen! 8 A tale from the Lahnda
lmost a fortnight ago, 35-year-old Rasheeda Shehzad first experienced severe body aches accompanied by a fever and visited a neighborhood clinic all the while assuming that it was a bad case of the common flu or something similar. However, alarm grew in the family when despite having used the prescribed medicines for a few days, instead of showing any signs of recovery; she started bleeding from the gums. At a complete loss, her mother brought her to Mayo Hospital where she tested positive for dengue fever with a blood platelet count as low as 10,000 and was immediately admitted into the hospital. “It has been almost a week now that I was admitted to the hospital and we got three mega platelet kits so far…they are taking good care of the patients here and I feel better now, but the bleeding doesn’t stop,” Rasheeda says, lying in
Not another coup,
The indicators are grim - the PR machinery in full operation, politicians on the defensive and offensive – as another crisis situation is manufactured before the inevitable, condemnable PTV speech By Hashim bin Rashid “The media will not stop at exposing anyone who kills citizens, whether it be the MQM, whether it be another political party, whether it be Sipah-e-Sahabah, whether it be Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.” Hamid Mir, Capital Talk, Friday, September 10, 2011
02 - 03
Sunday, 18 September, 2011
Illustrated & Designed by Sana Ahmed
hen Hamid Mir proclaimed the names of groups whose violence the media would not fear exposing, one name was conspicuously missing: the Pakistan army. Behind the corridors, it appears the army has turned its’ PR machine back into high gear. Under attack since May 1 over military oversights, financial over-expenditures and the question of radicalization within its’ ranks, a master at the art of PR, the military appears to have orchestrated a silent plot behind the scenes and made a powerful comeback. The trouble began at a moment leftists’ would cringe at making the mainstay of their critique of the military: the May 1 Abbottabad operation. To us, the religiosity and the contradictions it offers, come secondary to its economic empire. The critique of the military through a critique of lapses in the Abbottabad operation was always bound to reinforce the same ‘security state’ paradigm leftists had fought against. The argument is simple, that contrary to popular belief, a military that lords over an economic empire and enjoys access an unaccountable budget cannot possibly create a people’s state, a welfare state. Re-creating the need for a ‘security state’: There are two factors responsible in re-creating today’s ‘security-first’ paranoia (which clears the path for the military): one, Abbottabad and America; two, Karachi and India. Factor one, brought about operational critique of the military from all quarters but for the failure to provide security and not house Osama. It was always bound to favour the military in conspiracy driven Pakistan. Once the conspiracy (that Osama’s death was orchestrated) had settled in the mind, the only logical response was: America is out to dismantle Pakistan, America is out to end Pakistan’s nuclear capability. But factor one has been done before. Factor two is more immediate. First, Rangers’ personnel killed an innocent, Sarfaraz Shah, calling out all to condemn the Rangers and remember the terror of the Rangers’ in Karachi in the 1990s. But this incident followed the escalation of violence in Karachi, a melting pot that has never blended, and the restoration of the hero-role of the Rangers. But the real masterstroke in this fight came when the queen was moved: former Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza was unleashed. What followed was a two-week television, media spectacle. Much ado was made about Mirza having opened the coffers of the MQM, to have taken it head on. But there should be no doubt that Mirza was no lone crusader, no
cavalier without a cavalry. He was speaking a dangerous language, and he was fast becoming a very dangerous man. With his triad came the return of the ‘break-up of Pakistan’ discourse, that which was historically used to back three military coups, one internal genocide, and over half a dozen internal ‘cleansing’ operations. It is a discourse at which all rational thought ceases to be for the intelligensia. The irony is that when Mizra raised the ‘break up Pakistan’ narrative, the MQM responded tit-for-tat. It also ‘confirmed’ that such a conspiracy existed. Then it called upon the same due, the ISI and the army, to join with the MQM to re-gain Pakistan. The ‘conspiracy against Pakistan’ discourse that had cleared the way for prior coups had been re-built. Clamouring for a coup: The clamour for a coup began last Thursday when the Corps Commanders met for five hours to ‘discuss’ the Karachi situation, conspicuously still without the constitutional Supreme Commander of the Pakistan Armed Forces, the President of the country.
nonsensical utterance by Zulfiqar Mirza, it made viewers bear a 5-hour tragicomedy in the shape of Altaf Hussain’s press conference, only for it to end with a systematic lay-in into the MQM, after senior journalist
‘Mirza was no lone crusader, no cavalier without a cavalry. He was speaking a dangerous language, and he was fast becoming a very dangerous man. With his triad came the return of the ‘breakup of Pakistan’ discourse, which was historically used to back three military coups, one internal genocide, and over half a dozen internal ‘cleansing’ operations’ On Capital Talk, senior journalist Nazeer Naji pointed to a Mirza Aslam Beg article claiming a coup was marginally averted during Zardari’s trip to Tajikistan. Earlier in the day, the Chief Justice of Pakistan had uttered, “The current situation is one ripe for military coups.” The question commentators were asking was, whether in the tarred judicial history of Pakistan, was this another coup invitation? Zardari had believed this to be so, and sent a public message to Nawaz Sharif on the subject, clearly fearing some conspiring. Nawaz attacked back, but the word was out: the President fears something brewing or he would not have made a public statement. Amidst all of this, Alfaf Hussain decided to make his now iconic press conference (for lack of suitable word). It is here where he offered allegiance to the military, where the MQM, the army and ISI could form an alliance to save Pakistan. The aftermath of this was where a new tussle began. The media took on the MQM directly. Having given more than the required time to every sensible, and (often)
Nusrat Javed’s program was cut off air. Nusrat appeared on Capital Talk and accused the MQM of ordering that he be fired. In response, for the first time in a while, the media attacked the MQM. And, for the first time in ages, did reporters feel they could speak openly on Karachi. If we really take Mirza seriously: But again the MQM’s monopoly over media, its’ fear amongst media organizations does not take us away from undertaking an analysis of Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations against them. Let us consider these allegations one by one: One, he accuses the MQM of wanting to ‘break up Pakistan.’ If the date of the article he cites, and authenticity is verified, then a large onus of the blame must be shifted upon then President and Pakistan Army COAS Pervez Musharraf. The MQM was a key part of the ruling coalition, and so the head of the military must be indicted of being in cahoots with a political party out to ‘break Pakistan.’ Two, he accuses the MQM of wanting to curtail the powers of the ISI. Here, let us take the rational course. Let us attempt to investigate the soundness of the argument itself and who else has attempted to do so. Firstly, the argument itself is sound. The ISI, especially its political wing, has been known to be insidious and manipulative. A lot of pressure was put upon it for genuine reasons, not least among them the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, and the bodies found in Balochistan. There is a lot that the intelligence agencies of Pakistan need to be held accountable for. If the argument is that they serve
to protect citizens interests, as should be, then they must be subservient to citizens. Three, he accuses the MQM of breeding gangsters, and playing politics through them. Here, is one accusation that holds. However, the question that is left unasked is: do other political parties not engage and breed the same culture within Karachi? The answer is: yes, they do. So, the singular triad against the MQM is false. What Zulfiqar Mirza has repeatedly accused the MQM of wishing to do, is to dismantle the ISI, and, badmouth the army. Presented to a non-Mohajir audience, it is a narrative that appears ‘treasonous.’ However, one must understand, suspicions of the ISI and military establishment lie firmly embedded within the mohajir’s since the 1988,1992 and 1995 operations, which they perceive as targeted against them. And forget the MQM. The dangerous manner in which Zulfiqar Mirza has made questioning the ISI and military establishment equal to treason again, does not bode well for those desiring serious change in the way the State operates in Pakistan. That said, the Nusrat Javaid incident stands as a hallmark, and being part of a newsdesk, I can vouch for editorial filtering when the subject of the MQM is discussed. However, no one has ever argued: democracy is perfect. Those who favour democracy only state: democracy is process. And we remain ashamed at every moment democracy is subverted under the rhetoric of the ‘destruction of the country,’ to re-enforce the very state structures that lead it to a crisis. If a coup comes today, it will be unlike any other. There is either the hope that a simmering critical mass will revolt, or, given the anti-Americanism emerging from military circles, formal and informal, there is the chance of a NATO backlash. Whatever be the case, the gentlemen that constitute the armed forces must remember: politics is not the job of generals and society is a product of finding equilibrium through politics, not administration.
Divorce in Pakistan:
Navigating through the legal labyrinth
Not many Pakistani women are aware of the legal recourses available to them for ending their marriage, and those that are, do not avail of them due to fear and social pressure By Shehzeen Abdullah
he law of divorce in Pakistan is, and always has been, a highly complex and widely misunderstood canon of Islamic law, owing largely to the fact that the line between Shariah and customs has become very blurred. The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance (MFLO) 1961, is the primary piece of legislation governing Muslim family law in Pakistan. And like most things in Pakistan, it has been reduced to a battleground between the right-wing Islamic forces and the secular liberals and proponents of women rights. This antagonism is not an inevitable and unavoidable fact as women’s rights and Islamic law, contrary to popular belief, aren’t diametrically opposed to each other. However, there are certain misunderstandings which this article seeks to examine with respect to the issue of divorce. Women in Pakistan are largely unaware of the different legal ways to end a marriage and one common confusion is regarding the difference between delegated talaq and a khula. A delegated talaq is the most powerful form of talaq and is available to the woman once her husband delegates this power to her or a third person, The provision for delegated talaq has been incorporated into the standard nikahnama . The right can be absolute, but is usually contingent upon a condition (e.g. the husband contracting a second marriage), which has to be clearly spelled out in the nikahnama. Since the woman exercises the right of talaq on behalf of the husband, she is entitled to her mahr. The procedure for pronouncement, registration and reconciliation also applies to a woman’s exercise of talaq, in the same manner that it does to a husband’s pronouncement of divorce. Khula, on the other hand, is the cutting of a marital bond by way of mutual consent of the parties. It is recognized that the wife is by default entitled to a right to khula, and this does not have to be delegated to her by her husband, but in order to effect such right, the husband usually requires her to relinquish her right to dower. For a wife who is caught in a situation where her husband is refusing to free her of their marital obligations, there is the remedy of judicial khula available. The wife is allowed to seek the court’s interference in order to obtain a divorce from her husband. The woman must be able to convince the court that there is no possibility of the couple cohabiting anymore, and the court can grant judicial khula on the grounds mentioned in Section 2 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. Whereas in the exercise of khula, the wife has to “buy her way” out of an unsuccessful marriage, the court can cancel the requirement of paying monetary compensation to the husband where it is satisfied that the reason for the wife’s request for judicial khula is the fault of the husband. Through extensive efforts by activists, women’s rights of divorce were enhanced, and both khula (judicial dissolution of marriage) and the right of delegated talaq (known as Haqe-Tafweez-e-Talaq) were recognised under the law. The recognition of delegated talaq is one of the rare examples of an Islamic family law that is accepted as having originated from the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, and is also suited to modern social norms and societal customs. Despite this, many people are unaware that it is rooted in Islamic law and still look upon it with suspicion, painting it as some kind of modern Western contraption designed to break-up of the
nuclear family and bring about the downfall of Muslim society. Most modern attacks on the right to delegated divorce mirror those of the original dissenter, Maulana Ehtisham-ul-Haq Thanvi which is why it is important to examine his criticism of this right. He argued in his dissenting note that talaq is a special right conferred on man by the Quran and, even though it is possible to convert this right into delegated talaq at the time of nikah or hedge it in by certain conditions in the marriage contract, it
would lead to “disastrous consequences”. According to him, this step would lead to the disadvantage that men would generally avoid marrying girls who insist on the inclusion of certain base and degrading conditions for men in the marriage contract, and resultantly, a large number of women would find themselves faced with the problem of finding suitable husbands for themselves, who would accept their conditions. Maulana Thanvi, admitting that the right of delegated talaq has been given to the woman by Shariah, employed the same weapon to veto the recommendation which many in our society use to keep women “in their place” – the threat of social ostracism. Basically he argued, that though women have the right to file for divorce, they should not exercise such right, as it could potentially destroy the social fabric of society. The end of a marriage frequently burdens both parties with the issues of maintenance and custody of the child, and is therefore discouraged using the argument that bringing family matters into the public domain will tarnish the reputation of the families, especially that of the woman’s. Even though public awareness and acceptance of a woman’s exercise of divorce is gradually replacing the stigma attached to such exercise, the logic used by Maulana Ehtisham-ul-Haq Thanvi and others still unfortunately applies to a large extent. The option to demand and/or exercise delegated talaq is not availed by many women, partially because of ignorance about the provision in the nikahnama, and partially out of fear and social pressure. Parents of a bride in most conservative families consider it a bad omen for the beginning of her married life. In sum, although there is no religious or legal
dispute on this issue, owing to lack of awareness and superstitious thinking, few women avail this option while men normally do not support it. In the more educated and liberal classes in urban areas, however, an increasing number of women are finally rising above the social stigma and seeking the right of delegated talaq, particularly at the time of signing of the nikahnama. Thus even in the
presence of a provision that has overcome the difficulty of appealing to both traditionalists and conformists, social obstacles play a role in defeating the very purpose for which it was introduced in the first place: safeguarding the rights and interests of women. Another equally controversial aspect of the laws governing marriage and divorce in Pakistan, is the issue of halala (intervening marriage). This aspect is more indicative of the difficulty of attempting to maneouvre between traditional Islamic values and more modern views on religion. The MFLO advises resort to reconciliation through the Arbitration Council and allows the husband to take back his wife without a fresh nikah at the expiration of the 90-day iddat period (which renders the talaq irrevocable), whereas Islamic law requires resolemnization through a fresh nikah, in the case of an irrevocable divorce and triple talaq, only after an ‘intervening marriage’. Once an irrevocable talaq is pronounced, the doors for reconciliation are closed and the divorce becomes effective. The concept of halala was introduced to restrict a husband from marrying his ex-wife unless she marries another man in order to ensure that divorce is not taken lightly. The wife is not allowed to go back to the husband who has divorced her thrice, unless she gets married to another person, and such person wilfully divorces her. This rule is given by the Shariah to reduce the occurrence of triple talaq and to protect the honour of the woman. Whereas the intention behind the inclusion of this provision is commendable, however, the MFLO makes no distinction between revocable and irrevocable divorces. According to Section 7 (6), nothing shall prevent a wife whose marriage has been terminated by talaq effective
from remarrying the same husband, without an intervening marriage with a third person, “unless such termination is for the third time effective”. The fact that “talaq effective” has been defined by Section 7 as one in which 90 days have expired from the first pronouncement/notice of talaq implies that, even after a talaq becomes effective and the parties are legally divorced, the wife can remarry the same husband without an intervening marriage, unless he has divorced her for the third time. Other than the blatant problem with the drafting of sub-section (6), the implication of the omission of the requirement of halala in the MFLO is that, a husband can effectively give what is, for all intents and purposes, an irrevocable talaq, but circumvent the requirement of halala as mandated by traditional Islamic teachings, thereby defeating the very reasoning behind the inclusion of halala in Islamic family law, i.e. avoiding hasty pronouncements of talaq. The MFLO also does not take into account the fact that the rules for divorce vary greatly among the major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Sunni practice, for example, does not require a witness during the pronouncement of the talaq to make it valid, and allows the husband to end the marital bond through talaqe-bidat (triple talaq). Shia scholars, on the contrary, treat talaq-e-bidat as a pre-Islamic custom that was declared unlawful after the advent of Islam and the Prophet (PBUH), and insists instead that divorce must be pronounced in Arabic either by the husband or his wakil (agent) in the presence of two male witnesses. Sunnis do not insist on pronouncement of divorce in Arabic. The MFLO does not state which major school’s interpretation of family law it uses as a model. Given the varying differences of opinion and interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah among and within the Fiqhahs (schools), and failure to overcome these differences and reach a middle ground (while also keeping in mind the present-day ground realities) by way of Ijma (consensus), the task of drafting a legislation that has even the bare minimum consensus of traditionalists from all schools of Islamic jurisprudence and the approval of the modernists as well is formidable one indeed. The MFLO dramatically refocused the formal institutional framework within which the process of post-colonial legal change could occur. But the drafters of the legislation failed to address the most important question of all – that regarding the problem of practical enforcement. The intention behind the promulgation of the MFLO is commendable, no doubt, but the very piece of legislation that was intended to safeguard the rights of women in the modern society ended up undermining those very rights, on the basis of the far-reaching implications of the inconsistencies that the MFLO suffers from. The focus needs to shift towards finding acceptable solutions to deal with such discrepancies in a manner more effective than a piece of legislation that is radically different on paper and in its implementation. Clearly, the probability of all the Fiqahs and liberal members of civil society reaching a consensus is dismal. Therefore, another blueprint for the inclusion of family law into the legal framework of Pakistan needs to debated and decided upon, preferably one which, in my opinion, ensures proper safeguards to ensure that the rights of women within the family are implemented, but leaves conflicting and controversial details to be determined up to the different schools as per their beliefs, traditions and interpretation of traditional Islamic teachings and principles.
Interview – Meg Rosoff
The job of her dreams
04 - 05
Sunday, 18 September, 2011
The novelist Meg Rosoff speaks to children’s author Philip Womack about her affinity with the adolescent mind and how she laughs in the face of tragedy
By Philip Womack
here aren’t many authors who, like Meg Rosoff, can claim to be read with equal delight by children and adults. Her five novels poke at the meniscus that separates the innocence of childhood from the often compromised wisdom of adulthood. Ranging wildly from an imagined Third World War in How I Live Now, through the philosophical and funny Just in Case, the Sixties Norfolk public school of What I Was, and The Bride’s Farewell, a Hardyesque romance, her books display a depth and variety almost unparalleled in young adult fiction. They have garnered wide praise, been commercially successful, and won prizes, including the Carnegie Medal. Rosoff’s new work, There Is No Dog, cheerfully reimagines God as a teenage boy called Bob, who spends his time messing up the planet and obsessing about girls, while his assistant, Mr B, despairs. Meanwhile the world floods, and Bob’s sluttish mother loses his pet Eck (a furry, penguin-like creature) in a card game. Where did the book’s name come from? “Bob is slightly dyslexic,” says Rosoff, with a glint in her eye. “And also, I just loved it. It may not be the most logical, but it’s better than ‘There Is No God.’” There Is No Dog is zany, clever, and loopily enjoyable, and explores some of the themes that have haunted Rosoff throughout her career: identity, love, trauma and the madness of being a
teenager. Rosoff, whose adolescence was “embarrassing”, is 54, and married with a 14-year-old daughter. An inhabitant of intellectual Islington, she deprecates her own abilities: “I’m a lightweight!” (I don’t believe this for a second; especially when later she holds forth on Martin Amis’s view of Philip Larkin.) When I ask her what she thinks about being a crossover novelist, she laughs. “I don’t know, I mean it’s a marketing term, isn’t it? I just write, and then somebody else decides who to sell it to.” It’s a matter-offact answer that summarises her perfectly. That practicality can be found in her past. Rosoff was born in Boston, to a medical family. Her father was a surgeon and a professor at Harvard, her mother a “very booky” psychiatric social worker. But medicine wasn’t for her: “I can actually trace the moment I decided I couldn’t be a doctor. It was in biology, they brought in these African crickets and we were supposed to dissect them – but there’s no way I was touching those bugs.” She wrote “as a small child, like six”, but claims writing was “sort of educated out of me – you know what happened was I think I knew if I wrote anything down it would be just hideous”. She didn’t have stories hidden away: “I just thought I couldn’t do it. I was always comparing myself to the very best writers I’ve ever read.” Rosoff, though from a Jewish family in a Catholic neighbourhood, has been an atheist since she “was seven years old. I mean younger, if I could
have been an atheist younger I would have been. I used to stand at the bus stop and think, what a rubbish creation is man!” Unlike most children, she was “tormented by eternal nothingness. Really tormented, quite sensibly, I think, with being dead and the world going on for millions of years without me.” It still worries her, “but as you get older you make a lot of noise so you don’t notice. Life is absolutely horrific, leading up to absolute horror.” She leavens the bleakness of her view with humour: “The good thing about living in England is the wonderful stoicism. ‘I’m not afraid to die,’” she says in a passable English accent. “Whereas Americans are all having their heads put in liquid nitrogen.” The impulse to write came a long time after Harvard, where Rosoff
studied English and fine art, and a decades-long spell in advertising (which she hated, though views as a kind of apprenticeship). When one of her sisters was diagnosed with cancer, and her own diagnosis shortly followed, she had a revelation. “I think there’s the assumption for such a long time that you’re going to live to be 99. And it was the first time it occurred to me that you don’t necessarily get to live as long as you want.” That prompted How I Live Now (2004), which was an instant success,
Of fiction and posthumous By Syed Afsar Sajid
book of Punjabi short stories Utthal Patthal and a posthumous reference titled Maira Qibla Tay Ka’aba containing biographical notes and homage to commemorate a noted psychiatrist and man of letters, Dr. Maqbul Akhtar (1938-2010), published in close succession around the middle of the current year, form the subject of this review.
Utthal Patthal It is a collection of some 23 short stories written in Punjabi by Khalid Mehmood, Advocate under the pseudonym of Nain Sukh. The stories, tinged with impressionism, are focused on characters and situations not unfamiliar to the reader. The
author seems to be fairly conversant with the mechanics of the art of fiction besides having an intimate knowledge of the human psyche. His concern for the human predicament finds ample expression in the work and his accent inheres a pungency corresponding to the ironical undertones of the narrative. Likewise variations in the dialect of narration are meant to respond to the specificity of a particular locale – rural or urban. The eponymous character of the collection suggests a topsy-turviness of values symbolizing the vices --hypocrisy, deceit, lust, exploitation, self-aggrandizement, distrust, immoderation, intolerance and all that --- gnawing our social fabric. The book is expected to attract and interest the readers of Punjabi literature for its crisp but candid portrayal of our socio-cultural milieu as a whole with particular reference to the native life of the land of five rivers --- the Punjab.
Maira Qibla Tay Ka’aba This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Maqbul Akhtar --- a well known physician/psychiatrist, an acclaimed bilingual writer and poet, a committed
As a psychiatrist he treated his patients with great care and consideration. He excelled in composing quality prose and poetry and was also gifted with a deep critical insight. As an ideologue he was firmly committed to the cause of the proletariat and disseminated the ‘sweetness and light’ of love through his works and deeds, as professed by him in one of his letters to his sister ‘Za’
left-wing thinker, a genuine intellectual and above all, a fine human being. His sister Munazza Salim, herself a noted educationist and fiction writer (author of Phool Lakhon Baras Nahi Rahtay and Adhuri Aurat), has authored/ compiled it. Munazza Salim’s filial fondness for her brother wells up on the pages of this book as she attempts to conjure up her reminiscences respecting him. The book is visibly divided into two parts viz., memoirs and tributes --- personal and public. The writer has assigned epigrammatic titles in Punjabi to the chapters encompassing her personal reflections (in Urdu) on her deceased brother, as a token of devotion to her mother tongue. Nostalgia, an avid longing for the lost and past (khoey hu’on ki justuju) and an aura of melancholy form the warp
and woof of her sentiments in this part. It is a beautiful delineation of a sister’s attachment to her late brother that she would term an ‘unfinished bereavement’ in the backdrop of the
and sparked her writing career – “the job of my dreams”. With the writing impulse previously mostly suppressed (she’d written a couple of articles before; one, unpublished, about the punk scene, and one about transport posters), her adolescence “went on for a much longer time than it should have”. This gives her an affinity with the adolescent mind: “The thing I was utterly totally lacking was clarity. That is the worst problem of the adolescent condition. You haven’t lived long enough to be clear about how things work.” This process doesn’t always come easily, as “achieving clarity takes a lifetime, and so adolescence is a kind of perpetual state”. It’s certainly a state that afflicts Bob, her divine protagonist, who will never grow up – “just like some people”. Rosoff is perpetually seeking answers, sifting through the years of her experience. This is reflected in the varying voices of her fiction, something she finds “easy – voices is just putting on costumes”. She sees herself essentially as a “stylist, and I’m interested in character”, while plot comes second. “I always think plot is what you fall back on if you can’t write, to keep things going.” Central to Rosoff’s understanding of writing is an idea that comes from her love of riding: “Thoroughness, an impulse that starts in a very deep place and continues through whatever you do.” But writing as a task is “so hard, and it gets harder, which is just hideous!” She writes at home, in a “tiny little study. I find I write more and more on a couch or in bed, because sitting up all the time hurts my back, is what I say, but I kind of like reclining.” “It’s like compost,” she says, of her mind, “all that lovely rich stuff on the forest floor from years and years of leaves falling.” Though she claims there might soon be “granite”, I don’t doubt that there’s a lot more to come. For as she says – though not about herself – “The more you live, the better writer you are.”
Dancing with numbers On Alexander Masters’ artful account of a mathematical genius obsessed with public transport By Helen Brown
n the first photograph Alexander Masters includes in his biography of his landlord, Simon Norton looks every inch the stereotype of an eccentric genius. Wild, Einsteiny hair explodes from his head as though electrified by the zillions of calculations fizzing within. There’s a geeky old digital watch on his wrist. And he is grinning with childish delight, as though he has found the equation for life, the universe and everything in the tin of mackerel he is holding up to the camera. But Masters is a biographer driven to unpick stereotypes and restore his subjects to their complex humanity with idiosyncratic wit, genuine compassion and refreshing bewilderment. His brilliant first book, Stuart: a Life Backwards, told the story of a self-loathing and psychopathic homeless junkie spooling back in time to discover, in Stuart’s own words, “what murdered the boy I was”. Although Masters found illness and sexual abuse largely responsible, he resisted pat explanations. So, Simon Norton, a fiftysomething former child prodigy, resists the pigeonholing that first photo might imply. And he’s resistant to the idea of a biography, too. He didn’t like Stuart: a Life Backwards for starters. In particular, he wasn’t impressed by his walk-on part. Masters had described him as “a generous, mild man, as brilliant as the sun” but also “twice winner of a Mathematics Olympiad gold medal, co-author of Atlas of Finite Groups”. A stickler for facts, Norton says: “One fact to get right, and you got it wrong in four different ways.” Apparently, the Olympiad does not hand out medals, or golds. There is no such thing as a “winner” and anyway he did this three times, not twice. Throughout the book, Norton’s commitment to accuracy haggles with Masters’s unorthodox and impressionistic interpretation of him. He doesn’t want anybody poking about in his squalid basement flat, which Masters insists on describing as the “excavation”. He does not “get” the Hoffnungesque cartoons with which his
biographer peppers the work. But he does seem to enjoy Masters’s company, and he wants to get his message about the importance of good public transport out there. The bare facts of Norton’s story are these. When he was just one year old, his mother observed he was arranging his building blocks into geometric patterns and by four he was playing with
The Genius in My Basement by Alexander Masters 352PP, Fourth Estate, £14.99
percentages, square numbers, factors, long division and his 81 and 91 times tables, “making numbers dance about to itchy tunes”. Early notebooks see him addressing his beloved mother as “45”. He says his talent can’t be genetic: neither of his brothers is particularly bright. But he scores unbelievably high in IQ tests, outpacing his maths teachers at Ashdown (where he is bullied by boys who shout “cabbage” at him, but learns to outfox those who would physically assault him by running at them, arms outspread for a hug) and Eton (where he also gets a first-class mathematics degree from the University of London). Next comes a Cambridge degree and then what seem to be his happiest years, working with the team who put together the Atlas. His colleagues almost all defer to his instinctive brilliance. But after Professor John Horton Conway, who convened the team, leaves Cambridge for Princeton, Norton loses focus. His Cambridge contract is not renewed. Luckily, family money ensures he has a home and a couple of apartments above to rent out. But one of the finest minds of our time becomes, in his biographer’s words, “a man who scuttles about on buses to Woking looking at statues of Martians”. Cambridge myth has it that he has suffered a “catastrophic” mental collapse. But Norton is pleased to report that he is just eating mackerel, writing his contributions to bus and rail magazines and working on a problem called “The Monster”, which apparently looks like a giant sudoku puzzle in 196,883 dimensions. He certainly manages to wow a conference with his post-collapse research on it. Masters sees Norton as “a happy man”. But Norton says he’s grieving. For his mother, 45? For Professor Conway? He says he’s grieving over “the 1985 Deregulation of Buses Act”. His gift may be for numbers, but his heart is with public transport. He tells Masters: “You ought to treat me as if I was currently watching the great love of my life being slowly murdered, torn between my desire to save her and expose her murderers and my wish to spend as much time with her as possible while she’s still alive.”
reference tragic agony that she had been suffering as a sequel to successive deaths of some very close relations in the family. The memoirs, immersed in nostalgia and designed on a quasi-impressionistic pattern, project the late doctor as a true humanist replete with the milk of human kindness. He had a wide circle of friends, well wishers and admirers. As a psychiatrist he treated his patients with great care and consideration. He excelled in composing quality prose and poetry and was also gifted with a deep critical insight. As an ideologue he was firmly committed to the cause of the proletariat and disseminated the ‘sweetness and light’ of love through his works and deeds, as professed by him in one of his letters to his sister ‘Za’ (the writer/compiler’s nickname). Verily his passing away has caused a palpable vacuum in our literary as well as cultural circles! The second part of the book carries tributes to the departed soul from a cross-section of relations, friends, contemporaries, professionals and literary personages. The list includes Asbah Asim (his talented little niece who has composed a poem for him in English), Ch. Tufail Muhammad brother of the noted left-wing political activist late Major ® Ishaq Muhammad (his maternal
uncle), Nazir Ahmad Gill (cousin), Dr. Zarqa Aamir Aziz (his promising physician daughter), Dr. Ehsan-ul-Haq (eminent physician, intellectual and man of letters), Muhammad Idrees (noted cricket commentator) and his wife Sabiha Idrees (close family friends), the writer of this column, Brig. Asif Haroon (relation), Khalid Mehmood Khan (reputed writer), Muhammad Khaid Masud Qureshi (friend), Dr. Asif Tauseef (friend/patient), Dr. Sultan Abdullah (friend), Dr. Fayyaz Mehmood (old college/hostel fellow), Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad (old class-mate), Dr. Waheed Ahmad (noted writer/poet), Dr. Yunus Ayaz (old colleague), Zaman Khan (well known political activist/analyst), Prof. Shamim Zafar Rana (educationist/ writer), Allama Zia Hussain Zia (writer, poet and editor of Zar Nigar magazine), Arif Hussain Arif (litterateur), Umair Ghani (son of late Prof. Rana Irshad Ahmad Khan, a literary celebrity of yore), Capt. ® Nisar Akbar Khan (prominent political figure), Mehboob Ali Shah (international cricket umpire), Mehmood Sana (veteran poet), Nosheen Haider (educationist/linguist), Naveeda Kausar (family friend) and Ahmad Shahbaz Khawar (popular writer/poet). The book is a good read and, hopefully, readers will like it for its content and style.
Title: Utthal Patthal (Kahanian) Author: Nain Sukh (Khalid Mehmood Advocate) Publisher: New Line Publisher, St. 6, Cavalry Ground, Lahore Cantt. Distributor: Readings, 12-K, Gulberg II, Lahore Pages: 150; Price: Rs.120/-
Title: Maira Qibla Tay Ka’aba (Bhai Ki Yaad May) Author/Compiler: Munazza Salim Publisher: Misal Publishers, Aminpur Bazaar, Faisalabad Pages: 270; Price: Not mentioned
The curious ‘spiritual’ ancestry of Zaid Hamid An in-depth analysis of the televangelist’s spiritual inspirations reveals the gross misrepresentations that lie at the heart of his interpretations
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Sunday, 18 September, 2011
By C.M Naim mong the many fascinating publications of Mr. Zaid Hamid, defence analyst extraordinaire, is a little booklet in Urdu entitled: Ni’matullah Shah Wali, Peshingoiyan (The Prophecies of Ni’matullah Shah Wali). It can be obtained from his website, “Brasstacks,” though there must be a printed edition. (He has also made
though the charge was never proved. In Pakistan too, the Anjuman never gained much public notice except in a few denunciations from Muslim religious organizations. The Anjuman’s booklet, therefore, must appear as a rather strange spiritual source for Mr. Hamid, but it is just his kind of “martial” folks who get more attracted to it. According to a book by Ghulam-e Muhammad Khairul-Bashar Farooqi entitled Crusade? (Faisalabad, 2003), the booklet also found some devout readers in
videotapes on the “prophecies.”) Now, most Pakistanis are not likely to know just what Dindar Anjuman was/is, or who was its founder, so reverently invoked by Mr. Hamid as “Hazrat Maulana Siddiq Dindar Sahib.” The most comprehensive account of this peculiar movement and its founder can be found in Yoginder Sikand’s Pseudo-Messianic Movements in Contemporary South Asia (New Delhi, 2008). Here is a short summary drawing from Sikand understands: The Anjuman is a small messianic movement, started in 1924, in the former state of Hyderabad, by a Syed Siddiq Hussain (b.1886), who claimed that the Prophet had appeared to him in a dream and appointed him an Imam for the purpose of spreading Islam in India. Simultaneously, he also declared himself to be an avatar of the Lingayat saint Channabasaveswara, born to bring the Hindus into the fold of Islam. The movement, at first, remained obscure, limited to a few cities in South India. Then several followers migrated to other places, in particular to the North West [Province]. During 1947–48, the Anjuman allegedly collaborated with the Razakars against the Indian state, and Siddiq Hussain was imprisoned. He died soon after his release in 1952. Since then, the Anjuman has had two branches, one at Hyderabad, the other at Karachi. The Indian branch briefly emerged from obscurity in July 2000, when it was accused of attacking churches and temples in South India,
Pakistan’s Army and Air Force. A brief introductory note by “Sultan-ul Islam, Research Analyst, Brasstacks” on Hamid’s website claims that the information concerning the verses of the Shah was gathered “from many different books and other sources,” and only then had Mr. Hamid “cast light on the events of the past, present, and future” in his exegesis. As a matter of fact, the book’s main section on the “prophetic” verses is entirely based on just one little book: Haqiqat-e-Qayam-ePakistan Bittausiq-e Bisharat (The Reality of the Foundation of Pakistan as confirmed by Divine Inspirations), edited by Habibullah Shah, Amir of Dindar Anjuman Hizbullah, Pakistan, and published in September 1971 from 5D, 33/7, New Karachi-36. Curiously, while suppressing the identity of his source and its author, Mr. Hamid mentions the Dindar Anjuman and its founder with much reverence, and even reproduces an image of its website. This is what Mr. Hamid has written about the Anjuman in the power-point style that befits a defence analyst: *“ In the decade of 1924 (sic) ruinous conditions developed for the Muslims in North India when nearly 900,000 Muslims started to adopt Aryan Religion. *“At that difficult time, Hazrat Maulana Siddiq Dindar Sahib announced that he had been appointed by Allah to attract all Hindus to Islam.
*“He founded the Dindar Anjuman in 1924. *“In 1927, he heard from Allah (allah ki taraf se ye awaz suni), ‘All of India will become Muslim.’ *“That means the Dindar Anjuman is not a product of human mind (insani dimagh ki paidawar nahin) but a spiritual Islamic movement (ruhani islami tahrik).” Why do I think that Mr. Hamid owes his knowledge of these “prophecies” to just one particular book? Here are two reasons, powerpointed for his convenience: * He calls the poet “Ni’matullah Shah Wali,” and that is the way the poet is wrongly mentioned in the Anjuman’s booklet. Otherwise, since the verses’ first appearance in print in 1851 the poet has always rightly been called “Shah Ni’matullah Wali” or “Shah Ni’matullah Kirmani.” * The Shah of Kirman (d. 1431) wrote only one poem, running at most to fifty verses. The Anjuman’s booklet ascribes four poems to him, three of them quite long and utter forgeries. Its three forgeries contain many new verses that had not existed in the versions written and published between 1851 and 1971. While totally ignoring the verses actually recorded in the Shah’s Kulliyat, Mr. Hamid instead makes a nicely self-serving selection from the three forgeries, disregarding differences of metre and rhyme. And he includes some verses published only by Habibullah Shah. To his chosen verses, Mr Hamid has added terse comments and dates as “interpretations” for the benefit of his acolytes. One fascinating example must be given here. He twice quotes a particular verse: “By Allah’s blessings, a mean-spirited Hindu Baniya, whose name consists of six letters and begins with the letter G, will become Muslim.” Both times he adds in parentheses: “Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi.” Since M. K. Gandhi died in 1948, with “Hey Ram” on his lips, one is left wondering about Mr. Hamid’s reasons for such a fascinating interpretation of a forgery done sometime in the 1920s. I don’t know if Habibullah Shah, the Amir of the Hizbullah Wing of the Anjuman in Pakistan is still alive and well and giving his blessings to Mr. Hamid. Most likely he is no longer with us, for otherwise Mr. Hamid could not have blithely suppressed his name. Back in 1975, when I obtained from Habibullah Shah some of his publications, including the abovementioned booklet, he also sent a pamphlet entitled Du’a Nama. It was a petition that the Anjuman had sent to King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan at the time of his state visit to Pakistan in 1967. It made for fascinating reading, for it promises Islam’s conquest of the world in the 14th Hijrah century, praises the Afghans for their inherent bravery, quotes Iqbal as allegedly claiming the “Frontier Mountains” to be his “Blood Banks” and Khwaja Hasan Nizami as seeing the Prophet in a vision dressed in traditional Pathan
garments, and much more. What delighted me most, however, was a marginal note he had added at one place in his own hand. The original printed text mentioned as “the biggest proof” of the coming Jihad and grand victory the recent meetings between “many heads of Muslim States such as Ayub, Faisal, Reza Shah, and Shah Zahir Shah.” The petition, apparently, had received no attention from the Afghan King, for Habibullah Shah had added on the margin after the names, “… who are tied to the testicles of [Lyndon] Johnson and [Alexei] Kosygin.” One wonders what he would have said now on being so ignored. It was in fact “Mu’izz-ul-Millat Maulana Habibullah Shah” who made the so-called “Ghazwat-alHind” project as the primary goal of the Anjuman after moving to Karachi from India. And it was he and other members of the Anjuman, particularly those in the border areas, who spread the word and found believers in the armed forces. Habibullah Shah was also frank and honest when it came to declaring his ambitions. In the Bisharat, as a footnote to a couplet in which a man named “Habibullah” was “prophesied” to declare jihad on India, he wrote: “Here a buzurg with the name Habibullah is clearly mentioned as receiving God’s help and gaining eventual victory on the battlefield. Allah be praised, that faqir Habibullah, always praying to God, is now present among you.” His booklet repeatedly declared that it was addressed chiefly to the men and officers of Pakistani armed forces. Mr. Hamid has similar high ambitions, but he prefers to be coy when expressing them; he declares that the “Western King” of the “Prophecies”, interpreted in the past as some man from Afghanistan, actually means someone from Pakistan—apparently, since Pakistan is west of India—and that the person will be “one of the Lions of Hazrat Ali,” i.e. someone descended from Ali. Not surprisingly, Mr. Hamid’s full name as displayed when it suits him is “Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.” What is most depressing in this sordid tale is that after the “prophesied” final triumph of Islam in India, the equally “prophesied” rule of the “Western King” would last a mere 40 years. Why? Because the same “prophesies” tell us that at the end of the 40th year the promised Mahdi will come forth and start the slow unfolding of the Qiyamat. Even Mr. Hamid believes that. ========================== Note: For more information, Pakistani readers may refer to (1) Qamar Islampuri’s Hazrat Ni’matullah Wali aur unka Asli Qasidah, published in 1973 by Maktaba-i-Pakistan, Chowk Anarkali, Lahore, and (2) Mufti Rashid Ahmad’s Bher ki Surat men Bheriya ya’ni Dindar Anjuman (A Wolf in the Guise of a Sheep, i.e. the Deendar Anjuman), published in 1976 by Kutubkhana Mazhari, Karachi. I have examined the “prophetic” poems at great length in a recent article: “‘Prophecies’ in South Asian Muslim Political Discourse: The Poems of Shah Ni’matullah Wali,” in the Economic & Political Weekly, Mumbai, Vol. 46, No. 28 (July 9-15, 2011).
Social scientist Raza Naeem attempts to explain the Arab uprisings in the context of imperialism and speculates on the future directions they could take. ‘The fate of democracy lot of the people they waged this war to try and struggle is against military rule as a whole. He overthrow. He pointed out that the type of laws explained how Egypt has a vibrant history of merica remains intent is still open to question being introduced in Iraq under the occupation populist struggles so there is good possibility of on exporting an are retrogressive laws. Iraq, according to him, a democratic system taking root in the country. evidently failed system …Round one has gone was actually one of the more progressive places The elections that are scheduled for August will to other countries”, for a woman to be in but there was an increasing be an indication of the route the country will take Raza Naeem says, to the people. However, return to ‘Shariah based’ laws and an increased and while international media remain fixated sitting cross-legged radicalization of society. It has become wholly on the Muslim brotherhood as the primary there is a lot of room that on the floor of Café Bol. He pauses to take a apparent that the US is intent on ‘exporting contender, other alternatives are springing up sip of his tea, and then continues, “And now a failed system to other countries’, a system from the left. Similarly in Tunisia there is a huge remains to be covered but increasingly, resistances are beginning to sprout of which all its previous most enthusiastic educated middle class and they played a big up everywhere, even in places like Europe, China advocates, such as Stiglitz, Sachs and Fukuyama, role in the protests, along with the significant one must keep in mind and India”. are now recanting their support. The first wave presence of trade unions. In Syria also, he says, Naeem, an Arabic-speaking social scientist that counter-revolutions of resistance was originated in Latin America the situation looks hopeful as the protestors and book critic, currently a professor of political which was ‘the first laboratory of the Washington have refused American support. However, in economy and Middle Eastern History at the are always alive’ Consensus’ but now even in Europe, in countries Libya, he characterized the situation as more Beaconhouse National University, Lahore such as Spain, Portugal, Oreland and Greece, problematic as the protestors seems more ‘united held a talk in Café Bol on Sunday, on the 10th – Raza Naeem people are increasingly spilling out on the streets, in opposition rather than in their vision of the anniversary of the 9/11. The talk was geared
towards attempting to explain and discuss the winds of change that are currently sweeping the Arab world, with a particular focus on the Arab spring. However the talk wasn’t restricted to just chronicling the protests, but rather, Naeem drew on his extensive knowledge and experience of the region and touched upon a number of different issues facing the Arab world at large, and offered insights drawn from history and the internal social, economic and political structure of the Arab nations. According to Naeem, the Arab world is fast joining the league of Latin America as an emerging ‘pole of resistance to neoliberalism and imperialism”. However, from the very onset of the talk he stressed the need to appreciate the distinction between an uprising and a revolution so as to remain mindful of the fact that the uprisings in the Arab world have a lot of ground to cover before they could overhaul the class structure in their countries, successfully limit foreign interference and emerge from a long and sordid history of authoritarian rule.
9/11 and the spread of resistance
Naeem commenced the talk with a discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq and how the meddling of the US had completely devastated the internal structure of these countries. Afghanistan is now, more than ever, flailing in the grips of drug lords, and the war has fared so badly that the Americans are now considering bringing back a
protesting the American model of neoliberalism. Even in the two new paragons of capitalism and economic success, China and India, there is mounting discontent due to entrenched and widening class polarization. In China there was a strike in 2009 that went largely ignored by international media and in India there is an active peasant resistance to the invasion of MNCs.
The Arab spring
In Naeem’s understanding, one of the factors contributing to this was the financial crisis but one of the prime reasons that these protests spreads like wild fire was the absence of any political party to ‘manage and channel’ these protests. In response to a question regarding whether or not the overturn of the embedded class structure as a result of these uprisings was a possibility; Naeem cautioned against painting all 22 Arab countries with the same brush as each country has a different socio-political context.The role of the workers in the protest is significant in some countries and appears a positive indication of the future of these struggles. In Egypt, the working class had already been protesting since 2007 and textile workers in Mahalla, especially, have played a significant role in the protests. There is also the clear understanding amongst the protestors that this not the mere overthrow of a particular government, but rather the
future’’ and factionalism is already assailing the movement. Moreover, the British and French are already honing in on the country’s oil reserves, seeking to establish their control of the oil.
With respect to the effect of these uprisings on other states, as well as relationships between states, Naeem expressed curiosity on the future of the Egypt- Israel treaty as it was likely that the official stance towards Israel would undergo a dramatic shift. This is evidenced by the recent storming of the Iraeli embassy in Egypt that forced the Israeli ambassador to return to his country. Other Arab countries are also displaying similar signs of unrest while full-blown protests are yet to arise. He lightly touched upon the protests in Israel, which although in his opinion aren’t ‘revolutionary’ but lay bare the problems that lie at the heart of a militarized society in which the major income is derived through aid. The protests in Iran had been energized and the demographic change in the population means that a significant portion of the public are youngsters under the age of 30 who are disillusioned with right wing Islamic parties and their rhetoric and are increasingly demanding a change. This coupled with the oil workers who have always played a major role in the revolutions and revolts in Iran means that the temperature in Iran is also rising. Naeem downplayed the role
of drew attention to Saudi Arabia as the biggest counter-revolutionary force in the region. The key role the US intervention has played is in extending support to the Bahrain government despite its brutal crackdown on the protests. He mentioned that the French and British support of the Libyan rebels had the major result of preventing the uprising in Libya from toppling Gaddafi ‘organically’. He also drew attention to how the World Bank had immediately offered loans to Egypt and Tunisia after the outbreak of protests there. The fluid continuing movement of these uprisings leaves the fate of the Arab Spring open to question. However, Naeem ends on a hopeful note pointing to the long democratic consciousness the Arab world has had. He draws parallels with the 1950s where it was the military that heralded the battle cry against colonialism and took up the fight from freedoms. General Nasser was a key figure during this wave along with the military overthrow of King Faisal in Iraq. The present wave of uprising differs in one key respect and that is the involvement of the people in taking up this struggle for their own freedom. “The fate of democracy is still open to question …Round one has gone to the people. However, there is a lot of room that remains to be covered but one must keep in mind that counter-revolutions are always alive.”
Background of the disease Continued from page 1 owing to their proximity to Lahore. Even last year, the deadly virus took the Punjab by surprise and persisted despite government efforts continuing until the winter, when the disease naturally dies out. However, this year again, the dengue again caught everyone by surprise with an “unexpected” early arrival. In this regard, the traditional method of marking towns and union councils has been employed and spraying, fogging and larviciding continues to try and control the epidemic, which, the authorities ‘accuse’ of appearing before time. Medical experts believe, considering the past record, that the virus hits on alternate years. The return of dengue this year has surprised many in the medical profession who expected its return not before 2012. Moreover, the incidence of disease compared to last year has also changed, as the graph of number of patients started from very high, with nearly 3,000 patients so far unlike last year when a gradual increase in the number of patients was witnessed. Panic has spread among the people at large as hundreds of suspects visit
the hospitals every day for blood tests. This has also overburdened the hospital blood testing laboratories which have to cater to both indoor patients and outdoor suspects. As the panic spreads the next challenge in patient management is likely to be provision of extra beds because dengue wards of almost all hospitals are overflowing with patients, with certain hospitals refusing any new admissions point blank. A lack of coordination between health and district government officials has also been witnessed as the Health Department receives the figures but it is the district administration which has been tasked with fumigation to eradicate the vector (mosquito). Such lack of co-ordination has resulted in the spread of the disease to the present epidemic proportions. CDC Director Dr Mubashir Malik told Pakistan today that dengue control includes the virus, the mosquito which carries it and the patient gets infected. “Besides the two types of mosquitoes which are vectors (dengue carriers) and behave differently…next comes the efficacy of drugs being used and their impact on the environment and the third part is
patient management,” he said. To a question, he replied, the deficient area is the research aspect which is to study the genome of dengue virus and vector surveillance as “there is no concept of research in our country”. The government has created various posts such as of entomologists, institutions like the IPH, however the will to do research is missing, as these posts are considered “sidelined” by officers. Hospitals throughout the year have been reporting the incidence of dengue to the health department, while it was the responsibility of the district governments to prepare a strategy for timely spraying and fumigation. A team of experts from Srilanka is also on a visit to Lahore to help the Punjab government in handling the fast growing epidemic. However, studying the virus and its carrier does not need huge administrative changes, but only political will. Only this may ease Rasheeda’s plight and the likes of her who are now in thousands, all struggling in the face of uncertainty, as no one, not even the experts, know the subtle variance allowing a patient to recover or alternatively, slip into death.
The virus was first reported in Asia, Africa and North America in 1780. It appeared in Australia in 1897, and after a long gap in Greece in 1928 and in Taiwan in 1931. However, the first confirmed epidemic was reported in the Philippines in 1953-54. It virus spread in South East Asia after the Second World War and hit Sri Lanka, India and Maldives in 1980. The first case of dengue in Pakistan appeared in 1994 in Karachi. It struck Lahore more than a decade later in 2006, reappearing in 2008 and 2010. Medical experts further reveal that in the past years the disease would appear in Karachi almost a month before its appearance in Lahore, but this was not the case this year. This has led experts to question the incidence of the disease in such huge proportions only in Lahore, but other than mere speculations they do not have any concrete answers, owing largely to the absence of many “missing links”. It is not known how many types of dengue actually exist in the country. Dr Tayyaba expressed her inability to confidently answer this question “owing to the lack of a laboratory-based surveillance system” and “isolation of the virus” which are the necessary means to establish this fact.
Aedes egypti and aedes albopictus are the two kinds of mosquitoes (both females) which carry and spread the dengue virus. Medical experts dub them “fashionable” mosquitoes because their habitat is clean water both indoors and outdoors. Within the house, they are usually found under the couch, hidden corners, beneath laundry, on the edges of slanted roofs, open water filled containers, toilet flush, in the rear of refrigerators, the tray beneath the water outlets of air conditioners, drainage pipes, flower pots and indoor water plants. Interestingly, the dengue mosquito cannot fly very high, nor every far with its maximum distance covered being no more than a few houses. Nor does it produce the typical humming sound, and one does not immediately feel its bite. Experts call it a “silent terminator” with an “anesthetized sting”, as one feels the rash only after it has done its deadly work and disappeared.
Sunday, 18 September, 2011
Aali, just a common cowherd, was therefore the doughty hero who had the audacity to defy the might of the Moghuls and get away with it
Pictures by the Author
A Tale from the Lahnda
Ahmed Yar is a teller of folk tales as they were told long before television put paid to the tradition of story-telling in rural Pakistan – and he might well be the last of a dying school
By Salman Rashid
hmed Yar, my friend, is a Bandial; and as blue-blooded as they can come. A native of village Bandial on the highroad between Sargodha and Mianwali, he is a romantic despite his urbanity and education. His line of work takes him all over the country, but his heart remains rooted firmly in the wide, fertile plains of western Punjab – the Lahnda, ‘land of the setting sun.’ Here the blue hills of Sakesar loom on the northern horizon and here the searing summer winds bring the sands from the Thal Desert in the south. Ahmed Yar is a teller of folk tales as they were told long before television put paid to the tradition of story-telling in rural Pakistan – and he might well be the last of a dying school. His tales naturally come in that Lahnda dialect, a language so beautiful that it can raise goose bumps on the most blasé of listeners. And that is how he relates the story of Aali Ghanjera. Aali, of the Ghanjera tribe from the village of Vijhara, was a cowherd. One day as he was tending his flock, he came upon a group of banias (Hindu merchants) resting during the midday heat. Among their horses, browsing nearby, was a filly not yet into her second year that caught the eye of Aali who knew his animals well. In rapture this animal pranced about galloping through the meadows to the stream and in one great leap clearing the wide waterway. ‘If so young a horse can do this what will she grow up into,’ thought Aali and resolved to buy the animal off the banias. The owner named a price. Aali, knowing full well what he was doing, doubled it and took possession of the filly. The banias, thinking they had duped a simpleton, happily went their way and Aali immediately took to training his new horse. Within the year, having been fed on the choicest fodder, butter and almonds, the filly indeed grew into a handsome mare
– just as Aali had imagined. Trained with loving attention, she was soon to outdistance the best race horses in the land. She was truly Aali’s pride and joy and men travelled to Vijhara from distant villages to see for themselves what they heard of her. Now it came to pass that this wonderful mare’s fame reached the capital of Akbar, the great Moghul. This was a mount truly fit for a king and since it was royal prerogative to possess what the heart desired, a group of courtiers arrived at Aali’s door to purchase his mare. Of course he would not part with the animal for all the wealth in the world. Aali refused; but the king’s bidding was to be done and the animal was forcibly taken away. There was nothing that Aali, a mere cowherd, could do against the might of the Moghuls but lament his loss. Weeks went by and when Aali could bear it no longer he set off for Delhi just so as to be able to see his dearly loved horse. Not far from the capital he heard it being said that the king’s newly acquired but favourite horse had taken seriously ill and that the royal veterinarians had failed to diagnose the disease. Consequently, the king had announced a vast sum of money to the hakeem who would put the animal on its feet again. This was his chance to get close to his beloved mare and so Aali arrived at the court of Akbar in the guise of a hakeem. Among his terms to make the horse well, Aali asked for no interference or supervision from the court veterinarians. It was granted and Aali was led to the royal stables. If his disguise had fooled the court, it of course failed on the horse. Seeing her master, she whinnied for joy and within no time, the animal that had refused to be fed was eating out of Aali’s hands. Over the next few days the horse regained her strength and then very early every morning Aali started to take her out to exercise. The good news was passed on the to the king who, in his great joy, promised a grand prize to Aali. Aali thanked his highness mostly humbly, but he knew his prize lay elsewhere. Then one day, when Aali thought that his horse was herself again, he took her out ostensibly to exercise. But beyond the city walls, he turned her into the west wind and digging his heels hard into her flanks sped away. His flight was discovered only when he did not return the mare to the stables at the usual hour and report the day’s progress to the chief vet. Inquiries
were made and when it was established that the hakeem had indeed fled with the horse, royal troopers were sent out in pursuit. But not only did Aali have a good head start, their steeds were no match for Aali’s mount. Faster than the windstorms that sweep across the parched Punjabi plains in the month of Harr, Aali’s mare carried her master homeward. The sun rose higher into the sky, evaporating the coolness of night with the heat that turns the wheat gold in April. It came overhead and then it westered, yet the rider and the steed did not pause. In the gloaming the sluggish waves of the Sutlej, the Satadru or the ‘Hundred-Channelled One’ of the Vedas, were crossed. Through the night they bore ever westward across the sandy wastes of the central part of the Bari Doab between the rivers Beas and Ravi. When the new day dawned even the Ravi had been left far behind. Across the bandit-infested peelu forests of the Rachna Doab – the belt of land between the Ravi and the Chenab rivers, they flew while their pursuers struggled on miles behind them. The dark waters of the Chenab – the Black One, as the ancients called it, were forded without pausing to rest. By the time the sun was ready to set on the second day of their flight Aali’s mare had made it across the Jhelum. Far away in front the hills of Sakesar rose darkly through the evening mist. Now Aali was on home ground. Now, he thought, it was safe to rest. And so, having thus far studiously avoided habitation and fellow man so that he was not tempted to pause, he finally drew rein at an inn. As he waited to be served, Aali overheard the women at the tandoor. ‘Have you heard,’ asked one, ‘that Aali has contrived to escape from Delhi with his mare?’ ‘Yes. And try as they may, the king’s riders have failed to catch up with him,’ said another. Aali was horrified. How, he thought, could there be another rider swifter than he? He had not been overtaken, yet these women knew of his flight. Surely there was a rider with a mount that had outrun his mare and had brought word of his escape from the capital. There was, then, the very real threat of yet being overtaken and taken back
to Delhi in chains. Aali’s poor mare had hardly got her breath back, but he saddled her and set off again. Faster and faster he urged her to the utmost limit of her endurance until at last the hapless animal collapsed. There was no thrashing about. The exacting strain had been too much, the animal’s heart simply stopped. It is said that although he had outdistanced his pursuers and precluded every possibility of being captured, Aali had lost his horse to the idle gossip of women. The moral in the Lahnda, Ahmed Yar says, is that a man should pay no heed to women’s gossip. But there is a far deeper meaning to the story of Aali Ghanjera and his fabulous mare. The Moghuls came from the west and subjugated the Punjabis, as indeed they subjugated the other peoples in the lands that came under their sway. So far as the average Punjabi was concerned, they were outsiders. Though they were by and large accepted as rulers placed above them by fate, there was, nevertheless, a degree of resistance to their might. There are Punjabi ballads that recount such resistance. Though some of the incidences that these ballads relate never made it to official histories, simply because to the Moghuls they were nothing but minor localised irritants, nearly all of them are based on historical fact. There is mention in Moghul chronicles of the actions fought against the Baloch tribes of the Thal Desert, but there is no mention, so far as I know, of any trouble between the Moghuls and the Bandials and Tiwanas – the two established leading
families of the Lahnda. But that there was a man like Aali Ghanjera who could outwit the great Moghuls and make off with his mare from right under their noses, and that all the might of the Moghuls could not catch up with him, tells another story. It is the story of the latent antipathy for the Moghuls. This hostility is all too evident in the term ‘Chaggata’ used for the Moghuls in rural Punjab to this day. Though the term is simply the Punjabi pronunciation of Chaghatai, a Moghul family name, it is not difficult to discern the shade of contempt and derision it carries even today. Aali, just a common cowherd, was therefore the doughty hero who had the audacity to defy the might of the Moghuls and get away with it. But today, as in the time of Akbar the Great, the Ghanjeras were a tribe lower in status than the landowning Bandials and Tiwanas. So why did the hero of this fable have to be a Ghanjera, and not a Tiwana or a Bandial? If Aali Ghanjera, subservient to the foremost families of the Lahnda, could be so dauntless and heroic, what would the leading men of that land have accomplished against the Moghuls had the need ever risen? Though the wish to defy may have come and gone without any actual resistance by the men of the Lahnda, there must always have been the inward desire to stand up and be counted. And though Aali Ghanjera and his mare may or may not ever have lived, the legend is symbolic of that desire. It is, without doubt, the most beautiful story from the Punjab of resistance to the might of the Moghuls.