Daily Archives: April 16, 2009

Shame on you! PPP, ANP and PML-N

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

As an unfortunate voter who voted for the PPP,  I wish you all to the bottom of the sea.    The shamelessness with which you have sold away this country.  The people of Pakistan gave you a mandate on 18th February, 2008.  That mandate was a constitutional and democratic Pakistan run by rule of law i.e. Jinnah’s Pakistan.  Instead you’ve brought us to the brink.   We have been wishing, hoping and praying that you would work as democrats for the unity, prosperity and welfare of this country.   Now it seems that you are working together for its ruin.   Continue reading

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Pakistan: Swat Deal Grave Threat to Rights

Ordinance Should Be Reversed and Abusive Taliban Leaders Held Accountable says Human Rights Watch

(New York, April 15, 2009) – The Pakistani government should swiftly reverse its decision to cede de-facto administrative control of the Swat valley in Pakistan’s tribal areas to the Taliban and affiliated groups, Human Rights Watch said today. The move presents a grave threat to the rights of women and other basic rights in the troubled region, Human Rights Watch said. Continue reading

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After sunset

The golden age of Urdu literature came to an end with the closure of the literary journal Funoon, Irfan Javed

Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the founder of Funoon

Parveen Shakir-a leading protege of Qasmi

Mansoora Ahmed, joint editor of Funoon

A journal that is no more

Indian poet Gulzar was a regular contributor to Funoon

Initially launched in 1963 by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Habeeb Ashar, ‘Funoon’ rose to pre-eminence within a few years. Prior to this a few prominent Urdu magazines were widely read. ‘Funoon’ outshone all the others due to its innovative style, intimate encounters with its readers and quality consciousness

Over time, the Lahore office of ‘Funoon’ was inundated with fresh writings by connoisseurs of Urdu from across the globe. Its office resounded with discourses ranging from modern philosophical theories to politics. Never before was the office of any Pakistani literary magazine visited by so many creative giants, or involved with such intellectually charged debates …. sadly it ceased to be published with the death of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi in July 2006. A critical emblem of culture and literature lies buried in the artistic cemetery of Lahore

IIn the cultural and literary history of nations, there are certain places, persons and publications which stand out from the common and define the culture of its people. For instance, Pablo Neruda is one such example who inspired generations of people of Chile and still lives in the cultural consciousness of Latin America.

Much like the mythological Midas, certain great literary giants lend immortality to objects they touch or the thoughts they nurture. The cafes of Paris frequented by Jean Paul Sartre assumed the same cult status which the man himself bore. The garden bench hand- crafted and used by Tolstoy attracted prime public attention. ‘The old man and the sea’, handwritten by Hemingway is a rare possession for collectors. In the subcontinent, the quarterly ‘Funoon’ published by the legendary writer, poet, critic, editor and columnist Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi can also be placed in the same league.

Initially launched in 1963 by Qasmi Sahib and Habib Ashar, ‘Funoon’ rose to a meteoric pre-eminence within a few years. Prior to its launch, a few prominent Urdu literary magazines such as ‘Naqoosh’ and ‘Adabi Dunya’ were widely read. However, ‘Funoon’ outshone all the others due to its innovative style, intimate encounters with its readers and the quality-consciousness that it emphasised. Unlike its contemporaries, ‘Funoon’ was not restricted to pure literature but covered a wide range of the creative arts including painting, music, calligraphy and mysticism. It brought together in one place the works of some of the most prominent masters in their respective fields.

If on the one hand legendary artist Abdur Rehman Chughtai wrote on the art of painting, Abul Khair Maududi came up with his famous essay on God on the other. Funoon’s very first issue carried short stories by towering writers such as Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ismat Chughtai. Its poetry section included celebrated poets like Josh, Faiz, Majid Amjad and many more. As the journal moved ahead on its literary journey, more celebrities joined it. Krishan Chandar’s “Bara Aadim”, Intezar Hussain’s “Aakhri Khandaq”, Khalid Akhtar’s “Nanha Manjhi” are some of the remarkable short stories that were published in early issues. Shortly ‘Funoon’ attracted a large number of literati hailing from India and it became the most respected literary magazine of the subcontinent. By the 1970s, it had attained the status of an institution in itself.

Over time, the Lahore office of ‘Funoon’ was inundated with fresh writings by connoisseurs of Urdu from across the globe. Its office resonated with discourses ranging from modern philosophical theories to politics. Never before was the office of any Pakistani literary magazine visited by so many creative giants, or involved in such intellectually charged literary debates. These debates and discourses were later reflected on the pages of Funoon. Its office shifted many places from Anarkali to McLeod road among others. Throughout its lifespan of forty plus years, the towering personality of Qasmi Sahib and his affable demeanor made the office of Funoon a nucleus of creativity in Lahore. The air in its office was not always thick with dry intellectual dialogues, for the smiling Qasmi Sahib peppered the discussion with interesting anecdotes and humorous quips.

Sajjad Baqir Rizvi, who was a scholar of considerable ranking, offered his services for Funoon in its initial days. Qasmi Sahib reluctantly accepted that in addition to editing he had to pack, write addresses and paste tickets on each magazine himself. It must have been a rare sight to observe the great writer fixing addresses, and a leading scholar pasting tickets on the envelopes carrying the copies of magazine. Such were the selfless characters of our past.

Before the advent of Funoon, the journal ‘Naqoosh’ had earned the distinction of publishing personality or issue based ‘special numbers’. ‘Funoon’ furthered this tradition with vigour and produced remarkable issues such as “ghazal number”, “Iqbal number” “Ghalib number” and many more, which have since been used as reference material by scholars. During routine congregations at the office of Funoon as the tea flowed in, the participants exchanged jokes and shared gossip. It had become a tea-house in the true sense of the word. Once Khalid Ahmed, an Urdu poet, was sharing a joke with the participants in the presence of Qasmi Sahib. The joke dragged on for too long until everyone started to lose interest in it. At that point Ataul Haq Qasimi quipped: “Khalid, instead of telling the joke it is better if you write it down and give its copies to all of us to read”, Qasmi Sahib intervened with a smile and remarked, “Ata, in that case, keeping in view the length of the joke, I fear that we will have to issue a ‘special number’ for it.”

Pakistan like other developing countries is a place where neither merit nor hard work are rewarded, but rather ‘cronyism’ and ‘resources’ lead to prominence and success in any field. ‘Funoon’ introduced a myriad of young people on sheer literary merit who are now leading authors in their respective genres. Mustansar Hussain Tarrar, Ataul Haq Qasimi and Mohammad Kazim emerged as travel writers from the pages of ‘Funoon’. Ali Abbas Jalalpuri was trained as a philosophical thinker through his works this journal.The eminent poet Parveen Shakir was also nurtured by ‘Funoon’, and small wonder that Shakir had tremendous love and respect for Qasmi Sahib whom she called ‘Ammoo’. Rasheed Malik and Amjad Islam Amjad emerged as essayists through the same ‘institution’. The great Indian poet and filmmaker Gulzar also considered Qasmi Sahib as his mentor in poetry and regularly contributed to Funoon. Even Fahmida Riaz has gratefully acknowledged its role in introducing her poetry to the world.

The poet Iftikhar Bukhari was unsure of the quality of his work when he sent his first poem with much trepidation for publication in ‘Funoon’. However, he was pleasantly surprised to see his poem published in the very next issue. So he personally went to thank Qasmi Sahib. He recalled with misty eyes: “It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. After a handshake I introduced myself and thanked him [Qasmi Sahib} for prominently printing my poem. He replied softly that it was worthy of that place. He added that in view of the maturity in my poetry he was pleasantly surprised that I was much younger than he had thought. That initial appreciation of my verse by a living legend inspired me to continue with the fine art of writing poetry.”

When this scribe went to meet Qasmi Sahib for the very first time and submitted his short story “Olga” for ‘Funoon’, he gave the draft a cursory look and remarked, “It seems that you do not write in Urdu regularly.” I nodded in agreement. I came back as a happy man after meeting the great writer but wasn’t sure of the fate of my story. Nevertheless, its edited version was published in the next issue of ‘Funoon’. That gave me an impetus to continue writing.

‘Funoon’ breathed hope into the hearts and minds of young people by giving them an even opportunity to get published along with established artists. It kept the continuity of its publication in a country where connoisseurs of any art form have dwindled into nothingness in the face of the growing herds of bayonet worshippers and intolerant bigots.

It is a sad reality that ‘Funoon’ ceased to be published with the death of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi in July 2006. A tussle ensued between his biological heir Naheed Qasmi and his literary heir-cum-joint editor Mansoora Ahmed for ownership of the magazine. It is a tragedy that such grievances have led to the closure of a journal that was the epicentre of Pakistani literature and cultural discourse. Why do we always ruin what is built with such tender care and decades of hard work?

Those who want human blood to fill the streets and hatred against culture to be a national policy must be smiling at this development. A critical emblem of culture and literature lies buried in the artistic cemetery of Lahore.

Irfan Javed is an Urdu short story writer

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Losing bio-diversity- Lohi Bher and Karakar

by Rizwan Baba
In terms of biological importance, the most critical and precarious forest types are the areas which fall on the boundary between two divergent vegetation ecological zones. Such areas are extremely rare and have an abundance of bio-diversity as species from two entirely different ecological zones live in such transition areas in perfect harmony.
In Pakistan, two such “transition zoness” of great importance existed in the past. Continue reading

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Swat Deal Grave Threat to Rights: Human Rights Watch

HRW Press Release

Ordinance Should Be Reversed and Abusive Taliban Leaders Held Accountable

(New York, April 15, 2009) – The Pakistani government should swiftly reverse its decision to cede de-facto administrative control of the Swat valley in Pakistan’s tribal areas to the Taliban and affiliated groups, Human Rights Watch said today. The move presents a grave threat to the rights of women and other basic rights in the troubled region, Human Rights Watch said. Continue reading

Comments Off on Swat Deal Grave Threat to Rights: Human Rights Watch

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Swat: A Masquerade of War and Peace

Mahjabeen has sent us this heartfelt piece  from Peshawar

I opened the newspaper two days ago and read the news of the deal with the Taliban in Swat and the decision to sign the Nizam-e-Adal Regulation for the Malakand Division by the federal and the NWFP Governments. And, my heart sank. The state especially the political parties had capitulatd.

On the same page a well-know journalist had hailed the move and later on T.V I also saw a prominent journalist and the ANP praising this decision. The journalist was making it appear like a landmark peace deal, a moment to rejoice, a great event. In fact, it was being said that the whole nation was rejoicing. My question is what was the whole fuss about, what were they celebrating? This is like getting your child back after paying a heavy ransom to the kidnappers and then inviting the kidnappers for a tea party! Who asked the people of Pakistan or of the Malakand Division whether they supported such a move? Continue reading

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This is about Gujurat Not Teesta

(Renowned Indian columnist Farzana Versey writes about a concerted move to prop up fundamentalist forces in the wake of elections and how SIT findings on Gujurat play into that)

By Farzana Versey

It appears to be just the sort of impetus the Sangh Parivar is looking for.

The Special Investigative Team in Gujarat has submitted a report to the Supreme Court accusing NGOs, and specifically Teesta Setalvad, of “cooking up” (interesting terminology this) stories regarding incidents during the 2002 riots in the state.

There are many who are ready to jump the gun with their one-line verdict of “those bloody NGOs and Teestas and Arundhatis”. You know what? All of you who are getting into this mode are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why? Because it makes you uncomfortable to face the truth and listen to the wails. Because it suits your original POV that it couldn’t have been so bad with your poster boy taking Gujarat to Nano-moto heights. This is your fake utopia and that’s how you like it. Continue reading

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