Category Archives: Languages

Karachi Literary Festival: Spring in the land of suicide bombers and charlatans

Raza Rumi

Who says Pakistani literature was a relic of the past? If anything, Pakistani authors have a global audience today, and our writers are now the greatest harbingers of Pakistan’s complexity and nuance in a way that the embedded media can scarcely fathom.

The first literary festival took off in our cosmopolitan melting pot, Karachi, in March. The Oxford University Press’ dynamic head Ameena Saiyid, and the British Council, together organised this event. Asif Farrukhi, the premier litterateur of the metropolis was central to the festival. Farrukhi’s comprehensive command of Urdu and English literary currents, and the stature which he has earned with his hard work, ensured that we were all set for a fabulous gala.

Earlier, the festival faced the usual hurdles: the Indians were issued visas rather late in the day and my friend Sadia Dehlvi was denied a visa at the last minute, despite earnest efforts by the organisers. The iron curtain was rigidly in place. But the other regional and international delegates arrived as planned. The last minute finalisation of the schedule meant that due notice could not be given to many participants. However, the OUP team, especially Raheela Baqai, were adept at getting things done. Saiyid herself used Facebook to advertise the event. She’s obviously keeping up with technology and its changing frontiers.

We arrived just in time for the launch ceremony that was held at the British Consulate. It was quite a journey from the Carlton Hotel to old-world Clifton – a mini-bus that dazzled with literary icons of our time: Iftikhar Arif, Intezar Hussain, Masood Ash’ar and Shamsur Rehman Farooqi from the world of Urdu. The front seats were occupied by the petite and resplendent Bapsi Sidhwa, the contemplative Zulfiqar Ghose and the younger British Pakistani writer Sarfaraz Manzoor, whose book ‘Greetings From Bury Park’ has created waves across the English reading Continue reading

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Filed under Languages, Literature, New Writers, Pakistan, south asia

Room for optimism

[‘The audacity of hope’? ‘Hope dies last’? Or, just the reality of Pakistan in its many aspects? Here’s how Mohsin Hamid sees it. – PTH]

Dawn, Friday, 09 Apr, 2010
 
 EVER since returning to live in Pakistan a few months ago, I’ve been struck by the pervasive negativity of views here about our country. Whether in conversation, on television, or in the newspaper, what I hear and read often tends to boil down to the same message: our country is going down the drain.

But I’m not convinced that it is.

I don’t dispute for a second that these are hard times. Thousands of us died last year in terrorist attacks. Hundreds of thousands were displaced by military operations. Most of us don’t have access to decent schools. Inflation is squeezing our poor and middle class. Millions are, if not starving, hungry. Even those who can afford electricity don’t have it half the day.

Yet despite this desperate suffering, Pakistan is also something of a miracle. It’s worth pointing this out, because incessant pessimism robs us of an important resource: hope.

First, we are a vast nation. We are the sixth most populous country in the world. One in every 40 human beings is Pakistani. There are more people aged 14 and younger in Pakistan than there are in America. A nation is its people, and in our people we have a huge, and significantly untapped, sea of potential. Continue reading

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Filed under Democracy, Economy, Education, Identity, Judiciary, Languages, Media, Pakistan, Religion, Society, state, Terrorism

Jinnah And Urdu-Bengali Controversy

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

This is a quick blog to correct a historical fallacy.  A false impression persists – thanks to people like Amar Jaleel and the like who in the right royal Urdu press fashion have a hard time sticking to the facts- that Jinnah- who according to Jaleel was drugged or cornered into making the speech in question- somehow told Bengalis to outlaw Bengali language when he declared Urdu to be the state language of Pakistan.  This is historically inaccurate. This blog is not to discuss whether Jinnah’s declaration was politically suave or naïve but to set the record straight about what it was that Jinnah said which laid foundations for the Urdu-Bengali discord in Pakistan and led to Pakistan ultimately declaring both Urdu and Bengali the “national languages” of Pakistan.  Ironically Jinnah did not even use the term “national language”, drawing the very valid distinction between a state language or lingua franca and a national language. Continue reading

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Filed under Bangladesh, History, Languages, Liberal Democratic Pakistan

Civilizations (Mirrors of Our Existence)

From years of our travel
We look back
Upon these civilizations,
From years of adventure
We look back
Upon these civilizations
From days of our inheritance
The lands and its cultures
The old forms of languages
The mystery of Universe
The old journey taken
By humans and nature together
As they traverse
From place one to another,
In harmony and disarray
As we born and die
From on to another,
As we love and hate
The old circumstances
And situation, intertwined
Through languages and its art,
The trails, lost and visible
As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence

As transference takes place
From one culture to another,
The old social composition, in view
The old need to survive and preserve
Through the feathers of time, curious!
All what we do, all what we gain
There is past, it carries the stains
Of our existence, into the future
To the people and the times they lived
Of lasting impressions and moments
The old intrinsic nature remains,
To pursue, through intellect and reason
The nature’s gift, to exercise
As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence

As we evolve, as we discover
Ourselves, in paint and paper
Through fields of literature and art,
In science and technology
Owe we all portion of our success
To this past, to these trials of humanity
Lie there in the wilderness,
The old landmarks, hidden
To what we lost, and how we lost
As with each fleeting moments
Remains this search to refine
Our history and times we live in;
Those episodes of mankind
Of their gains and losses
In display, throughout the pages of time
As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence

Remain the search, remains in place
The old journey to discover
To seek answers to these questions
The very fuel and catalyst
Driving us forward,
Of languages and cultures
The journey is one,
For truth and purpose,
Some seek it through art,
Some with hands of science
And some through spirituality
To reunite with ourselves
To discover purpose of our creation
Through the landscapes of time
As they learn to strive in their endeavor
Through the old blocks to the new
As we find ourselves on these trails
Of humanity dispersed in wars
And through famine and disease
As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence

As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence
Not the landmarks or the time
The old metaphors of this correlation
But the humans and the journey
Through pain and despair
Through elation of whispered butterflies
To find what is theirs, to discover
What lies, as the hands turn to gold
From the old manuscripts to new
As the earth shifts its burden
As the old clocks go backwards
As we look back
Upon these civilizations
The old mirrors of our existence!

Kashkin

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Pakistaniat : The Crisis of Identity

Bradistan Calling

 

What can I give to Pakistan as a present on its 62nd Birthday, What else than an article on its chequered history and identity. Bertrand Russell famously said,” There are three great civilisations in East i.e. India, China and Islam”. Pakistan is blessed to be located at the crossroads of all these great civilisations. In my humble opinion this is the biggest strength of Pakistani identity. Continue reading

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Neo ‘Iron curtain’ and the loud marching steps.

The Neo ‘Iron Curtain’ and the loud marching steps of  televangelistas.

Bradistan Calling

The latest cultural trend is the sensational rise of televangelist channels in U.K, using tactics which can only be described as ‘emotional and religious blackmail’ and premium rate phone charges to raise funds from devotees, most of these are Nigerian Pentecostal ‘Witchdoctor’  (faith healer potions and exorcisms) TV channels operating from London. Generally the term ‘televangelist’ refers to American evangelical splinter churches propagating to solicit donations for converting poor Africans. This concoction of ideologies is being beamed back to Africa and Asia through satellite. Continue reading

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Remembering Bashir Ahmed MSP

Bashir Ahmed Member Scottish Parliament.

Bradistan Calling

I first saw Bashir Ahmed on UK’s Pakistani channel (Pakistani channel was a result of the split between Pakistani TV Asia and Zee TV Europe). Second time I saw Bashir Ahmed was on BBC Parliament channel giving a speech to Scottish Parliament about Pakistan and its economy. A few days ago, I saw his Picture on a News website with a notice of his death and the news item that his seat in parliament has been filled by female deputy from his party SNP.

Bashir Ahmad MSP, politician and businessman, born 12 February 1940; died 6 February 2009 of a sudden heart failure.

In 2007 Bashir Ahmed became the first Asian (Pakistani) and first Muslim member of the Scottish Parliament when he was elected one of the four regional members representing city of Glasgow. Bashir Ahmad was born in Punjab, and in 1961 moved to Scotland. He recalled arriving at Glasgow airport (Sadly in June 2007 Muslim-Indian/Iraqi terrorists attacked Glasgow airport with a home-made car bomb) from Pakistan not speaking a word of English. A bus driver went off his route to help Bashir to his house. This was Scottish hospitality for Bashir, when Americans were suffering racial segregation on the buses.

 He worked initially as a bus conductor before setting up in business, eventually owning shops, restaurants and a hotel. He also co-founded the Pakistan Welfare Organisation.

 Bashir Ahmad joined Scottish National Party in 1995 and set up the group Scots Asians for Independence from UK. In a speech at the SNP’s conference he told Scots: “It’s not where we came from that’s important, it’s where we’re going together.” The work Bashir Ahmad put in making Scotland perhaps the only place in Europe where multiculturalism isn’t a dirty word, meant that across the political spectrum there is an acceptance that all come to the table of Scotland with different badges of identities, cultures and faiths – but sit round it in ease and with respect.

Pakistani business people have become multi-millionaires and British Members of Parliament (In 1997 Mr. Mohammed Sarwar -Labour Party- became the First Pakistani MP in UK also from Glasgow. Currently six Pakistanis and one Kashmiri are Members of British Parliament and House of lords).

 Bashir Ahmad joined the SNP national executive committee in 1998 and when in 1999 Scottish parliament was constituted he was ninth on the SNP’s Glasgow list for the first Scottish parliamentary elections. In 2003 he was elected to represent the Pollokshields East(an area famous for Pakistani restaurants) of Glasgow city council, becoming the SNP’s first Asian (Pakistani) councillor.

 In 2007 Bashir Ahmed was elected an MSP. He took his seat at Holyrood wearing traditional Pakistani dress and swore his oath in both English and Urdu (like the Nobel Prize acceptance speech by Dr Abdu-Salam or Dr Kamal Qureshi -the Member of Parliament Denmark-  audience with Queen Margarette).

He served on various cross-party groups, for human rights and civil liberties, for carers, for older people, age and ageing, and the group for Tartan(Scotland national costume male kilt which looks like a female skirt) Day. He took his Muslim faith and Pakistani culture seriously.

A number of people tell how they had been touched by his warmth and kindness. His generosity did not have barriers of caste, race or religion. He helped many deserving Pakistani students and workers in times of need without expectation of rewards or gratitude.

May, His Soul Rest in Peace.Ameen

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