Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obituary: Demise of Dawn's Review

Obituaries are usually written for men or for good organizations, or popular restaurant joints. Or maybe for papers which have lasted 50 or so years, a long time by any measurement. Seldom, if ever, are they written for parts of national paper. I am breaking the tradition.

For me Review has been much more that a simple, A-4 sized mid-week, mag. In fact, first it was Tuesday Review and since that time I have been associated with it. My best memories of The Review are of a time when it carried my photographs of Karakoram Highway, my first ever photographs to be published in any paper. And I didn't knew that until I searched my name at, which returned my article on 1st page. That was Thursday, 17th Feb, 2005, and interestingly that day's Dawn to my home did not carry Review copy. Perhaps it had been stolen mid-way; perhaps my akhbar-walla (newspaper man) had forgotten to insert it. Perhaps. But as luck would have it, I got to know it before the paper went to dustbins - of my friend Syed Taha Ahmed. I later went to his home and brought the copy. It was a proud moment and my good mother commented that the photographs really looked good. I reminded her that she had in fact viewed them many times over. On which she told me that photographs published in paper look drastically better than when viewed on computer screen.

Dawn announced today (must I say suddenly) in its front page that it is finally closing down Review and hashing it with Sunday Images. Which effectively means that the edition of 22nd January, 2009, was the last of its kind - and that it must be preserved for posterity. It is fitting then that my feature on Kunri titled, 'SPICE CITY: Hot and happening', was published in this issue. Four days ago (25th Jan, 2009) when I had emailed Review editor why the emails were being returned, I was give the following reply, 'Thank you for your contribution, however we're discontinuing the photo feature for a while.' The bombshell about the demise of Review would fall today, or so it was destined.

As a measure of protest, I am cancelling my subscription of Thursday's Dawn to my house. No need for Dawn if Review is dead.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dr. Ahmed Hasan Dani

Great historians are a rare breed everywhere in this world. Most historians one sees are pre-occupied by their own religious-socio-politico thinking and are, consequently, pretty useless and harmfully partial to different ideas and various forms of knowledge.

Dr. Dani was a certainly from different breed. For him, religion never came to settle questions related to fundamental understanding of various cultures straddling our region. No wonder then that he was widely regarded as a foremost historian and archaeologist of our time and of our world. His understanding, specifically of the Gandharan civilization was stupendous. One was astounded to read his books or listen to his conversations. I only heard him once, at a TV show, and I was fascinated by the man who himself has been fascinated by history and its characters. He spoke with such fluidity and such remarkable understanding of his subject, that everyone there understood his idea and his love. And this in a country where history is perhaps only Islamic or only Non-Islamic, a demarcation which never bothered him.

I am still fascinated by him but saddened to read in Dawn today that Dr. sahib has died owing to various ailments which were afflicting him. His life had been wonderfully spent, or one may suppose. But recent events in his favourite research areas of Dir, Peshawar and Swat valley must have saddened him beyond any doubt. For these areas contains some of the most remarkable specimens of Ghandaran art and architecture.

Dr. Dani, apart from being a first-rated archaeologist, was also a linguist having full command over 14 different languages (Bangla, French, Hindi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Seraiki, Sindhi, Tamil, Turkish and Urdu). I am sure all these languages greatly enhanced his international reputation and helped him get hold of even more books to read.

He was recipient of many awards and was with UNESCO for 30 odd years. He is one of the most recognized Pakistanis in the world. And we are surely proud of him.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

If Zardari remains President of Pakistan for 20 years....

Then, following is expected;

1) Pakistan will become a colony of USA / World Bank / UK.

2) All Pakistani cities will have a casino dedicated to the memory of Benazir Bhutto and their title would be Shaheed Bhutto Casino.

3) Half of the population will sleep naked.

4) Girls from all class and all ethnic groups would be sold in open market.

5) Males of Pakistani origin would die of hunger; they would also serve under their gora masters.

6) Zardari would have then married three times, killing his wives after their insurance(s) have matured.

7) All industries would give Zardari a profit of 85%; rest will go to their original masters.

8) Islamabad would have by then be renamed as NON-ISLAM-ABAD

9) Zardari would be the richest men in the history of this world surpassing Firoun and Nimrud of ancient times and Bill Gates and King Faisal of our times.

10) Every second property would belong to Zardari.

11) Pakistan would be renamed as ZARDARI-TAN.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Islamic new year and religious fantatics

Moharram ul Haram is Islamic calender's first month. Therefore, as a rule, it should be celebrated across Muslim world. All people of all religions and cultures celebrate their new years with various forms of prayers, worships, thanksgiving, alms giving, and lot of fanfare. Unfortunately, Muslims don't celebrate their new year in any special way. No special prayers are made; no one really cares to visit an orphan with gifts in hand; no one bothers to take time to buy special items for one's own family members. Tragedy of Karbala looms large on our new year. Though Karbala shows a classic example of sacrifice for the religion of Allah, some sects of Islam (eg. Shi'sm) consider any celebrations as against the norms and culture of Islam. Where these people have brought ma'tam (self torture by hitting oneself repeatedly by palm of right hand or by cutting one's head and arms and chest with sharp edged object) from cannot be ascertained. Too much twisting of historical facts must have gone in to convert an Islamic new year into a case for 40-day mourning. [No other religion in the world has any example of such long mourning].

One way of looking at Muharram is to look at Muslims themselves. Muslims, as a general rule, are seriously outdated in their approach towards life, business and almost all major products of our time. We are not media savy and anyone, even the stupid Hindu fundamentalists, can easily convince the larger world that indeed Pakistan was involved in Mumbai attacks on 26th Nov, 2008 (sic). We are also, therefore, incapable of defending our new year and its much needed celebrations. We are being taken on a ride by a minority which thinks, rightly or wrongly, that in Moharram they can dictate terms to the majority. Very sad that majority Sunnis cannot do anything substantial about the minority sect. Now that the President of Pakistan, that one idealistic man with no records to prove, is also a Shia, Moharram has become even more of a trouble than anything else. Pakistan, it must be noted, comes to a standstill during at least first 10 days of our Islamic new year.

I asked my elders whether these dramatic events were there during their good days. And I was told that only 10th Moharram would be a public holiday with a solemn march of Shias through the main M.A Jinnah Road, Karachi. Now, 5th Moharram march of shias bring Karimabad, mina bazaar, Liaqatabad, and other adjoining areas to a standstil. Then, 7th Moharram procession of shia stops almost half the traffic of Karachi (area around Kharadar, Saddar, M.A Jinnah road is badly affected). Then on 8th Moharram once again there is some shia procession through M.A Jinnah road. Then again, 9th Moharram is a public holiday for no good reason. 10th Moharram being the Ashura and one the greatest days in the Islamic calender, is once again a public holiday. One cannot but note that entire 10 days are wasted. Business suffers; people die during traffic jams; and much of these shia processions are actually violent. If they find any shop opened, they ensure that the shop is badly damaged or even burned. So sad, that in the name of Hazrat Imam Hussain (A.S) these people inflict untold miseries on so many people. If that is the message they understand of the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad (salahu alihi wasalam) then I am sorry they need to re-pack and get back to basics.

For one, what is the reason behind so many processions on such an important artery of Karachi. Why take the entire city hostage by closing M.A Jinnah road? Why not any other area? Why disturb millions of people for your own so-called religious activity? Did Imam Hussain (A.S) teach you to disturb so many people? I have asked this question to so many Shias but none has ever answered me. Because there is no answer to all this mess. And what purpose does this ear-banging marsiyas serve to countless Shias romping the city in their cars? Why can't you people just keep your religion to yourself? Again, no answer. How do you explain something which is at once irrational and highly disturbing.

Even the Shia a'lims don't stop their followers from disturbing the city for so long. No Shia a'lim ever takes stand against these illegal activities. Our police, which has a lot of Shia officers among its ranks, actually helps these road blockades. How sad!

I hope some Shia, holder of common sense, will read this blog and stop this mess once and for all. But, as is my experience with this country and with the Shias living here, things only go bad. And from bad to worse. Never good. Never better.

And our new year celebrations, it seems, would always be ruined by ear-thrashing marsiyas and city blocking long marches. Long live Pakistan!