Only a Mega Dam….

by Khurshid Anwer

Benazir Bhutto must be gloating in her grave to see her arch rival squirming in the hot seat. A hot seat that is of her making. She wielded a double edged sword to decapitate Pakistan. Inducted the IPPs to run on oil at 10 dollars per barrel, not knowing that the 10 dollars would become 100 dollars and the cost per unit would become 18 rupees. When she could have had the same unit for 1 rupee.

But God forbid that she would build a dam in Punjab. The ignoramus thought that Sindh would become a desert. Did she really think so or was she being too clever for her own good as usual. Nothing can save Sindh from becoming a desert now. More and more irrigated acres are becoming barren by the year, and of the 30 million acres lying fallow, 80% are in Sindh with no water for them.

The two blunders put together have brought the country to a standstill. No electricity to run the fan or light the bulb and no water to drink. The only thing that is more prolonged than the load shedding is the excruciating misery of the men, women and children, forced to come out on the streets, and this is just the beginning with no end in sight.

The wheels of industry have ground down to a halt, the workers too are out on the streets with no hope for work even in the distant future. Agriculture is thirsting for water and food shedding is round the corner. Power riots now and food riots to follow. The damage done to the country appears to be irreparable. Only a mega dam in the next few years can save the situation, but God forbid – – – – – .

How could one person have done so much harm to so many.  

Khurshid Anwer

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What Punjab can do and what it has never done

Ayaz Amir, Friday, May 31, 2013
From Print Edition

Islamabad diary

Mystics and divines, poets and singers, men of enterprise and of daring, of quality and base instinct, the best dancing girls in the entire sub-continent, Punjab has given birth to them all. What, through some quirk of geography or history, it has never been able to produce is the able ruler.

Except of course for a single exception: for over 2000 years, from Alexander’s invasion to the Partition of British India in 1947, only one ruler of ability and distinction in its turbulent history, the great Maharajah Ranjit Singh. Apart from him, governors and vassals in plenty but no independent ruler, principally because Punjab was never an independent kingdom except when Ranjit Singh raised it to that status.

Afghan kings, kings of Turkish origin, Mughal emperors but only one Punjabi king. So while Punjab had other strong traditions, in agriculture, music, poetry, dancing, and, I daresay, the sycophantic arts which come so readily to subjugated people, the one tradition its superior classes lacked was that of leadership.

They knew best how to scrape and bow before authority. They were good at carrying out orders. But in 1947 history placed upon their shoulders the task of creating a nation and giving that nation a sense of direction. And they were not up to it, because nothing in their past had prepared them for this. True, Punjab’s elite classes, in alliance with the Urdu-speaking elites who had crossed over from India, managed to create order out of the chaos of Partition, a remarkable feat in itself. A country was thus born but something else as important proved elusive: the quest for nationhood.

Small wonder, misgiving arose from the very start, not everyone feeling that they were equal citizens of the new state, certainly not the people of East Pakistan who despite being in a majority felt excluded from decision-making. Baloch nationalists were unhappy, Pakhtun nationalists aggrieved, they who had been in the forefront of the struggle against the British. And winds of religiosity beat down upon the land, making what were still called minorities uneasy.

Jinnah had said that religion had no place in politics, the gist of his famous address to the Constituent Assembly just a few days before independence. But here something else was happening, religious rhetoric becoming more powerful even as political and economic performance lagged far behind.

Paranoia as regards India, an insecurity which sought relief in military alliances with the United States, an obsession with religious chest-thumping, truly bizarre in a Muslim majority country where Islam should have been the last thing in danger, or the least in need of artificial props – of such humours was concocted the doctrine that came to be hailed, and indeed flaunted, as the ideology of Pakistan.

The Baloch had no fear of India. For them Kashmir was a distant proposition. In Sindh where there was a large Hindu population, the people had no problem with India or Hinduism. Neither did the Pakhtuns have any mental problems with India, despite being very religious in their everyday outlook. In the tribal areas and in places like Swat there were Sikh and Hindu communities which felt safe and co-existed happily with their Muslim neighbours.

But it was altogether different with the official Punjabi mind and that of the Urdu-speaking elites where flourished the demons of fear and insecurity, more as a political tactic than a psychological necessity because it was a good way to keep the rest of the population in line. And because these classes dominated the upper echelons of the armed forces, the ethos of the services came also to be imbued by the same fears and compulsions.

Paradoxically, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who should have been the most enlightened man of his generation fanned the flames of this anti-Indianism more than anyone else, perhaps calculating (although there can be other theories on this score) that beating the anti-India drum would best appeal to the Punjab masses. But when the wheel came full circle the movement against him in 1977 received its most powerful impetus in Punjab, and it was the Punjab bazaar and trading classes which bayed the loudest for his blood.

When Gen Zia went looking for allies against Bhutto he found the fiercest in Punjab. When President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the ISI sought to contain Benazir Bhutto in her first prime ministership they groomed a champion in the form of one Mian Nawaz Sharif, a scion of Punjab. The fateful enterprises promoted in the name of ‘jihad’ found some of their first votaries and loudest advocates in Punjab.

Land of the five rivers – what hast thou not wrought? From thy bosom arising Guru Nanak and Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain and Waris Shah, Iqbal and Faiz and Munir Niazi, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Kundan Lal Saigal, Rafi and Noor Jahan, not to forget the great Sir Ganga Ram who had no equal when it came to giving, and Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his companions who had no equals when it came to laying down their lives in the cause of freedom. At the same time, land of our fathers, home to so much nonsense at the altar of faith and righteousness.

Pakistan today is largely what Punjab, for good or ill, has made it. Indian Punjab is a small part of India. Pakistani Punjab encompasses the best and worst of Pakistan. The social conservatism on display in our midst, the mental backwardness, the narrowness of outlook, the triumph of hypocrisy, the destruction of national education, the muddling up of national priorities, the temples erected to the false gods of national security – so much of this, alas, can be traced to the incapacities of Punjab.

Perhaps Ranjit Singh was an aberration, a historic anomaly – out of the mould and thus one of a kind.

Our Punjab certainly has nothing in common with his kingdom. In his army found service men of all races and religions. There were Mussalman battalions in his army and his head of artillery was Mian Ghausa, just as his principal wazir was from the Faqirkhana family of Lahore. And his favourite wife was a Muslim, Bibi Gulbahar Begam.

The PML-N has been in power in Islamabad twice before but in different circumstances, Nawaz Sharif not quite his own man in his first incarnation and, despite his huge majority, an unsure man in his second. He now comes as someone who has seen and experienced a great deal. So can he make a difference? Disavowing his past, does he have it in him to write a fresh history of Punjab?

Another thing to remember about the Lion of Punjab (the only lion, others all fake and imitations) is that he knew how to handle his Afghan problem. He defeated the Afghans and took Peshawar from them. Peshawar was part of the Sikh dominions annexed by the British. So if Peshawar and its environs are a part of Pakistan today it is because of that earlier Sikh conquest, half-forgotten in the mists of time. As Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan go prattling about talking to the Taliban they could do worse than study the Maharajah’s approach to the Afghans.

So can we get our historical compasses right? For over 2000 years on the soil of what is Pakistan today no independent realm or kingdom existed except two: the kingdom of Lahore and the state of Pakistan. The first was a success, a well-run entity, at least as long as the Maharajah was alive; the second is the shambles that we have made over the last 65 years.

Now there comes an opportunity to redeem our past. Question is, can the new rulers of Pakistan be half as good as their most illustrious predecessor, the one and only King of Punjab?

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

Sethi’s gestures for the good of Punjabi

By Mushtaq Soofi | 5/31/2013 DAWN

Najam Sethi, after taking over as the care taker chief minister of Punjab, took some measure galvanizing the cultural scene that would have attracted little attention in the normal circumstances but as we all know, we do not live under normal circumstances in the cultural sense.

Thus his action is being perceived as very significant in view of the self-induced cultural amnesia the Punjab suffers from. In order to appreciate the implications of his cultural activism we need a perspective. The Punjab these days seems to be a cultural wasteland despite having more than 5,000 years glorious history. In view of our intellectual inertia, it will seem hard to believe that it was Punjab that created what we call civilization of the subcontinent as a result of confrontation and interaction between the Dravidians and Arya. It was Punjab where the Rig-Veda was composed or revealed to the `Rishis`, the sages. It was the universally celebrated Taxila University in the Punjab where great Panini wrote his Ashtadhyayi, the first book on linguistics and Chanakya Kautilya his famous Arthshastra, analyzing the dirty but real secrets of stat-craft for the first time in the recorded human history.

Ghandhara in Punjab produced some of the finest pieces of sculpture. And again it was Punjab that laid the foundations of synthetic Hindu Muslim culture after the arrival of Arabs from the south and that of Turks from the north, leaving indelible imprint on our collective life.

The visible sign of our cultural deterioration and decline is the disowning or rejection of our language by our elite, wallowing in its self created arrogant ignorance. If you lose language, the most vital element of culture, you are destined to lose your culture as it is language that enduringly preserves and transmits collective memory from generation to generation. Not just that! Language is a mode of thinking and each language has a mode of thinking specific to it. So by losing your lan-guage you lose your intellectual and spiritual evolution as well as your specific way of thinking.

The rot, as far as our language is concerned, started after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in mid nineteenth century. The British colonial administration deliberately demolished the vast network of indigenous system of education. The use of the Punjabi, the Persian and the Sanskrit was almost banned in the new European type schools set up by the colonialists where English was adopted as medium of instruction for upper class and Urdu for middle and lower classes.
Soon after the demolition of old educational infra structure, Punjabis were declared illiterate and ill cultured as Dr GW Leitner, one of the most celebrated linguists and educationists, pointed out in his famous survey known as `A report on education in the Punjab`.

According to Leitner`s findings Punjab was not only most literate in the entire subcontinent but also had the highest female literacy rate. The colonial officials were so hostile to the indigenous education imparted in the independent Punjab that after the occupation, an incentive oriented public order was issued which declared that a person who returned his sword would get prize of one `Anna` and the one who re-turned `Punjabi Qaida`(primer) would be rewarded with six `Annas` After the emergence of Pakistan, muddled vision of culture and language further confounded the issue. Linguistic and cultural diversity of the country was perceived to be a threat to the ill conceived notion of national unity.

The Bengalis, who spearheaded the Pakistan movement, were the first to debunk the newly invented myth of monolithic uniformity that denied the rich diversity of the federating units of the country. They rose in protest and got their language recognized as one of the national languages.

Sindh declared Sindhi its official language. Punjab, Balochistanand Khyber Pakhtunkhwa pretended as if no such issue ever existed in their territories. It is only recently that the government of KPK introduced the teaching of various languages spoken by the people in its area.

As a result of the struggle waged by Punjab`s writers and intellectuals against all odds the department of Punjabi language and literature was established in mid 1970s at the Punjab University. With the passage of time subject of Punjabi literature was offered at BA and FA level that attracted a huge number of students though a few teachers were appointed to meet the requirement. The teachers of other subjects voluntarily offered their services to teach the language and literature to the great delight of the students who opted for the subject.

Sadly top to down approach was adopted which was lopsided to say the least. It should have been other way round. Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, a representative cultural body of all the Punjab, brought the situation to the notice of Mr Sethi requesting him to take remedial steps. And steps he took indeed and took very promptly. With no ifs and buts like a culturally conscious intellectual that he is, he approved generous grant for some of the institutions and ordered the immediate release of official ads for the regional newspapers and magazines.

He also discussed the issue of introducing the teaching of mother language at primary level with the officials concerned. He, to the delight of millions whose language is treated with contempt by the bankrupt elite of the Punjab, expressed himself in Punjabi in some of his public appearances.

Thank you Mr Sethi, you have done Punjab proud.
Nothing less was expected from an intellectual of your caliber.

A verse of Shah Latif, the great poet of Sindh, comes to mind: `Not all humans carry mark of beauty nor all birds are swans / rare are the men who emit the fragrance of spring`. Let us hope, the incoming chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, will build on what Mr Sethi has done in his short stint. Cultural infrastructure is as important as the material one if human development of holistic nature is the goal.