word about letters
Ghulam Abbas's 'Dhanak' is a prophetic story of a nation driven to damnation by intolerance -- a situation similar to the times we are living in
By Sarwat Ali
When 'Dhanak' -- a long short story -- was written Ghulam Abbas had problems getting it published. The story which was written somewhere between 1963 and 1965 was read by the author in a meeting of Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq in 1967 or 1968 and as is the wont, when it was thrown open for discussion in the Halqa it evoked a strong reaction. It was severely condemned by some as an attack on religion or a satire on the various sectarian divisions within religion.
The story of 'Dhanak' like other Ghulam Abbas stories is simple -- Pakistan reaches a scientifically advanced stage when it launches a rocket which successfully lands on the moon. On hearing this news maulvis launch a movement which gathers strength. From the village maulvi it travels to the cities till it reaches the grand mosque of the capital. The Khateebe Azam of the grand mosque condemns the satanic sciences, calls it a blasphemous act and warns the people of the imminence of Day of Judgement. He pleads for the toppling of the kafir government and of promulgating divine laws. The government is eventually overthrown. The new regime decides to enforce the Islamic laws but soon sectarian differences crop up leading to civil war. Pursuing its policy of self righteousness the regime totally isolates itself from the comity of nations and a foreign country attacks Pakistan and defeats it. In the last part of the story experts and archaeologists go in search of the location from where the ill fated rocket was launched in the once advanced country.
Though the long story was cast in the mould of a science fiction which created a world that lay somewhere in future, it was actually a depiction of the state of society. Such was the reaction that no one took the risk of publishing it. Ghulam Abbas was at the height of his creative powers and was undoubtedly one of the greatest, if not the greatest short stories writer living and getting his work published was both a financial and a literary reward for the publishing house. It is said that Almisaal, the publishing house run by Munir Niazi was to publish 'Dhanak' but it could not for the reason only to be guessed, though it did publish his 'Kun Rus'. 'Dhanak' was eventually published by Sajjad Kamran in 1969.
According to Sumayane Yasir in 'Ghulam Abbas -- Sawaneh Aur Fun Ka Tahqeeqi Jaiza' Abkar Lahori said that this afsana was an open attack on the principles of Islam and would be welcomed in India. Abdul Qadir Hasan suggested that this be printed and distributed by the department of Information to bolster the government's point of view because as Azizuddin Ahmed had stated 'Dhanak' was written keeping in view the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
So severe was the reaction that Ghulam Abbas had to defend himself by stressing that he, like Allama Iqbal, did not align himself to any one faction or sect, but considered himself part of the Ummat e Islamia, and in that capacity fearing what can lay ahead had expressed his apprehensions in 'Dhanak'.
In his entire creative span Ghulam Abbas was bedevilled by a number of literary controversies about the function of literature in society. While some extremists on both sides of the divide, left and right, called for a direct participation of the art and artists in either raising class consciousness or religious morality, a whole lot of serious writers were left standing in the middle bruised by this charged exchange of slings and arrows. Ghulam Abbas stood his ground firmly and without directly taking sides continued to write stories that were as realistic as any produced in fiction during the short history of Urdu literature.
Ghulam Abbas like other writers of fiction were influenced by Russian literature, its prose in particular, and what appealed to him the most was its realism. It was Chekov that casts its deepest shadow on Ghulam Abbas and as he chose either deliberately or involuntarily to emulate the great Russian Master, it was understandable that his writings were not in broad sweeps but subtly tuned to capture a vanishing nuance and a dying fall.
He did not write about great events or characters that have some idiosyncratic behaviour but the subject of his work were the ordinary mortals, the common man who eked out his existence and lived the years of his life bound in the chains of his small happiness and disappointments. He was not interested in human beings in what they said or stated but in those dark moments of the night when all by themselves they confronted the reality of their existence. It was not surprising that most of his characters were drawn from the lower middle class and poorer section of the urban population, and it was here that he looked for the real truth and the reality of human existence.
Ghulam Abbas seemed to balance the ups and downs, the dark and the luminous, the mighty and the poor, and left it at that, without making a statement betraying his sympathy or exposing his loyalty. It was only expected that he came under bitter criticism from those sections that wanted commitment of the writer to be worn on his lapel. Such writers received critical barbs which were unflattering like being wishy washy, being wimpish or being a tacit supporter of the status quo.
What appeared to be science fiction touched a raw nerve and Ghulam Abbas was driven to take cover. The literal reading of the text and the demands of contemporary times do end up on a collision course and do provide a fertile ground for creativity. The relevance of 'Dhanak' is much more acute now than it was in the late 1960s considered by many to be less violent times, though the underlying problem continues to simmer, every now and then gushing out with the full force of a volcanic eruption.
By Zarmeena Mubashir
"Wither Pakistan: Dictatorship or Democracy?" is a compilation of speeches, article and interviews by Benazir Bhutto on her ideology. The speeches have been delivered on major world events before universities, business associations, women organisations, and foreign policy think tanks.
The book clearly shows a link between Benazir's ideology and need of the hour. Her speeches express her thoughts which are compatible with the western world and necessary for survival in the global village. She has greatly emphasised the importance of democracy, widespread terrorism, peace, and clash of civilisations.
In her initial speeches on terrorism, she touches upon honour killing and condemns it as a state policy. She also talks about women emancipation through education, jobs and sports.
The book contains Benazir's speeches on 32 years of military rule which has weakened the institutions of Pakistan. Bhutto had unmasked the fact that poverty, oppression and exploitation gave birth to terrorism, militancy and religious extremism in society.
Benazir's detailed address on 'guaranteeing the rule of law and independence of judiciary in Pakistan' touches on politicised judiciary and the generals claim they are experts on freedom and take the country from 'sham democracy' to 'true democracy'. She also talks about controlled and shackled press under the martial law and military rule. It is true that when press is critical of generals, it should get ready for a battering. She also adds that military rule has deprived media of its rights and nearly all the pillars of state are at the mercy of dictators.
Nearly all the speeches and articles are linked with Pakistan and ways by which it can become a prosperous nation have been talked about in detail. The book could be used by the party workers, and the general public to know about the importance of democracy, terrorism and the connection between Islam and the West. The overall subject matter is relevant to the present scenario of Pakistan and could be also be used for creating awareness about Pakistan and its policies in the west.
However, the book does not carry any speech or article on corruption, and how badly it has destroyed the economy of Pakistan. Pakistan is the 6th most corrupt nation on the world map, and nothing has been said about it in the book. The book has missed prominent and important issues like sub-nationalism, unrest in tribal areas, and social unrest presently being faced by Pakistan. Benazir has not talked about sectarianism in detail. The future of extremism needed a few thoughts like religious extremists seeking to bring a Taliban-like system in Pakistan and its repercussions.
The book is dedicated to those countless unknown political soldiers who rendered huge sacrifices in the struggle for democracy and justice.
By Kazi Javed
Urdu Hindi controversy
Two recent books have provided ammo to those interested in regenerating Hindi-Urdu controversy that originated during late nineteenth century and played an important role in promoting Muslim separatism in this South Asian region. Both the books support the view that Hindi and Urdu are not two different languages but have been artificially separated by the two totally dissimilar scripts they are written in.
One of the books came from Delhi under the title 'Aik Bhasha: Do Likhawat, Do Adab' Its author Dr. Gian Chand Jain is an acknowledged scholar of Urdu language and literature. The thesis of his latest publication is that it is only the Persian script that separates Urdu from Hindi. He also claims that this 'alien' script was adopted by Muslims only to substantiate their two nation theory which finally led to the partition of India. Dr. Jain is not happy with this development.
The other book on this subject 'Urdu/ Hindi: An Artificial Divide' has been written by a US based scholar Abdul Jamil Khan. It has been written against the backdrop of modern theories regarding the origin of languages by evolution from Africa. He asserts that Hindi and Urdu, being two different names of the same language, originated from "the ancient farmers of the Middle East who migrated to India about 10, 000 years ago."
A number of articles, letters and editorial notes have been published in Indian and Pakistani literary journals as well as newspapers for and against the basic ideas presented in these books. Shamsur Rehman Farooqi and Dr. Rauf Parekh have particularly come down hard on Dr. Gian Chand Jain.accusing him of communalism and saying his book reflects "the mind of a Hindu fundamentalist."
The situation is perhaps more complicated. Urdu and Hindi are now generally acknowledged as two separate languages and the difference between them has been growing since the days of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who was a great supporter of Urdu. However, the two remain mutually inseparable in terms of oral speech. It is the script that causes unsurpassable distance because not a single word written in Urdu is legible to an untrained Hindi reader and vice versa.
Khurram Ali Shafique has written some wonderful books and teleplays. His least offering 'Iqbal: An Illustrated Biography' was published last year and won wide critical acclaim. The monthly Herald of Karachi published his 75 page article entitled 'Life and times of Pakistan' as a cover story in its golden Jubilee of Independence issue in August 1997. I have not read his biographical novel on the Quaid-e-Azam but hear praises from the friends who have.
Khurram Ali Shafique is working on a comprehensive biography of Allama Muhammad Iqbal which he plans to complete in five volumes. The first volume of the book has already seen the light of the day. His screenplays for television have mostly been based on Persian classics especially the 'Khamsa' of Nizam Gunjevl.
'The Republic of Rumi', Khurram Ali Shafique's new publication is described by the author as 'a novel of reality'. My learned friend Maulana Ahmad Javed who has read world literature more than religion, agrees with the author. About 'The Republic of Rumi', the maulana says: this book takes you a long way on the path devised by Iqbal in order that Rumi's system of mysteries could seep into the deepest possible recesses of human consciousness. This finely produced book has been brought out by the Iqbal Academy of Lahore.
The Art of Loving
The American author Erich Fromm was quite popular in our corner of the globe during the last quarter of the past century. His books were widely discussed in literary and intellectual circles. Upon his death in 1982, the late Azad Kausri arranged a condolence reference for him at the Pak Tea House attended by a number of writers. I remember the event because it was the first gathering of the literati I was asked to preside over. Later The Mashal, a noted publishing house of Lahore, commissioned me to make Urdu translation of Dr. Erich Fromm's famous book 'The Sane Society'. It was published under the title 'Sahetmand Mua'shra'.
The Urdu version of Dr. Fromm's another book 'The Art of Loving' came from India and its copies were distributed among friends by Kishwar Naheed. Yet another of his book 'Man Alone' was abridged and translated by Fahmida Riaz attracting many readers.
The Book Home of Lahore has now published the Urdu translation of Dr. Erich Fromm's 'To Have or to Be' under the title 'Naya Insan Aur Naya Samaj'. It has been translated by Amjad Ali Bhatti who has already provided the readers with the Urdu translation of Rousseau's famous 'Confessions'.