review
Literary credentials
Savera:
July-August 2008.
Edited by Muhammad Salim-ur-Rahman and
Riaz Ahmad Chaudhry
Published by Qosain, Lahore
Pages: 408
Price: Rs300
By Sarwat Ali
Savera is amongst the oldest literary magazines in the country. The 86th issue, the current one, is a testimony to the fact that it has withstood the vicissitudes of the publishing market.

In Prophet's praise
Literature for peace abounds, but is hardly ever acknowledged
By Mustafa Nazir Ahmad
Ishq-e-Habib-e-Kibriya
Compiled by Mumtaz Baloch
Published by Saanj Publications, Lahore
Pages: 224
Price: Rs180
Given today's realities, it comes as a great surprise that Muslims and Hindus managed to live peacefully in the Indian subcontinent for most part of almost a millennium. Historians have offered different explanations for this; some have attributed it simply to the 'largesse' of Muslims rulers, especially the Mughal kings up to Aurangzeb Alamgir, while others contend that Sufism and other similar humanistic movements had bound the two communities together.

Structured power
Three Presidents and an aide:
Life, Power and Politics
By Arshad Sami Khan
Published by Pentagon Press, 2008
Pages: 286
Price: $39.50
By Bilal Ibne Rasheed
The period between 1966 and 1972 proved, probably, one of the most turbulent and trying period in the history of Pakistan. Ayub Khan's last three years at the helm of affairs proved absolutely frustrating as the political agitation under Mujib ur Rehman's Awami League grew by the day. Acknowledging the fact that he would not be able to steer the country through these difficult times, Ayub handed over reins of the government to Yahya Khan so that he "should fulfill his constitutional responsibilities." Like his predecessor, Yahya also lacked the political acumen and insight required of a statesman. It was because of this that East Pakistan metamorphosed into Bangladesh. Subsequently, Bhutto, a civilian, was made the Chief Martial Law Administrator and the president of Pakistan as Yahya faced a threat of a bloody coup.

A word about letters 
By Kazy Javed
Naipaul's shadow
Noble laureate V.S. Niapaul, who now resides in England with his wife Nadira, is not afraid of rumours. Rather, at times, he gives the impression of enjoying the stories circulating about him. As one of the recent rumours go, the writer is thinking of moving to Lahore, the home town of Nadira.

 

 

review

Literary credentials

Savera:

July-August 2008.

Edited by Muhammad Salim-ur-Rahman and

Riaz Ahmad Chaudhry

Published by Qosain, Lahore

Pages: 408

Price: Rs300

 

By Sarwat Ali

Savera is amongst the oldest literary magazines in the country. The 86th issue, the current one, is a testimony to the fact that it has withstood the vicissitudes of the publishing market.

The publishing industry has had many ups and downs in the last sixty odd years. Usually people with star in their eyes and a high ideal in their mind embark on the mission of bringing quality publishing to the forefront. A number of projects were launched with a great deal of fanfare and high expectations but failed to retain the momentum. There are also those publishers for whom publishing and printing of books is merely a business enterprise.They hardly take the risk to judge the work on its merit and then offer it as a challenge to the market. No wonder so little of the experimental material gets through the double barriers of the publishers and the market.

Savera has been there for more than sixty years, rarely faltering on quality and standard -- a testimony to the possibility of profiting while ensuring quality. It has maintained a consistent editorial policy and has stuck to it despite the many changes that rack the marketing and business circles. The names of the editors are enough to vouch for a high order: Salim-ur-Rahman and Riaz Ahmad are responsible for many joint ventures, most of which have withstood the test of time and quality.

The first issue of Savera -- edited by Chaudry Nazeer Ahmed -- came out in 1945. He must have been inspired by other members of his family like Chaudry Barkat Ali who had been publishing Adb-e-Lateef since 1935. The family was also involved with a number of publishing houses like Naya Idara, Maktabai Jadeed and Maktaba Urdu for the past so many decades, publishing some of the quality Urdu literature in this period.

Literary journal, like literature, is the product of its environment and mostly fed by the political and social scenario of the time it is produced in. Literary debates generated by this cross fertilisation then find a platform which not only becomes the conduit for expression but also organises all these intellectual debates on a more formal level. Such debates have been generated from the platform of Savera under the editorship of such luminaries as Sahir Ludhianvi, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Ahmed Rahi, Hanif Ramay and its current editors Salim-ur-Rahman and Riaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

One of the best aspects of Savera is the inclusion of forms of art other than literature. The visual arts, music, television and film also fall within the purview of the magazine. This edition has an article about Barre Ghulam Ali Khan by Muenuddin Hazeen Kashmiri. He left the country after the indifferent attitudes of the local cultural bosses and outshone everybody else on the classical firmament in India. The writings on Barre Ghulam Ali Khan are thus a combination of remorse and regret in the face of his tremendous contribution to the high art of classical music. There is another article on music by Muhammed Athar Masood. He has offered a critique of the Risala Raag Mala Hindi by Thakur Daas and arrives at the considered view that it was heavily derived from a book written about one hundred and fifty years earlier Maratul Kheyaal by one Sher Khan Lodhi.

There is also a running article on Arab poets penned by Khursheed Rizvi. It is mostly about Arab literature before the advent of Islam. The issue also covers the poetry of Ashra bin Shaddad. A few translations have also been included -- Collete Heller, Mian Kamauddin Actavio Paz, Afzal Rajput, Jessi Kokhar and Nazim Hikmat have been translated. The articles on Shahid Amed Dehlavi, Ashfaq Ahmed and Ibn-e-Hanif are enlightening .The edition carries poems by Amer Sohail, Mueen Nizami, Sabir Zafar, Nazir Qaiser, Abid Ameeq, Tehseen Faraqi, Hamid Yazdani, Anwaar Nasir, Muhammed Salim-ur-Rahman, Saleem Shehzaad. Riyaz Ahmed and Qazi Habib ur Rehman. The prose section is vibrant with short stories by Asif Farakhi, Muhammed Saeed Sheikh, Mahnood Ahmed Qazi, Sohail Ahmed, Najamuddn Ahmed, Amina Mufti, Masood Mian and Asim Butt. Remaining true to its tradition, a play -- Khoon Jigar ka Tali Pay Dhar Key -- has also been included followed by some excerpts from the correspondence between Muzaffar Ali Syed, Muhammed Khan, Mushfiq Khawaja and Najam Afandi.

The 85th edition of Savera underscores the fact that a magazine with solid literary credentials can be published on a regular basis. The last sixty odd years have been a very creditable achievement for the editorial and management team for it is easy to publish quality literary journals and even harder to sustain the regularity of their publication and quality in Pakistan.

 

In Prophet's praise

Literature for peace abounds, but is hardly ever acknowledged

 

By Mustafa Nazir Ahmad

Ishq-e-Habib-e-Kibriya

Compiled by Mumtaz Baloch

Published by Saanj Publications, Lahore

Pages: 224

Price: Rs180

Given today's realities, it comes as a great surprise that Muslims and Hindus managed to live peacefully in the Indian subcontinent for most part of almost a millennium. Historians have offered different explanations for this; some have attributed it simply to the 'largesse' of Muslims rulers, especially the Mughal kings up to Aurangzeb Alamgir, while others contend that Sufism and other similar humanistic movements had bound the two communities together.

The latter base their argument on the fact that Hindus have traditionally been frequent visitors to shrines of Muslim saints, in particular those of the Chishtiya order who, against common perception, never encouraged any non-Muslim follower to embrace Islam and, instead, preached humanity. The same can be said about rishis and bhagats, who were mostly Hindus and whose main concern also was to preach humanity rather than converting people of other faiths.

Both these explanations are partially true, but they fail to take into account the fact that such a relationship could not have been sustained for long without integrating the two communities. There was something else too. As interfaith harmony advocates like Indian scholar Yoginder Sikand have been trying to highlight: literature, music and fine arts on peaceful coexistence.

This message, in its own peculiar way, was so strong that both Hindus and Muslims forgot their religious differences, and they formed a most secular society even by today's standards. The bond between them grew so strong in the best of times that Muslim scholars acknowledged that Hindu gods were among the 124,000 apostles sent by the God on earth. On their part, Hindus showed profuse respect for Prophet Muhammad and some of them wrote poetry in his praise. Undoubtedly, this poetry is in no way inferior to the one written by Muslim poets, showing that they also benefitted from his providence.

However, since the Two Nation theory was used as the justification for creating a separate homeland for Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, it goes against the interests of the state to acknowledge that Hindus and Muslims ever lived peacefully in the region. More or less, the same goes for the Indian establishment that wants to preserve among its masses Pakistan's image as that of an enemy state.

The book under review, entitled Ishq-e-Habib-e-Kibriya and published by Saanj, assumes significance in this context. A collection of naats (poetry composed in praise of the Prophet Muhammad) by non-Muslim poets, it helps break stereotypes and do away with generalisations that all non-Muslims are against Muslims and their Prophet.

The book is divided into the sections of Persian, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English. Probably the most comprehensive effort of its kind to date, the book includes naats by the likes of Kanwar Mohinder Singh Bedi, who is rated as the best Hindu naat go of all times, among others. Some of the other prominent poets whose naats have found a place in the book under review include Amarchand Qais Jallundhuri, Pandit Harkishan Ram, Bhagwan Das Bhagwan, Pandit Ram Partab Akmal Jallundhuri, Rajindher Bahadur Mauj Fatehgarhi, Nazeer Qaiser, etc.

Most of the naats included in the book have been written by Hindu Pandits, scholars of repute and princes. The book also throws light on another very important aspect of the subcontinent's history. As opposed to what is commonly believed, Urdu and Persian were not used by only Muslims: many Hindus and Sikhs also excelled in these languages and produced some of the best literature written in them. In conclusion, the book's compiler, Mumtaz Baloch, and publisher deserve to lauded for this effort that may go a long way in promoting interfaith harmony.

 

Structured power

Three Presidents and an aide:

Life, Power and Politics

By Arshad Sami Khan

Published by Pentagon Press, 2008

Pages: 286

Price: $39.50

By Bilal Ibne Rasheed

 

The period between 1966 and 1972 proved, probably, one of the most turbulent and trying period in the history of Pakistan. Ayub Khan's last three years at the helm of affairs proved absolutely frustrating as the political agitation under Mujib ur Rehman's Awami League grew by the day. Acknowledging the fact that he would not be able to steer the country through these difficult times, Ayub handed over reins of the government to Yahya Khan so that he "should fulfill his constitutional responsibilities." Like his predecessor, Yahya also lacked the political acumen and insight required of a statesman. It was because of this that East Pakistan metamorphosed into Bangladesh. Subsequently, Bhutto, a civilian, was made the Chief Martial Law Administrator and the president of Pakistan as Yahya faced a threat of a bloody coup.

An account of these years by someone who had been as close to these three presidents as an aide would surely be revealing and riveting. Arshad Sami Khan served them for a record six years as an ADC. During his years at the presidency, he took to writing about the important events. Coming from the pen of an ADC who had been an apple of not only one but the eyes of three presidents, the book is bound to reveal hitherto unseen aspects of the lives of these heads of state. Three Presidents and an aide: Life, Power and Politics gives us a true account of the politics of these six years.

The book has been published by an Indian publishing house and is divided into six chapters. First three chapters deal with Sami's tenure of three years with Ayub Khan. In the fourth chapter, he elaborately narrates the political scenario and milieu at the presidency before and after the debacle of East Pakistan; Yahya's failed attempts to bridge the gulf between popularly elected Bhutto and equally popularly elected (and Indian sponsored Awami League of) Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman. A whole chapter has been devoted to, as Sami puts it, the "teenager in Yahya."

The jovial side of Yahya's personality provided the media and his opponents (including Bhutto) with the much needed juicy stuff, distorted versions of which were subsequently used to defame him putting the complete blame of East Pakistan fiasco on Yahya's shoulders. With Bhutto, Sami was able to continue only for some months during 1972 and therefore, the last chapter deals with him.

Born in 1942 in an illustrious family of Peshawar, Arshad Sami Khan joined the Pakistan Air Force in 1959. Passed out in 1961, Sami was declared the best pilot during his training. He fought the war of 1965 from the cockpit of his fighter aircraft and flew the highest number of flying hours and combat missions -- 61 hours and 15 minutes to be exact. During these missions, he attacked the maximum numbers of Indian tanks and was awarded Sitara-e-Jurrat for his exceptional courage and devotion. During the early 70s, he went to the Gulf where he was one of the founding members of Khaleej Times. He served the paper as a General Manager for a decade. Sami also held senior appointments such as Federal Secretary and served as an ambassador of Pakistan to various counties across the globe.

Being a good ADC, Sami was not only well versed with the personal likes and dislikes and the work ethic of those whom he served, he was also well acquainted with their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. He writes about a couple of weaknesses of Ayub Khan, whom he served for three long years. First, that Ayub had an extremely soft spot for his children who exploited this leeway and sought undue favours, thereby undermining his government. His second weakness, which proved awfully lethal to the country, was that he would not tolerate anyone becoming popular among the masses lest he might grow powerful enough to topple his government. This made him to dispense with his age-old friend and the honest Governor of West Pakistan, Malik Amir Muhammad Khan, the Nawab of Kalabagh.

It was the same with his sharp minded, shrewd and ambitious Foreign Minister, Z A Bhutto, whom he fired as he seemed to have gathered substantial respect and popularity from all quarters at home and abroad. During the war of 1971, when fighting started along the borders of West Pakistan, Yahya and his close associates were initially thrilled by the advances made by our forces. Yahya remained unable to see through the haze and mist around him and, instead of his using his rationale to develop effective military strategies, fell for the prediction of Jean Dixon, an astrologer. According to her, Yahya would continue ruling for more than a decade. Such was his lust for power that he refused to acknowledge the results of the free and fair elections. His obtuse-headedness to continue living in the presidency proved the last nail in the coffin of East Pakistan.

Zulfikar Bhutto, whom Sami served only for some months, had amazing mental faculties, the towering magnitude of which coupled with his shrewdness and political acumen inflated the balloon of his ego to the extent the he seldom sought advice or asked for any suggestions. This intransigence of his ultimately gathered a number of yes-men around him.

The book is sprinkled with anecdotes which, told in Sami's original style, keeps the narrative refreshing and the reader glued. When in March 1967, Ayub Khan visited East Pakistan, the Governer of the province, Monem Khan, insisted to translate the president's speech into Bangla. During the hour long impromptu speech of Ayub Khan, Monem Khan literally kept sleeping on the stage with his private secretary taking the notes. When the president finished his speech, his private secretary placed the notes on the rostrum. Monem Khan translated Ayub's one-hour speech in two hours with Quranic verses added to it. He also sang versed of Tagore, Ghalib and Iqbal. Later Ayub asked about his translation saying that he did not take that long nor did he quote any poet. To this Monem laughed and replied that people were not gathered to hear lectures, they only came for entertainment; they needed some distraction especially during the monsoons when they had nothing to do but sex. Upon hearing this Ayub exploded with laughter.

In March 1972, Bhutto surreptitiously dismissed the Chief of Army Staff, General Gul Hassan and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Rahim Khan in a very bizarre manner. He invited the chiefs of the armed forces along with other officials of his government to a working lunch. The ADCs accompanying the senior officers sat in Sami's office as Bhutto had barred them to leave the office or use a telephone. In his office, Sami sat glued to the radio. At one in the afternoon, the newscaster announced that both the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of Air Staff had resigned and that the president had accepted their resignations too. In the fraction of a second before the detailed news, the ADC to the Chief of Naval Staff shouted, "I didn't hear anything about my chief. Did I miss something?"

The book also tells us about Pakistani leadership's dependence on West, especially the USA. Both Ayub and Yahya were foxed by the cunning and hypocrite leaders of the USA in connivance with our enemy, India. Interestingly, our subsequent governments did not learn anything from history and continued licking the boots of the Western masters. Musharraf's blind and irrational support for the destined-to-be-doomed war on terror is a case in point.

While writing about Yahya, Sami sets the records straight and tells us about the 'debauchery' of him. In fact, it were Yahya's opponents who made mountains out of moles by distorting the events and their details.

Apparently, the book leaves the impression that Sami was impressed by Ayub's hunting skills, his moral and ethical codes; Yahya's ability to rock the dance floor despite of his bulky build and Bhutto's taste for exquisite suiting tailored in West. But he does not let his admiration of their personal traits clouds his judgment of them as statesmen, which remains utterly rational and logical.

Last few pages are written about Benazir Bhutto, to whom Sami has also dedicated the book. He served as Chief of Protocol during her first prime minister-ship. Just like her father, B B also held her intellectual abilities to be superior to others around her, which cut her off the ground realities.

Although the book is interesting as well as readable, it is full of mistakes and errors. In the fourth chapter of his book, Smai writes that it was the Federal Government of Liaquat Ali Khan (while Mr.Jinnah was still alive) which declared Urdu to be the sole national language of Pakistan, whereas history tells us that it was Mr.Jinnah who pronounced Urdu to be the only language of Pakistan.

In this narrative of 280 pages, one finds a large number of grammatical mistakes, which one surely does not expect of someone as well read as Arshad Sami Khan. Some of these errors are, of course, due to the negligence of the proofreaders. Having said that the book is, as the cliche goes, a riveting read.

 

A word about letters

By Kazy Javed

Naipaul's shadow

Noble laureate V.S. Niapaul, who now resides in England with his wife Nadira, is not afraid of rumours. Rather, at times, he gives the impression of enjoying the stories circulating about him. As one of the recent rumours go, the writer is thinking of moving to Lahore, the home town of Nadira.

It was recently reported that he was planning to write book reviews simply to "destroy a lot of big reputations." Nadira, twenty years his junior, did not like the idea. She wanted him to understand that if he "did that, no one will bother to attend his memorial service." Probably frightened by a lonely funeral, the 75-year old novelist soon announced he was no longer interested in the project as "it is not worth it."

Naipaul is known for cutting many people out of his life -- Paul Theroux being one of them. Theroux is an American travel writer, once a close friend of Naipaul, who later brought out a bitter, no-holds-barred memoir of their long friendship under the title Sir Vidia's Shadow. Naipaul was furious. A row between the two friends was followed by an ensuing controversy.

Many years have gone by since the publications of Sir Vidia's Shadow but Naipaul has not forgiven its author. During a recent interview, while responding to a question, he remarked: "I pay no attention to that. I never read his book of course I don't look for controversy."

A British author Patrick French has now come up with a tell-tale biography of V. S. Naipaul -- the grandson of an indentured South Indian slave taken to Trinidad, an island in the West Indies, during the last decade of the 19th century. Naipaul says he loves, India. But his two books on the country especially India: A Wounded Civilization published during the early 1970s which I consider his best, reminded many of Nirad Chaudhry and offended many Indians. Pakistanis are not happy with him either for his book Among the Believers carrying a long-drawn chapter on Pakistanis. French's book is titled The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S.Naipaul. Having spent five long years researching his subject's life, French claims Naipaul is "the most remarkable writer of the later 20th century. His life story fascinated me." French assures his readers that Naipaul poured out is heart to him and did not refuse to answer a single question. His private papers and letters were also made available to him. Naipaul has not yet commented on the book.

 

Munirduddin Ahmad

It was during the first week of the current year that I first got a copy of the Chaar Soo -- a bi-monthly literary journal from Rawalpindi. Founded by the late Syed Zamir Jaffery some seventeen years ago, it is now edited and published by Gulzar Javed. The title of the journal did not attract me but the substantial content can qualify it to be counted among the best Urdu literary journals.

The May-June 2008 issue of the Chaar Soo carried a separate section on Ralph Russell -- the British scholar of Urdu who died in the second week of September this year. The July-August edition also included a section on Dr. Khalique Anjum -- a well-known Indian scholar who has written, edited and compiled sixty books and has been serving as secretary-general of the Indian Society for the Promotion of Urdu for the past 34 years.

The current issue of the journal has brought out a 59-page section on Dr. Muniruddin Ahmad is an eminent name in the contemporary Urdu world. An poet, fictionist and translator, he has been living in Germany for the past half a century and remained associated with Hamburgh University for 29 years. He also taught at the German Oriental Institute. In addition to a number of research articles Dr. Ahmad has nineteen books in Urdu, German, Persian and Arabic to his credit.

 

Reliving Sindh

Jetho Mangaldas Girlani is not very well known in his literary circles. He was appointed Justice of Peace in Karachi district in 1946 at the age of 18. The Partition forced him to migrate from his home province, Sindh, to settle in the Indian city of Hyderabad. He is now a famous poet of the subcontinent with, among other writings, two collection of English poetry to his credit. He also writes poetry in his mother tongue Sindhi. The publication of Sindhi Ratan, an English quarterly, is another expression of his love for Sindh and Sindhi language. The journal was founded by him in 2000.

Girglam translated the poetry of renowned Sindhi Sheikh Ayaz, published by the Indian Institute of Sindhology. Dr. Adal Soomro, a respected Sindhi poet who heads Sheikh Ayaz Chair at Khaipur's Shah Abdul Latif University, has now brought out a new edition of the book under the title The immortal Poetry of Sheikh Ayaz. The book is dedicated to the poet who awakened Sindhi conscientiousness and revived Sindhi literature.

 

|Home|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|


BACK ISSUES