A search for self – by – Muneeza Shamsie

A search for self

By Muneeza Shamsie
Authors: Dawn , October 01, 2006

(Symposium note: A must read article on a master writer and critic Zulfikar Ghose, with a poem by him on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)

Zulfikar Ghose

Zulfikar Ghose occupies a unique place in Pakistani letters. He is the only writer of Pakistani origin to have produced such an extensive, varied and accomplished body of English language poetry, fiction and criticism. His one novel about Pakistan The Murder of Aziz Khan had such a powerful impact, that a Pakistani readership of the 1960s still remember him for that one book. In that oppressive era no one dared criticise the state: Ghose’s portrayal of rampant corruption and social injustice touched a deep chord. He described Pakistan’s crude new capitalism of the 1950s and his plot revolved around a poor Punjab farmer systematically destroyed by ruthless industrialists. His was the first cohesive Pakistani English language novel written in modern English and was filled with poetic images about the land and its people, to which he returned with his intricate, eleventh novel, The Triple Mirror of the Self.

“I am very conscious of the art of the novel, he said My literary ancestors go back to Cervantes, Boccacio and The Arabian Nights, and also Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov, Becket. I don’t see any point in writing a novel unless I am worthy of these people. My greatest passion in fiction has been Proust in recent years because of the way he constructs his sentences. I like Conrad because I like his prose. I am not interested in ideas, in the end it is the music of the language that matters.

He is biting in his criticism of current literary hype and the veneration accorded to writers for reasons of geography, political correctness, ethnicity and other non-literary criteria. He believes language and form is paramount and has often said that all he has tried to do is to produce good literature. A contemporary of V.S. Naipaul he is an early example of the diasporic writer who defines himself through the use of language, writing and storytelling. However, people often question his identity: he was born in Sialkot in 1935, grew up in Mumbai, migrated to Britain, lived and taught at the University of Texas at Austin, but writes mostly about South America. Yet he perceives his life as an endless exile from his native land. He writes and speaks with passion about Pakistan and the landscapes of his childhood in Punjab as well as the sense of continuity, history and belonging he experiences when he visits ancient Taxila. He said “I would not hazard to guess how or if identity becomes clearer over the years, but it is just a sense of a place to which your soul belongs.

A soft spoken, informal man with a quiet sense of humour, accompanied often by a twinkle in his eye, Zulfikar Ghose was in Pakistan recently, after 16 years, to visit his sisters in Lahore. He gave an illuminating literary talk in Karachi and read new poems, including a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali. He spoke a little about himself too. He explained that his father, Khwaja Mohammed Ghaus, frequented Europe on business trips once, but Europeans could not pronounce Ghaus — so he changed it to Ghose.

At seven, Zulfikar Ghose moved with his family from Sialkot to Bombay, a city he loved as he did the “the wonderful, magical Arabian Sea”. He joined the Don Bosco School and his school friends included Shashi Kapoor. Partition coincided with Ghose’s near-fatal illness but was traumatic personally because he suddenly found himself regarded as an alien Muslim. In 1952, his family migrated to London. Ghose joined a Grammar School in Chelsea, which nurtured his two great passions: poetry and cricket. He had started writing poetry in India at 14 but “the accident of going to England at 17 and to a school where the headmaster was a Shakespeare scholar and English teacher shaped his literary sensibilities. He was introduced to the finest classics and also encouraged to read contemporary writers such as T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. This would not have happened in India or Pakistan,” Ghose said.

In 1959, he graduated from Keele University, edited an anthology of poetry from British universities and forged a historic friendship with BS Johnson (1933-73). They would critique each other’s work and talk endlessly about literature. “BS Johnson wrote short stories and I didn’t, but we felt nothing was happening with the short story in English: it was stagnant — and we should revive it! The arrogance of youth!” he laughed.

Ghose and Johnson co-authored a story collection A Statement Against Corpses for which Ghose wrote his first fiction. He spoke warmly of Johnson who became famous as an experimental writer, but shockingly commited suicide. Ghose and his wife, the Brazilian artist Helena de la Fontaine came to London for the publication of Johnson’s topical biography two years ago. The couple had married in London in 1964 and Ghose first saw Helena’s homeland, Brazil in 1966 and it reminded him a great deal of his own. Interestingly, their work has a similar kinship: the images in his novels and in her works of art often “overflow into each other” through a rather subtle, subconscious process.

In 1961/2 The Observer sent Ghose to Pakistan to cover the MCC tour. He travelled extensively across East and West Pakistan and felt greatly at home, but could not reconcile himself to military rule. The notion of a paradise lost to tyranny, corruption and greed suggested the plot for The Murder of Aziz Khan. Meanwhile he published a first poetry volume and a first novel, as well as a memoir which reflects the themes of alienation, dispossession and quest running through his oeuvre. His poems appeared in Oxford University Press’ (OUP) pioneering anthologies of Pakistani English poetry and in the 1972 Penguin Modern Poets 25: Gavin Ewart, Zulfikar Ghose, BS. Johnson. The same year, his third poetry volume appeared. His Selected Poems published by OUP consists of poems written between 1959-1989 which reveal the development of Ghose’s increasingly sophisticated verse and its link with the landscapes of his fiction.

He is a distinguished “writer’s writer” and does not feel any need to have a literary ancestor from his “ethnic” background. He declared, “I am not an anthropologist,” but expressed admiration and affection for the Indian novelist, Raja Rao, a colleague at the University of Texas at Austin. Ghose also spoke of his now-famous literary correspondence with the American novelist, Thomas Berger. He introduced Ghose to many significant books; Ghose recommended South American novelists to him. “The most important is Machado de Assis who lived in the second half the 19th century,” he said. “He is Brazilian and as important as Joyce, Kafka and Chekov and yet he is not known as he should be.”

The Ghose-Berger letters, spanning 20 years, are now preserved at the university. Berger’s picaresque novel Little Big Man (made into a haunting film) suggested the structure for Ghose’s historical trilogy, The Incredible Brazilian which developed from images triggered off by an anthropologist’s account of 18th-century Brazil. The trilogy received great critical acclaim and was translated into 20 languages; it reconstructs Brazil’s story through the reincarnations of Gregorio, its narrator. The whole does have a clear subcontinental resonance, but Ghose made the explicit connection between South America and South Asia in The Triple Mirror of The Self which welds autobiographical elements with grand, philosophical themes. This clever, surrealist tale of exile and migration across four continents revolves around the narrator’s quest for his core, his essential self and takes him backwards in time to Mumbai and ultimately the Punjab: the book begins and ends with mirror images of the Andes and the Hindu Kush.

Ghose compares the process of writing to a spiritual quest, culminating in self-revelation. Discussing his 1998 story collection Veronica and the Gongora Passion, he explained that his story “A Mediterranean tale” about a boy Abdul Bassam Saeed, who was stolen from his parents in a desert, but rose to great militiary heights and fell in love, began with a sentence that came to Ghose’s mind: “But by now I have seen all illusions.” He played around with it, until it became the story’s first sentence, but months passed. He read a lot, while “listening as usual to Nusrat and the Sabri Brothers” and became interested in the idea of Sufism, beauty and God until images appeared, inspired by the books, music and his own Mediterranean experiences. The subject matter “resolved itself” and he created a story about “the illusion of life and spiritual expression.” He added, “This is how a story emerges. The first draft showed me what my mind was seeking. Then came the rhythm, the imagistic content and the shaping of the language, which had to have imaginative power.”

There is some truly fine writing in Veronica. Each story was different. Brazil, Peru, America, Britain, Spain, India, Pakistan — Ghose has gathered up all these countries and a myriad of characters and spun them into this one collection, with that precision and control that characterises his work.


How sweet upon the tongue, Mohammed’s name,
you sang, and the chorus, like a crowd incited
by an orator, repeated the line, its united
voice charged with ecstasy. Then, clapping hands
and a quick sharp prelude on the harmonium,

you broke out with Ali, Ali, Ali–O who can
discover the name of the great God who first
does not call out Ali, Ali, Ali! In the concert
hall even the unbelievers clapped in time
with your chorus, driven wild by your voice,

and saw visions reserved for the faithful.
But then the next thing I hear you are dead.
Life spent devoted to praising God in song,
God’s very breath in your voice, audiences
from Tokyo across Europe to New York shivered

when without knowing the words they understood
your Punjabi, My eyes await your arrival,
for not the words but your voice brought intelligence
of God, your voice, Nusrat, made us all lovers
of beauty and truth, two of God’s names, your

voice raised us and you took us, shy as brides, to Him.
But then the next thing I hear you are dead.
God, this invisible hacker who transmits
a seductive programme, gaudies the brain’s screen
with visions, only to launch a killer virus!— Zulfikar Ghose

POETRY: The Loss of India (1964), Jets From Orange (1967), The Violent West (1972), A Memory of Asia (1984), Selected Poems (1991).

MEMOIRS: The Confessions of a Native Alien (1965).

STORY COLLECTIONS: Statement Against Corpses with B.S. Johnson (1964), Veronica and the Gongora Passion (1998).

NOVELS: The Contradictions (1966), The Murder of Aziz Khan (1967), The Incredible Brazilian Trilogy (1972/75/78), Crump’s Terms (1975), Hulme’s Investigations into the Bogart Script (1981), A New History of Torments (1982), Don Bueno (1984), Figures of Enchantment (1986), The Triple Mirror of Self (1992).

CRITICISM: Hamlet, Prufrock and Language (1978), The Fiction of Reality (1983), Shakespeare’s Mortal Knowledge (1993).


Thanks to Dawn: Authors; October 1, 2006


A poem for the people of Pakistan: ابھی کچھ لوگ زندہ ہیں Abhi Kuchh Log Zinda heiN , with Translation

I share my poem with the people of Pakistan and dedicate it to them. It is in Urdu, and I have also translated it.

For those who may understand Urdu but can not read it, I have added an audio file of my recitation. Please click the audio link to listen:

Abhi Kuchh Log Zinda HeiN

Click below to listen.

Poem by Munir Saami, translation edited by Yasser Pervaiz,

ابھی کچھ لوگ زندہ ہیں


دیارِ اجنبی سے میں

پلٹ کر اپنے گھر آیا تو یہ دیکھا

کسی وحشت زدہ کوچہ میں

اک سہما ہوا بچہ

بہت سرگوشیوں میں کہہ رہا تھا

اے مسافر سُن

ہوائے تُند خُو نے شہر میں انساں کو مارا ہے

گلستان کا ہر ایک گوشہ اجاڑا ہے

مگر کچھ  کُنج باقی ہیں

انہی کُنجوں میں خستہ تن ابھی کچھ لوگ بیٹھے ہیں

جو اک دوجے کی ہر شام و سَحَر ڈھارس بندھاتے ہیں

جنوں کی بات کرتے ہیں، وفا کے گیت گاتے ہیں

تہی داماں ہیں ،لیکن آس کے پرچم اڑاتے ہیں

ابھی کچھ کُنج باقی ہیں

ابھی کچھ لوگ زندہ ہیں

ابھی کچھ لوگ زندہ ہیں


We are still alive!
I returned home once

from a foreign land,

and found a child in a deserted lane,

scared and alone.

He spoke to me in a whispered lament,

 “O traveller,

violent storms have killed all,

and uprooted all the flowerbeds.

But there are still some groves,

where shattered souls survive.

Helping and consoling each other,

with firm resolve,

and singing songs of love.

Their clothes are tattered,

yet they keep raising the banners of

defiant hope.
We are still alive,

we are still alive,
O traveller!”


وہ جو ہیں پروردہ ء شب، وہ جو ہیں ظُلمت پرست۔۔۔۔۔۔ Knights of Darkness, Worshippers of Tyranny

My Urdu column published at Urdu Times, USA and Canada , can be read as a PDF file by clicking the following link;

ظلمت پرست۔۔ Zulmat Paraast

Following is the English synopsis:

Knights of Darkness, Worshippers of Tyranny
Many readers may not remember the name of Suroor Bara Bankvi, a distinguished Urdu poet, but those who know Urdu poetry would find his lines that I translate , as heart rendering. He said that, “Knights of Darkness and Worshippers of Tyraany”, will always follow the horrible dark nights”. If you read these lines in the perspective of God gifted land of Pakistan, you may understand the reasons of why Pakistan has become an abode of pain and misery. You may also recognize the princess of darkness who have been behind it. You will also then understand the lines of another Pakistani poet, who wrote that “Night rules the courtyards of my homeland”.

If you contemplate on the history of Pakistan, you will find that since its inception it has been overtly and covertly ruled by the Knights of Darkness. You will finds that these are the people who have raided your lives and fortunes in the darkness of nights. There have also been those who have resisted this tyranny and oppression.

We must remember that in whichever country the tyrannous horde raid its people, there will always be those who courageously oppose oppression. And these resisters will be declared as traitors and forever maligned. In Pakistan such resisters include, Jalib, Hasan Nasir, Fehmida Riaz, Ghaffar Khan, Baloch activists, oppressed Pakistanis, activists of human rights, intellectuals, and writers. These are the ones who expose tyranny and snatch the veils from the faces of the tyrants. After reading these lined many will also call me, who is only a student of affairs, a traitor. Such is the practice of worshippers of darkness.

No one can deny that the land of Pakistan has remained oppressed and backward since its creation. During various decades it has been ruled by those who thrive on public hangings and flogging of activists on the streets. It is but natural to call these oppressors as heartless tyrants.

You may also add to the above the scenes of young and old men being paraded in the streets with their eyes blindfolded by their own shirts, by heavily armed security personnel, and their pictures and videos are shown on media. You can also add to these thousands who are illegally abducted. If ever a court makes any hue and cry on this, then their tortured corpses are thrown on the street. These include, Bloch, Sindhi activist, and also those who declare Urdu as their mother tongue. One can also add to this many a journalists who are killed with impunity for their reporting, and whose own media houses do not even wink an eye on their murders. Those who practice such barbarity can only be called despotic satraps.

We must remember that those despots who have directly and illegally ruled over Pakistan, include Iskanadar Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yaha Khan , Zia ul Haq, and Pervez Musharraf. All were generals of Pakistan’s security establishment. Since they raided the kismet of the nation under the cover of nights, they are the Knights of Darkness that one must remember.

One must also always recognize their facilitators and hanger-ons. These are the bureaucrats of the government.

We must also remember that these two usurpers have always bad mouthed the civilian politicians, declaring them as corrupt and incompetent and responsible for Pakistan’s wretched backwardness. These tyrants have engrained this mantra on the minds of people. This has been going on since the very first days of Pakistan. They sugar coat this accusation with such sweet poison that people will not believe any other narrative.

We must review the period during 1947 to 1956, and try to dig out the now nearly forgotten name of Malik Ghulam Mohammed, a bureaucrat who became the 3rd governor general of Pakistan. He is the classical example of Peter’s Principle under which one rises to the highest levels of incompetence. He messed up the Kashmir issue, and imposed the first Martial Law during anti-Ahmadi riots. He is the forefather of all the bureaucrats of Pakistan who work with the security establishment to rule the people. We should also not forget the name of Justice Munir, who first used the Doctrine of Necessity that continues to guide the judges of Pakistan who came after him, and have protected nearly all military revolutions that destroyed the constitutionalism in Pakistan.
People may not even realize that Ayub Khan was appointed as the first military commander of East Bengal or East Pakistan. The same East Pakistan where Pakistani army surrendered during the tenure of Yaha Khan who was the successor of Ayub Khan as Pakistan’s Commander in Chief.

We should also note that Ayub Khan became the head of Pakistan army in 1951, and forced himself as the President of Pakistan in 1958

To comprehend the symbiotic relations of Pakistan’s bureaucracy and its defence establishment, one must review the times of Iskandar Mirza, a major general of army, who became a secretary of defence, minister of interior, governor general ,and then the president of Pakistan. It was he who promulgated the first constitution in 1956, and then declared Martial Law. Once you understood this, you can deduce as to how Pakistan’s military and bureaucracy manipulated the political system.

Those who parrot the corruption of politicians in Pakistan since its inception should ask as to what kind of corruption prevailed there during 1946 and 1958. They should also inquire as to what kind of corruption Fatima Jinnah practiced that made Ayub Khan contest her in his own engineered elections. Those who call the Muhajirs (people whose mother tongue is Urdu) as criminals, should never forget the victory parade in Karachi led by Ayub Khan’s son Gohar Ayub. That was the beginning of ethnic strife that has ever tormented urban Sind.

In order to understand the misery and troubles in Pakistan, we must refresh our memories about secession of Bangla Desh, Pakistan’s participation in Afghan Jiahd, Zia ul Haq’s Islamization policies, purposely entrenched inequities, and economic demise. We must remember that Pakistan’s is ruled by a dual system of governance, one by the defence establishment and the other by its bureaucracy.

Defence expenditure is a major burden of our economy, it may be and must be debated. But we must also note that a significant portion of defence spending is allotted to the civilian budget. A recent report revealed that several billions rupees on account of military pensions was drawn from civil accounts. If the people lose their resources in this manner, should it be the politicians who must hang?
We hear a lot about the corruption of Zardari and Sharifs. Do we ever question as to who their facilitators are. Many a times, it is the bureaucrats who collude with them. How many such officers have been punished for it. Have we ever questioned as to how retired army officers are inducted in civil service, in diplomacy, and NGOs, and what kind of corruption do they undertake? Have we ever investigated as to which retired officer benefitted from Hub Power plant, or who benefitted from various defence purchases? Most recently two senior army officers were found guilty of massive embezzlement to the tune of multi billion rupees, why were they not jailed, and why their property was not confiscated?

In a country where ignorance and darkness prevails, we accuse that those whose mother tongue is Urdu exploited Pakistan’s resources for the first eleven years of its existence. What kind of injustices they committed that their generations are made to pay for it forever?

You have to find the answers for all of the above yourself. Knight of Darkness, and Worshippers of Tyranny will not help you. They will indulge into foul language, and will use the pedantic phrases that Imran Khan has spread around.

We have tried to point out the true tormentors of Pakistan, now it is up to you to pursue it.

We are content in the dream that Suroor Bara Bankvi saw, when he said, “I know the stretch of the dark night always ends in the morning” . Long Live Pakistan!



Who killed the girl saint of Karachi? By Hasan Mujtaba (translated from Urdu)

Who killed the girl saint of Karachi? By Hasan Mujtaba

(An attempted translation of an Urdu column published at Jang, Pakistan, April 30, 2015)

Mummies and Daddies, living across the Clifton Bridge of Karachi, get to know about the troubles and travails of most other citizens only when their maidservants or drivers from Baloch Colony, Liyari, or New Karachi, tell them about the misery that their own friends and acquaintances faced that day.

Or as my friend tells me, “Mummies and Daddies felt the miseries only when  a shortage of fresh vegetable occurred at Agha super market.” Only then they realized that something bad has happened in the city. In such a situation a girl like Sabeen proved that they she was a saint.

Sabeen Mahmud the saint was murdered. We cannot name the event at T2F from which she was returning when murdered. But we can say that she was returning from a ‘banned’ seminar that she arranged at T2F. A banned seminar, about a banned issue, a banned people, with banned speakers.

Sabeen Mahmud left after that banned seminar, in a tiny Suzuki car with her mother (she was not an elite that she would ride in a double cabined land cruiser with security guards). And then at a traffic light, five bullets came. It happened in Defence Society, and for the ‘believers’, the whole world is a Defence Society.

The message was loud and clear. “Anyone who would try to discuss the ‘banned issue’ and the banned people would be despatched to the hereafter”.

Let’s not utter the name of the banned uncle. But we can utter the name of our ‘atomic hero’, who is the uncle of the nation. Even if we do not take the name of a ‘banned people’, Pakistan will still be called a multi-racial state. Now a days we also hear about a “Deep Sate”.

After Sabeen’s death we also received a message that she was not murdered by Uncle Type of people.

Let’s not speculate who killed Sabeen Mahmud. Did US, Isreal, India, Taliban, or MQM killed Sabeen??? Or did Sabeen kill herself?

Was Sabeen like Razia Bhatti, who my friend Ijaz Mangi used to call  a snake charmer of truth, putting her hand in the snake- pit, every day.

Was she a child playing on the lake, who, according to a Sindhi proverb could drown any day?

Or did she use to ride on a motor bike in the well of death?

Or was she an acrobat walking on a tight rope across a large and deep lake full of alligators?

Or was she a circus girl of Karachi, who used to put her head in the mouth of a ‘tamed lion’ each night? And then one night the lion ate her. Who can now tell the lion that we smell the blood of a girl in your breath?


Was she killed because she used the eight letters from Urdu or English alphabet? If taking the name of Baluchistan and discussing its problems and misery is condemnable by death, then we should say good bye to the country and mourn for it and not just for Sabeen.

High civil and military officers say, “No it is not true, we did not kill Sabeen”. “We have better things to do.” Then they begin listing their good deeds.

But the murder of this girl across the Clifton Bridge is as high profile as that of Mir Murtaza Bhutto.

These two murder mysteries have one similarity. Curious and anxious people began naming the perpetrator in less than 24 hours. Just like they suspected the name of Murtaza Bhuttos’s killer in less time than it took the killer to shave his mustache. In Sabeen’s case, people also began naming one suspect.

We do not say who killed Sabeen, because we do not know. In a city like Karachi or even in Pakistan it is difficult to say. Because to say such things is to invite immediate death.

But we can ask:

Did the same people kill Sabeen, who killed Liaqat Ali Khan?

Did those who kill Hasan Nasir, also killed Sabeen?

It is speculated that Ayub Kirmani the information officer who leaked the news of Hasan Nasir’s death was also killed, and it was declared that he committed suicide.

Was Sabeen killed by those who killed Akbar Bugti? Or those who killed Akbar Bugti’s sister? Or those who killed Nazir Asi? Or those who killed Saleem Shahzad? Or those who burnt Maqsood Qureshi alive? Or those who fired at Hamid Mir?

An experienced crime reporting journalist in Karachi told me that, the investigators of Sabeen’s murder are very scared. For them it is an open-and-shut case. Is it a case that scares the investigators?

Someone wrote at social media that it was the murder of the “Koel” of the city.

Murder of the fan of Jimmy Hendrix, Apple Mac user, and computer geek, girl-saint of Karachi, is the murder of Karachi itself, a Karachi that refuses to be born. This is the murder of Karachi of tomorrow.

The flag bearer of free speech, who created a Hyde Park Corner in Karachi was murdered. Speech itself was murdered. Are some voices more powerful than an atom bomb that these need to be murdered? It does not happen in free societies. It is impossible to kill the spirit of freedom.

When will the uncles understand this?

Now this girl has become a character of the modern folklore. One of her friends has called her a Post Modern Hippy.

If the uncles did not kill Sabeen Mahmud, then whoever killed her has played a trick on uncles.

It is because they had the primary responsibility of protecting Sabeen Mahmud. They knew that the story of this seminar could become the noose around their necks. To protect Sabeen from T2F to her home was not as difficult as protecting a nuclear bomb. If they are not involved then they should find the culprit. They should sweep under their own bed.

They should do it before an investigating officer puffing again and again on a half smoked cigarette declares that, “it is a matter of conflict between national and foreign intelligence agencies”. Or with a foresight declares that this girl with dangerous thoughts and vision was murdered by the agents of Black Water.
She was murdered because she wanted to raise the birds and words of free speech.
Dear people, say something:

Say that it is not “safe” to write a poem like this,

Say that under this roof it is not appropriate to mention

a song, a movie, pen, or paper,

or to sip coffee.

O Karachi say that an un-armed girl,

who was telling your story,

was a danger to the powerful and mighty people.
Say that your lips are not free!

(Original in Urdu was published at http://jang.com.pk/jang/apr2015-daily/30-04-2015/col5.htm)

Malala’s Nobel Prize Could Make Her Exile Permanent

Sharing my article at Huffington Post.
You can also read it at this link

Malala’s Nobel Prize Could Make Her Exile Permanent

While the announcement that Malala Yusufzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Kailash Satyarthi of India was greeted with jubilation across the world jubilant, many in her native Pakistan have shown open hostility towards her while her admirers fear that she may now never be able to return to her birthplace.


Their fears are based on many factors, which include the treatment of the first Pakistani Nobel Laureate, physicist Abdul Salam, who remained a pariah in his home country because he belonged to the hated Ahmadiya sect of Islam.

Since she was shot two years ago, only Pakistanis who believe in liberal ideas, women’s rights, and education for all have praised Malala’s struggle. And these unfortunately are no more than a handful.

In a country overtaken by Islamists with an absolutist mindset, a very large segment of the population considers Malala’s struggle and her near death shooting as some kind of Western and even Zionist conspiracy. Most Pakistanis consider Malala as an American agent who is out to hurt and defame Pakistan.

The fact her father has engaged high-priced public relations companies to manage his daughter’s affairs has merely added to the credibility of her naysayers.

Winning the prize jointly with India’s activist for children’s rights, Kailash Satyarthi, is certain to add fuel to fire in a country that has always considered India as its arch enemy, where all the efforts of reconciliation by well-meaning people including Nawaz Sharif the current prime minister of Pakistan have been thwarted by Pakistani establishment, led many a times by its army.

It is ironic that when Malala was hurt her treatment was made possible only because of the direct intervention of the then Pakistani president Asif Zardari and the Chief of Army staff General Ashfaq Kayani. They are not there anymore.

Even though the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has greeted Malala on her achievement, he is powerless to protect Malala in the country where the governor of Punjab province was killed by his own bodyguard because he was trying to protect a victim accused of blasphemy. The murderer has since become a folk hero.

Ironically Pakistan’s Imran Khan has also greeted Malala, but in the province ruled by his political party, Malala’s book, “I am Malala” has been banned .

After the Nobel Prize announcement people on Twitter world have been asking:
“@ImranKhanPTI will you lift the ban on @MalalaFund book now or still afraid of Talibans?”

And there has been no response from Imran Khan. Another tweet addressed to Imran Khan declared that Malala is an enemy of Islam:

“@ImranKhanPTI I am Muslim first.Her derogatory remarks against Islam in her book could have stirred reaction. Banning was right.”

While Malala’s award has received a mixed reaction in Pakistan, the statement for the arch fundamentalist religious party reflects the general attitude there, Liaqat Baloch, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a rightwing religious-political party, said:

“Malala is a Pakistani student and she is getting a lot of support and patronage abroad. On the surface this is not a bad thing and we welcome this, and there is no objection to the award, but the attack on Malala and then her support in the West creates a lot of suspicions. There are lots of girls in Pakistan who have been martyred in terrorist attacks, women who have been widowed, but no one gives them an award. So these out of the box activities are suspicious.”

This is the kind of mindset that has driven the Pakistani public opinion not just there but also within the Pakistani expatriate community in Canada and the U.S..

When the petition to award the Nobel Prize was circulated last year, it was a surprise to note that only the first generation of Pakistani expatriates signed the petition and the majority of second-generation Pakistani youth were conspicuous by their absence as the signatories.

A faction of Pakistani Taliban who had the sympathies of Pakistani politician Imran Khan, and who were behind the attack on Malala, have again issued a statement condemning her. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said:

“No wonder on love and sympathy of infidels for Malala as (President) Obama, a mass murderer of Muslims is her hero and her tireless efforts against Islam.”

It is this apathy and widely prevalent conspiracy theories that will make it impossible for Malala to ever return home.

Her fate will be not too different from an earlier Mulsim woman Nobel Laureate Tawakol Kamran who had to move out of Yemen after threats to her life in Yemen, and was granted Turkish citizenship.

Pakistan, Azaadi e Taqreer, Tehrer, ٰIzhar, Sahafat —-پاکستان، آزادیئ تقریر، تحریر، اظہار، صحافت

My latest Op-Ed published in Urdu Times, USA, UK, Canada on April 23, 2014 , in Urdu language can be read at the PDF file by clicking the link below, and an English synopsis is also shared as follows:

Azaadi e Sahafat


The Op-Ed is in the context of recent murderous attack on Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir and the accusations that Pakistan’s supreme intelligence agency, the ISI may have been involved in this attack. It condemns the attack and offers sympathy to Hamid Mir.

In this Op-Ed I share reference to various covenants and charters and constitutions sanctifying the Freedom of Speech and Expression around the world. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the US constitution, and also the constitution of Pakistan.

I present the argument that Freedom of Speech and Press in Pakistan severely restricted by the very wordings of the article 19 of the constitution.  It is these restrictions that have never allowed the true freedom of speech in Pakistan.

I also refer to the books by the esteemed late journalist Zamir Niazi who documented in details the methods of controlling the Press in Pakistan. It is proposed that there have been some nominal positive changes in this regards since those books were written.

It is argued that most of the Urdu journalists and media persons have not shown the responsibility that the right of freedom of expression also demands. They indulge in shouting matches at TV programs and declare any one disagreeing with them as traitors.

It is suggested that Pakistan is among the most dangerous countries where scores of journalists are killed each years. It quotes Ali Dayal Hasan, who has recently written, “We, especially we who challenge murderers and torturers, are only alive at their discretion.”

The Op-Ed also criticises Hamid Mir, who in his Urdu columns at Jang has adopted language and opinions bad mouthing secular writers and writers in English, and insinuated that criticising Jinnah and Iqbal is subversion and treachery. His harsh criticisms of Pakistan’s liberal intellectuals is too obvious in his opinions.. He attempts to show the distinguished poet Josh Malih Abadi as a stooge of India. It also asks the readers to review various Urdu columns by Hamid Mir and determine if he also propagates a right wing agenda that has so harmed Pakistan. It is suggested that it is the language and opinions like these that have emboldened the extremists who can deem any one as an enemy of Islam and Pakistan, and a traitor who could be killed with impunity.

I suggest that Hamid Mir’s employers have always adopted hypocritical opportunism in extracting favors and privileges from the source of power in Pakistan that allows them to pay huge salaries to their staff like Hamid Mir. I also opine that it is unfortunate but journalists like Hamid Mir and the institutions like Jang and Geo are now tasting their own medicine.

The Op-Ed hopes that after this murderous attack, Hamid Mir would join forces with the Pakistani human rights activists,  and brave intellectuals who have opposed extremism and military with sincerity, and carry a true struggle for Freedom of Expression in Pakistan. Otherwise he would still be considered a pawn in the chess game of power players.



Wuhi Madaari, wuhi tamaasha, putlooN kay kirdaar wuhi —وہی مداری، وہی تماشا، پتلوں کے کردار وہی

Munir Saami’s Op-ed in Urdu language, published at Urdu Times, USA/Canada/UK/Europe

To read the Urdu file click here:

Wuhi Madari, wuhi tamasha

The same old Puppeteer, the puppets, and the playbook

Discusses the non constitutional steps being sought and forced on the democratic set up in Pakistan by a Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri, who led a large procession to Islamabad and a sit in close to the parliament house.
Questions as to how this cleric could afford hundreds of millions of rupees for the organization of this massive demonstration, that includes a bullet proof container that is serving as the office and stage of this cleric.

Exposes the past of this cleric who colluded with army dictator Gen Musharraf and later dissociated from him and settled in Canada. Also discusses the decision of a Judicial tribunal that rules against him and established that the cleric indulged in false statement and accusation. Qadri says that this was not a judicial but a biased administrative tribunal. However he never appealed the ruling in any superior court.

Question the titles of Professor and Sheikh ul Islam (Grand Scholar of Islam) that are used for Mr.; Qadri.

Discusses the role of a non constitutional and non democratic establishment in Pakistan that has toppled democratic governments of the past and that never allowed any elected government to complete its term. That past such adventures were led by General Iskandar Miraza, Ayub, Yaha Khan, Zia ul Haq, and Gen Musharraf.

Speculates that recent demonstration and sit in led by Qadri and a decision of Pakistan Supreme court to arrest the Pak PM on corruption charges may be linked, since the optics reflect such synchronicity.

Mentions that the non constitutional establishment takes advantage of unfortunate corruption by some politicians to malign all Pakistani politicians including some very decent and non corrupt politicians like Aitizaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Farooq Sattar, Haider Abbas Rizvi, and others. It also misinforms the public about  democracy.

Shares the fact that Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Asma Jahangir, local and foreign journalists are fearful and expose the non constitutional actions to topple a democratic system.

Asks if the Sufi (Mystic) credentials that Mr. Qadir flaunts to win adherents and followers, and gives the examples of some very well known contemporary Sufis from Pakistan and other countries whose character may show a mirror to Mr. Qadri. Invites Mr Qadri and his followers to read the pamphlet titled “Who is Sufi”, by respected Sufi Bawa Muhaiyaddeen whose tomb is situated in Philadelphia. advises that this pamphlet can be read at www.bmf.org


Advises the people to be on alert to defend democracy in Pakistan.