The Sacrifices for our Green

imageThis Ramadan among other talks, I heard one from Maulana Tariq Jamil, which resonated deeply within me. It was simply because of its similarity to my father’s history. I wrote about my father’s experience at the time of Partition in Newsline Magazine a few years ago, in the form of a letter to Pakistan.(https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=Letter+to+Pakistan)

Today, the sixty eighth Independence Day of Pakistan, I shall relate what the Maulana said, as it is a very relevant message for those who love Pakistan. I translate and paraphrase :-

‘When I was young, I used to listen to various personal stories about Partition and they were so earth shaking, that at times I felt that my heart would burst. This is the only country which was made on the base of an ideology, no cement or construction involved, just a foundation built on the bones of six hundred thousand people, who sacrificed their lives in a few weeks.

We are local people or have spent too many generations after the Partition, so we did not see or taste that sacrifice, unlike the original migrants. My father’s friend was one such migrant from Jullundur and once while sitting with him, he told us his own story, which I narrate now.

When he left Jullundur, his whole family had been separated, due to chaos and calamity all around. He was very young and the only one who survived. One single soul, in search of Pakistan; trying to hide in the fields during the day and traveling by night. One immediate and compelling objective; to survive the ire of the Sikhs, who were on rampage in the three bordering districts of the Punjab.

Eventually he approached the new border, at the banks of the Sutlej which in August was a raging monsoon river. In front was death by drowning or possible safety and at the back was death at the hands of the Sikhs. So, he grabbed a piece of wood and jumped into the river, risking drowning. As the torrent took him mid river, he saw that the whole Sutlej was full of bodies. Children, young, old, women and men. They had arrived at their final destination and their sacrifice was complete. Now the Sutlej had become a coffin and grave to their bodies. The same was true of the Chenab and Ravi in those few days, all three had become the bed of the migrant soul. But he (this particular young kid) managed to cross the Sutlej into Pakistan and survived to tell his story years later.

We should read our history. It tells us how we started and where we are going. This country was given everything – soul, soil, minerals and people. Unfortunately, it was just sucked into this one cancer. Its called insincerity and dishonesty. It could have been a Jannat on this earth. You know, this country has been bled dry, not by the little people, or the uneducated, or the workers. No, this sacrilege has been committed by very high class people, who are also well educated. Simply, they obtained degrees, but did not learn humanity.

Such big sacrifices in vain, by the many. All we are left with is thorns; we never really saw a spring. Had there not been some great humans, then the country would long ago have been sold. Fortunately, in the far corners there is still some light and it reflects in places. Somehow this caravan still proceeds on its journey due to these good people, despite the evil perpetrated by the so-called privileged.

One day those six hundred thousand will rise out of their graves, and demand restitution from all the insincere, whether they be here in Pakistan or settled abroad. There is no escaping this eventuality, because there has been ‘amanat may khayanat’ here.’

For my part I pray and say Pakistan Zindabad. The sacrifice of the many shall not go waste. In-sha-Allah.

*translated and paraphrased from Maulana Tariq Jamil. All credits are due to him. The figure of six hundred thousand death is presumably only the Muslim number, as many Hindus and Sikhs also perished. Total figures vary, reaching upto 1.5 mn in some estimates.

The Karachi Moments

imageUnashamedly, for me Karachi has attachments which only happen, when you have spent your early life, memories and emotions in a place. I have written about this before, about how one would go through the art of living daily (https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/old-karachi-a-string-of-memories-from-days-gone-by/). But living is not just about eating, playing and being entertained. The soul needs nurturing also. It is this nourishment that I will try and remember here.

My nourishment and the grounding of my insides in the streets of Karachi, has so much to do with the culture and image of the place. Its got into my head and even today, when I look at my hometown, I look at it with a rose tinted glasses. Biased and unreal, but nevertheless, my perception.

Part of that imagery recalls the old, old Karachi. From pre-partition days. Archaic, but the landscape so enticing. The architecture of Elphinstone St and Victoria Rd. Those old style stone buildings. Most are gone now, but they left an impression! One building which survives today is the Karachi Grammar School building in Saddar. Huge thick stone walls, cold as hell in the winter, but the warmth of years and the embrace of history grips one. There was Mereweather Tower. I identified it with the bus conductors call of “Tower!Tower!”. But it was so much grander than a mere tower in reality, and when you saw it, the centuries smiled down from it.

There was Wazir Mansion, Katrak Mansion and a few more. Old, walls of stone, Gothic art mixed with God knows what. To me they smelled of age and richness. The ceilings high, the walls plain white and the ‘roshandaan’ such a characteristic of old days.

There were those old houses in Bath Island. Thick Walls made of stuff (sand and straw), which fascinated one and told such a story of life within. Termites had to be regularly battled on these walls, but they have survived a hundred and fifty years nevertheless. The lawns had these pepal trees. Massive ones, maybe a couple of hundred years old, having dropped their roots all over the place and grown and grown. They reminded me of Buddha and one envisions a holyman sitting under these trees thousands of years ago. Then there were those lovely old style houses, which don’t exist anymore. Why? Because we dont need the evening breeze anymore, nor do security concerns allow it. They would have a courtyard in the middle, and around it a square structure, with a patio all around and rooms behind the patio. The breeze would waft through, but then so could an intruder from outside. So such a structure is gone in today’s world.

A necessary part of those memories are old markets. Empress Market takes precedence. It was truly fit for a queen and inside I remember fondly the parchun walas shop. There were others; fish, vegetables, fruit, meat and chaai. Then there was Bohri Bazaar with its fascinating merchants, pots and pans, shoes and clothes outlets and in the middle of those winding lanes, Capital cinema. Bolton Market, burned down today, but what a place to recall. An old style market structure, with its old building and its old shops, selling many wholesale items. Old Kharadar with its small markets and apartments. Same as Burns Road (Bunz). Those balconies, from which day long women conversed with each other and with the people in the streets and hung baskets on ropes to purchase daily sustenance.

Lastly are the parks. Polo ground, Frere Hall, Jahangir Park, Hill Park, Jheel Park. No walls and children all over the place. Before and after Maghrib. Plenty of cricket and hockey taking place there. Also people having a picnic well into the evening, when it was very dark. No security concerns. But even more fascinating, there was greenery, including grass and trees. Some shrubbery too. Tell you what, I don’t remember seeing a water tanker in my childhood. But the greenery thrived. It means that water pipelines did exactly what they were supposed to do; they delivered water to everyone.

Alas, it all seems like a dream now. My old Karachi.

*the above books were with the compliments of SEED

Nations, don’t just happen

imageThe breaking news was as usual all about dire consequences of one event or the other. One gets used to it. This is the way of all channels and media, world over. Somehow, bad news travels fast, gets more attention and attracts people. Nothing like a good old disaster to get people animated. Anyway, here in Pakistan we have become de-sentisized, as we have plenty of bad news and on top of it, dozens of channels vying for breaking news. Grief!

All the bad news notwithstanding, I would like to add my two bits to the discussion of how things have deteriorated and we are in a mess. My personal take on it is that, it is nature taking its toll. Yes surprise, Nature!

In the past I have written on our nationhood and blamed our lack of belief in our vision. This lack of vision, a desire to be an aspirational Muslim homeland, got diluted and a desire to be a strong economic state took over. We got our wires crossed and really ended up doing neither. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=of+wings+and+visions) However, over time and after due consideration, while I still think we need a vision to take us further – otherwise there is nothing to hold us together – the reality is that nature is taking its toll.

Let me explain my statement, which I assure you is not an effort to be facetious. In the worlds written history, there have been nine great nations. There have been other good ones, but what we would classically call great, are those who have dominated their period in the world, added to knowledge and their traces are left in the working of the world even today. Historically they have lasted an average of two hundred and fifty years or more. Want me to count them out? Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, Turkistan, Britain, America; more or less chronologically and another interesting point; there have been no repeats. China might well turn out to be the first repeat.

Anyway, think of these nations. They were formed layer by layer. The Egyptians took thousands of years to come to a stage of absolute dominance. Same with the Romans. From the discovery of Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber to Julius Caesar was several hundreds of years. These years comprise a coming together, a homogeneity of purpose, a gathering of strength, conquest and then respect follows from other nations, that you are the leaders. Having reached this peak, the decline starts and at first society declines, then economics and finally the military strength dissipates. That is the round trip of a nation. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/in-the-expiry-of-nations-2/)

Now think back to August 1947. When India obtained independence they had a memory. They remembered the Aryans, Alexander as he came through the Khyber Pass, later the Huns, Mongols and Babur. India owned the Red Fort and Taj Mahal. All these they took as their own. This was as much their history, as Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka or Ranjit Singh. Their culture was a melting pot of homogeneity and in economics they were working together against adversity. So naturally it is easier to bond as a nation and have one identity.

Then there was Pakistan. We had a seven year history (from 1940 resolution), two varying lands and cultures- apart by fifteen hundred miles-, a western part which comprised borderland tribes, who had only shared history of invasions in common and were diverse otherwise. We had nothing binding us, other than a great principle and we competed for the same resources. This was running uphill against the flow of history and nature. No wonder, we shall take time! 67 years is a minuscule time period in history, a dot in time. We are children as a nation and still learning. When we get to our teens our time will be different and hopefully we will mature. It might involve another hundred years for these layers to form. In comparison to other stages of development of nations, I would say maybe we are like the Wild West of USA just now.

We shall get there In-sha-Allah. Just require patience and faith. The good will come through. Nations, don’t just happen.

My montage

imageThey say that life flashes by in seconds, when Malik-ul-maut comes calling. Shudder! We will all find out at the end of our time. The mercy of Allah prevail on us all.

In this case, for five decades I have watched this world. My montage flits by too and one sees existence (‘just life’) flash by. Its been like no other half century period in mankind’s written history. We have gone from manual to nano in a few decades. For some seven millennia before that, there was little change, then the wheel accelerated from 1750 plus and now bang, we are in warp speed.

Stepping out on a road in 1964, one sees wheels. Powered by basic engines, and simultaneously by camels, donkeys and horses. The roads are not crowded but there are no metros or flyovers, Simplicity prevails and yet there is some order.

Office technology is non existent. Brain, pen and paper and our own human engine drives work. Work is hard, but we do add columns and compile numbers. And when you go home, the old box like radio plays out music and news. Rarely one sees a flash of television, it is black and white, and what is presented is also simple and real, yet imaginative. Just hear the quality of music. Beatles, Rafi, Mehdi Hasan.

Similarly, step in an office and there are registers, pens, paper, pencils and workers pouring over these. What a strange place, no computers, no mobile phones, or calculators even. Not even a photo copier. But soft, there is the telex machine. It is the basis of our communication and we see telexes being flashed out to various places in the world.

Images of humans. They are not Shias, Sunnis or Punjabis or Muhajirs. Nor Ahmedis or Christians. Actually, the montage does not make clear who they are. Just humans! I can see the Brezhnev Doctrine, Johnson and Mao and Vietnam; USA; Communism, USSR and China. Fear and money. Lots of fear! In the background is de Gaulle and he is railing at the British, keeping them out of the European Common Market. And you also see Nasser from Egypt….smug and not knowing what will happen to him soon. But there is Shah Faisal and the Shah of Iran and they are leaning towards and listening with respect to Ayub, who towers over them. Pakistan stands respected in this comity of nations, the Muslim power of the world and people listen to us. In Washington they only think of the nuclear conflagration. They are not bothered about us at all. We are small fry. The Commies could take over and destroy the world while Muslims are backwards and minuscule.

The montage starts rolling quicker. It cascades by. Early computers, then digitalisation, see Walesa in Poland and then the Berlin Wall falling, Afghanistan, Thatcher, Reagan, Gorbachev, Shah of Iran lonely on Mexican beaches, carrying cancer inside. Sabra and Shatila and Israeli cruelty. Even then, no one cares. Bosnia, as evil and torturing as Gaza today. Oil and wealth. Lots of wealth!

Then 9/11. See the world change…we are now evil and hunted. Maybe dogs are better. Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, CIA, Mossad and cruelty. Lots of cruelty! Lots of treason! Our own rulers, mistreating their own, deserting them. Snakes! Israelis bomb Gaza hospitals, shelters and schools and no one says its wrong.

The world has changed these 50 years. We are advanced. Technology brings comfort. Automation and power. The human race can now rise to a level where it can spend time self actualising. Instead, our societies and families break up, drugs and spirits are overused, malnutrition for over a billion people, bombs galore, resident evil walks in and out of our homes and we do not recognise it. Decency is for imagery on Twitter and FB. Public imagery and media are dinosaurs and reality hides in blankets. We have everything material, but we have no substance. No wonder they talk of greater Israel, the Dajjal and the Mehdi. Lord help us. They know not what an evil period of bloodletting it will be. Wish we would slow down, where slow is preferred, less is preferred and happiness is supreme.

Bob Dylan “the times they are a’changing”

The picture is from dreamstime.com, a free picture site.

The Trials of Ibrahim (as)

Read more of this post

Letter to Pakistan

pak flag

Printed in Newsline Magazine – August 2012

Dear Pakistan,

I dreamt last night of a young boy who was cowering behind a trunk in a railway bogey. In the background, there were screams, gunfire and one could smell blood. Not to forget the broken bodies. They were everywhere! Then, the dream cut to another scene and suddenly this train arrived at a railway station, the young boy was lifted out of the bogey and there were shouts of relief, as others were also carried to safety. There it is, the signboard says Lahore Railway Station and is that not my father there lying on the platform in shock? He has survived but he has seen hell, my dear Pakistan. At the ripe young age of 14 he has seen hell. Awful dream and I woke with a start, in a sweat remembering those millions in 1947, who suffered just to be with you. Just to belong.

Years later when that boy had become my father, he told me the story. Of the great aspirations and love which went with the commitment to abandon all in India and migrate to Pakistan. For him the horrible events along the way, defined his love for you. It was worth it to give all that for a land where he would be free. Where he could live, marry, earn and not be considered lower than others. Not for skin, nor for sect or religion, nor for his language. He thought it was worth it, for the home this country gave to him for almost six decades. Right up to his last months, then a wasting disease took him to a more permanent abode.

I am so sorry Pakistan, because somewhere in the middle, while still loving and pining for you, I went away, I went abroad for long stints. Did not show the same dedication my father did. As justification I thought I shall earn and give back to my land. My commercial training and reasoning kicking in! Only, money never equates to action and sharing pain. When I came back, you had been robbed. I had left you undefended and they had come, raped and pillaged you and left you distressed. My fault. I did not consider that my home was worth raising my voice for.

Well I have been back many years now and have seen some light at the end of the tunnel. These young ones they are more like my father. They are ready to live for a cause. Oh I know you would say that the vast masses are insensitive and uncaring. But do not lose hope, my dear Pakistan. These young ones have a vision and a story they believe in and are beginning to awaken. The big, long slumber is over. They have a finger on your pulse, they know you are alive. My dear Pakistan, I feel you will finally get the leaders and people you deserve.

Inshallah.

Oh yes, I meant to write and say to you Happy Independence Day. A very Happy 65th Birthday!

Your hopeful citizen

Sarfaraz

Kallar Kahar recalls

Kallar Kahar recalls

I sit here now in Kallar Kahar and today the cars speed by on the M2, going to their busy destination. But I have seen different times also, when the plains in front were all forest and Babur came by with his armies for a tryst with greatness at Panipat. He sat in my bosom for months on the Takht-e-Babri, loving the local loquats, while his army rejuvenated and prepared to meet Ibrahim Lodhi and change history.

Down the plains, long ago in the age of man, the civilizations of Indus lived in peace. The Indus was mighty then and raged like a torrent and in monsoon season you could not see one bank from the other. I remember a young lad who landed at Debal on the Arabian Sea with his army to take on Dahir Sen. He came with vision and inspiration and conquered too. But this land is all enduring and either it conquers you or you depart. Muhammad bin Qasim went and never returned. But like most he left a legacy for this land to absorb and even today they remember him.

Up north, I vividly recall the sunlit day when Alexander crept across the Torkham and sneaked into the pass of Khyber. Then when his armies had crossed and strong in numbers, he rushed down to the Jhelum, just next door to me. Was that a battle and Porus stood proud in defeat and Alexander was suddenly tired. The battle lust gone; he turned away. But some others were tired too and they did not go with him. Instead they wandered by, went into Hunza, and were relieved to find a land to settle near the Kailash. For two millennia I saw them live a life of peace, unadulterated, lost to civilization. Now …well they are being assimilated into this advanced world.

In the beginning when the land came and hit the Asian tectonic plate, I was formed and for hundreds of millions of years kept rising. Great pressure was applied on me and salt formed and it was a painful period. But I too endured, now am upstanding and watch the comings and goings of man in this plain, which spreads from the Himalayas and Karakorum down to the sea. I have seen great upheavals and changes and then at the tail end man, self important, small, and very potent. He changes things at bewildering speed and has no consideration for others.

In a miniscule amount of time, man took away the forests. Those lovely, friendly trees, who would converse during the day, waving away. We would talk about the dinosaurs, ice age and the animals. Then one day in some corner there was a strange busy creature and he had a new item called fire. It caused wonder, but it scared everyone. We learned that he called himself man and was like no other. Selfish and totally at one, with his own needs. Such was his outlook! We saw him grow and then history formed. His history; not ours! He was a predator par excellence, because he could think and he could talk. But he had a weakness too. He differentiated within himself. First, against his own mother and then against his older people. Later he exploited his weak ones and formed into tribes and hunted and killed his own kind. As I said selfish and at one with his own needs.

Some decades ago these local tribes drove away the light colored ones. They were a species like Alexander’s people, but colder and more calculating. With a few thousand people they ruled over this land for centuries and used the local ones against themselves. They stripped the place and caused starvation and poverty; took away the culture and language. It was painful to watch such evil visited on this local civilization, which were in my sight for 8000 years.*

Then the local ones got wise and drove away the farangi.  But I knew what was coming! They came in their hordes from all over exchanging lands to be together and they had one passion only…to populate and make this land the land of the righteous. But they should have asked me. I know the land and I know its inhabitants. For eight millennia in the plains below me, the same drama has been played out. There have always been the ruling ones. From the time of Harappa, then Chandragupta Maurya, Prithvi Raj, Akbar and Ranjeet Singh. They all ruled and ruled for their own pleasure and preferences. The people were there to serve and the ruling ones lived in luxury. Their land, their crops, their livestock. The gold was theirs too and so were the women. In the end all belonged to them! The populace lived in submission, to serve and to be at beck and call. So why should this change with ideology? The DNA and genes are the same. They think and speak in terms of the ruler and man oppressed.

One day the sea will sweep back the land and reclaim it, the humans will be gone and equal in destruction. Till then the lands call is to serve its rulers and to subjugate its people. I…well I have patience eternal and I watch this drama and wait for the inevitable end.

*the Indus civilization circa 8000 years, not the first entry of man some 195000 years ago into India.

So who exactly was Jinnah?

December 25, 2012

All the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary. PHOTO: AFP

We sat in the proverbial 22nd row of a small theatre room in Badar Commercial. My eyes were moist with emotion, when Talat Hussain turned around and said “Quaid-e-Azam zindabad!”

It was the end of the movie, Jinnah, and we were at its re-launch. How does one explain such feelings for one who is more important than all other humans, barring a handful?

Yet he died a decade before I was born. Moreover, our understanding of Jinnah, the man, comes down to us as various personalities, depending upon the times, the government and the filters of the individuals describing him.

Across the border in India, he was the breaker of a nation; a man who committed sacrilege by dividing a religious piece of land.

Further afield, six thousand miles away in the confines of Whitehall, he is considered cold, arrogant and a stubborn protagonist.

The man is solely responsible for creating the first idealist country, within a decade carving out of ‘almost nothing’ such passion, which has not been emulated in history and to boot, causing one of the great upheavals of all time.

Jinnah stands atop a pedestal admired by many, but also decried by a lot. Even his own nation does not know which mould to cast him into. So like a pinball, his persona has rebounded from place to place over the last 60 years.

Events that go back 75-80 years still affect us, it is quite fascinating. How does it happen, that what was said in a small room in London by Muslim League leaders to a quiet, slim and confident man in 1933, is part of our lives today?

This happened around the time my late father was born, to put it in perspective. My father lived a full life in the shadow of these events and departed, the jigsaw still unsolved. He believed that the man, who carved our country for us, was a one in a billion, nay one in several billions.

There was the Pakistan of the 50s, with a relatively harmonious people. Yet, these same people allowed the mace to be passed into the hands of those who destroyed Jinnah’s vision. Ghulam Mohammad, Justice Munir and General Azam of the Lahore Martial Law; subsequently, this distortion of Jinnah’s view of Pakistan was used by Iskandar Mirza and Ayub Khan.

We were told that the man desired a Pakistan which was efficient and self fulfilling. Yet most forgot that Jinnah was evolutionary in nature. His struggle for freedom lasted a lifetime and his struggle for Pakistan 13 years. Never once, did he take the wrong route, never once a short cut.

By enforcing two martial laws in the 50s, the short cut ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ was carved out for subsequent times. Jinnah’s Pakistan was strangulated that day in 1953, when General Azam swore he would bring peace to Lahore in a couple of hours. That peace has cost us four Martial Laws and still limited our nation.

What about the Bengalis? Their earlier father of nation was replaced by a later version of Shaikh Mujib. The comparison is like chalk and cheese – and not to judge, either varied personality.

Would they hold Jinnah accountable for the lack of ownership they were given in their Pakistan? To the extent that the language should have been Bengali for them, I suppose yes. But even in that, Jinnah’s thinking was nation building and his fear that regional languages would have surfaced. Perhaps the answer was no action.

Leave the language as English; neutral for all. Sadly not to be and that became a source of inequality, which festered and fermented into larger problems.

Subsequent years saw Bhutto use the socialist Jinnah. The socialist doctrine and Mahboob-ul-Haq’s concept of nationalisation were rampant in our 70’s world. Mao was supreme dogma. Only Jinnah was no socialist. Yet quotes popped up on media of how he espoused Islamic Socialism. Socialism was anathema to the man. He just wanted fairness and justice for all. The very basic argument of Pakistan hinged on Jinnah’s fear, that the Muslim in undivided India would not get a fair deal.

Later years saw Zia, the master orchestrator taking a damaging turn. Suddenly, Jinnah became a religious figure and was forever driving Islam. One cannot judge Zia’s motives, but what he did has led to the schism in society today and Pakistan is now a serving nation to the US and we are a fragmented society.

Bhutto destroyed the economic belief and Zia destroyed our social harmony.

Lastly the puppet, Musharraf! The darling of the West espousing “enlightened Islam” and an “enlightened father of the nation”. Jinnah would have despised the hypocrisy of it. To live nationhood in servitude, to survive on blood money given by the West, to play a role of a lota! There cannot be any good coming out of this.

We have taken an upstanding man and cast him into a soothsayer’s role. Wherever a ruler required help, they have rolled Jinnah out in a new garb. In marketing parlance it’s called brand stretching and subsequent image of Jinnah is now suitably garbled and fuddled.

But all the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary, who fought with courage on their behalf and no ideological caps please, just the plain old Jinnah cap.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

If I could have a chat with Jinnah…

December 18, 2012

The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers.

Like many, I often wonder what it would be like to talk to an influential historic figure. One wants to sit with them, ask questions and find out what they think about things around them, but they no longer exist to answer.

I personally wish I had a chance to interview Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Jinnah now. The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers. He isn’t here to answer, but one can conjecture, right?

I wonder if Jinnah would have given the following answers if I did, in fact, interview him.

Me: “Sir, what were you thinking when you came to India to lead in 1934?”

Jinnah: “I had been alternatively lectured and cajoled to lead. Generally, I do not change my mind; then perhaps because this was on my mind, I had a powerful dream. I do not want to go into the details of the dream but it almost immediately moved me to return to India and lead the Muslim League. The objective was clear – unite and move with purpose to form a separate homeland for the Muslims. We were not sure in what form or how autonomous it would be, but it would franchise the Muslims as a separate independent authority.”

Me: “What did you think of the Muslim League leaders?”

Jinnah: “Unfortunately it is true that the followers all came from the Sardari class – Raja-this, Nawab-that, Sardar-so-and-so. But that’s all we had. The common Muslim was uneducated and struggling in vocations. They were also not conversant in English or well acquainted with the prevailing 20th century culture. To move forward, we needed the landlord class. I hoped in time our people would arise and progress. Alas! I hear they still maintain their dominance. That was not part of my plan.”

Me: “When did you decide a Muslim homeland can happen?”

Jinnah: “There was never a doubt from 1934 onwards about this in my mind. Having started this struggle and gone on this route, there was no turning back. We knew the struggle would be bitter and long.

From 1937, I was certain; then, of course, the Lahore Resolution in 1940 defined our lands, which had been unclear till then.”

Me: “Do you think we could have compromised with the Congress?”

Jinnah: “You do not realise the backwardness of the Muslims and therefore our weakness in the coalition. I had already spent 20 years working on this unity, however, to no avail. You cannot blame the Hindus alone on this. They did not have an equal partner and in politics the stronger takes the lead and leaves the other to follow.

A separate homeland allowed the Muslims within their own security, to advance and become equals. And it seemed from the passion created, that we would be able to do it. If you have a vision and a value system (and we did back then) then the lacking ingredient is dedication and passion. We seemed to have that to spare.”

Me: “How did you miss out on Kashmir? And what about the loss of Gurdaspur?”

Jinnah: “They are both interconnected. You would say that it was naive to expect that it would work out. India wanted Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh and other protectorates. We should probably have expected it. But then, remember we were totally focused on Pakistan’s creation and had no other thought. Our fear was that Pakistan may be lost. We were frankly ready to take a truncated Pakistan.

I knew my health was bad and it was passion which was keeping one going. So, really, the Gurdaspur factor did not enter our minds. Nawabzada Liaquat was heading the Muslim League delegation to the Radcliffe Border Commission and some games were played with the recommendations. It was extremely unfortunate and led to a huge loss of life. I class that as our biggest miss and I wish we could turn the clock back on that one.”

Me: “Sir, what about not taking Bengali as our language along with Urdu?”

Jinnah: “That, as events have shown, later turned out to be a misjudgment. But the reasoning was straightforward. Bengal made 50% plus of the population, however it was another province. Had we allowed Bengali the same status as a national language, soon all the others Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto and Balochi would have demanded the same. Perhaps had we left English it would be better, but then people would say ‘why achieve freedom’? So you see our problem?”

Me: “Do you still believe that Pakistan was the right thought after 65 years?”

Jinnah: “The concept is still sound. We are two different nations and ensuing 65 years have made it even more of a divide. Culture and society are further apart than ever before. The problem is that it was our fundamental belief, and so we would not have gotten a good deal in undivided India. Nothing has changed that.

Our execution post partition has been bad, but do not despair. This is just 65 years. In North American plains, the US was a wild country throughout the 19th century. It started with fighting the Mexicans and then drove out its Indians and almost exterminated them. Simultaneously it treated its black population as slaves. Then they fought a war to sort that out, and for the last three decades, the white killed the white to gain power in the Wild West.

We are nowhere as bad. We will InshaAllah grow to be a nation yet. Without belief and optimism, nothing can be accomplished. Get your belief right and then all the others will fall into place.”

Me: “Thank you, sir.”

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

Constantinople, wonderful man, wonderful army

Constantinople, wonderful man & wonderful army

“Convey my salaams and ask the Muslim armies to penetrate deep, so that they can bury me at the walls of Constantinople” so did say Abu Ayyub Ansari to Yazid, when the commander visited him on his death bed. This event took place circa 675 AD and was the first of many expeditions of the Muslims to conquer Constantinople.

The Muslim armies took to heart Abu Ayyubs request and fought their way to the Wall of Constantinople and that is where Abu Ayyub was laid in his final resting place. That was as far as the Muslims got in the four year campaign and they finally retreated after heavy losses. It was also the furthest they got in the next 700 years. Abu Ayyub, was approximately mid 90s and should not have been with the army at all, regardless of the huge reputation of being a ghazi who fought in all the Islamic wars. Today the locality of Eyup (Turkish derivation) carries huge religious significance and many Turks ask to be buried in the same area as this ghazi.

This is same Abu Ayyub who in 622 played host to the Prophet (saw) at his house in Medina for seven months. You would have heard the story of Qaswa the camel and how she stopped near Abu Ayyub’s house and that same spot became Masjid Quba, the first mosque in Islam. So why was Abu Ayyub in his old age, at the shores of Constantinople?

It is said that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in his discussions on the way forward, had alluded to the importance of the city which will have water in its midst. The logic was obvious, that the city would be a pivotal point in the battle to spread the faith into lands afar. It was also central to the strategy of control of larger areas in two continents and a route into the Black Sea. Such was the importance of the city, which was the seat of Byzantine, that the Prophet (saw) said ‘what a wonderful leader will he be and what a wonderful army’ for the one conquering Constantinople.

So then, through the centuries, Muslim ambitions turned towards this city in Asia Minor. Many expeditions were planned and failed, beginning with the one led by Yazid, in the time of Muawiyyah, in which Abu Ayyub decided to participate – and yes in case you are wondering, this was the same Yazid, who was to cause the happenings of Karbala years later.

Some seven hundred years later another tragic attempt is worth noting. The aspirant was one named Bayazid Yildirim (thunderbolt). He was the Ottoman ruler in late 14th century. Bayazid planned his conquest with great detail and having disposed of a crusade in Bulgaria had established a stranglehold over Hungry and Bulgaria. He then turned his attention to Constantinople and somewhere in late 1390s laid siege to it. Lacking a strong navy and heavy guns, Bayazid hoped to break resistance via a long siege.

He came close. But at a crucial period, when the fall looked imminent, news came that Tamerlane (Timur-al-lung), the King of Samarqand (Mongols and Tartars) was invading his eastern lands. Bayazid signed a deal with Constantinople and turned eastwards. He was never to return. The battle of Ankara in 1402 was a defeat and Tamarlane captured Bayazid, who then after seven months captivity died a broken man. This event has been dramatised in Marlowes play and Bayazid is a tragic character who dies of shame imprisoned in a gilded cage.

This signal event delayed the Ottomans for a half century. The lands broke up for a time and the hegemony of the Sultans was finally established by Sultan Muhammad Fateh.  As soon as Muhammad Fateh felt secure, his thoughts turned to the words of the Prophet (saw) and his desire to conquer Constantinople surfaced. Who would not?  As he besieged Constantinople, he found yet that the fortifications withstood. So in a maneuver which has been spoken about for these 560 years, he dragged 80 ships across land on greased boards overnight. Next day his navy emerged on the Black Sea towards the unfortified side of Constantinople. The writing was on the wall and on 29/5/1453 Constantinople surrendered after 800 years of desire and effort. Where the Prophets (saw) words, spoken some 830 years before, fulfilled then?

Mythology and research have a different spin to it. Is the wonderful man and army this event at all? Some scholars who have knowledge about the coming events of Armageddon, attribute this to a future event when the Muslims will retake Constantinople in the time of the Mahdi. So this may well be one of the signal events, which shall shape the last war of all wars to occur, between the Mahdi and Dajjal. Only Allah knows and time will tell.

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