Thursday, April 24, 2008

TERE BINA XINDAGI BHI LAIKIN ...



A SWANSONG TO MY BRO!


Embraced in the arms of love
One person in this world
To whom I pour out my heart
Its desires, its fears
Its longings and its love.

My brother!
Your sympathies, guidance
And understanding
Of my whims, emotions
Needs and feelings
Is unmatchable.

You take responsibility
For my every move, mistake,
Deed and act
Thank you, dearest brother!
For all you have ever done.


For Reaction & Comments

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875

mahtabbashir@gmail.com


For more .....


Tania Shah emails from Turkey:
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 9:55 PM
Mehtab,
sitting besides the sea shore at Antalya,Turkey i am sailing in your words......the water is salty.
taniya
ImpUdent said...
May 24, 2008 9:20 AM
My father was a handsome man with a vigorous zest for life...he was a hardworking and a honest man...we all MISS him!!!chachu did a great job by writing a number of poems for him!!!we all lub you and miss you pa!!!i wish you could come back!!!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD.
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before touching back to my bed. I have responsibilities to fulfill within this 24 hours stipulated time. I am important to myself. However, my job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have.

Today I can complain because weather is rainy,
Or
I can be grateful that the grass and trees are getting watered for free.

Today I can feel miserable that I don't have more money,
Or
I can be cheerful that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases shrewdly and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health,
Or
I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up,
Or
I can feel indebted that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns,
Or
I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn over lack of my friends,
Or
I can animatedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work in spite of cruel weather,
Or
I can shout for joy because I have a job at least to go to.

Today I can gripe because I have to go to university,
Or
I can eagerly open my mind and fill it with new tidbits of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do some house work,
Or
I can feel honored because the Allah Almighty has provided shelter for my mind, body and soul.

Today stretches ahead of me waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping. What today will be like is up to me. I get to choose what kind of day I will have.

Published in daily THE FRONTIER POST of 14th April, 2008 & weekly MAG

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell:0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

Misbah from Australia emails':
Apr 15, 2008 7:20 PM
luvly
Regards
Misbah Azmat
ADS Awardee(Postgrad.)
Monash Uni

Melbourne,Australia

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

POOR BY BIRTH, RICH BY NATURE

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

mahtabbashir@gmail.com

One day a father of a well-heeled family took his son on a trip to the country-side with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. Both father and son spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor and underprivileged family.

On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, "how was the trip, my sweetheart"? "It was great dad" came the reply. "Did you see how poor people can be"? The doting father asked. "oh yeah", the son responded. "So what did you learn from the trip", asked the father proudly.

The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have a swanky chandelier in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our foods, but they grow their own. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them."

With this the father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are."

Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate intensely what we don't have. What is one person's worthless object is another man's prized possession. It is all based upon one's perspective. Makes you wonder what would happen if we all give thanks for all the bounty we have by the grace of Almighty instead of worrying about wanting more. Take joy in what you have and see the treasure in it as saying goes, "there's enough for everyone's need but there's not enough for everyone's greed."

Published in daily THE NATION on 10th May, 2002

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Lalarukh from Rawalpindi emails:
Wed, 9 Apr 2008 22:04:34 -0700
very well said.
like it very much.
cheerz

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I AM LIVING FOR DEATH

By: MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


We are on the road to nowhere as Jean Jacques Rousseau says in the Social Contract, "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains". One thinks himself the master of others and still remains a greater slave than they. We are not at all free, it is just intended we should be. The potent gentry place a book of life in our cradle and we never get rid of it until we reach our graves, the final destination where we are in serenity and calmness.

The modus operandi of King of wishful thinking is like a spider's web that can catch flies but not wasps. That's why a public servant here is one who serves the public for his own good. The by now upper crust with win-decree from the King tramples all the hurdles in the field of humanity and the miserable hoi polloi being goaded by liars, dishonesty, hypocrites and pretenders in the name of help. The so-called prudent favor of potent gentry gives birth to life-long sufferings of a common man.

Every road of life ends up with a death. From good to bad everyone lives his life as a 'habit', like Jon Elia says, "faqat adato' ki warzish hay". It can be debated whether a man wants to prove the worth of his life or the life's worth for himself. Ultimately, he starts losing his interests in social contacts for the sake of livelihood. Now he is in a position to define what life actually is. But is the death a definitive solution of one's problem? Shakespeare says, yes, 'He who dies, pays all debts'. In present scenario, he is wishing for death because he can not emancipate himself from the bondage of daily edible prices.

Well, the unperturbed men (the leaders) always look busy in their whole lot of life in planning while the angels in heaven make a mockery of their scheduling which they set for themselves for the rest of flowery life, setting a side to their Maker, a Creator sans Whom permission even a leaf can't take a twist. And the history derailed a lot of heavy mandated leaders' trains while sleeping on a bed of roses bogie.

The common man is in great anguish against the entrenched mindset since his inception. The dishonest bureaucracy and crooked politicians coupled with unjustified role of military in political circus is the main hurdle in the making of a flourishing state envisioned by the Jinnah and Iqbal. The mindset of politicians looking towards US and the big power for grabbing power.

People have suffered deception since the creation of Pakistan and expiry of the Quaid. But now the time of being duped is gone, they are now looking at Courts after using every means of their disposed to get rid of this. The cream of the crop by sending gifts of baton charge, tear gas and making people the missing persons to be punished for equality also reminds us the era of Dark Ages.

Rounding off this commentary, you can leave a will directing how to handle your money but not your reputation. The masses will attend to that. And now in global village a knave is respected, a great man suspected.

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Nomi from Gujranwala SMS':
10th April, 2008 17:17 PST

a marvelous piece of writing. We're living for death. I read it via ur email.

Monday, April 7, 2008

EDUCATION FOR ALL

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Education is a life-blood of a nation. We can not enter and survive in an era of globalization without developing a human resource capable of coping with the phenomenal changes taking place around us. Radical reforms taking into cognizance historical, socio-cultural and economic realities as well as the emerging challenges of the post modernism are needed. The basic issues must be resolved to formulate sustainable policies with inbuilt mechanism of implementation, audit and accountability. This of course can only be possible in a truly democratic society- a goal for which we must keep striving.

Education is the foundation of broad-based economic and poverty reduction. No nation can take advantage of trade and development opportunities in a technology driven and rapidly integrating economy without making major advancement in education. At the same time, without rapid and substantial improvement in access in the quality of education, poverty reduction efforts will be slow. Education offers an escape from poverty by empowering people and enhancing opportunities for greater participation in the labor market.

An over all result in the education sector in Pakistan remains disappointing. Pakistan's primary enrollment rate is well below its neighbor in South Asia. Net primary enrollment rate is 65% in Pakistan, 75% in Bangladesh, 77% in India, and close to 100% in Sri Lanka. Pakistan's lowest school enrollment rate and poor quality education means that it will lag behind its neighbor in improving literacy in the future.

According to the international definition of international literacy, a person who can read and write is considered to be literate. The Pakistan government has merrily declared a 51.6% literacy rate, including in this statistic those people who can barely manage to sign their own names. If we apply international criteria to calculate our literacy rate, it comes out to be a mare 29%. A shameful statistic indeed, for an economy that claims to have the second fastest pace on the road of development after China. Keeping that in view, Pakistan has lagged behind almost every other country in the world in term of educational attainment for most of the last two decades, an educational emergency needed to be declared. Not only lack of literacy, but also falling standards at all levels need to be addresses.

The close link between economic development and education needs to be acknowledged by accepting the fact that education is a responsibility of a state. More funds must be diverted to this sector, cutting down on others that have a lesser impact on human welfare and future growth within a country.

As an initial step, funding must be enhanced to at least the minimum of 20% of the gross national product (GNP), as recommended by UNESCO. An immense chunk of the 277 million defense budget (this figure includes the estimated, hidden, defend expenditure) can easily re-channalized to supplement the major of 4 million educational funds, without jeopardizing the lives of the citizen of that state.

· How these educational funds are distributed to all levels of education needs huge consideration. Previous governmental policies, formulated under bureaucratic pressure and political bickering have lead to the "inverted pyramid" of education with higher education amassing most of the educational funds and primary education getting almost no funds at all.
· Higher funds for primary education are essential. They must be used to create incentives good enough to motivate the poor to send their children to schools. Some of these incentives could be, free food at lunch breaks in schools and scholarships for those whose value is closed to what poverty stricken children could have earned elsewhere through labor.
· Primary education is even more essential for girls because they are the mothers of the future generation. The continuing gender disparity in education must be ended. The factors preventing girls from attending schools. Whether religious, cultural or traditional, must be identified and dealt with.

Education is the most important aspect which distinguishes the poor from non-poor. If the government of Pakistan is sincere in its efforts to eradicate poverty and to improve the quality of life of its citizen then it would be imperative for it to pay heed to the aforementioned recommendations.

This is ironical that we are illiterate being follower of a religion that maintains: "Acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim man and woman" and "acquire knowledge, it is an ornament in society and an armament against foes."

The policies, schemes and programs initiated by various regimes up till now for achieving "Education for all" more or less were not in comparison with the national aims and objectives. Our problem is not the enactment of good schemes but their implementation. There is no dearth of good brains in Pakistan to suggest good schemes but the availability of a team of sincere, responsible, honest and selfless people to execute the enchanting schemes has always remained at the level of a dream yet to be realized. A few more suggestions are being presented which may contribute in architecting a policy of achieving "education for all" in conformity with objectives and ideology of education.

· Education can only ensure living means if it is planned in accordance with the future requirements of the country both administrative and technological.
· More emphasis should be given to primary and secondary education. As the statistical analysis in the developing countries indicates that the returns to society from a Rupee invested in primary education are the highest followed by secondary education and higher education showing the lowest return. It is very sad that primary school enrolment in Pakistan is just 47% against almost cent percent in China, Kenya, South Korea and Sri Lanka. The schooling should be made compulsory for every child between the age of 6 to 10 years.
· "Education for all" can be met if government, NGO's, philanthropists and people all over take their responsibility and utmost interest in developing the nation. The noble sentiments and selfless efforts are what country needed the most in achieving this objective.
· More funds needed to uplift literacy rate from grass-root level. Education sector never gets due share of government attention as for as allocation of appropriate funds are concerned. Its share in terms of percentage of GNP ranged from less than 3-3.6 over a period of time. The already scarce funds many times were subjected to diversion to other sectors. This was due to the fact that government is more inclined to spend on the sectors capable of showing prompt results than the education sector where has to wait quite for a long time to observe any tangible result after investment.
· The present scene reflective of corruption, crime and malpractices in every sphere of life indicates that our education system badly failed to produce men of character and integrity. The political actors, elites and feudals should not be allowed to create their spheres of influence in achieving the objective of education for all.
· Free basic and primary education is inevitable in creating awareness in rural areas should be made possible as soon as possible. There has been some progress too but this is a process where things never remain static. But the tragedy is that the progress has not been properly planned and has taken place in fits and starts. Priorities among the various sectors have been set and reset every few years, universal primary education, adult literacy, female education and higher education being the slogans heard from time to time. The private schools, colleges and universities with fancy foreign names and dubious affiliations and credentials sprang up at every street corner of our big and small cities and towns. Instead of regulating this mushroom growth of substandard commercial enterprise, the government has gone on a spree of opening new colleges and universities of its own and renaming existing colleges as College Universities as if hanging new sign boards will convert them into centre of excellence. It is also introducing self-finance schemes in its institutions and appears keen to privatize some. It is indeed a sorry story in all extent.
· Women are more then 50% of population of the country. Basic and primary education is their birthright in raising the nations' growth. Special emphasis should be given to women education, because the future lies in the hands of educated mothers. Someone rightly says, "If a mother of today is literate, the next posterity will be literate but if mother is ignorant; no nation can make progressive strides. An educated mother can nurture her kids in a better way than to that of educated father in many ways. The discrimination between woman and man in obtaining education must be ended.

Without education progress in any walk of life is inconceivable. Education is the only important element, which breaks the inertia to bring socio-economic development in the society. It also improves the decision making power of the general public. It enables the people to protect their rights against any exploitation. It brings the general awareness and courage in the masses and helps in establishing the institution of public accountability. For obtaining these objectives of "Education for all" or "Literate Pakistan", it is a moral duty and responsibility of all individual to act accordingly to make country a better place to live, with the blessings and utilization of education. Education assists in better deployment of people's potentials and exploitation of the country's hidden resources, thus it helps in establishing a Welfare State in a real sense.

With the new political set-up, one is very optimist that this government would make revolutionary policies in empowering the education sector. If at any juncture, the state renders its services to provide basic education facilities free of cost to all masses and majority of people still not pay the heed to grab that opportunity, then there would not be a better advice to them then to this, "if you think education can not bring a change into your life, try ignorance"!

The author is a freelance columnist from Islamabad

Published in daily THE POST on 9th April, 2008, Weekly Cutting Edge, Dec 28-Jan 03, 2006 and in Pakistan Observer on 29th Nov, 2005

Originally written for an Essay Writing Competition 2005 organized by Pakistan Science Foundation, Islamabad & National Museum of Science & Technology, Lahore

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/ 2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

Tania Shah Emails from Islamabad: Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 5:47 PM
ladke...
tum to strategist bante ja rahe ho...
good to see the suggestions rather then just beating the drum.
good
wese i propose ke education ka bhi eik hidden budget hona chahiye...

Taniya Shah

M.Phil

Department of Anthropology

Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Saturday, April 5, 2008

THE MEANING OF PEACE

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


Many moons ago there was a king who offered a prize to the artists who could paint and illustrate the best picture of peace. A lot of artist tried their luck to please the king. The king looked at all the pictures, but there were only two that he short-listed and he had to choose only one again out of these two.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for the peaceful place with towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought it was a perfect picture of peace.

The second picture had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above head was an angry sky from which a wild rain was falling and lightening played down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This looked terrible. When the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest… a perfect picture of peace.

Guess which of the picture won the prize? The kings chose the second picture. "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart, and that's the real meaning of peace", the king explained.

Published in daily THE NATION on 11th April, 2002


MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

PAKISTAN MONUMENT: A Thematic Museum

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

IT has been over 40 years old dream of Federal Government of Pakistan to build a thematic Memorial in a vicinity of Islamabad since it got the status of Capital of the Country in 1961. Time and again, a number of committees studied the proposals for concept, design and location of such memorial which can illustrate the true image of Progressive, enlightened and affluent Pakistan on World’s map as the founder of Pakistan Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Poet of the East, Allama Muhammad Iqbal inherited us the same hallucination and vision of being pragmatic and prosperous state.

The exact purpose behind plans to erect a Pakistan Monument, whose foundation stone was laid in Islamabad by H E President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in May 2004, is meant to provide a ceremonial focus for foreign dignitaries visiting the nation’s capital, Islamabad. The capital does not have a central point of homage and remembrance like the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi or Allama Iqbal’s tomb and the Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore. But the fact that the monument will be dedicated to the people of Pakistan is nevertheless welcome. This will lend it a certain democratic and non-denominational symbolism, absent from some of the recent undertakings in building monuments like replicas of the Chaghi mountain that dot our cities or the symbolic representations of military hardware that adorns many public places. Over the years, all foreign luminaries were/are being taken to Shakarparian hills in their leisure time to plant a tree in remembrance of their visit as well as to kill time. This practice has already been done from majority of the leaders around the globe.

After the debacle of 9/11, Pakistan had to face many challenges. The country got the fabricated blames in helping Taliban’s in Afghanistan and linkages with the network of Al-Quaeda. Pakistan at the same time, justified its position as it became the front-runner ally in combating terrorism and terrorist activities alongside USA. National Memorial Museum cashes in the same scenario in highlighting the soft image of the country with no connection to criminal activities all over the world. National Memorial will also highlight a progressive, enlightened and Pragmatic state which negates the all baseless allegations on Pakistan of being called a rogue state. Last but certainly not least, National Memorial in Islamabad will link to the general need to promote the country’s art and culture, an emphasis which is also well merited.

The long-awaited decision to construct a Pakistan Monument with a clear concept and design was taken by President General Pervez Musharraf. The Ministry of Culture was given the task of planning and executing the Project. Considerable preparatory work was undertaken by the ministry over one year for planning and seeking approval. The Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) was tasked to organize a National Competition to transform the theme and basic framework signifying strength, unity and dedication of the people of Pakistan into an icon representing an independent and free nation. It was envisaged for the National Memorial to serve as a beacon representing the past, present and heralding a bright future for all Pakistanis to whom the Memorial will stand dedicated. A jury of experienced Architects was formed to select the best design from twenty designs submitted. Three short listed designs were presented and discussed with the President of Pakistan and the design submitted by Mr Arif Masoud was selected as the best, who pocketed a cash prize of Rs.200,000.

It was a nerve-wrecking decision for the President of Pakistan to opt for a right person to execute this mega project, not only a picture perfect finish of a highly sophisticated monument but within the stipulated time-frame. The top brass of Government’s were up against each other to clinch the honour, majority of them were not fighting for a noble cause but to sheer exploitation and it was obviously hard to distinguish right from wrong. However, after a prolong meditation, General Musharraf’s fingers just hit the right note and it was Mr. Uxi Mufti, who comes alive out of the cluster of think-tanks to be selected yet again by dint of his steep commitment, devotion and loyalty for his country. Mr. Mufti, himself had to fight against the ire of bureaucracy but actions of him always spoke highly in promotion of Country’s art and culture, then merely words uttered by others.

Uxi Mufti, a connoisseur of art, literature and folklore is, thus given the responsibility of carrying out the whole errands of National Memorial Museum. The concept-plan for the same monument is also the brain wave of this genius, as everyone in the race stumped against his innovative, creative and novel perception and inventive ideas of the same project.

In an effort to assertively present local culture from the perspective of cultural nationalism, he founded Lok Virsa in 1974, served as its first director, and has played a leading role in its activities since then. Dr. Mufti has continued to search for and reveal the foundations of Pakistani culture through his guidance of this institution over many years. He has been extremely successful in preserving, utilizing, and publicizing the significance and importance of country's folk traditions both in Pakistan and throughout the world.

As a Creative Director, he organized the First International Artisans-at-Work Festival under the auspices of UNESCO in 1994 wherein 70 countries participated, Festival of D-8 Countries in 1997 and International Silk Route Festival in 2000 & 2002. Mufti is serving as a Vice president of World Crafts Council. Mufti has also contributed as Creative Consultant for the Baltit Heritage Fort Museum in Hunza for Agha Khan Foundation and UNESCO Cultural Consultant to the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan for MANAS 1000 Celebrations and become known as the leader in the activities for folk and cultural preservation in the Islamic countries of Central Asia.

Dr. Mufti, an aplomb thinker and a cultural anthropologist, continues his practical work in preserving the cultural legacy of Pakistan. He served as the primary force for building the National Museum of Ethnology/ Heritage Museum, completed in 2004, and is serving a similar role in a project to build this National Memorial in Islamabad.

Mr. Mufti has been awarded Presidential award for Pride of Performance and received 17th Asian-Pacific International Culture and Arts Fukuoka Award 2006 from Japan for rendering meritorious services in perpetuation of art, culture and folklore. He is only a next person to Nusrat Fateh Ali khan to receive this coveted award from Pakistan. Recently he is studded with Sitara-e-Imtiaz from Government of Pakistan.

Pakistan Monument is comprise of four blossoming flower petals representing the People of Pakistan standing united, shoulder to shoulder, shielding the crescent and star in the space below. The design concept is imbued with simplicity and strength, relaying the vision of standing guard over the Motherland. The inner walls of the petals will be decorated with murals and artwork.

The high ground at west viewpoint of the Shakarparian Hills selected by a deputed team for this memorial was approved. The area spread over seven acres (2.8 hectares) is about a hundred feet (30 metres) above Zero Point with ideal location, accessibility, visibility and prominence. The Monument will be visible from all vantage points of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

A metallic crescent will be inscribed with sayings of Quaid-i-Azam and poetry of Allama Iqbal. The shining star in the centre will have a water body around it, glistening with submerged lights adding to the beauty of the structure especially at night when the whole Monument will be lit. Spaces around the Monument will be linked with a garden walk interspersed with beautiful plants.

Opposite to the Monument’s main plaza is the building of the National Memorial Museum designed in a manner that its architectural form and height of the building does not overpower the Memorial’s main structure. The theme of the National Memorial revolves around creation and development of Pakistan, making it different from other two Museums in the close vicinity i.e. the Heritage and Natural History Museums.

It will house exhibits highlighting Iqbal’s Concept of a Muslim State in South Asia, Quaid-i-Azam’s efforts and struggle for the independence of Pakistan and how Pakistan stands today as a forward looking developing state in Asia and the world. The exhibits coupled with audio-visual effects are aimed at creating serenity and a deep love for the nation. Space for future developments has also been reserved.

This Museum has a distinct and well-defined identity located, as it is, next to a National Memorial dedicated to the people of Pakistan who sacrificed their today for a better tomorrow. Considering that a National Art Gallery, National Archaeological Museum, Museum of Natural History and an Ethnological Museum are existed within one kilometres of this memorial, it is imperative that this Museum neither duplicates nor overlaps, hence this must be a unique museum with a distinct identity of its own to justify its existence and placement next to the Memorial.

The prime objective of this Museum is to explain Pakistan in historical perspective not only to the visiting foreigners but also to the Pakistani nationals and its future progeny. The overriding purpose of the multi-dimensional displays in the museum is to make clear in uncomplicated and simple terms, the birth, history, identity, society and advancement and achievements of Pakistan as a modern and progressive nation. Hence, this is a Thematic Museum that explains and projects Pakistan in all its dimensions of thought and action, dream and materialization of the dream without raising controversies or complex issues. Therefore, it may be called ‘Pakistan Museum’.

This is a Modern Museum that employs state of the art technology and display techniques for presentation. This Museum also features a prime educational facility for children of all ages where visitors can take interact with three dimensional exhibits, virtual constructs and cyber innovations.

National Memorial has the layout and Exhibit Themes to re-enforce the main theme of the Museum, which is the birth of Pakistan and dream and realisation about the nation. There is a gallery dedicated to the duo of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The philosopher’s stone and the Occum’s razor, together these great founders of Pakistan provided the idea based on Islamic vision and the accomplishment to materialize this great vision of Pakistan into reality.

The other section deals with the history and continuity that will portray how the Arab conquest followed by successive migrations of Muslims from Central Asia had deep cultural impacts on the ancient Vedic civilization of the Indus Valley that once flourished here. The Muslims emerged in time as a distinct cultural pattern and distinctive people.

The impact of Islam, religion and society is the next section that will portray how Islam came to further improve and build on a land that had been chosen to be the cradle of a great civilization and a people who were the custodian of a great legacy of the Indus Valley Civilization. Islam came to further contribute, develop and enrich this great tradition and exalt the ancient seat of civilization, the land now called, Pakistan. This section will reflect how Islam forms a day to day ritual and sentiment of the people. How Islam is a moralizing force that makes for an ethical society where peace, moderation, unity, tolerance, respect for the other and universal brotherhood are the prime motivating factors. Islam is the agent of change in a society of feudal, tribal, ethnic and clannish origins.

Population and Habitat (Language and Communication) is another section that will depict diverse abodes, habitat, languages, populations, communication and the role of Urdu as a national language of Pakistan. It will present essential data on these aspects.

The next section deals with oral tradition and literacy (tradition and change). This section will portray folklore and old tradition of Pakistan from generations to generations. The average rural Pakistani may be unlettered but not illiterate having 5000 years old culture, tradition, collective intelligence and wisdom that nurtured Pakistani culture over generations. The section will also highlight rural tradition and change within the country.

Contemporary issues on which Pakistan faces criticism are socio-cultural issues such as gender Bias, Honour killing, Civil Liberties, Child Labour, Fanaticism, Poverty, Fundamentalism, Ethnicism, Illiteracy, Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom. Pakistan must stand up to this growing onslaught and there is no better means of projecting our standpoint than the Museum of Pakistan. This gallery will address all such misrepresentations of Pakistani society and explain our point of view in a positive way without controversy. This sector will also present the major development and economic targets and achievements Pakistan met with in recent years.

Major advancement in Industrial, nuclear and defence technology will be highlighted in Science and Technology, Education, Discovery and Invention section.

The Heroes of Pakistan on their achievements in all fence including defence, culture, sports, science, education and technology will be portrayed in National Heroes of Pakistan sector.

The Museum will end on a note of hope and a desire to make Pakistan a land of peace, prosperity and productivity. A multi-screen and multi-image show entitled “The Land of Many Splendours” will end the visit to the museum to inspire and motivate all museum visitors, which will be highlighted in ‘Future Vision and Aspirations Section’.

The construction of National Memorial Museum started after the Earth Breaking Ceremony by the President on 25th of May, 2004. The construction work of memorial building is over while d├ęcor and creative work of Museum is in full swing. The Monument is intended to be inaugurated by H.E President General Pervaiz Musharruf in the month of March, 2007.

Under the guidelines of Dr. Uxi Mufti, a man having out of box thinking, one can safely hope that, this Museum will possess something for everyone to exert a pull on. Not only locals but overseas visitors who hesitate to stay here will grab and understand the true and factual soft and broader image of Pakistan.

There is an urgent need to pass on the age-old intellect and rich heritage of this region to the future generations. The entire negative image leveled against Pakistan today can also be removed through highlighting the rich socio-cultural image of the country through this Memorial. The problems related to terrorism faced by Pakistan today are all off-shoots of socio-cultural problems of stigmas and taboos. To remove these problems, Pakistan need to enrich and enhance the socio-cultural sphere, and National Monument will help in endorsing a positive delineation of the country. In a nutshell, National Memorial Museum is going to rekindle the dying tradition of old times and will help revive Pakistan’s true identity with its own ethics and values as a nation with a modern and pragmatic approach.

Published in VISTA magazine of daily THE POST on 24th September, 2006

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


Munawar Sultana emails from Islamabad:
Wed, 28 Feb 2007 09:09:08 +0500
Good one. Quite informative as well as thought provoking.
Regards

Munawar Sultana
Project Officer, ILO, Islamabad

Misbah Azmat emails from Melbourne, Australia:
Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 5:57 PM
wassalam mahtab
alhamdulillah i m fine...ooo life is just too busy here.. as u must b knowing MCG jaon gi jb koi paki match hoga. m nt intersted in concerts etc stuff.ap kb aey melbourne??ofcourse prayers r with u..whts happening in life? n u knw i had never seen so beautiful place as National monoument in isb in night..tk cr.
Regards
Misbah Azmat
ADS Awardee(Postgrad.)
Monash Uni
Melbourne,
Australia

Friday, April 4, 2008

A HELMET: For a sake of life or for a sake of revenue?

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Assalamu Alaikum… Wa-Alaikumus-Salam…I am halted. Can I see your driving license or registration documents? Yes sir .. please sure, you can. I put my hand in rare pocket of my trousers, takes out my wallet with a bit of fiddling with my eyes costantly glazing on the hands of that man in a faded uniform. He takes few steps backward, opens up the box attached to rare seat of his bike and joins me again with a small note-book in his hand. I handed over my driving license to him and he starts writing. Why don't you use safety helmet? He breaks the silense. Well… I am in drastically hurry to touch my office that I left off my home. Also its quite warm out here. Moreover, I have had a skin allergy that lessens my love to wear the helmet. Last but not least, I have never felt comfortable watching swift movment of vehicles around me under the helmet. I tries to make as many excuses as I can in a single breath with innocense at my extreme. While I finishes off my words, he finishes off writings on a paper and passes on those pages of traffic violation ticket to me. Thus, those three pages make my all excuses invalid. It is the proceeding of an interaction between me and a traffic constable.

It is just for your safety, my brother. Next time, please wear it. Now the constable wants to get rid of me. But What if I say I don't want to live? Do you think, my life is precious? Do u think, there's only one thing in this country that can save my life is … with the name of helmet? I mean I want law and order, I want poverty reduction, I want employment, I want to live my life with smooth flow of my bike on the roads, Can u help me in such regard? What if I die under the helmet with a lot of stress and strain inside me? Can wearing this helmet justifiably save my life? I put a lot of questions in the mind of that cop, but I thought he is ignoring me and soon I find him standing along another bike with two youngsters riding without hemlet. Now I left that spot with a lot many thoughts still lingering in my mind.

Back to a wider avenue of Islamabad, I am again on my bike with breeze blowing across. My thoughts start drifting again to that cop, Can he help me? No he can not, he is unable to help me? He is not in an authority. He is an employee who is just earning not to allow his spirit get out of his body and he is not doing it for himself but for other family members. Who knows, he himself dislikes it. But he is doing it on a voice of his master, in other words, his boss.

The safety helmet, no doubt is supposed to be helpful in untowered moment of a bike-rider. But I don't have an element of respect to those who implimented this law just in capital city, Islamabad. I'm a frequent traveller of twin cities, and everytime I find out there's no restrictions of riding bike with helmet must on, in Rawalpindi. Is it because, Rawalpindites life is worthless and Islamabdites life has a lot of value? A sane person replies promptly, not at all. Then why? The one of tragedy with us is …. no implimentation of laws but our implimented laws with full of disperity and flaws?

I've seen quite ridiclously designed helmet that are not at all be helpful in any tragic moment, God forbids. Many of helmet users are not using it for the sake of their life but to avoid getting a 100 Rs traffic violation ticket under clause 27 of riding a bike without wearing a safety helmet. Last week I saw a motorist wearing a home-made helmet of kitchen utensils. There are so many who are using viser especially designed for site-engineerrs made up of all fragile plastic. Few helmets are just the size of P-caps.

Now I feel that, this restriction of wearing helmet in any case is not to save the life of every individual who is under the helmet, but to generate revenue from those, who are not using it. The one hundred Rs. note goes to government revenue, Rs 10/ challan ticket for a bank and a nominal commission per traffic violation pocketed by a cop. And miseries from holding that ticket to a long queue in banks to long distant zone offices, from where a poor man recollects his documents is not a one day's tale. So to me, a common man's life has never been valued in this land of pure.

There are so many innocent lives terminated in different parts of this country in recent years. The Jamia Hafsa issue, the east & south Waziristan agencies, and in Balochitan, there are millions of people mercilessly killed by our own security forces. Then why government is taking "so much care" of an individual who wants to terminate his life himself without using helmet? Let him die too. I don’t want to live my life under helmet with a lot of desolations.

There are so many big issues that speaks volume for the plight of common mass. Today the common man is distressed due to prevailing political mayhem and uncontrolled inflation. The only solution to this ongoing turmoil is that political actors should work in harmony and respect the constitution in its spirit, so that country should leap forward towards a more participatory and pluralist political system sans President Musharruf.

Back to helmet culture, Just want to wrap up here with a tiny suggestion to concerned authrities, "take care of big issues and small issues would take care of itself.

Published in daily The Frontier Post on 30th March, 2008

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

AAMIR CHEEMA: A man of virtue

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


A flood of people from all shades of life were present when the dead body of the martyred Aamir Cheema touched the land of his ancestral town Saroki, a tiny village of Wazirabad, 90 miles north west of Lahore city, on Saturday 13th of May, 2006. There was a tough deal of dispute over the funeral prayers of the Shaheed as everyone aspired to clinch the honors. Ultimately, Aamir's father was chosen to lead to end the raging dispute. Thousands of persons overwhelmingly attended the final rites of the martyred despite blistering heat soaring over 50 degree Celsius.

Aamir Abdur Rahman Cheema, 28, was a Ph.D student arrested by the Berlin police between 20th and 22nd March after being accused of making as assassination attempt (armed with a dagger) to chief editor of Dowplait, in the office of Axel Springer. The newspaper was one of the several papers in Europe that reprinted the blasphemous caricatures of the Muslim's Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) in a show of support for freedom of expression after their 1st publication in a Danish newspaper. The reprinting touched off even more outrage in Islamic World and in particular Pakistan, where thousands of people thronged out of streets in violent protests.

Ghazi Cheema Shaheed, the only brother of his three sisters was an engineer by vocation who had left his country for Germany for higher studies in Nov 2004 and paid his last visit to Pakistan in Oct 2005 found dead in his cell while awaiting trail for an alleged assault. His father, Nazeer Cheema claimed that his son, who had been held for six weeks awaiting a court appearance, was tortured to death. Cheema's family members also declined the fact that he had committed suicide. On the other side, German police said, Cheema hanged himself in his Berlin Cell on 3rd of May using a noose made from his clothes. However, the death of youth is still a mystery to be resolved.

German authorities' extended half-hearted cooperation with Pakistani investigators and denied access to vital evidence when the latter visited Berlin earlier of the month of May to verify the causes of Aamir's death. Additional Director General FIA Tariq khosa told the senate committee few days back that Cheema's hands were tied and the main vein of his heart was cut off, which clearly indicated that the Pakistani national was murdered. It is a case of murder, an FIR against German police should be registered in Pakistan and Interpol help be sought for repatriation of the accused, majority of people expressed.

Aamir's father, Nazeer Cheema and his family members refused to accept "the fabricated suicidal killing". According to his parents, Aamir was a devout Muslim, committed to his religious beliefs and tenets and thus it was beyond his mind to terminate his life in a prohibited way of Islam. According to Aamir's maternal uncle and father of the victim, he has a passion towards Jihad and martyrdom. If he had contemplated suicide, why would he delay so long? Is German police ended up his life by subjecting him to inhuman torture during interrogation? Cheema's father narrated that his son was not produced before the court even after 90 days of his arrest. Therefore, there was no logic of keeping him under arrest without any charges. His initial hearing was due in next four days which would have exposed German police's torture, hence he was killed, he further said. The German police never allowed any single person to view the dead body.

Cheems's death elicited a strong note of protests from students, political and religious parties and Ulema back in home and a strong voice had been approved by the parliament, demanding a complete enquiry and severe punishment for those responsible. Taking stock of the whole scenario, no brain points towards the possibility of a self-killing. However, despite a robust protest by a parliament and public circles, the government of Pakistan lodged no official protest against a country known for propagating its adherence to tenets of law, justice and "human rights". The issue clearly highlighted the obvious weakness of under-developed state that has no ethical, moral or physical courage to even demand or protest such an "isolated" case involving with advanced or developed nation.

The most distressing thing about all was the indifferent and casual attitude shown by the government of Pakistan, particularly the foreign office towards the inhuman killing of Amir Cheema. The Pakistani embassy and foreign office remained aloof and shown no interest in his release neither in pursuing this case. Pakistan consulate came to know about issue on 18th April, right at the time when this case was raise in the parliament. It was only then that the matter was formally taken up with the German officials. The German police claimed that Aamir committed suicide on 3rd May, 2006 at 0800 hrs. German police and justice ministry officials informed that he hanged himself.

People across the country lambasted the attitude of the government and protested over its tactics to downplay Aamir's burial ceremony. The establishment forcibly brought dead body to Sroki, while Aamir had already wished to be buried at Jannat-ul-Baqeeh. Shaheed's family and in particular his father was being hurled with tears every now or then. Aamir's family wanted his burial in Rawalpindi as a second option, if not in Saudi Arabia but it was made impossible due to sheer pressure of some officials from Pakistan. People also expressed their anger vexation over the fact that government had tried to keep the funeral time secret and also restrained thousand of people to attend the funeral prayers. The murder of Aamir Cheema has also exposed the dual standards of western world that makes a lot of hue and cry about its commitment to human rights, religious harmony and freedom of expression. However, they kept on bulldozing and rectifying the rights of others, especially of banana republics. All such clamoring is a futile bid to hide partiality and prejudice rampant in a so called "secular" west.

The government of Pakistan should focus in improving the working of its consulates, embassies and high commissions to make them unable in playing a conducive role to protect the rights and ensuring the security and welfare of its expatriates. It is a bitter reality in knowing that, most of Pakistani diplomats never get in touch with their country mates abroad and therefore are almost oblivion to their hardships. On special festivals and national days, selective gathering of elites gathered around the diplomats. Such 'muddles' need to be critically sorted out; otherwise these appalling occurrences would continue to crop up.

Aamir Cheema laid his life not for personal vendetta but rather fell martyr while avenging the blasphemy, committed against the Holy Prophet (pbuh). His actions were sufficient enough to teach the entire World a lesson about the prevalent courage and reverence of the Muslims for the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Aamir truly is a successor of Ghazi Ilmud-Din Shaheed, who was sentenced to death by the English court for murdering a blasphemous Hindu, Rajpal during a British Raj. Aamir Cheema proved to this world that not just a bearded (normally confused with fanatics) but educated Muslims like him can do anything for the love and passion of the Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh). Aamir is a son of this nation, who made all of us swollen with pride, no matter government has not realized the importance of this sacrifice. Aaamir Cheema is undoubtedly, a martyred (shaheed) who sacrificed his life for a cause without fearing against the wrath of super-powers. He will remain alive in our hearts forever, he is still alive but government of Pakistan is not aware of it and it never will be.

Published in The Frontier Post on 4th June, 2006 & The Post on 1st July, 2006.

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lok Virsa: Striving for cultural resurgence

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

The preservation and promotion of the traditional culture, folklore and folk arts are instrumental in strengthening a nation’s identity. Pakistan, like most other developing countries of Asia and Africa, is in a transitional phase. In addition to being faced with the challenge of preserving its cultural heritage, Pakistan has to meet the needs of a nation in the modern industrial world. Tradition and change should go together. These are like two wheels of a carriage that must move in unison for advancement. No nation can afford to progress in science and technology at the cost of its culture.

Lok Virsa, also known as the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, was established in 1974 for research, collection, documentation, preservation and dissemination of Pakistan’s folklore, oral traditions and regional culture. Within the span of a few years, Lok Virsa has grown from a fledgling endeavour to a full-fledged initiative, whose projects and activities span the entire country.

Over the past centuries, an urban monopoly on art and culture overshadowing the regional and rural tradition, along with an enormous cultural influx from the West, has led to a slow and gradual severance from the roots of indigenous culture. As a result, Lok Virsa was established as the much-needed platform to systematically preserve and strengthen a fading identity. This does not imply holding back progress or turning back the wheels of time, but merely to institute protective measures against the disruption of our own being.

With the advent of modern mass society and an age of cultural diffusion and invasion from the technologically advanced nations, the traditional customs, beliefs, arts and crafts are being rapidly obliterated. The process is almost like a hurricane sweeping down on us. In the absence of adequate protections, it is likely to completely wash away our cultural heritage.

The rediscovery of Pakistan’s historical tradition and its integration with modern elements require extensive knowledge of the roots of this heterogeneous culture. Scientific research and collection of data is necessary for every project that Lok Virsa undertakes. Film footage, field surveys, magnetic recordings, phonographs, researches, dissertations, original monographs, ethnological artifacts, rare manuscripts and microfiche are all stored in Lok Virsa’s central archives for reference and research. Verbal legends and songs, folk romances and tales, children’s games and rhymes, beliefs and rituals, traditional festivals and celebrations, sayings of sages and age-old customs, which express the true genius of the people of Pakistan, are the subject of Lok Virsa’s investigations.

Lok Virsa has focused on documenting Pakistani folklore because it represents things inherited as against things acquired. It is significant because our own awareness and national consciousness must precede everything else. To do this, Lok Virsa conducts cultural surveys in villages, towns and districts of Pakistan. Mobile recordings and filming units have been set up for active field research, documentation and collection of the material and the ideological components of our indigenous traditions. Lok Virsa initiates measures to identify and categorize individuals or groups of notable masters and practitioners of traditional arts and skills to ensure ways and means of their continuance by providing suitable incentives.

In modern times, arts are becoming an industry, and no longer an individual act. A developing country like Pakistan is at the consumer’s end. We are compelled to import art products like films, books, magazines, videos and audiotapes. The result is rapid transplantation of alien art forms, to the detriment of our own cultural traditions. Lok Virsa, in cognizance of the situation, aims to strengthen the national art industry for the propagation of Pakistani art forms. Lok Virsa is an affiliate member of UNESCO, the World Crafts Council, International Council of Music, the Asian Cultural Centre for UNESCO, the International Council of Museums and similar other world organizations for the dissemination of art products abroad.

The Museum has grown from a small sub-section in 1974 into an integral division of Lok Virsa since 1981. The museum galleries house a rare collection of folk arts and ethnological artifacts, each of which has been chosen by an expert as a prime example of a unique artisanship and its features. The displays are imaginatively arranged and keep changing during a year to accommodate new additions. Since the museum documents living arts, it calls upon all artisans to bring their crafts annually to the artisan festival. This festival is held each year in the month of October at the museum complex in Islamabad. Over 100,000 eager participants come to the festival. Lok Virsa supports the craftsmen by giving cash awards to them and recognizing them as living national treasures. The festival also features folk entertainments, puppet shows, folk dance, music concerts and an exotic craft bazaar.

It would not be unjust to call Lok Virsa the cultural storehouse of literature pertaining to Pakistani traditions. Original search works in all regional languages of Pakistan along with Urdu renderings of the regional text are published. Patronage has expanded from scholars to the general public, as the centre now publishes two books a month. Over a hundred books have been produced by the centre in a series, including Folk Songs, Folk Tales, Folk Romance, Epics, Folk entertainments, Folk Poetry, Sufi Poetry, Cultural Information, Cultural Gazetteers and Surveys, Folk Classics, Oral Traditions and Rare Reprints.

The publishing house aims to make regional folk literature available in the national language to promote greater understanding and closer fraternity amongst Pakistanis and to make cultural literature available to schools, colleges and universities and social scientists. Many a Lok Virsa publication is prescribed as part of the course of study in major universities at home and abroad. A number of publications from Lok Virsa publishing house are national award winners. The centre also publishes professional quality recordings on video and audiocassettes for storage, reference, and projection of our authentic musical heritage. Lok Virsa is already the largest folk music publisher in Pakistan.

Lok Virsa since its inception in 1974 has placed great emphasis on audiovisual documentation of rituals, customs, festivals and traditions that are dying out. A professional video studio has been established by the centre at Islamabad. The well-equipped mobile units of the centre can reach any part of the country to capture an event and yield a quality production. Whether enjoying a musical journey through Pakistan via the ABU prizewinner The Circarama Box or being immersed in a fascinating study of the ancient civilization of Moenjodaro, the sound-slide kits produced by the centre are a pleasure to experience. These inexpensive and creative educational kits consist of slides synchronized to a sound track with a booklet as background material. The educational institutions are offered free screenings. The media centre also offers professional documentaries and video programmes to television networks, universities, and other institutions for home consumption on rental as well as on sale.

Lok Virsa follows a policy of involving all talented Pakistanis in the implementation of its policies and programmes. Lok Virsa is the only institution offering grants for cultural research to scholars and students, particularly from remote areas.

Many existing facilities of Lok Virsa such as the Heritage Museum, Heritage Library, Sound Archives, Research and Publishing Centre and Virsa Media Centre are all educational facilities based on the interest of students and researchers. Lok Virsa has been provided a new mandate under the new charter that requires the institution to develop a new vision and vistas in broadening its horizon. These new areas principally include socio-cultural education, training, workshops, culture industry, broadcasting, telecasting, NGOs and community services. Lok Virsa under the leadership of Mr. Uxi Mufti, Executive Director of Lok Virsa, along with sheer commitment of Mr. Anwaar-ul-Haq, Programme Executive, and other team professionals must strive harder to distinguish itself in these new areas as a viable self-support organization.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad

Published in dilay DAWN on 23rd June, 2006 & in The Post on 25th of June, 2006


MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

HAYATULLAH KHAN: A replica of Daniel Pearl

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

The callous murder of Hayatullah Khan in the village of Mirali in the restive North Waziristan tribal region on June 16, under suspicious circumstances heralded that the press in Pakistan can never flourish under the umbrella of government institutions, as we are the most obedient slaves of the superpower.

Hayatullah Khan Dawar, aged 30, a tribal journalist and a father of four was shot dead and his body was found lying in the mountains near Khesor Village, seven kilometres south of Mirali. He looked pale, had lost a lot of weight and grown a beard while in captivity. He was clad in the same brown clothes he had on the day he went missing. He was handcuffed and had received five gunshots. It appeared as if he was shot from behind while attempting to escape. However, the body of the deceased bore no torture marks.

Hayatullah, who worked for the Urdu national daily Ausaaf, English daily The Nation and as a photographer for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA), was abducted from the main Mirali-Bannu road on December 5, last year. There were five abductors, all masked and bearded, armed with AK-47 assault rifles. The courageous journalist was on his way to cover a student’s demonstration against the US missile attack in Esorhi village on December 1, 2005.

It was the detention of his father by the political authorities in 1992 that prompted the young man to become a journalist and expose excesses and injustices. He kicked off his career as a journalist soon after doing his first term in MSc. Economics from the Government Degree College of Bannu in 1998.I

In 2001, Hayatullah had a brush with the US forces when he was arrested in southeastern Paktika area of Afghanistan by the US forces, mistaking him for a secretary to the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omer. He was detained at the Bagram air base for two months and questioned about the whereabouts of Taliban’s elusive one-eyed leader.

Hayatullah’s address book contained many telephone numbers of religious leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan, whom he had interviewed in the course of his journalistic career. This was later on taken as evidence of his contacts with terrorists and involvement in terrorist activities. These contacts ultimately resulted in giving him the death penalty.

Hayatullah is not the first media person who was executed under mysterious circumstances in the volatile tribal region, in a period less than two years. Two journalists, Aamir Nawab Wazir and Allah Noor Wazir were gunned down and Anwar Shakir was critically injured in February 2005 in the neighbouring South Waziristan Agency.

According to Hayatullah’s brother, Ehsanullah, his brother was first threatened on November 17, 2005, prompting him to rush to Islamabad to inform one of his intimate friends Hamid Mir. Hayatullah meanwhile was offered three choices, i.e. either leave the agency or stop reporting at this place; or accept the position of a naib muharrar (head clerk) in the political administrative wing.

Hayatullah’s brother also said that he and his family members had been assured time and again that Hayatullah was alive and well, and had been detained on matters relating to national security. Everyone knew all along which agency had held him. There is not even an iota of doubt in our minds, claimed the 21 year old Ehsanullah. He blamed an intelligence agency for this murder and vowed to avenge his brother’s death.

The family of the martyr suspected that he had been kidnapped by an intelligence agency after he first released the pictures of parts of the US missiles that had killed the senior al Qaeda operative Hamza Rabia in North Waziristan on December 1. It also came through some sources that Hayatullah had been relocated to the US as a reward for pinpointing Rabia’s hideout. On May 10, the US consulate in Peshawar circulated a statement denying any knowledge regarding Hayatullah’s whereabouts.

Hayatullah’s disappearance and his assassination later on had been a subject of discussion and speculation for a long time. It sparked protests and demonstrations by journalists in Peshawar and prompted international organizations, including Reporters Sans Frontieres and Committee for the Protection of Journalists, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to issue statements urging Islamabad to secure his release. However, strong speculations haunted many that Hayatullah might have been detained by the Pakistani intelligence agencies operating in the same region.

“This is not the Taliban style of execution because they dispose of cases of suspected informers and pro government agents in a few days,” Ehsanullah revealed.The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation also condemned this brazen murder. Both organizations in a joint statement appealed to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the kidnapping and murder of Hayatullah Khan and appoint a judicial inquiry commission.

Locals say it is a mystery who had kidnapped and killed Hayatullah. Both the militants and the authorities denied knowledge of his whereabouts during the six months period that he was missing. However, the local tribal journalists’ organizations blamed the government for Hayatullah’s death because it failed to rescue him.

Hayatullah Khan was abducted just after he reported the killing of a five-year-old child and an 18-year-old college student in the US missile strike. Hayatullah took photographs of what appeared to be pieces of the US missiles at the scene. The photographs were printed in an Islamabad based Urdu paper he was working for.

Many days earlier, the Pakistani authorities had announced the death of Abu Hamza Rabia with four others in a blast at an alleged militant hideout in North Waziristan. The official version was that bomb-making materials had accidentally exploded but the locals said that it happened due to a US military assault. Hayatullah’s reports and photographs had exposed the official version.

The opposition members raised their voices in the Assembly after Hayatullah was kidnapped, but the government did not take any notice of this issue. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of the Islamic alliance MMA claimed in a rally that the government has shown criminal silence over the kidnapping of the journalist.

Mehrun Nisa, the widow of Hayatullah, also alleged that the government is behind the murder of her spouse. The Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao denied the government’s involvement in the whole brutal affair.

Hayatullah, the lanky fellow, was dedicated to his profession. He was a hardworking journalist, especially with regards to activities in the Pak-Afghan border areas and taking chances in gleaning exact information was his distinction. A gallant journalist lost his life in the line of duty. Hayatullah was a determined man with unflinching attitude. He had been in nasty situations before as well and used to shrug off torture and threats. This courageous attitude made him popular in journalist circles.

Hayatullah will always be remembered for his valorous contributions. He is a martyr and hero in the estimation of the people, and especially for the younger generation of the same profession. His death raises a pertinent question: is the media of this country autonomous?The cold-blooded murder of Hayatullah Khan was indeed a brazen act, which needs to be thoroughly investigated, independent of the government. Otherwise its claims of freedom of press will remain nothing more than a rattling sound. It was not only the murder of Hayatullah, it is the murder of media freedom.

Published in The Post on 22nd July, 2006 & in The Frontier Post on 18 july, 2006


MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

Lok Virsa – an educational institution

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, known as Lok Virsa, established in 1974, is a specialized organization with a mandate for field research, collection, documentation, cultural studies, preservation and dissemination of Pakistan’s folklore, oral tradition and indigenous cultural heritage. In order to give substantial legal status to Lok Virsa, broadening its area of activities, and enabling it to generate its own resources other than government grants, the existing resolution has been converted into an ordinance, promulgated by the President on September 17, 2002.

The president, while graciously inaugurating Pakistan’s first Ethnological Museum, was pleased to direct that the Museum should be fully utilized by students and research scholars to gain understanding of the magnificent cultural heritage of the country. In line with this instruction, Lok Virsa is making all out efforts to transform itself from the existing museum into a teaching facility, similar to a teaching hospital.

Within a decade, Lok Virsa has grown from a fledging endeavour to create a science of folklore, into a complex whose projects and activities span the roots of the entire nation. In accordance with the directive, Lok Virsa has worked out a three years plan of “Museum Educational Programme and Expansion of Public Facilities.”

In order to educate the young generation and students about the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan, the Heritage Museum has launched a Museum Educational Programme in collaboration with leading universities and colleges. Under this programme, students are invited from different educational institutions such as Fatimah Jinnah Women’s University, Quaid-e-Azam University, Punjab University, Baha-ud-Din Zakariya University, Peshawar University, International Islamic University, National College of Arts and other leading universities for field research and dissertations in different social subjects to fulfil the requirements for their M.Sc and M.Phil degrees. 100 students from five leading universities and academic institutions (20 from each) will benefit from this programme annually, by way of receiving financial support for fieldwork in remote areas of the country.

Annual Skilled Training Programme is a collaborative venture between the Heritage Museum, Ministry of Education and its affiliated organizations, wherein Master Artisans in different craft fields and recipients of the President’s Medal for Pride of Performance will be invited to hold workshops in the Museum to present their skills to the younger generation.

Lok Virsa will organize an annual 10-day Artisans-at-Work and Craft Bazaar exhibition to promote the cultural heritage of Pakistan and to provide an opportunity to the Master Artisans to display and sell their crafts, without the involvement of middlemen. At least 50 Master Artisans in specialized crafts fields will be invited to participate, bringing with them their creative works. This will be an annual event of the Heritage Museum, which will become self-generating after the third year.

It will be a vital aim for the Heritage Museum to improve the image of Pakistan abroad and to protect the rich cultural heritage of the country. Under this programme named as ‘Collaboration and Facilitation of Foreign Scholars’, six leading scholars from different leading foreign universities will be invited annually. They will be encouraged to carry out original research work on Pakistan’s rich culture and society. 18 scholars will take part in this programme over the span of three years.

Lok Virsa has already established the Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology/Heritage Museum as an extension of its existing facilities. A small committee under the guidance of Mr. Uxi Mufti, Executive Director of Lok Virsa, a connoisseur of Art and Folklore and Programme Executive (Coordination and Special Visits) Mr. Anwaarul Haq, a true workaholic officer, with the help of other officials and staff, will be responsible for timely execution of this project. One hopes that this project will constitute the best show-window on Pakistan and provide a truly reflective cultural attraction available to dignitaries and visiting heads of state in Islamabad.

Published in Daily THe Post on 6th Feb, 2006

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad

Muhammad Hanif Ramay – A MAN OF MASSES

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

The year 2006 begins on the sad note of the demise of a renowned politician and connoisseur of art and literature, Muhammad Hanif Ramay (1930-2006). He was a man of multi-faceted talents. His presence illuminated our minds and spirits, as his formal and informal conversations impressed and influenced people from every sphere of life.

Hanif Ramay was an accomplished calligraphic artist and painter. He was the first to employ the techniques of modern art in Islamic calligraphy to promote the ideology of Islamic socialism on this soil. His artwork fusing Eastern and Western aesthetics gave calligraphy a new dimension. He was an exception in the field of calligraphy, amalgamating abstract with Muslim art; he created a diction of his own that was subtle and legible even to an ordinary person. Ramay was inspired by the works of Abdul Rahman Chughtai and Master Allah Bux and created some masterpieces. He brought colour to calligraphy. However, he was involved in so many other activities that he was never able to market himself as a writer and artist. His painting, “Adam and Eve” was appreciated by everyone who knows something of what art is all about. Ramay’s work indeed was of high calibre and of admirable quality.

In his last years, Hanif suffered from back problems and kept away from active politics. However he went back to his real passion of writing and painting. He calligraphed Allah’s and Muhammad’s (PBUH) 99 names in his own unique style. Along with this came one of the best pieces of prose I’ve read in my lifetime so far: Islam ki Ruhani Kadrain -- Zindagi nahi Maut (The Spiritual Values of Islam — Life, not Death), in which he pointed out how today’s Muslim is in a state of dilemma over maintaining a balance between the first and second part of his life. His contributions in the domain of politics as a former Chief Minister of Punjab are worth mentioning too. He authored a book, Punjab Ka Muqaddama, which propagated the cause of the province and thus produced massive controversy among the people at that time. His emotional dedication to the interests of Punjab many years later culminated in this book in the mid-1980s in the aftermath of a violent political movement in Sindh. Punjab Ka Muqaddama argued the thesis that the bureaucracy at the Centre, and not Punjab, was responsible for depriving the smaller provinces of their due rights.

As Chief Minister of Punjab, he also founded Arts Councils in all the major cities of the province, which exist to date to promote and preserve the arts and culture of the country. He removed innumerable bureaucratic hurdles in building the Alhamra Arts Complex. It was his final wish to be buried in the premises of the same complex, but this was tragically turned down by the Punjab government.

Ramay’s independent and unprecedented theories on how to progress as a nation still impress everyone. However, he could not balance his conflicting interests and was forced out of office by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He then joined Mustafa Khar and tried to form a new political party, but eventually joined the faction of Pakistan Muslim League led by Pir Pagara. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto threw Ramay into one of the cells of the Lahore Fort and a tribunal sentenced him to four and half years imprisonment.

When General Zia came to power, the Lahore High Court released Mr. Ramay, who then went away to the US and stayed there to teach at the University of California, Berkeley for more than six years. On his return to Pakistan, he again tried to jump into his old field of politics. This time he managed to form a new political party named Musawaat, with the slogan of ‘Rub, Roti aur Lok Raj’. But this did not take off and so he merged it with a new party led by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, called National People’s Party, but left it soon after. In the 1990s, when Benazir Bhutto came into politics, Ramay returned to the Pakistan People’s Party. Benazir Bhutto welcomed this and elevated him to the coveted position of Speaker of the Punjab Assembly in 1993.

Muhammad Hanif Ramay was amongst the few intellectuals who led the movement of enlightened Islam into the 1960s and was the first gentleman from the lower/middle class to become an elected Chief Minister Punjab. He was a prominent proponent of modernist Islam and his work influenced a whole generation in a decade spanning the 1950s and 1960s. The journal Nusrat was a harbinger of his thoughts and feelings. The literary community was then broadly divided into two wings, progressive (Leftist) and Islamists (Rightist). Ramay joined Muhammad Hassan Askari, Intezar Hussain, Salim Ahmad and Nasir Kazmi’s school of thought to express his ideas on the promotion of Pakistan’s identity and ideology. He, without an iota of doubt, was a man who played a pivotal role as a journalist in spreading the message of Islamic Socialism taken up by Z.A Bhutto.

A selfless politician, a pragmatic intellectual, a committed journalist, an artist par excellence, and a broadminded scholar, this is the life-story of Muhammad Hanif Ramay. He tried to combine modernity and traditional values in all the roles he played. There is no exaggeration in saying that personalities like him are very rarely found and the vacuum his death created, can never be filled.

Published in daily Pakistan Observer 4th March, 2006 & The Post 8th April, 2006


MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad