Friday, May 31, 2013


May you journey well with the angels and find peace in God’s bosom


Life is ultimately cruel. As on 28th May, 2013 the air of the country was filled with the enchanted slogans of ‘Allah-u-Akbar' in celebration of ‘Yaom-e-Taqbeer’- a day on which Pakistan became nuclear power, the residents of House No.22, Chiragh Park, Shad Bagh, Lahore were profoundly reciting ‘Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilehi Rajioon’ on the sad demise of oldest member of the family Mian Muhammad Saeed who breathed his last after a brief illness.

Lean, feeble but strong by heart and mind, Mamu Saeed could not be able to walk for the last few months because of multiple growing diseases. He could be seen glued to his bed inside Drawing Room but his ‘presence’ matters a lot for everyone as he sacrificed and struggled throughout his life for upbringing his children and a dozen of grandkids. 

He was 80 and buried in Pir Ronqi graveyard on May 29.

“Though he was passive, and even could not be able to walk inside home, my hectic day’s makes me refresh as soon as I meet him every night coming back home. He always gives us courage. Death is the ultimate and he will be missed everywhere, every time. It’s the will of Almighty,” said his only son Mian Muhammad Zahid who is a professional goldsmith.

“He was Pepsi fanatic, loves to eat trifle, Ras Malai, cold drinks and everything that contains sugar that is why my grandfather was the sweetest grandfather on the face of this planet Erath. He always cared for us,” Kinza Zahid, the youngest granddaughter said while wiping her tears. 

Going deep into the memory lane, I always found Mamu Saeed as sweet as sugar. Down-to-earth, jolly and love to talk person, he lived his life as a trouble shooter. “Abida, Sumaira, Osama jao yar koi khaan peen da bandobast karo, Mahtab aya ay, Pepsi lay ke ao,” were his immediate directions to family members whenever I have chanced to meet Mamu.

Conversing on various issues ranging from socio-economic to politico to domestic with Mamu was always a fun. Every time I visited him I found a framed photograph of Mamu laying somewhere around him with the caption of a verse from Saghir Siddiqui “Zindagi Jabr-e-Musalsal ki Tarah Kati he, Jane kis jurm ki pai hy saza, yad nahi”.

With the tinge of naughty feeling inside me I always asked him, “Mamu Ge, you are looking attractive with this Jinnah Cap but tell me about this caption”. In reply he always smiled and after a brief pause said… “This verse from Saghir Siddiqi is dedicated to your Mami.” And after that we both had a cheerful laughter. But the fact is there was no other person gloomier than Mami Abida who has spent over 6 decades as Mamu’s life partner. Mami Abida termed this death as the greatest loss of her life.

Moreover, the long lasting love of this couple could be easily gauged when after the sad expiry of Mamu Saeed, his remnants found few of hand-written diaries by the deceased and one page of the month of October reflects the couple’s eternal love with the thoughts “Today I have successfully completed 55 years of my wedding. Here, it would be sheer injustice, had I not compliment my spouse Abida for her time (good or bad) shared with me”.

Mamu, however, did not spare a single moment to enjoy and relish. For him every small moment of pleasure was a pleasure of lifetime. Mami Abida was a regular visitor of Shad Maan where her relatives live. Mamu Saeed in his regular Diary for the sake of fun writes “Abida went to Shad Man”, and “Abida came back home from Shad Maan after spending weeks, etc” were the regular features inscribed in his writings.

Mamu was a keen lover of poetry as his Dairies contained a good volume of Urdu and Persian quality poetry.

Once during meeting with Mamu, he took a deep sigh and keeping my attention said “Yar Mahtab, Had I been a well-educated, I would have been retired as Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission”. We both laughed out loudly and later I shared this saying to many others who could not stop enjoying this saying.

Mamu Saeed rendered meritorious services for the welfare of his family. Having 8 daughters and a son, he along his spouse not only left no stone unturned in nurturing his family members but reached out to seek perfect matches for each of them. His efforts not only restricted to matchmaking of his sons and daughters but successfully managed to arrange matches for his grandsons and granddaughters.  

Whenever I talked something silly, he stopped me saying, “Chad Yar… Tu wi Habibullah e ain”. I never asked about the character of Habibullah but a little stress on my brain I was able to understand ‘Habibullah’ is a fictitious character, a symbol of docility and lunacy and Mamu named that person ‘Habibullah’.

Dejected looking Siddique Lali, son-in-law while arranging the final rites of Mamu Saeed remarked, “He played a fantastic knock in his life, hit unlimited boundaries and had never disappointed his number of fans, he will surely be missed at every affair of life”.

No one exactly knows what were the last words Mamu Saeed uttered before he was hospitalized and remained in ICU for couple of days. His illustrious daughter-in-law Sumaira Zahid was of her opinion that before Mamu’s condition aggravated and he was shifted to Hospital, I prepared tea and Rusk for him and that was the last thing he had eaten in his life. “He was not like a father to me but a caring grandfather for kids. Whenever I will come here (drawing room) in particular, I would not keep my tears hold in his memory. I pray to Almighty to grant Mamu superlative spot in Heaven. May his soul rest in eternal peace there,” Sumaira maintained.

Hassan Siddique, one of grandson of Mamu Saeed said before Nana Abbu’s health went further deterioration, he asked people around him to “call Zahid (son), Shababa (daughter) and all sons and daughters. “Because of the fact sons and daughters are considered the source of forgiveness for a father, perhaps that’s why his death-wish was to unite his offspring and wished to see them for the last time,” Hassan concluded.  

On 28th of May around 5:30pm I came to know the sad expiry of Mamu Saeed who was in coma in a local hospital for couple of days. Funeral is to be held at 9:00am. I was in office and tried to wrap up my work earlier and reached home around 9:00pm. I took bath, had my dinner and around 1200 left Islamabad for Lahore. I went to Karachi Company and was informed that last bus is missed now it will go at 7:00am; I went to Faizabad then and boarded in a bus at 2:00am. Journey started at 3:00am.

I have never slept during traveling and prefer to peep through the window as to me it’s the best example of life when with the every blink of an eye the whole scenario changes drastically one by one. However, I don’t know how and when I shut my eyes but when I opened it I was on Bridge of River Ravi and it was 8:00am. I took sigh of relief that I will manage to reach in an hour, and I did it.  

Upon reaching, outside home, everyone was sitting in somber while remnants were busy in Mamu’s final rites. I condoled many of them one by one outside home and inside the adjoined Park where Mamu’s dead body was to be shifted shortly for funeral prayer. I did not muster up courage to go inside home and step in drawing room where I had long sessions of conversations with the dear departed.

Before and after offering funeral prayer, I watched Mamu Saeed’s face many a times before last time. Holding the funeral bed, I focused my both eyes on Mamu’s face.

Looking at whitish cool, calm and angel liked face, for a moment I thought Mamu will speak up to me saying…. “A bhai Habibullah” but a vociferous voice of ‘Kalma-e-Shadat’ shattered my imaginations and his funeral bed was raised in the air!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013




Calligraphy is the art of beautiful, elegant handwriting. It is a fine art of skilled penmanship. In fact, Islamic calligraphy is considered to be Arabic calligraphy. Calligraphy has possibly become the most acclaimed form of Islamic art; the holy Qur'an was revealed in Arabic. Abdul Rasheed Butt aka Rasheed Butt is one name that needs no introduction in the realm of Islamic calligraphy.  

Rasheed Butt started calligraphy in 1961 and since then he has devoted his everything to this art. He has exhibited his work all over the globe and many of his calligraphy masterpieces feature in museums, private collections and many monuments including the Pakistani Senate, Al-Furqan Foundation (UK), Agha Khan medical college and hospital and Mecca Gate, Saudi Arabia.

Butt has been commissioned by the Prime Minister of Pakistan to create inimitable works of Islamic Calligraphy which have been presented to more than twenty heads of state in an official capacity. Rasheed Butt’s versatility in various kinds of ‘khat’ is established in the Muslim world. It is no wonder that the famous Christie’s had put up his work for auction a distinction not given to any living Muslim calligrapher.

Rasheed Butt’s Islamabad residence in sector G-10 gives off a serene vibe and a feeling of deep and satisfying peace. “The life of a calligrapher is without tension. My entire life’s been without stress because I know God provides for me; he provides sustenance for my efforts,” said Butt sitting on a couch having a long puff of cigarette.

Born in 1944 to a Kashmiri family, the artist’s initial foray into calligraphy occurred when he was employed as calligraphy in-charge of a newspaper. It was only later, in 1967 that Butt seriously committed to calligraphy and began learning under Khwaja Mahmood Akhtar and Hafiz Yousuf Sadidi.

Now at 69, there is a spark to his eyes and a youthful exuberance that belies his years. The same vitality can be seen in his work, which impacts and grabs the viewer’s attention with its bold strokes, vibrancy, and masterly illumination. He is living proof that the ancient Islamic art of calligraphy still flourishes.

Having achieved ‘the pride of performance’- one of the coveted award in the country, Rasheed Butt holds an abiding and long-standing art-relationship with the West; the calligraphic appreciation there opened many doors for him. “They love it because it is work they can’t produce,” he explained.

He is the first person in Pakistan who used illuminations in his work. “Illumination, again an art sadly lost in the sands of time, at the hands of chilling complacence and continuing disinterestedness gradually slipping into oblivion,” the white haired Butt maintained.

Dressed in black shalwar kameez, Butt said “He does not sleep a single night without concentrating on ways and means of enhancing his contribution to Islamic calligraphy”.

The calligraphic inscriptions of Rasheed Butt fall into four categories- Qur’anic (The Holy Qur’an falls into Chapters (Suras) and Verses (Ayat), Hadith (The Hadith (Traditions) is the body of sayings attributed to the Prophet (bpuh), Traditional invocations or prayers, and fourthly the Poetry (both Arabic and Persian).

Rasheed Butt has worked to promote the art of Islamic Calligraphy and has many students from around the world. He first taught calligraphy on National Television in 1991-1994 when he hosted his own weekly programme. He is the first to teach khat through the electronic media. He also has been the curator of national and international Calligraphy exhibitions. Butt continues to teach Islamic Calligraphy as a lecturer at the National College of Art and Fatima Jinnah Women’s University in Pakistan.

Many publications including books on history of art and architecture, newspapers feature his work. Towards enhancing Islamic calligraphy in Pakistan, he has had several solo exhibitions in Pakistan and overseas and also participated in several art exhibitions in USA, UK, Iran, China, Iraq, Malaysia, Kuwait, Tunisia and Algeria. He has received many awards and commendation particularly at the national level.

Certain key personalities from Europe also influenced Butt’s work. In 1994 - when he nearly gave up on his art because the Pakistani government’s attitude towards calligraphy had disheartened him - esteemed German Orientalist and Islamic scholar Anne Marie Schimmel, urged him to continue despite the odds.

A year later, in 1995, he was requested by the Birmingham Central Cathedral to exhibit his work at its premises. The exhibition made Butt the first calligrapher to display at a Cathedral in a very progressive fusion of eastern and western culture and religious iconography.

Inside his basement studio, Butt said he preferred working at night and that he focuses on “those Quranic texts and sayings of the Prophet that people aren’t too familiar with”.

He is the first in Pakistan to use illumination (such as intricate floral motifs rendered in gold, blue and red) with calligraphy. He’s also the only calligrapher capable of working gold in qalam (pen). “The conception of the work is what takes the longest time. In execution, I can finish a piece within three to four months (with illumination),” he added. When he can’t work because of a creative bloc, Butt spends time brainstorming and sketching future works.

“In the West, if you look up ‘Islamic Art’ in any art book, the first thing you’ll see is calligraphy,” said Butt, incredulous and amused. “It took me fifty years to get recognition in Pakistan and 96 per cent of my clients are not Muslim.” Although the post-9/11 Muslim world has seen a resurgence of Islamic art and identity, Butt is of the view that much of calligraphy is lost on many circles in Pakistan and that it isn’t considered art anymore.

His gripe with the treatment of calligraphy in Pakistan doesn’t end there. “I was awarded the Pride of Performance in 1989. The only problem is that the government totally forgets the artist after he or she is awarded. There is no follow up.” This lax attitude coupled with the current socio-political climate has Butt convinced that the political movers and shakers in Pakistan have lost their core faith and spirituality - which are essential to the practice and patronage of calligraphy.

Butt admitted that he had once worked out a proposal for teaching calligraphy at madrassas as a means to keep militancy in check. However, like so many genuine initiatives in the country, the proposal was hijacked by the bureaucracy and never manifested.

Butt described his work is serious and sacred - the texts he chooses must be a message to all of mankind, not just Muslims. Butt gave an example of such a message from the Qu’ran and it was translated to “He who helps humanity, his name cannot be removed from this earth”. Rasheed Butt finished his talk by telling his philosophy on the purpose of life - the first purpose is to pray to Almighty and the second is the exploration of the universe!

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad and writes his independent blog

Monday, May 13, 2013


ISLAMABAD: A stop-gap democracy of Pakistan is witnessing historic milestones as Nawaz Sharif is all set to become the first-ever prime minister to vouch for the office for the third record time in the weeks to come.
After collecting the praises from world leaders from Iran, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, London and his saviors after 1999 ouster i.e  the Saudi King, crucial phase of forming a government has already begun.
With a slow Election Commission yet to officially notify all the results, but a media-driven elections and political leadership has already conceded defeats and victories on the very night of elections in Pakistan.
At present the current tally of Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League stand around 128 seats out of 268 openly contested seats in general elections.
Nawaz Sharif himself has won from two constituencies; one from Lahore and another one from Sargodha, wile his brother Shahbaz Sharif has also won a seat of National and one of provincial assembly from Lahore. Therefore, they will have to vacate one of the two seats, especially when Shahbaz Sharif has announced to continue his unfinished job as Punjab chief minister.
Nawaz Sharif’s party will need 137 to have simple majority and form a government on its own for which party leadership had a detailed meeting at Raiwind Palace on late Saturday night. First omens coming out of that meeting is that Nawaz Sharif is not interested in forging any alliances and is still hopeful that he will get the required numbers with the help of independents alone.
Ministries like finance, education and information seems to have already been given a tag names like Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal and Saad Rafiq or Pervaiz Rashid.
Offer of an alliance from Maulana Fazalur rehman, who telephoned Nawaz Sharif on late Saturday night also came under review in this meeting but is learnt to have been put on the back burner for the time being, informed the sources. “We don’t want any bargainers at this time and are hopeful that we will not have to depend on any crutches,” commented one senior party leader after the meeting.
Simple majority he might get but it is hard to fathom that how Nawaz Sharif will be able to pass the legislation when PPP and its allies are holding majority in the upper house of the senate, observed a pundit. Second major point, which many analysts have been invoking since last night is that how Nawaz Sharif would ensure an all inclusive cabinet to overcome the dilemma that his party is coming to hold federal citadel with a Punjabi vote? Nawaz’s party has done poorly in all other federating units - identical to 2008 results.
Considering the fact that he would not be able to do much to stop PPP from claiming Sindh province and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf might be a potent front runner in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, many analysts are hoping that Nawaz Sharif would try to live with these realities instead of repeating the Jam Sadiq (1990) or Manzoor Wattoo’s (1993) examples. Both of them maneuvered their way by denying the top office to single largest party in the Sind and Punjab, respectively.

Courtesy Saeed Minhas