Sunday, 17 May 2009

Swat and East Pakistan

The crisis in Swat is tremendous. Not only we in Pakistan are following it with dismay and uneasiness but the whole world is following it (Yahoo! homepage is highlighting two news stories about it every day on an average).

Last October, I posted my forecasts about the next 20 years of Pakistan:
  • 2008-10: Disenchantment with the West
  • 2010-16: Isolation (and possible conflict)
  • 2017-26: Crisis of federation
  • 2026-27: Emergence of inherent unity
Details can be seen on my other Blog . Accompanied with heavy loss in life and property, the tragic events of Swat seem to be completing the disenchantment with the West in the heart of an average Pakistani. This is what is not being realized by those who hope to gain from human misery (and no, the ports of Gwador and Karachi are not going to fall into the laps of foreign demigods by these means, at least not forever, if that's the bigger plan).

I wish I could explain it in more detail. The writings of Iqbal, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan (along with many others) give us a very clear idea about what is actually happening here and what should be done. However, we need to know more about our history than most of us do (the way the history of Pakistan is written by its sympathizers as well as its critics, it has got more loopholes than the plot of a James Bond movie).

In the meanwhile, here is a snippet from the past: compare the events happening today with what happened in 1971 with the help of this special page in the Chronicle of Pakistan . Do you think there are similarities - or how are they different?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Iqbal Studies in Mauritius

When I told my friends that I was going to Mauritius to attend a belated Iqbal Day celebration on April 25, many were surprised. Just in case other readers of this newsletter also share that curiosity, Mauritius has a population of about 1.2 million, out of which a great majority is originally from India and migrated long ago in the days of colonialism. I hope I won’t be exaggerating if I say that Iqbal is just as popular there as he is in India. Of course, the Urdu speaking ones know more about him than others but here is a summary of my activities in Mauritius, April 25-29, which will give a better idea.

TALK at Islamic Cultural Centre: This was the original Iqbal Day for which I had been invited by the Urdu Speaking Union. It was attended by the former vice president of the country, minister of culture, high commissioner of Pakistan as well as the directors of the host organizations, some great intellectuals and general audience. One thing which especially impressed me was the quality of talks by these dignitaries. My own presentation was about “the Seven Stages” in the poetry of Iqbal (readers of this newsletter are familiar with that).

TALK at Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI): It was attended by the students and some faculty of Eastern languages. On suggestion from some of my friends in Mauritius I repeated “the Seven Stages” presentation. LECTURE to the students of Diploma in Urdu at MGI: One of the teachers, Mr. Farooq Husnu, invited me to talk to his students and on his suggestion I discussed “how to appreciate Iqbal critically.” The poem which we analyzed was ‘The Child’s Prayer’ (Lab pay aati hai dua…). We saw how this simplest of all poems contains the entire philosophy of Iqbal in a nutshell and actually traces the movement of the observer through multiple layers of reality.

TALK at the University of Mauritius: ‘Consensus Culture’ is a term which I am trying to float through my academic writings, one of which was published recently in the
research journal of Iqbal Academy Pakistan and can be seen at Ibne Safi Website. At the University of Mauritius I was able to develop the concept a bit farther, and in fact, it became my first proper presentation on the subject to an all-academic audience. Basically we saw how consensus artists respond to “the collective ego”. The presentation was participatory and some of the input which I received from the faculty members who attended the session was, to say the least, quite valuable for my research.

INTERVIEWS with MBC (TV): Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation is the official television and radio channel in Mauritius, and I was briefly interviewed for a news slot on the occasion of Iqbal Day. Later, on the last day of my trip, I received the honor of being a special guest in Anjuman, a talk show about Urdu Literature. I was especially touched by the supportive attitude of the fellow participants (most of whom were much more senior intellectuals than me). INTERVIEW with MBC (Radio): Three episodes of 15-minute each were recorded in which I spoke about various aspects of Iqbal’s philosophy (I guess these as well as the interviews for TV might be available on YouTube sometime soon).