IS MY COUNTRY WORTH SAVING?
AM I INDEBTED TO MY MOTHER!
Ideology versus Geography in Pakistan
I saw and met a lot of journalists in my life. Not the present ones, but the ones who pioneered journalism in Pakistan. Those guys were really guys who knew their job. You hardly saw them with brand new clothes, or brand new cars, or brand new houses, or millions in bank accounts. They were a poor lot of people aiming for the richness of their country. Pakistan salutes them every day.
The truth never gets written. It comes in form of gossips these days. Truth as gossip is a joke isn’t it. Stories are planted, games played, the country for petty emoluments, is not sacred at all. Toeing the wishes of foreign lobbies, Pakistani media is perhaps the only media in the world, which fulfills the ages old saying, “Cutting the branch on which you are standing with an axe”? Check the trail of them and you end up in foreign countries, and more often than usual, hidden bottles in secret cupboards. Money really makes them go.
A tirade of vicissitudes is behind them. They talk in terms of foreign eyes foreign tongues, foreign hearts. Perhaps it is lack of breast feeding of that generation, which were fed with powder milk bottles, that they never learnt to love their mothers. And the country is in all ways more like a mother itself. A load of crap is given to us all the time.
When I hear educated people talking about the negativeness of Pakistan, as if no negative aspect exists of any other country. We used to read comparative culture and administration, and the objective way of comparing nations. Contentment, happiness, access to basic facilities, jobs, progress towards tomorrow, all were there. The dirty rich has deprived the clean poor of all these things.
The question remains IS MY COUNTRY WORTH SAVING? If it is not, then I am not worth saving too. And since I think of myself as worthy, my retort would be, not only a big YES, but the statement that for ideas one can sacrifice life, and that is martyrdom, honoured by Allah. Pakistan Forever!
The story of an orphan boy of about 12 years of age, who supposedly came from Kashmeer and settled in Lahore with his mother (research proves that his ancestors were actually from Lahore itelf). He did all sorts of menial jobs, and at first could not achieve success in any field. He was the first to start manufacturing soap in Lahore. He even practiced wrestling for a living. Mahrajah Sher Singh had rewarded him for a victory, with the present of a horse. Due to a known official contact, he gradually turned to contractorship, and as it is said, eventually became a real Sultan of Lahore. The marriage he solemnized of his step-brother Mian Abdur Rahman (born of a Lahori father) on which four lakh rupees were spent was considered no less than the marriage of Prince Nau Nehal Singh in the past. The brother left Lahore for Kabul and died there. The intricate reception he arranged for the Prince of Wales Albert Edward on 18th January, 1876 AD, by placing heavily carved wooden ‘chajas’ on all the shops in his ‘Landa Bazaar’ is on record as being an exceptional gesture. The beautiful water well known as ‘Thanda koh’ he made in his Serai for drinking of water by ordinary people was appreciated by all. All this made him stand tall with people. There are two views on him; one positive, one negative. And probably both are true in a way. In a ruthless spree of greed, he bought one monument after another, and demolished same again in the name of bricks. On the other hand he gave charity to all deserving persons, built public buildings, mosques, and worked for the welfare of the people. And instead of a bloated ego, he had plenty of humility, and even refused some fancy titles from British over lords. But can he be blamed alone for demolishing these buildings? After all it was the colonial rule, and he was under command instructions to do things. It was not in his power to refuse same. And what about the attitude of those Britishers who had sold these beautiful monuments to the contractor for bricks alone? A rag to riches tale and back is the story of his life. Muhammed Sultan died on 4th February, 1876 AD in penury, only 16 days after the Prince of Wales passed his show (his last show in all ways, on which he spent a considerable time in preparation) near the Railway Station, and was buried in the graveyard of Miani in Lahore. A misunderstood man who inherited a question mark to his life in history.
A FAMILY TREE BY YAHYA CHUGHTAI ARTIST
In Landa Bazaar we visited the house of Yahya Chughtai, an artist and draughtsman with the King Edward Medical College, Lahore, and a descendant of Muhammd Sultan himself. Our enquiry about Muhammed Sultan was extensive and he wrote the following family tree for us in 1977 and that is remarkable too:
MIRZA ABDULLAH BAIG HUKUM LAHORE (GOVERNOR)
MIAN PIR MUHAMMED
MIAN QADIR BAKSH
MIAN MUHAMMED SULTAN AND MIAN ABDUR RAHMAN
ELAHI BAKSH MUSAWAR AND IMAM BAKSH MUSAWAR
We reproduce the family tree given to us by Muhammed Yahya. I do not think anyone has ever researched the real background of Muhammed Sultan like this.
LANDA BAZAAR AND SULTAN’S SERAI
Frequented by millions in a year, hunting for old clothes as well as iron and its related things, the two keep the name of this contractor alive. But so does the Railway Station, the work of a remarkable man. And all this on the Chowk of Prince Dara Shikoh as well as his havelli. Dara Shikoh too was a Governor of Lahore, once upon a time and his memory is long gone too. But the memory of the Sultan persists to this day for his work which was really immortal in many ways.
There is a photograph in our archives, attributed to him. We will reproduce that eventually.
A peace agreement was in vogue between the Sioux of Dakota and the American Government. Then Gold was discovered in Dakota and prospectors flocked the Indian reservations for mining of gold. The Indian resented that. General Custer marched with the Seventh Cavalry and 700 men, with arrogant pride in his GATLING GUNS (the latest weapon of mass destruction then). The Indians were considered nobodies with their bows and arrows. Custer mocked the army of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The battle took place at Little Big Horn. But history shows that a proud nation can do wonders, if humiliated in any such way. On 25th June, 1876, the Americans came face to face with the wrath of the Red Indians under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The result the entire Seventh Cavalry was massacred that day, along with General Custer himself. This legend has led to one of the greatest myths in American history in reverse. Strength can conquer resolve.
A wise saying goes that ‘Nations that do not learn from their history, are bound to relive it’. Certainly there were groups who resented the wiping of the American Indians and from making those warriors into wimps, but the majority painted the Indians in a bad way. In a few decades, all the Indians could do was their Pow Wow dance. Always considered savage and uncivilized, no body paid them any attention. It became a full time game in America, Cowboys and Indians, with Cowboys shooting down Indians all the time. Missionaries trying to convert the Indians into their own image. The Indians lost their identity, their religion, their pride in existence. Today it is not possible to trace out a full bloodied Indian.
This scenario we see the Americans repeat again and again. Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Iraq, Libya and the latest in Afghanistan. The awe of destruction, the majesty of latest armor, the spectacle of gunship helicopters, high tech drones, and what not? Games people play, and the Americans play the most spectacular games in the world, using not props, but real people in the real world.
Ms Rose Stone was a Peace maker, a full blooded American lady, who fought for peace in the world. She went to each country in the world, and let the leading painter design a Peace Card for her project. M.A. Rahman Chughtai obliged her with a work for this PEACE SERIES (more of that later). She did in the world what no American government could do. Today the same is being done by groups like the WHOLE NINE, which includes the founder, artist Lisa Schultz. Best of luck to these Americans who dream Peace in the world! We are with them. They are the American conscience. They bring harmony to Planet Earth.
The Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai was getting very popular in the United States in the 1950s. R.C. Stone (Rose Stone) an American printer and publisher went on the Peace Offensive in the United States. Forgetting about her regular business, she turned her resources towards PEACE in the world. What was happening in Vietnam was repugnant to these thinking Americans and they were trying their best to do good. A number of Americans had fathered illegitimate children in Vietnam, and these American children were languishing on the streets of Vietnam’s cities and villages. Rose Stone made it her job to get Visas for these children and she made a SOS VILLAGE for them, and gave them an opportunity to be part of the American dream.
In this quest Rose Stone embarked upon a PEACE PROJECT. She selected the best artists of most countries in the world, and gave them a task of contributing PEACE CARDS for her project. The best artists of the world presented her their homage for peace. In Pakistan, she approached M.A. Rahman Chughtai. She came here on her own to request the artist to do same and the artist obliged her. The album of Cards is still with us. The Cards of M.A., Rahman Chughtai not only fostered PEACE in the world but promoted Pakistan as being part of same. I met her again in New York in 1976, and we talked of many things.
I recently came across another group of artists again in California , working on the same theme. I was amazed, Rose Stone stood forgotten in modern times. With access to the Senate in her life time, she stood forgotten. I asked the esteemed lady artist Lisa Shultz to do something in memory of Rose Stone, peace maker of the world.
When we sit here we know of the U.S.A as their Government would like us to know. But when you meet Americans, talk to them, be with them, you realize a friendly nation believing in goodness, and yes, thousands yearn for peace all the time. It is for us to give people like ROSE STONES a chance to tell us about the real face of America. It is for us to cooperate with Lisa Schultz in her peaceful endeavour.
I am fond of diverse information. The magazine OMNI was of great interest to me. I got a subscription to it for a few years. Excellent articles on subjects unheard in usual circumstances. A necessary tool to keep up with the times. A long time back, there was a news about Pakistan in it. It not only made me shiver but sent shock waves into me. It said that the Pakistani former Prime Minister was in London (Benazir Bhutto), trying to sell a MOON ROCK with an arts dealer on Bond Street, London. The dealer was willing to buy it for something like 250,000 US$, but said that they would not be able to buy it, unless there was a release certificate from the Government of Pakistan. President Richard Nixon had sent it as a gift to President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto once upon a time. There was a NASA team in Pakistan in 1973, and the three astronauts visited this country. They had taken the flag of Pakistan to the Moon itself. It proved the obsession of a Pakistan Prime Minister with a Moon Rock.
A few days back there was another news in the Nation newspaper. A journalist had written the following:
“Our Prime minister wears a watch, a Louis Moinet ‘Meteoris’ that has a price of US 4.6 million dollars. According to the watchmaker Louis Moinet, the Meteoris watch includes pieces of actual meteorites, as well as pieces of the moon and asteroids.”
Two different Prime Ministers, both obsessed with the Moon Rocks in one form or the other. Ancient mythology point out to the facts that LUNA STRIKES PEOPLE, and it seems both our Prime Ministers were struck by Luna itself.
For us thinking people, poets and aesthetic prone sensitives, just looking at the Moon, thrills us. Owning a part of it is not something we can aspire for in any way. A famous Muhammed Rafi’s song still thrills us, “Chaudiween ka Chand ho”. The Full Moon is our blessing. Lovers in each other arms looking at the beauty of the Moon.
However the Moon strikes people in different ways. The sea level rises. Black marks on unborn babies. And werewolves too. People who howl in the night, chasing innocent like vampires. We were told when we were children that MAI CHARKHA KAT RAHI HAI, meaning an old women spinning her thread wheel. But the best was CHANDA MAMOO, making a maternal uncle out of the moon, loving and everything. In what way Luna strikes our politicians, one really does not know.
A BRITISH REPORT ON ATTOCK TUNNEL
WHO GAVE THEM THE IDEA?
Mystery of Attock Fort
The Gazetteer and official records talk about the efforts of making the tunnel:
“In 1856, the Indian Government commenced the construction of a tunnel under the Indus at Attock, but the work has never been completed, as it has been decided eventually, upon the completion of the Punjab State Railway, to construct a bridge over the river.”
But the British themselves contradict this information.
“Ross, writing in 1883, refers to the tunnel and mentions that it was in fact completed in 1862 by the 32nd Sappers, known as the Mazbis, but was subsequently abandoned, ‘owing to the difficulty of keeping it clear of water’.”
Ross, D, The land of the five rivers and Sindh. London, 1883.
The idea that the Attock Fort tunnel was constructed by the Mughals first, still persists, and needs fresh research.
UNDERGROUND TUNNELS OF LAHORE
NOT MYTHICAL BUT A REALITY
NO ONE INTERESTED IN OUR LEGACY
You heard about them again and again in our myths, about the underground tunnels of Lahore. The oldest reality is that when a Fort was besieged, there was always an underground tunnel for the King or the Commander to escape into under ground chambers and out in the open country. Even the Governor House Lahore has a British period escape route. The myths point to long distance tunnels, between cities. It is famous to Lahore to this day that a tunnel connected it to Delhi itself. Tunnels under Sheikhupura Fort, under Nur Jahan’s mausoleum, and what not? In fact even Father Sebastian Manrique was taken through one of these tunnels from the Palace of Nawab Asif Khan to the city of Lahore in 1644. The tunnel from Attock Fort, built by Emperor Akbar, across the river Kabul is famous to this day. And yet modern writers doubt the engineering skill of the Mughals to have undertaken such a task, and reject these ideas a mere ‘hogwash’. The interesting part is that it is hogwash to reject anything without research. One conjecture is being replaced with another conjecture. To reject engineering possibilities of the Mughals is not looking at the various water systems associated with monuments, and the way the bridges were built in those days, which still stand without having moved an inch in four hundred years. There is a record in manuscripts of ‘Insha Harkiran’ of a Ravadari, or a passport given to Ustad Ahmad Mimar (architect of the Taj Mahal), giving him permission to cross the river Attock, as he was on official duty there of Emperor Akbar (then at capital of Lahore). But what about those who have seen the tunnels actually?
Dr Abdullah Chaghatai talked of the tunnel unearthed outside Mochi Darwaza, where a man could easily walk in it, as well as taking a horse in it. The tunnel linking the Shahi Mosque of Maryiam Zamani with Lahore Fort has been seen by many. The tunnel going under the Sheikhupura Fort towards Hearn Minar is there to this day. Many years back the Police unearthed a tunnel linking a village near MUREEDKAY to Indian territory. It seemed that regular smuggling of alcohol was going in these tunnels from the Indian to the Pakistan side. It was part of the ring of famous Chaudhry smuggler, Dilawar of the area. Even the entrance to the tunnel near Attock Fort towards Kabul river is known to this day (completed or not is unknown).
Lahore is slowly being bought completely by the Pathans. Already they own a great percentage of the old city of Lahore. Each one of them with a shop on ground level, has at times, not one, not two, but even three to four basements down the ground. And these underground basements are linked together by underground lanes. Yes, lanes under lanes in Lahore. Containers of smuggled goods come in Lahore and go underground in broad daylight with the connivance of all those concerned and disregard of all consequences. A labour force is in operation and this labour force has tales to tell.
I have interviewed many labourers who do this at night time. The way it is done is remarkable in itself and most dangerous in all cases. A floor is taken and a iron and cement covering is given to it. Then a corner is dug, and a trench dug from one corner to the other. Say ten feet deep. On this trench a wall is made which falls under the cement iron roof. This is repeated on all four sides. Then with the uses of donkeys, the earth in this enclosed room is taken out. Once that is done, cement is laid on all four sides, and a entrance made on the roof, with stairs down to the lower floor, which is made now. This is repeated three or four times. At some places the digging goes to 30 feet, at other places even more. After that sand comes under the surface, speaking of the ancient Noah’s flood in Lahore.
I have got samples of the ten layers of earth unearthed under Lahore. Yes, ten different layers, ten different times. Remarkable for any historian or archaeologist, but here, nobody is bothered at all. Materialism has replaced love for culture.
I interviewed a labourer namely MR S, as he doe not want his identity revealed to anyone. And he told me the strangest thing possible. Yes, he said here is a tunnel under Lahore, going towards Delhi,and he said that at regular intervals, there were niches in the wall, for lamps. And not only that, there were regular inscriptions on the wall too. I could only cry at this neglect of our heritage. Inscriptions in underground tunnel could tell us what no history book can. But who cares? I do, but what does it matter!
No one will think of Lahore as a ship building city, not ever reckon that the bank of the river had a LAHORI BANDAR, yes a shipyard in Lahore. Amazing to even think of same these days. And the kind of shipyard by the same name was in SIND too (the Lahori ships went there and travelogues of Englishmen dictate such travels), which was also called a Lahori bandar, and there are manuscripts of those times with the name on it. Why was it so? For the river RAVI was not the impotent river of today but a gushing river of plenty of water. Under the Indus Water Treaty India robbed Lahore of its river Ravi. Ravi now shows itself in flood only and it was the flood in 1952, when it drowned portions of Lahore in it. The same had happened annually in times of Aurangzeb and that is why he built the AURANGZEBI BUND in Lahore, w
hich existed for a long time, before the Sikhs and the British stole its bricks away.
Some years back they were digging the foundations for a house on Mohni road, and they came across the relic of an old lost ship. Again nobody bothered. The wood was no good for modern use, not was there any gold attached. Rusted iron and withered wood, that was it. Nothing good for the treasure hunters of today. This was the way of the trail of the old river Ravi. We in Lahore used to call it Buddha darya (old river), and relics were there for a long time.
Emperor Akbar ruled Lahore for 18 years, 14 years as the Capital of Hindustan itself. This 14 years rule was from 1584 to 1598, and here we have a recorded incident dated May, 1594. Historians have written that:
“A ship was completed on the banks of the Ravi. The length of the keel, which formed the foundation of this wooden house, was 35 Ilahi yards, 2936 large planks (shahtir) of sal and pine, and 468 maunds and two seers of iron, were used in building it, and 240 carpenters and blacksmiths and others were employed. His Majesty went to see the spectacle.”
It must have indeed been a spectacle, for it was so big, that to drag it to water, a thousand persons were called in to help. There was indeed not enough water at that time to make the transition easy. But it was done. A proud feat for the Mughal Industry.
In the ‘Maseray-Raheemi’ of Abdur Raheem Khan e Khanaan, we are told that this Royal Courtier also had a ship built, to enable selected citizens to perform free Haj every year. The prospective Hajis used to avail the facility. Shah Shuja was also fond of ships and had ships stationed in Surat, the later ship yard of the British. Aurangzeb also used to ride ships. He was seen in a ship in Benaras itself. But the big event was the inauguration of the Badshahi Mosque Lahore, when Aurangzeb came in a ship to inaugurate it. An incident happened at that time, when from the bank, a mad man threw a brick at him. The man was caught but the Emperor had him set free. That was the justice of those incredible rulers.
In any case very little gets written about Lahore, and it is our job as citizens of Lahore to tell it to the world. The achievements of Lahore always worthy of praise by all.
Historians write of this and we need to revisit information and see it as:
Emperor Akbar, who ruled much of India in the latter half of the 16th century, apparently had a great interest in modern shipbuilding. This might have been sparked in part by his relations with the Portuguese (who had established themselves at Goa by this time) and their modern warships. It is known from the Akbarnama and Ain-e-Akbari that several large, ocean-going ships were built in India under Akbar’s reign, at Lahore and Ilahabas (Allahabad). The first such ship was built in June 1592 near Lahore; construction could not place near the coastline itself due to a lack of timber. The ship was built of 3000 large wooden planks and roughly 12 tons of iron was used, with a keel measuring close to 100 feet in length. This would make it on par with the galleons being built in Europe at the same time. The constructed ships were transported by massive barges to the Mughal ports in Sindh, where they were put to sail in the Arabian Sea.
Unfortunately, Akbar’s successors did not share his enthusiasm in shipbuilding, and a modern ocean-going Mughal navy comparable to those of European powers never materialized. But what if the successors of Akbar had invested more resources in the development of a navy? How would it affect the commercial and political interactions between India and the European powers in the 17th and 18th centuries?
WHEN JOSEPH S FARLAND CAME CALLING
AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AT CHUGHTAI HOME
Virginia forgot her handbag
American diplomats were lovers of Art in Pakistan. It was routine for American Ambassadors to call at the home of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, National Artist of Pakistan. The American Consulate had a couple of drivers (for special duty only), one was with a big mustache, and the other younger. Eventually both settled in the United States, and both knew the way to our house, blind folded. They would wave at us whenever they got a chance, and that was most true, for they were next to our school, Sacred Heart High School. The American Consulate was in Bank Square, and the U.S.I.S in front of it. American diplomats favourite rendezvous was with the studio of the artist.
Ambassador Benjamin H. Oehlert left back for the States to his Everglades Club. The new Ambassador was to be very important, for Henry Kissinger was planning to go on a secret trip to China, and Pakistan was helping in the same. When Farland landed at the airport, I remember he said, ‘I have come with an out stretched hand for Pakistan’. When his car stopped in front of our doorstep I was there to receive him. My question was more simple, ‘I said where Mr Ambassador is that out stretched hand’, and he laughed, and offered it to me, with a pretty warm hand shake.
The Farlands were very happy to view the paintings, and in their delight, they left, but the Lady Ambassador Virginia, forgot her handbag in our house. And with it were few pages. We could not dare to even look at the handbag but the papers were open, so we sneaked a look. In them was detail of everything. What to say, what to do, who will receive them, what they will do- a complete before hand report of the Farlands visit to our house. Perhaps it was routine or that Farland was an FBI agent, before he joined the Diplomatic core. It provided a rare insight into the life of diplomats in Pakistan.
Many American Ambassadors we met or we communicated with, but Joseph S. Farland (he died in 2007 at age of 92 years) was unique in many ways. One thing about him was very particular, he was laughing all the time. His laughter still rings in our house even today.
THE ATTACK ON LAHORE (1043-1049)
MARTYRDOM AT ITS BEST
A memory of national resolve
In the year 435 AH (1043 AD), the Raja of Delhi was able to rally other Hindu Rajas to accost and drive the Muslims out of India. The religious motivation drove them into a frenzy, for they were loosing their commoner subjects by the thousands, each day, through voluntary conversions. Fearing there would be no vassals left to serve them, they started recovering one town after another. They took Hansi, Thanesar and then Nagar Kot. In the year 441 AH (1049 AD), they laid a siege to the city of Lahore.
Sultan Maudud was not in Lahore. Maudud undertook a campaign against Khurasan, and had gone through the city of Kabul. He reached the Fort of Sankot and was seized with a violent bowel movement (food poisoning of the worst kind). On a litter tied behind a horse, he was taken to Ghazni, where he died, and the rest of the time there was chaotic fighting for the throne. A four year old son was put on the throne, which led to further infighting in the Ghaznavid ranks.
Without the protection of the Sultan, it was up to the citizens of Lahore to defend themselves. The Hindus gained initially a lot of ground in victory. Their number was ten thousand horsemen, as well as innumerable foot soldiers. Five thousand Muslims were taken prisoners, mosques were razed o the ground, and a general loot and plunder started outside Lahore in the suburbs. A group of valiant soldiers assembled in the Purani Kotwali Lahore and resolved to face the wrath of the Hindus. The siege was for about seven months and the soldiers held their ground. Thousands died defending Lahore, including many of their Generals who were controlling the action. The nature of Lahore was thus that in the course of fifty years or so, the citizens of Lahore had made the city as their own.
The soldiers who gave their life for Lahore and by their action were able to save Lahore. The place where they died was Mohalla Sadhoaun, Mohalla Chabuk Sawaran and the area of Chinay-wali mosque (the residential area of M.A. Rahman Chughtai and his ancestors). This place was known as GANJ SHAHEEDAN, and they were buried at the same place where they died with full honour, some individually, some in mass graves. A few graves existed till fifty years ago, and now the 963 years old incident is represented by the Mazar of one unnamed General only. I too was born in Lahore, very near the mausoleum of Ayaz Abu-Najm and my ancestors lived in the Mohalla Chabuk Sawaran, the area of the Ganj Shaheedan. The soil of Lahore on which you are born and where you live welcomes also those who die. The warmth of the soil is there for all to taste, but more specifically for the SHAHEEDS, the people who give their life in defending Lahore.
After the 1965 war, the brother of Major Aziz Bhatti came back from Dacca, and opened the GO-GO restaurant in Liberty Market Lahore, frequented by most, before it got vacated out of the premises. The nephew of the Shaheed was with us in Forman Christian College. In a sudden sweep, the Shaheed and his aura walks tall in the area where they gave their life, and in Paradise, which await only selected people from Planet Earth.. Allah-o-Akbar!