Stories about partition

I’m sorry, but Habib Jalib who?

It was Habib Jalib’s death anniversary a few days ago, and, as expected, when I inquired from my friends if they knew who this revolutionary poet was, they said no. Why would they know Jalib anyway? I didn’t know who he was until I stumbled upon a few videos of his poetry recital when I was in college three years ago. It was then that I was exposed to a man whom I went on to respect. In fact, I made sure I learnt some of his verses, as they seemed very applicable around the year 2007, as they were when ...

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They smuggled my poems to Delhi too

At Jamuna’s bank, I, too, got my blessed Ganges bath, so to say. These are the days of Faiz dip. The centenary festival is on the move. It is natural for Pakistan, of course, to celebrate Faiz but the person and the poetry have also won admirers far beyond our lands. India, in particular, has a claim on Faiz in that an entire epoch of Faiz’s poetry was written in the undivided India. It was also the days of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, which for a decade and a half dominated the literary scene in the subcontinent. Faiz’s poetry immediately after ...

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1947: A teenager’s memories of Independence

After all these years I can still smell the stench of death and half burnt timber. I still see mountains of rubble as if it was August 1947 in Lahore. I was 13 years old, tense and worried. I could see columns of smoke rising over the city’s rooftops. Speculations were ripe. They said Lahore was going to be a part of Pakistan but the inclusion of Gurdaspur, the area where my relatives lived,  was doubtful. I did not know what would happen to the rest of the Muslims all over India. My own relatives lived in East Punjab, and I anxiously ...

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Pakistan (Studies) Zindabad!

“You know what really bothers me about India? Not their stupid ‘Incredible India’ slogan or their weird item songs or that ‘Licence to wear Black’ ad,” says a friend during Pakistan Studies class one day. “The Taj Mahal! Everybody wants to see it. It’s on every postcard. Even that stupid French guy wants to see it. It’s the first thing everyone wants to see!” When I ask why she’s bothered by the Taj Mahal, her answer is simple: “Because it’s really ours.” That is, Pakistan’s. Five years of Pakistan Studies class, hours of learning dates and battle names, of revising lists ...

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Minorities in Pakistan: Living a marginalised reality

I’ve found the reaction to Pakistan’s current blasphemy laws surprising. Not because I think the whole Aasia Bibi (and more recently Naushad Valiyani) issue has been blown out of proportion but because of how long it has taken Pakistan to acknowledge the malicious nature of the blasphemy laws. I feel that our nation’s reaction is luke warm – one that has flourished just so most of us can sleep at night feeling good about ourselves as genuine ‘online philanthropists’. These blasphemy laws have existed in Pakistan as long as I can remember. They are a product of what General Ziaul Haq and ...

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Need a history lesson, Babar Awan?

I am at a loss to understand law minister Babar Awan’s fixation on “takhte Lahore”, a reference to Emperor Ranjit Singh’s reign. Others have also hijacked this phrase and have started to use it indiscriminately while referring to the present Punjab government headed by Shahbaz Sharif. While others could have been excused for their obvious ignorance of Punjab’s history, the words are surprising coming from a supposedly well-read person. After all, the minister is a son of the soil, to use a cliche. An empire as a gimmick To ridicule the golden period of Punjabi history for petty score settling ...

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George ka (blood-thirsty) Pakistan

On August 25, George Fulton wrote an article, Don’t act surprised. The article is one of many on the brutal Sialkot incident. The author’s message – as the title of his piece indicates – is that  such an act is nothing surprising in a nation that is inherently “barbaric” and “degenerate.” While I respect Fulton for his love for Pakistan, and while I believe, his intentions while writing were sincerely patriotic, I want to make it clear that there is a thin line between detesting a nation’s faults and bashing a country. Fulton writes: We are, and have always been, a barbaric, ...

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