Tag Archives: Punjab

Punjabi Taliban

By Frederick Kagan, Ahmad Majidyar

(The Critical Threats Project is developing a site focused specifically on the threat from al-Qaeda and Associated Movements (AQAM); until that site reaches production, related pieces will be posted on the IranTracker site.)

A group called Tehrik-e Taliban Punjab (TT Punjab) released a message on May 27 claiming credit for the suicide car-bomb attack in Lahore that killed at least 40 people and injured nearly 150, according to a translation prepared by the SITE Intel Group.  The message said that the attackers struck to retaliate for the operations the Pakistani Army has been conducting against the Tehrik-e Nafaz-e Shariat-e Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat River Valley and elsewhere in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. Continue reading

The splendours of Anarkali (Lahore)

Thanks to Isa, I have found this video. A must see for all those who can understand Punjabi and appreciate the nuances of Lahore and its magic. The poem is entitled Tu ki janay bholiyae majay anarkali diyan shanan. This is a humourous poem in an earthy tone using folklore.

First Gurmukhi course concludes

By Ali Usman

LAHORE: The graduates of the first Gurmukhi Certificate Course were awarded certificates on Wednesday after the completion of the course at the Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (PILAAC).

The Gurmukhi Learning Certificate Course – the first course of its kind in Pakistan to teach the Gurmukhi script of Punjabi commenced at the institute last month. Some 35 students were registered for the course, of which 21 qualified the final examination. Gurmukhi is the universal script used for writing Punjabi, and is quite close to the Hindi script. In Pakistan, the Shahmukhi script (also called the Persian script by some) is used for writing Punjabi. Continue reading

People’s history of the Punjab: Humanism and equality

The poetry of Shah Hussain explored the socio-political dimensions of Punjabi society

Shah Abdul Latif Bhita’i was a contemporary poet of Bulleh Shah

Dr Manzur Ejaz writing for TFT

Islamic extremism is not new in the subcontinent: At one time even the Emperor Akbar, the most liberal among Mughal rulers, was forced to ban alcohol under the pressure of the religious establishment. However, at that time the difference was that an alternative ideology was also evolving, but this is not the case in the political discourse of today. The Pakistani state has successfully created a disconnection from the tradition of an alternative ideology by promoting the religious version of the ruling Muslim elites – most Muslim rulers were conservative Sunnis – and Mullahs.
The alternative ideology in the Punjab started with the Chishtia’s challenge to the establishment through the rebellious poetry of Baba Farid-ud-din Masood Ganj-e-Shakar (1175-1266). Baba Guru Nanak, following this tradition, critiqued the political economy as well as the system of ideas prevailing in both Hindu society and ritualistic Muslim religion. Nanak negated the political system more directly than anyone else had done in the Punjab before him.

Baba Nanak (1469-1539) was very methodical in his intellectual discourse. In his Japji Sahib, he undertook the rebuttal of the presumptions of the Hindu religion and its philosophy. He negated the Muslim practice of ritualistic practices, but because of Islam’s monotheism his criticism of it was not as harsh as it was against Hinduism. Furthermore, since he absolutely negated casteism and gender differentiations, his main target was Hindu philosophy and its practices. Probably, this is the reason that Muslims wanted to bury him according to Islamic tradition.

On the political level Baba Nanak’s main criticism was against foreign invaders and their religious pretensions. Baba Nanak is the only poet who described the invasion of the Mughal Emperor Babar, (1483-1531). He observed that Babar did not differentiate between Indian Muslims and Hindus and dishonoured their women indiscriminately. According to him, Babar arbitrarily destroyed mosques and mandirs. In conclusion he sums up:

Pap ki janj ley Kabloon dhaia, jori mangay dan vey lalo

([He] mounted an invasion with his sinful party (army) and he demands donations by force)

Baba Nanak also provided a deep insight into the exploitative economic and social systems in India. This was one of the main reasons that he attracted so many Punjabi artisans to his teachings. The class of poor Jat peasants joined him at a later stage. Baba Nanak’s complete comprehension of the system became the basis of a religious and nationalist resistance in the Punjab, while the works of Sufis were not able to induce an organized movement that could sustain itself. This had positive developments in the Punjab as far as putting an end to the invaders from the North was concerned, but Sikhism lost its edge in due course because it became just another organized religion with all the usual ritualistic aspects. Nonetheless, this negative development does not diminish Baba Nanak’s significance as a thinker espousing an alternative ideology to the one enforced by orthodox Islam and Hinduism. Continue reading

Is Pakistan collapsing? A father and a citizen speaks

By Ali Dayan Hasan

At my daughter’s annual school parent’s day event in Lahore last month, the tension was palpable. Bewildered at the speed with which this innocuous annual event had transformed into a maximum security operation, anxious parents filed in their hundreds past security guards, metal detectors and bag searches into Theatre Number Two of the Alhamra Cultural Complex – a modernist structure that the citizens of Lahore would tell you proudly is amongst the largest public-funded exhibition and theatre complexes in Asia. They were there to see their children, none older than seven, perform the usual amalgam of tableaux on “Peoples and Festivals of the World”, a smattering of Kathak – a North Indian classical dance, a “Chinese dance” performance and, of course, my daughter’s favorite – a Disney-esque version of the Bangles hit – “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The event began, as always, with recitation from the Quran. Tense primary school teachers grappled with security issues and as I walked in; a very public stand-off between a security posse comprising teachers, local police and plain clothes personnel and a random man who was on the premises for “no known reason” was underway. The man was eventually deemed harmless and let go but there was no parent who entered that hall without making note of the exits. Two hours later, as we filed out, I and virtually every relieved parent thought and said the same thing: “One more year like the last one and next year there will be no Parents Day. Another month or two like the previous ones and there might be no school left open.”

Since December 27, 2007 – the dreadful winter’s day when streets across Pakistan fell silent in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis have understood and expressed in varying degrees, or disagreed in desperate denial, that the Islamization project unleashed by the United States and implemented by the Pakistani military since 1979 had turned on its creators, snarling at the United States, devouring Pakistan and exposing its army for the megalomaniac but intensely incompetent institution that it is. And the narrative of impending disaster, brutal dispossession and disembodied lives in exile for stateless citizens harking back pathetically to a lost life, hitherto the preserve of Palestinians and Cubans, Afghans, Somalis and the ethnic mosaic of the Balkans, beckons to Pakistanis as well. One could argue that Pakistanis are scared of a future comprising daily doses of floggings, beheadings, daisy cutters and drones. They might be too. But no one has had time to think that far ahead. The truth is more prosaic: After all, if your children cannot go to school, the future has ceased to be. And when societies cannot have a future, they die. Continue reading

Taliban spotted in Lahore??

I was wondering if this news item sent to me by Google’s numerous and fascinating services was true. If yes, very scary for us Lahoris. Raza Rumi

Lahore: The Swat Taliban continues to tighten its grip over new areas of Lahore after Shangla and Buner.

According to the sources, Taliban were seen walking towards Lahore railway station.

Earlier, Taliban commander Jawed declared that couples seen in city parks would be killed on the spot. He also called for closuer of English medium schools in the city.

Taliban commander Muslim Khan said, ‘We would go and operate everywhere people call us.’

These Taliban walking on the roads of the city have ‘Taliban Of North Waziristan’ written on themselves.

Security was beefed up in city parks and schools following the warning from the trouble makers.

Lahore is burning

Raza Rumi

[reportedly] 27 dead and dozens injured – no respite for us.

Once again, in less than a month Lahore has been ravaged by terrorists. Who said that Pakistan was a hub of terrorism – we are now the greatest victim of terror and militancy. The residents of Lahore are scared and the vibrant city seems to be enveloped in a mist of uncertainty and fear.

The Mumbai and later Lahore 3/3 model seems to be in vogue now. Extremely well trained commandos, with sophisticated weapons  and not afraid of death are let loose on the society. The media is hysterical as well and following the Indian media’s cue[s] is now a participant and embedded in the so-called operation. Continue reading

The history of Basant

Manzoor has authored a great post on Basant. We are cross posting it here – given that many Lahore Nama visitors are talking of Basant and expressing their great enthusiasm for the festival.  Raza Rumi (ed)

Basant is a centuries old cultural tradition of Punjab. Over the years, it gained an element of controversy as the fundamentalism wiped the norms of tolerance and co-existence in our society. Disregard of law and for the lives of fellow citizens turned it into a bloody sport.

Recently I came across a book “URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore in 1959. I am reproducing the chapter on Basant (p.276-277) here: “Basant (a Sanskrit word for spring) is a seasonal festival of Indo-Pak sub-continent and it has no religious bearings. Basant is the herald of the spring and celebrated in winter (Magh) on the fourth or fifth day of lunar month. This is the reason why it is called Basant Panchami. Basant season starts on this day, therefore, Basant is regarded the herald of spring, wheat grows, and mustard blossoms in this season. (Old Aryan tradition divides a year into six seasons each having two months. Mustard blossom that is yellow in color is considered the color of spring and accordingly yellow outfits were worn).  Continue reading

Baba Shah Jamal

Sufi devotees in Lahore
Some believe that Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam can be used as a defence against extremism (Photos: Kamil Dayan Khan)

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions. Continue reading

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi’s invasion and its consequences

A 17th century depiction of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi holding court

The ill-fated Somnath temple, restored many moons later

Ghaznavi’s tomb

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi

The medieval Ghazni

Romila Thapar, the renowned historian of antiquity, argues that the temple of Somnath may never have been attacked by Mahmud or that his attack was of little significance. It was the British House of Commons that brought it to life by demanding that the gates of Somnath be brought back from Ghazni. The funny thing is that when these gates arrived from Ghazni in India it was found that they were made in Turkey. The gates were then put in storage for white ants to feast upon!

Instead of ending caste-ism, the new Muslim rulers of Punjab added another layer to it: they became a super caste overriding all others … while the converted peasantry continued to till the land for the benefit of Muslim warlords from the north, lower class neo-Muslims were employed in court stables and other lowly jobs. Nothing changed for the newly converted Muslim peasantry

Dr Manzur Ejaz writing for The Friday Times’ series entitled: People’s history of the Punjab

Punjab’s fate started changing in the 11th century when Abu Mansur Sebüktegin, a slave king of Ghazni, began invading Raja Jaypal’s Punjab empire which stretched from Kabul eastwards, covering most of northern India. After two inconclusive wars between Jaypal and Sebüktegin, the latter died and his son Mahmud (971-1030) ascended the throne in Ghazni. It was during Mahmud’s several incursions into the Punjab that Muslim rule was established and Lahore became the province’s capital.

Ghazni and areas around it mainly depended upon trade of various goods as well as slaves for its commerce. Renowned from Ghazni to Central Asia these slave markets dealt mainly in slaves captured in remote parts of Central Asia and Russia and later, most numerously, in India. Mahmud’s father, Sebüktegin was himself a Turk slave captured when he was 12 and sold to Alaptigin. When he grew up, his talents were recognized and he married Alaptigin’s daughter and became his general and then his successor. Ghazni and its adjoining areas needed abundant agricultural products and slaves to prosper. This was one of the main reasons why the Punjab, with its rich resources and large population of would-be-slaves, was such an attractive target for the Ghaznavids.

Legend has it that Jaypal, to uphold his honour, burned himself on a pyre after Mahmud defeated him twice (and according to some thrice). Some Hindutva historians maintain that Jaypal and his family were enslaved and taken to Ghazni but the great Raja committed suicide before he was put on the market. However, this is probably not true because after Jaypal, his son Anandpal took over the reins of the empire and continued resisting Mahmud. Eventually, Anandpal was overwhelmed and Mahmud established a government in Lahore.

Mahmud did not only overwhelm Punjab’s Hindu dynasty, he also attacked Multan’s Muslim state in the same manner. Muslim apologists who consider Mahmud a but shikan (an idol destroyer) and great preacher of Islam forget to mention his destruction of Muslim rulers in Multan and elsewhere. And hardline Islamists go further, and vigorously support his invasions because Multan was ruled by Shias and Ismailis whom they do not consider to be real Muslims. Present-day Taliban are following this same tradition.

Sultan Mahmud may have been made a grandiose Muslim icon by the later historians of the Slave Dynasty to legitimize their own rule in India. Similarly, Hindu nationalists exaggerated his killing and plundering to support their own agenda. Muslim historians claim he looted unbelievably large amounts of gold, silver and diamonds from Hindu temples (as in the alleged two hundred maunds of gold from Nagarkot mandir). Hindu nationalists take the same exaggerated numbers and give it their own spin. Muslims call Sultan Mahmud an iconoclast because of his destruction of Somnath temple while Hindus take it as the greatest insult to their religion. However, Romila Thapar, the renowned historian of antiquity, after examining Persian, Gujrati and Sanskrit texts and manuscripts from the temple itself argues that Somnath may never have been attacked by Mahmud or his attack was of little significance. It was the British House of Commons that brought it to life by demanding that the gates of Somnath be brought back from Ghazni. The funny thing is that when these gates arrived from Ghazni in India it was found that they were made in Turkey. The gates were then put in storage for white ants to feast upon!

Sultan Mahmud’s character may have been idealized or demonized by opposing ideologues but it is clear that he targeted Hindu temples that were known for hoarding wealth. Hindu temples were known as depositories of accumulated wealth because they levied high taxes on worshippers and invested heavily in trade, reaping profits from, in most cases, Arab Muslim traders who had settled in the coastal cities of India much before Mahmud was born. In addition, Mahmud’s conquest of Punjab provided multitudes of slaves for Ghazni’s slave market. These slaves were used for private pleasure and for different craft industries manufacturing for the Silk Route trade.

Mahmud’s duels with Indian rulers and elites were very interesting. High caste Hindus, ready to be co-opted or to spy for him, were left alone to stick to their own religion. Many high caste Hindus opportunistically converted to Islam: we have seen the same phenomenon of opportunism during the Muslim rule that followed and even during the Sikh Raj in the Punjab. Therefore, by and large, the same ruling elite retained power after Mahmud established his writ in the Punjab. Nonetheless, many scholars and skilled and talented people ran away towards the south. Al-Beruni, Mahmud’s chronicler wrote: “Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country …This is the reason too why Hindu sciences have retired far away from parts of the country conquered by us and have fled to places, which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benaras and other places.”

Al-Beruni also notes the change in gender relations after Mahmud’s conquest of the Punjab. According to his observation, Punjabi men always used to consult their wives about important matters. However, in Central Asian male chauvinistic society, women were not considered worthy of advice or consideration in important matters. After Mahmud’s occupation of Punjab, women began to lose their previous important status.

Most of all, the Hindu peasants, artisans and those belonging to lower castes bore the brunt of Mahmud’s invasions. After every conquest, most of the fighting men were killed and women and children were taken as slaves to be sold in the Ghazni market. Keeping in mind his talent for exaggeration, the famous historian Continue reading

SIR GANGA RAM: A Brilliant Man of Punjab

Ranpreet Singh Bal ji has sent this exclusive post for Lahore Nama. I am most excited about the fact that Lahore Nama is inviting contributions and increasing readership. Raza Rumi

Ganga Ram was an engineer who designed majestic buildings of Lahore, Amritsar, Patiala and other cities in joint India. He had his early schooling from Amritsar.
sir_ganga_ram
This fact has been highlighted in his biography “ Sir Ganga Ram” A man for all seasons, authored by Dr. F.M. Bhatti and reprinted by Sir Ganga Ram heritage foundation Lahore.

While Sir Ganga Ram is still an icon for the residents of Lahore where he got higher education and constructed beautiful structures there.

Ganga Ram was born in 1851 in Mangtanwala about forty miles from Lahore and fourteen miles from Nankana Sahib, his father who was Assistant Sub inspector at a Police station later moved to Amritsar.

He was sent to nearby private school near Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. Sir Ganga Ram mastered in calligraphy and Persian. He passed his matriculation from Government High School and joined the Government College Lahore in 1869.

Afterwards he obtained a scholarship to the Thompson Engineering College Roorki in 1871, where he passed with the Gold medal in 1873. Continue reading

Group urges more meetings for Punjabi’s from India and Pakistan

Source
A Seminar on the book “ Humanity Amid Insanity” took place in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House, House of Commons in London was very successful in which MPs, authors and prominent members of the Punjabi Community and University students took part.

It was arranged by the Punjabis In Britain  All Party Parliamentary Group. The seminar was addressed by the Chair of  A.P.P.G. John McDonnell MP, authors Tridivesh Singh Maini who is Senior writer for Express Group of Newspapers in India, Tahir Malik who is Chief of News at Waqt TV Lahore in Pakistan and Yasmin Khan , a lecturer in politics at Royal Holloway University. Continue reading

Lahore: Cultural capital to Taliban territory?

Maseeh Rahman writing here

Lahore was the scene of at least three massive bomb attacks on security establishments earlier this year, but people in Pakistan’s second largest city, routinely hailed as the nation’s ‘cultural capital’, appear far more anxious about two relatively minor incidents which occurred earlier this month.
The first was on the evening of October 7, when a cluster of fruit juice parlours — which also serve as popular dating venues — in the Garhi Shahu area, not far from the railway station, was hit by three low-intensity bombs, injuring five people, of whom one died later. The next day, panic-stricken traders organised a well-publicised bonfire of videos and other allegedly pornographic material at the popular electronics bazaar on Hall Road. Continue reading

Living Lohawarana

by Raza Rumi

Also published in Himal Magazine’s October issue

There was a Lahore that I grew up in, and then there is the Lahore that I live in now. Recovering from an exile status for two decades, I find myself today turning into something of a clichéd grump, hanging desperately on to the past. Yet I resist that. Writing about Lahore is a sensation that lies beyond the folklore – Jine Lahore nai wakhaya o janmia nai (The one who has not seen Lahore has never lived). It has to do with an inexplicable bonding and oneness with the past, and yet a contradictory and not-so-glorious interface with the present.

Lahore is now the second largest city in Pakistan, with a population that has crossed the 10 million mark. It is turning into a monstropolis. Had it not been for Lahore’s intimacy with Pakistan’s power base – the Punjab-dominated national establishment – this would be just another massive, unmanageable city, regurgitating all the urban clichés of the Global South. But Lahore retains a definite soul; it is comfortable with modernity and globalisation, and continues to provide inspiration for visitors and residents alike.

Over the last millennium, Lahore has been the traditional capital of Punjab in its various permutations. A cultural centre of North India extending from Peshawar to New Delhi, it has historically been open to visitors, invaders and Sufi saints alike. Several accounts tell how Lahore emerged as a town between the 6th and 16th centuries BC. According to commonly accepted myth, Lahore’s ancient provenance, Lohawarana, was founded by the two sons of Lord Ram some 4000 years ago. One of these sons, Loh (or Luv), gave his name to this timeless city. A deserted temple in Lahore Fort is ostensibly a tribute to Loh, located near the Alamgiri gate, next to the fort’s old jails. Under the regime of Zia ul-Haq, Loh’s divine space was closed and used as a dungeon in which to punish political activists. Continue reading

Social audit unable to justify police funding over last two years

By Anwer Hussain Sumra (Daily Times)

LAHORE: The social audit of the Punjab police, which is generally conducted by a third party, has not been able to properly asses or justify the bulk of the non-development budget being provided since July 2006 to end the shabby thana culture of police stations, an official told Daily Times.

Thana culture refers to the general impression that the public has about thanas and police officials that are found there. In July 2006, the former chief minister of Punjab conducted a social audit of all police stations after various reforms had been introduced, the official, requesting anonymity, said. He added that community policing, waiting rooms, duty officers, extra allowances for sub-ordinates, shift system and the provision of new weapons and vehicles at all police stations had been implemented. Continue reading

Elite schools may be offered govt land in remote areas

Saturday, August 23, 2008
By Khalid Khattak (NEWS)

THE government in order to encourage elite private schools to establish campuses in remote areas is considering various proposals including provision of land on lease to such schools.

It is learnt that the Punjab Schools Education Department recently held meetings with the representatives of some elite private schools on the instructions of Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

Sources privy to the development said that Schools Education Secretary Nadeem Ashraf recently held a meeting with representatives of Beaconhouse Schools System, Lahore Grammar School (LGS) and The City School. The meeting deliberated on various proposals such as provision of land on lease besides exempting schools from various kinds of taxes. They said that private schools might open franchises in remote areas on the pattern of Beaconhouse School System operating across the country. Continue reading

Shahbaz Sharif sets a leadership benchmark

By Raza Rumi

While the pundits have rambled on the venality of the politician and the slothfulness of the bureaucracy, Pakistan’s largest province has witnessed the rise of a unique phenomenon in terms of provincial public management articulated by its second-time Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. In terms of efficacy of the public services and the administration of state machinery, the younger Sharif has set a leadership benchmark that daunts the political class as a whole. What are the points of departure here and how did this formidable image develop in less than a decade?

From 1997-99, arguably not a long stint in office, Shahbaz Sharif demonstrated the maximalist application and range of political will — from policy setting to micro-managerial interventions. It was a style that went down well with the populace, sent shivers down the imaginary backbones of the civil service and took the Continue reading

On common ground – Amritsar and Lahore

Tridivesh Singh Maini

Recently, Kuldip Nayar, while speaking at a seminar in Amritsar, proposed that the Punjab assemblies of both India and Pakistan pass separate resolutions condemning the barbaric crimes committed during Partition. But a few issues need to be considered. First, why only the Punjab assemblies? Why shouldn’t the parliaments of both India and Pakistan apologise? Unless of course Nayar feels that Partition conditioned only the two Punjabs. And why shouldn’t there be an apology for the partition of Bengal?

Secondly, if it comes to apologies, bigger crimes have been perpetrated on citizens of both countries by their respective governments — the events of 1984 and those in Gujarat in 2002 — apart from other blunders that caused suffering to every Indian and Pakistani in some form or the other. Not passing resolutions on these would qualify for “double standards”. Continue reading

‘Lahore is a city of tremendous beauty and lights’

Damanbir Singh Jaspal- GUEST IN TOWN

Lahore is a city of tremendous beauty and lights. I stay in Lahore whenever I came to Pakistan, as this city has its own historical features that cannot be forgotten, Damanbir Singh Jaspal, Information and Public Relations principal secretary (Transport) for the government of Indian Punjab, said on Saturday.

Jaspal is in Lahore not only on an official tour, but is also carrying out a research on 48 shrines that are named after 17 species of trees.

The study he has done in India, and now doing in Pakistan, includes photographs of the shrines – with the trees in the foreground – a description of botanical feature of the trees, and the relationship between the species and the historical and the religious background of the shrines. Continue reading

Female MPAs ‘spew venom’

This report from Daily Times written by nauman tasleem is funny as well as reinforces the stereotype

LAHORE: Female legislators of treasury and opposition made sarcastic comments against each other in the Punjab Assembly’s fourth session on Friday. Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal also amused the members with some funny remarks. Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Tayyeba Zameer stood up and tried to say something but was prevented from doing so by female PML-Q members Amna Ulfat, Amina Jehangir and Samina Khawar Hayat. Tayyeba became infuriated and said, “The opposition’s female members have no etiquette. They are behaving like Mohalla women.” To this, Samina replied: “You (Tayyeba) too are ill-mannered. If we are Mohalla women, you too are not from a mehal (palace).” Also during Friday’s session, a PML-Q member asked Irrigation Minister Raja Riaz about the low water level in canals. Riaz stood up and tried to answer the question, but the speaker stopped him by saying, “Did you get my permission to speak?” Riaz sat back down, which made all the members laugh.Pakistan People’s Party member Fouzia Behram said all the female MPAs, whether from the treasury or opposition, should be respected. In response, the speaker said, “All the male MPAs are like your brothers, so they should also be respected.”