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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dr.Yasin Iqbal Yousafzai

Dr.Yasin Iqbal Yousafzai
Dr.Yasin Iqbal Yousafzai was born in 1962 at village Toolandai
district Swabi. He passed his SSC from Government High School Nawa
Kaley, did his F.Sc from Islamia College Peshawar, B.Sc from
Government Degree College Mardan and obtained his Maters in Physics
from Gomal University D .I. Khan. After serving here for six years
at postgraduate College Mardan and University of Azad Jammu &
Kashmir Muzzaffarabad, he proceeded to UK for doing Ph.D. He came
back to Pakistan in 1997 to continue his service but got
disheartened due to his parent department's humiliating attitude. He
switched over to UK Sheffield University and still serving there. He
has published four books including three Pashto poetry collections
and one short story collection. In addition he has contributed a
large number of research articles on various scientific topics
published in the journals of international repute. The Frontier Post
arranged an Online interview with poet and Scientist a unique medley
of contrasts in which he emailed his expression in great detail.

F.P. How does a scientist live with a poet in you?

A. Science works on the basis of analytical and logical approach
whilst poetry comes from human emotions and social issues. After all
a scientist cannot leave the frame of humanity, if he does so he
will dissociate himself from his soul. Also it is imperative to use
one's intellectual ability with regard to social welfare issues.
Scientists are generally the most talented lot of the society and if
a talent cannot feel the pain of his fellow beings this reflects his
dishonesty and I doubt such a talent but again exceptions are

F.P. How do you give time to your literary pursuits?

A. I never sat down with an intention to write literature but the
pursuit of Pashto literature is something which always forces me to
take time from my scientific life and contribute in anyway I can. I
always worked at the frontiers of materials science research and
published several articles in the top most peer reviewed
international journals such as J. Amer. Ceram. Soc., J. Non-Cryst.
Solids, J. Mater. Science, Brit. Ceram. Transactions, J. European
Ceramic Soc. and J. Magnetism and Magnetic Materials. Obviously,
this demands a lot of time, so I give my day to science. When I come
home, I always have guests (mostly Pashtuns and Pakistanis), so the
time from 7 or 8 PM to 12 midnight goes to guests. The only time I
find for Pashto-writing is after midnight. And that again, when
ideas/desperate feelings keep on knocking at my mind all the day and
don't let me sleep, then I sit down and write it otherwise I read
Pashto or watch TV until I go to bed at 3 to 4 AM. So my whole
sleeping time is 4 or 5 hours. I have a family as well, so the kids
usually mingle among the guests but wife never get time from cooking
and her studies. However, now, with the help of my wife (who is
studying IT) I am starting a Pashto Journal/Magazine "NAWEY RANRHAA"
(New Light), hope you will help me in propagating the message to
invite all bright Pashtun writers to e-mail me Pashto/English
general and science articles, and poetry to my address
yaseen.iqbal@... or yawpukhtun@...

F.P. There is an extreme sense of nostalgia runs through your
poetry. What is the reason behind it?

A. Nostalgia, a good question, yes I feel that but what do we
(Pukhtuns) have in our present to feel hopeful of? Our current
predicament is one of the hopelessness and with a future, which is
bleak. Forget about the common Pashtun, even our leadership is
lacking vision and direction just like a ship in a stormy weather or
may be they know but are not sincere. Our leadership always mixed
nationalism with secularism and communism instead of mixing it with
it natural alloy Pashto and Islam.

F.P. Do you think Pashto can become the language of science and
Information technology (IT)?

A. Why not? If a single young Pashtun like Noor Rehman Liwal can
develop Pashto software compatible with each and every modern
computer system without any governmental or social support, then
imagine what can be achieved with the support of like-minded
Pashtuns and governmental support. Another uniqueness of our mother
tongue is its alphabetical richness. Is there any sound for which we
don't have a unique and an appropriate alphabet? English combines
alphabets to create certain sounds but we can write everything
without such complications. If English can become a global language
(including scientific) then what is the problem with Pashto? It is
now our duty to translate the web of knowledge into Pashto and I
believe if a talented nation like Pashtun realized it, in several
years we will be there.

F.P. What difficulties Pakistani students have to face in U.K.

A. There are several problems although not very serious, for
example: Our academic background—-in Pakistan we don't have standard
laboratories and libraries to achieve a standard of academic and
research excellence compatible with the developed world, so in most
cases (especially in science and Engineering subjects) our students
don't even know the aim of their study. They just work for a piece
of paper called the degree of doctor of Philosophy. However,
accepting every challenge as a matter of honour rather than science
or research, they cope with all sorts of unforeseen circumstances
with their hard work. The actual problem is not our competence, our
students can work very hard continuously for several years to
overcome the barrier of the developed and under-developed worlds and
earn a degree of international recognition and stand shoulder to
shoulder with students from the developed countries but when they go
back to their country, the country has nothing to offer to utilize
their capabilities and in this way the talent is wasted in running
for promotions, pleasing higher authorities and transfers etc.
Another problem I see is associated with the official support of our
students. The only Pakistani official, a Pakistani student can
address his problems to, is an Education Attache` usually appointed
on the basis of political favoritism, in most cases unaware of the
UK education system. Education Attaché's devote most of their time
to pleasing the visiting ministers from Pakistan to guarantee their
job/contract extensions. The poor students on the other hand are
left to the foreign supervisors. Fortunately, foreign supervisors
support their students in most cases as we happily accept projects
designed on the basis of their own requirements and interests but if
in case, the student complains, their scholarship will be in
jeopardy because by nature we believe in foreigners than ourselves.
I saw several such cases; a single word of a supervisor can stop
one's scholarship. The name of Pakistan is another problem—-Most of
our students feel embarrassed when asked about their origin. There
are several reasons for this. For example, a) the bad impression
produced by the local Pakistanis in UK, b) the daily political games
(LOTACRACY) when seen through the eyes familiar with the true
democracy and c) the permanent position of Pakistan in the list of
corrupt countries. All these factors keep our heads down.

F.P. Are the degrees of Online education in U.K. valid?

A. No and if yes, they may be exceptions.

F.P. Who inspired you in Pashto literature?

A. Probably I was born with this inspiration. I still remember a
blurred image when I was playing on the bank of a canal in our
village. The day was Saturday, as people were pulling sheep and
goats to the Mela. I was very young, probably 6 or 7 and I was
trying to make a couplet of poetry (I remember that couplet but
wouldn't tell you), although I didn't know about
literature/poetry/poets. I cannot say from where did it come and the
answer takes me back to nature. Poetry was in my nature. It came
across several discontinuities as well at various stages of my life,
however, when I moved to UK, I really felt the inhuman circumstances
our nation was/is going through and I decided to use my pen. The
situation in Afghanistan is another great factor, which forced me to
write. Sometimes, I think, the subject of quantum mechanics (I used
to teach) contributed to my poetry as well. Quantum Mechanics if
understood in real sense, takes one all the way from illusion to the
reality, from the strings and sub-nuclear particles to the galaxies,
and sometimes I feel as if it shows me my mind through which I
perceive and the surrounding universe where I stand at the same
distance. Let us avoid this complexity and move forward.

Part 2. Daily Frontierpost City News 18/09/2003

F.P. Which Pashto books have you benefited from?

A. To be sincere, I never had a chance to read Pushto books. The
only book I ever read was "KHAWAGEY KEESEY" when I was in class 5th.
However, whenever, I come across a good piece of poetry such as that
of Abdul-Rahman Baba and Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari Baba, it really
takes me too far to the realities of realism but simultaneously I
feel frustrated with our inability to fully understand and realize
the true meaning and message of our great legends. I also enjoy
reading our great poets like Ajmal Khattak, Abdul Ghani Khan and
Rahmat Shah Sayel and many others, however, may be due to my
different background I frequently deviate from the existing frames
and sacrifice the art of poetry for the sack of the real issues. In
other words, had I not resisted my flow with the traditional
artistic streams, I would have easily gone too far. May be not very
successful but I am trying to pull the medium of poetry towards our
social, political and economical issues. The effect/output? It takes
time. I don't know why but whenever I read Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Assad
Ullah Khan Ghalib, Mohsin Ihasn and Allama Iqbal, I get excited to
write poetry. In short stories, I like the style of Mohammad Zarin
Anzore. For me, he has been successful in addressing some of the
real issues through his stories. Yes, traditional literature has a
golden past and I used to fond of Late Abdul Ghufran Baykas's short
story "Da Charg Hadookay" but now we need something else to pull our
youth back from Indian and pop entertainment circles. In this
direction Nashanas, Engineer Momand and especially Sardar Ali Takkar
are doing a great job by singing Ghani Khan, Saayel, Ajmal Khattak,
Rahman Baba, Khoshaal baba and Hamza Baba poetry. However, our
singers need to keep themselves up to date. For example, if our
singers repeat Ahmad Khan's songs, for me they are just spoiling the
works of our legendary Singers and it is not possible to copy a
natural talent or sing better than him. Each of our new singers has
his/her own uniqueness and they should develop their own style and
some of them are very successful in that. Avoiding singing great
poets had made the case very discouraging up to the late 70's but
now we are doing well.

F.P. Have you read Urdu or English fiction?

A. Urdu? Very little, just course books. English? If I got time
intend to translate some of the selected English works. Recently, I
bought many Pushto and Urdu books but rarely get a chance to read

F.P. What are the elements of good poetry?

A. Difficult. Globally, poetry is considered as a source of
entertainment but if we look carefully, Pushto poetry originated
from national wars with poems said in the honour of martyrs and if I
am right, our poetry had very little to do with entertainment.
Furthermore, Pukhtun national poets, such as Rahman Baba, Hamza Baba
and many others used Pukhto poetry as a medium for propagation of
humanism and religious thoughts. Yes, there are/were many other
poets who kept masses engaged with their entertaining style but very
few of them could last for longer. So Pukhto poetry is really unique
in this sense. Even today, an educated Pukhtun prefers a meaningful
poetry than just a display of art. So, if one has something to
celebrate, the globally perceived art of poetry works but our people
and land always loved religious, revolutionary and meaningful poetry
and now is the time to use this medium for the awakening of our
youth to achieve something. I understand we will not be able to
change our present but can make efforts to secure a future for our
coming generations. Or will they also stand in rows with flour bags
in their hands in front of shops like us? Or will they also stand
for days in lines in front of foreign embassies to get out of their
homeland to loose their home and national identity? When we achieve
something or see a ray of hope, then we will be able to understand
the meaning of happiness. I have realized the meaning of happiness
in the West and not in my homeland. I believe best poetry is the one
which reflects the true feelings of a nation. And when a nation is
desperate like us, look around, our people love to read, sing and
listen this sort (desperation). Had our society been happy it would
have opted for something else. Always hard times have been a key to
develop quality literature but experts blend it with
unrealistic/artificial color and I avoid that intentionally. I
believe good poetry is the one that reflects the true feelings of
the society but presented artistically. And sometimes, I think if it
comes naturally, its simplicity is the best art and goes down to the
depth of minds without any resistance and that's the greatest poetry
(e.g. Rahman Baba).

F.P. Is there any literary association or organization working for
the promotion of Pashto literature in U.K?

A. Yes, several but not for promoting Pukhto or Pukhtun culture and
just for getting funds from UK institutions who support
multicultural activities. In spite of a Pukhto society in Sheffield,
I frequently read my Pukhto poetry in Urdu meetings most of them
organized by Dr. Asim Wasti (a nice poet and the son of Prof.
Shaukat Wasti-a great literary figure of Peshawar).

F.P. What is the common perception about Pashtuns over there?

A. As I see, some Pukhtuns say goodbye to Pukhto at the relevant
airports they leave for the West and obviously they have nothing to
do with their national perception in a foreign society. To be
optimistic, there are still some gems earning a good name for our
nation. As far as UK youngsters are concerned they heard the name of
Pukhtun in the form of Taliban, however, British elders who came
across pukhtuns during the wars, during their rule in India or in
some other way, have a great honour for Pukhtun straightforwardness
and hospitality. However, the problem we are facing today is the
misuse of the term or suffix "Khan". Anyone with a lost identity
finds it an easy way to associate him/herself with Pukhtun nation
and whatever he/she does is recorded against Pukhtuns.

F.P. Do you have any contact with literary figures in Pakistan?

A. Being an unpublished writer, I had little contact with the
outside world. However, during the process of publication of my
first book, I had telephonic contact with great afghan scholar Dr.
Nabi Misdaq and Mr. Zarin Anzore but both living in the West. In
Pakistan, I have telephonic and internet contact with great Pukhtun
intellectual Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi, however, never had a chance to
see anyone face to face. I was basically a social worker and we had
an association in village Toolandai but when I was proceeding abroad
for higher studies, I had to convert it into a literary society. The
society is working for Pukhto and through that organization I
occasionally meet great poets like Amir Mohammad Khan Khadem and
Laiq Zada Laiq.

F.P. Your characters in your short stories are pessimistic and
indecisive about their place in society. What is your explanation?

A. Where is the hope to make me optimistic character? Do we have a
social society? No. If we look around, those who work for the
betterment of common man, those who earn bread in the burning sun
with honesty and those who teaches our kids and provide other social
services are considered the most wretched people in our society.
Those who support crime, those who play with the people's lives are
considered the most honourable. I take pity of my people when I see
them associating their hopes with those who are busy in snatching
their rights for generations. Is anything more discouraging that
this? Can we hope for a better future? We could not even organize
ourselves to get a genuine name for our region in a 100 years long
century. Do you think, we have the qualities to be called a society?
Individually, every Pukhtun is great and touch the heights of any
field but as nation we need to do a lot. But yes, I agree with you
and understand your point, in the first few books I tried to prepare
a ground to make the common man realize the real situation, in
future I will try to present possible solutions if I could.

F.P. What the Pashtuns should do to face the global challenges?

A. Again very pessimistic, we have not yet started thinking about
it. Are we interested in progress as a nation? We have not yet
organized ourselves to stand for our due share in our own natural
resources, we have not yet organized ourselves to buy flour for a
bread with honour, we have not yet organized ourselves to get a full
seat in a public transport Bus or coach in spite of paying the full
fare, Global? It is now just a dream but I believe in Pukhtun
intellect and talent to make it a reality within decades if we
realized its importance and if our coming generations are dear to
us? First of all we need a sincere and talented Pukhtun leadership,
a true Pukhtun leadership with the aim to work for the very basic
rights such as security, bread, water, health and education to start
with. Do you think a human society will watch quietly so many
underage kids working till midnight in the hotels of Pukhtun's
capital city of Peshawar for so many years? I wouldn't mention the
more harsh realities which are not only embarrassing for us as
Muslims and Pukhtuns but also as human beings. Shortly, we have not
yet got a humane heart in chest. Once we become human beings, then
we will start thinking about ideologies. People call it
fundamentalism but for me religions are very social systems, before
becoming religious one needs to be a human being first. Do you call
them human societies where people kill each other for money? Do, you
remember the discrimination in the payment of compensation to the
families of those martyred in explosions in different provinces of
the same country during the first two decades of Afghan war? Before
moving towards global status, we have to start from our home, we
need to earn our due status in our own land first. We don't have
even confidence on our real brothers, we have a very long distance
to travel but nothing is impossible for a devoted, honest, hard
working and sincere nation like pukhtun provided we could organize

F.P. Are you in favour of brain drain from Pakistan?

A. Never. But is there any opportunity for highly qualified or even
uneducated people to work in their homeland with honesty and honour?
Why working in Pakistan remains a difficult choice to make? I think
all of us know that.

F.P. Why did you opt to serve in foreign instead of Pakistan?

A. Thanks God, You are the first Pakistani to ask me this question.
I was waiting for this question for the last 10 or so years but not
from your lips, from a responsible Pakistani authority, especially
from my parent department. Instead of asking me this question, my
parent dept. used my forged signatures to terminate me from my
service. After completing my Doctorate in a field in which even
countries like UK need experts and that's why they offer me job (I
mean conventional and high resolution microscopy), I went back to
Pakistan to join my parent dept. I used to be teaching postgraduate
classes in Physics before proceeding abroad for higher studies. But
after getting the highest academic qualification, I was posted at
govt. College Hangu and I had to teach a single F.Sc. (first year)
class with 22 students on register and always less than 13 in the
class. In spite of that I accepted that and started work but there
was not even a very basic accommodation for my living neither in
college nor in the Hangu town. I had sacrificed my nearest and
dearest relations including my head of department and even my dear-
most parents to perform my duties with due honesty during my 4 years
service in education dept but when I was posted at Hangu, I had to
sacrifice my those uncompromising principles to avoid leaving my
homeland. I requested the support of local MPA's to convince my
parent dept. that a higher qualified person should be posted at a
place where he can utilize his capabilities but in vain.

So a department where a doctor of philosophy cannot convince a
director of education that a higher qualified person should be
posted in a higher degree institution, how can one work there? And
what about the others?

Even, those MPA's could transfer secretaries of my parent dept. for
their own interest but could not get my right for me because they
knew and I understood the reason for it as I was not the one born to
follow them with their flags in my hand. So, who would like to serve
such a dept where one cannot get the most genuine and logical right
and has to seek the help of irrelevant people? Has the situation
changed or still helpless people follow MPAs and MNAs to fight for
their rights in their own depts? For full story of my visit to
Hangu, read the text at the end of this discussion. I will surely
come back if offered a position compatible with my qualification.

F.P. What would you suggest to young Pakistani educated youths who
see no future here and always dream of an ideal dreamland where
there would all the luxuries be available without hard work?

A. You are right in calling these thoughts as dreams. There is no
place on earth where one can avail everything wished without due
effort. Laisa lil Insaana Illah Ma Saaa (there is nothing for a
human being except what he struggles for) is true everywhere. But,
Yes, our youth is also right to some extent. In the developed
societies, people treat human beings as human beings and never let
them die on footpaths even if they come from countries 7000 miles
away. As far as honour is concerned, the story is different. If a
person has no status in his/her own home, neighbors never treat
him/her decently. If someone is interested in honour and dignity,
there is no better place than one's own home but again do we have
such a home?. In my view, the only solution to such a mass scale
migration is to build our own nation first with a system based on
Pukhto plus Islam and after standing on our own feet we will be able
to live equally with others within as well as outside Pakistan. I
never mean that the people of other provinces are living luxurious
lives, they also need to struggle for their rights and understand
the realities of the modern day. Unity as a family, as a nation, as
a province and then as a country along with a sincere leadership is
a must for our survival, freedom and progress.

Many thanks for your effort in approaching me and taking me back to
Peshawar after so many years.


Dr. Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzay


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