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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Secrets from the Field

An Ethnographers notes from the North West Frontier Pakistan
Published by Author House 11/09/04
ISBN 1-4208-0674-2
Price $15.50
Much has been written about the Pukhtuns and some have romanticized them and others shown them as scoundrels, but Benidicte Grima makes an effort to understand them especially the women, of whom very little is known or has been written.
Grima is a courageous soul who braved living among the Pukhtuns for many years, and being a woman she had access to the inner most sanctums of most homes which allows her a rare insight of the workings of women and how they live and react in day to day situations. She also has the added advantage of speaking Pashto, which gives her greater acceptance into female circles once the initial awkwardness has worn out.

It is interesting to read of her exploring, discovering and an attempt to explain and make sense of our culture. She tries to pinpoint different aspects of Pukhtunwali as it exists in the female world, but it is her ultimate discovery when she realizes there is not a lot of black and white, but many shades of gray that differ from home to home and town to town.

Fully immersing herself in the culture of the people, she gives an accurate representation of the people. Dressing, eating and living like them, she not only observes but first hand experiences the different aspects of their life. At one point in even becomes clear that she has started to think like them.

Secrets from the Field is an intimate look into Grima's experience, she bravely admits when she makes a mistake, but also firmly stands her ground when she knows she is right. Amazingly did she not only dare to live there, she also trusts the Pukhtuns enough to take her baby daughter Lewangina and entrust her to the care of a local nanny.

Looking at our culture through her eyes and not finding any embellishments or exaggerations, makes the book very endearing. Though not personally familiar with the people she writes of they represent everyday people that we do know, or events that have befallen our families too and the place she writes of are very familiar.

We feel her shock of discovering the invisible social hierarchy and it reminds of the day we grew up enough to realize it too. Grima discovers how words in a sentence can contradict themselves and what is said is not neccesarily what is meant, and she learns that parties are very chaotic occasions, and no matter how well you plan things can always go wrong in a myriad of unseen ways.

Through her book we meet Sayyed and his woes, we meet Gol Begum and her family. We are drawn into the smoky kitchen where Grima is making doday over an open fire that she keeps going with thorns and dung cakes. We attend the wedding of Nilufar and we see our own mothers in Baji's nervous breakdown just before the wedding. Meeting the quarrelsome Mina and hearing her very Bollywood movie life story, we move on to Yasmin and her smoothly run household.
We meet Aziza the Afghan student and we shudder at Raissa's fate knowing all to well how easily it can befall any of us. Of all the things that Grima does there, from living alone to riding a bus alone to Baluchistan, her most daring adventure is the one to Pir Baba.
Grima deserves credit for realizing something which few other outsiders do, that the Pukhtun raise their expectations of acceptable behavior and are less tolerant once one is made aware of the correct protocols for social interaction.
All in all the book is a very light and interesting read and I recommend it but with the warning that it will make you nostalgic for home and eating ganeray in the sun or warming your feet by the open hearth fire.

Shamsul Qamar Andesh

Shamsul Qamar Andesh

Wednesday, 07 February 2007
Born and reared in political atmosphere as a nationalist, and having witnessed and suffered vicissitude of politics with tiresome struggle, economic depression, and mental strains, in his young age, Shamsul Qamar Andesh grew a good poet and writer. He believes in objective writing in order to provide proper guidance to the people. This trend kept him away for a long time from literary sociability. To him, literary associations and gatherings were pastime of idle word-players. His contention may be disputed that this very pastime is food of the language. But one can not challenge his honesty and sincerity in his thinking that literature and politics are inter-related.
Shamsul Qamar Andesh has firm conviction that politics has direct bearing on the life of the society, and literature not only reflects quandary and predicament of the socio-economic order but has to provide palatable recipe of wealthy and healthy guidance. He is a good student of Pashto literature, and impressed too much by the Khudai Khidmatgar movement for having played concrete role in renaissance of Pashto after a long spell of inertia. That reformative movement which was later transformed into political carried along the imperceptible movement of Pashto literature by encouraging poets to appear on public stage and unfold mysteries of their heart and brain. Their passionate revolutionary poetry from the stage of that movement awakened the dormant spirit and sentiments of the Pakhtuns. Young talented students were also attracted to write in their own language. Some of the poets and writers, like Sher Ali Bacha and Asghar Lala, accept this reality.Shamsul Qamar was born in 1935 at Mayar in Mardan district. He did his BA as a private student from the Punjab university in 1968. His father was a Khudai Khidmatgar who used to bring home weekly Pakhtun invariably. Shamsul Qamar was reading it. And that animated his aptitude for poetry. He started composing poetry when he was a student, and had won a prize in an emulous contest of tappa in the school.The progressive movement, launched in 1936, infiltrate Pashto literature also. Andesh would argue as regards this phenomenon like this; "When I peep into the mansion of Pakhto literature, I find that Pakhto has been progressive since the time of Khushal Khan Khattak. And the movement of Bacha Khan had climbed to the apex of progression at a time when the progressive movement was not known to Pakhtuns". He considers the movement of Bacha Khan progressive on theground that "the progressive elements claim to be pleading the cause of all the nations and nationalities, and modification of the socio-economic and political systems to meet the needs of the peoples. While Bacha Khan had displayed practically pursuit of these very aims. Here in our country the politics has been thrown to the winds, while Bacha Khan contemplated, decided and spoke what he considered true and was thus flying against the storm. He used to advise the Pakhtuns to rise and achieve their rights. In fact, he was advocate of the rights, not only of the Pakhtuns but of all the oppressed people. He demanded similar rights for the Punjabis, Sindhis and Baloch as well. But being a Pakhtun, he addressed problems of his own people first".Andesh has firm faith in objectivity, but he thinks that the slogan of adab barae zindagi, coined by the progressive movement, is open to question. He would say sarcastically that "where there is no life what the literature should be for?"To Andesh, Pakhtuns form a large nation and is considered the largest tribal community around the world. Yet their language has been possessed by demons. The hired intelligentsia, corrupt politicians and bigoted bureaucracy join hands to implement the imaginary ideologies at the cost of the languages and cultures of Pakistan. At this juncture, Pakhto needs both objectivity and subjectivity. These two should go together on way to development of the language, its literature and culture.Since most of the poets wanted to keep aloof from the politics due to fear of reprisal from the government side, they form and join the literary associations in order to give vent to their faculty of writing. Such writings naturally lack objectivity. But they play, on the other hand, significant role in rejuvenation of the spirit and talents as well as in enrichment of the language.It was very late for Shamsul Qamar Andesh to come close to associations and take part in their activities. Andesh would not blame the nationalist parties for being not able to realise their aspirations because the fate of the nation is decided in the parliament by dint of majority. These parties have not yet got desired majority to implement their manifestoes. They are always compelled to sit in the opposition or join a coalition. Then how could they be expected to do what they wanted.Shamsul Qamar Andesh is skeptical of the education policy. He says that "our children are taught about the writers and leaders even of India but never taught about our own people. They would know much about Ghalib, Mir, Azad, Sir Syed and others but ould have no information about Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba and Hameed. They would memorise that Pakistan was the outcome of a dream and a resolution but would know nothing about the sacrifices of thousands of people for freedom." He says that "what the children hear at home are contradicted in the school. The clean slate of the mind is thus marred with unintelligible riddles in the outset. Could such a mind be expected to think and do the right?"Andesh thinks that "the electronics media are also misused for suppression of original talents. Take the example of PTV Peshawar centre. It has been given a duration for Pashto programme which could not be justified by any principle. The Pashto programmes are preceded by announcement in Urdu, and followed by verses in Urdu. For national circuits, the themes from novels based on worn-out ideas of their blue-eyes are imposed on this centre with a bunch of actors from outside. Here it is given to non-Pakhtuns for dramatisation. All this is done at the cost of its own budget to deprive the Pakhtun talents even of the reward of their labour. Is it a fair game? Moreover the Pashto programmes are conducted in a ridiculous way. The programmes on agriculture are produced in such a language which is beyond the comprehension of the farmers. Similar is the case with the children's and women's programmes. The compere speaks Pashto in a style as if she is making fun of it. The PTV programmes could not be improved unless it explores the rightful and genuine writers and actors, and the duration for Pashto programmes is extended according to the population of Pashtuns."As regards the Pashto academy, Shamsul Qamar Andesh says that "it has created its own nebula of writers instead of exploration of the genuine writers of Pashto. That is the main reason that its standard of writing is sinking down."He criticised the Pakistan Academy of Letters that "it does not give proper attention to the languages and literatures of the peoples of Pakistan. Instead it has been imposing its own brands of literature and culture. Its publications are limited to the group of literary monopolisers created and fed by it. Other peoples would not know if there exists any such institution at national level which is bound constitutionally to work for their literatures and cultures. It has opened an office in Peshawar also which has no knowledge of literary activities out of the city. Should it be considered as the office for Peshawar city?"Mentioning Abaseen Arts Council and Mardan Arts Council, Andesh said that "they are the monsters created for devouring the languages and cultures of the peoples in their respective jurisdictions. They have been given over to non-Pakhtuns or controlled directly by the bureaucracy. Abaseen Arts Council has successfully created a rift between the Pakhtuns and Hindko peakers which is played up skillfully by the government.""We have welcomed establishment of the Pakhto board. It should have been done long before. Now that it has come into being we hope that all the regions of Pakhtunkhwa should be given due representation in it. It should work and show its output to justify its existence and the expenditures," said Andesh.The main reason for shortage of prose in Pashto is lack of projection. In our educational institution quotations from Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) are taught that "the child should not learn even a word of other languages during the first 13-14 years of his life". But the practice in these institutions is in the reverse. Education and economic considerations are two important elements which contribute to propagation of literature. We are deprived of both. Our education changes the people into some different specie. Even the Pakhto books of primary level do not contain information about Pakhtuns and Pakhto.With all his pessimist ideas, Shamsul Qamar Andesh is quite hopeful of the new generation which, according to him, is doing a lot for survival of Pakhto. He refers to a programme of BBC in which it was pointed out that Pakhto is the only language which survives in spite of the facts that it lacks publication and education facilities and patronage of the government, because it is preserved by the people.Andesh tends more to ghazal and has politicised it. It is not political but political romanticism. He expresses his ideas and views adroitly in the language of ghazal. Muhammad Iqbal Iqbal considers Andesh the poet of ghazal, following strictly, devotedly and rigidly the principles set for this form. He presents the sourness of imagination in the plate of heart, over the flames of blood, with sweet taste of life. He sings passionate lores of vivacious imagination and thought for the Pakhtuns. Dr Israr expresses his apprehension that if Andesh did not publish his poetry, it would spread on its own to that extent that he himself would not be able to claim his own poetry.
[Translated by Dr. Sherzaman Taizi]
Deserted are paths and water-spots;
What a country has such an afternoon?
I know, I live well;But my sense is poor.
Reflections of your memory;
Are the assets that I have.
What else should I ask for, my friend!
That I have the pains of love.
In flames of your thoughts, I am;
This is my life and this is my art.
The make-up of the spring,
Sparks envy between my love and the flower.
Desert, noose or mountain,
Every where is your story.
The spring is not your match,
Whereas it's self-sufficient in all respects.
It looks out of the fence of garden,
That the flower has come out of itself.
How could I reconciliate with my flower!
That my own self has gone hostile.
In the night of your thoughts,
Every look is door to the morning.

I obey my sense,
That I work in the art of poetry.
The spring of your beauty is rosy,For I look after it with love.
I kiss every pain with blood of my heart,
Painting flowers in my life.
O my heart! it's nature that I love,
Nothing to beg from others.
Not confined to the boundaries of your beauty,
My love is much more vast.
What should I say about the beauty and treachery,
What should I forsake love for.
In the light of your indifferent thought,I am restless like a moth.
I am slave of my conscience,
That is the reason that I am proud. [Tr.SZT]
(Courtesy; daily Frontier Post, Pesahwar; 14 August 1993)

Farehan Shaida

Farehan Shaida

Wednesday, 07 February 2007
His humour had given a stunning defeat to the burdensome sorrows of life.Khurshid Iqbal Khattak
It was a chilly day of the Holy month of Ramzan (in 1992) that the early morning Azaan was followed by the announcement of the death of Shaida Baba, by loudspeakers of the mosques of our Jalozai. I conjured upon the old man with a shower of tears rolling down on my hairy cheeks to make a garland of jasmine blossomed in the memories of the past to glimpse the ever-smiling image of our Shaida Baba. My heart had never throbbed in grief so heavily and my eyes were not wet so much with tears before hearing this sad news about the end of his mortal life.
My eyelids dropped on my listless eyes and the clouds of the hazy memories of my companionship with him clashed and created a thunderous roar to announce departure of Shaida Baba for the other world. In this dirge, I felt that the bride of Pushto literature was wailing for her departed lover in a deep romantic chasm from which gushed out a sparkling fountain of Shad’s enthralling genius of humour.The spirit of such melodies never dies but is mingled in the sweet chirrup of the nightingales:My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains,My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk.It is not through envy of thy happy lot,But being to be happy in thine's happiness.Thou was not born for death Immortal Bird!No hungry generation tread thee down. (Keats; Ode to Nightingale)Pushto literature has, probably, never born a humorist like Shaida Baba. Oratory humour was his primal genius. He could not write but had learned to read. Still he was bold enough to stand upright on any stage. There were so many occasions when some good poets had faltered on the stage, but when he walked over to stand on the stage and face the microphone, the atmosphere would change abruptly. Because he showered happiness on the embarrassed hearts by virtue of his sharp anecdotes. He would brighten the cloudy minds and alleviate the heavy hearts of the frustrated poets and overwhelm the unruly audience in the mushairas. He was not a pedantic intellectual, but had fathomed the perplexities of the humour.Throughout his life, Shaida Baba had been ardently endeavouring to paint the bleakness of gloom and grief with the multi-colour rainbow of delights. He did not try to squeeze his exalted human outlook in the narrow tunnel of personal gains but contributed all that he could afford to Pushto literature notwithstanding his personal loss. He used to live in a muddy house under the thatch, and yet he was happy and wanted others also to be happy. The lovers of Pushto literature know the fact that how the audience would become jubilant and gleeful during a mushaira when Shaida Baba would have been invited to the stage. Their implied requests for latifa apart, he himself would start in his low tone saying something which he would, in a quite natural way, support with a spicy latifa, thereby quenching the thirst of the audience. One or two latifa from his mouth would not be sufficient. He would try to proceed further to recite his poetry but the audience would request again and again for telling a few more latifa. At last, he would overwhelm the audience's desire and read his poem in pauses which, too, the audience would listen to impatiently with spontaneous applause for a couplet or two.His verse and prose were written by others. Because he could not write himself. He had just learned reading. And he was a good reader of Pushto newspapers and books. He usually dictated his book reviews, essays, short stories and comments to a writer and then had a look at them. His verse and prose published in newspapers and magazines did not give an impression that they were the creation of an illiterate author. Moreover, he was keeping with great care on record, clippings of newspapers and magazines carrying his writings and correspondence with different people. In literary meetings, he took active part in critical evaluation of literary items in prose and verse.Shaida Baba was less a dweller of his own house and more of the office of Kamil Pukhto Adabi Jargah on the first floor of the Ghazi market in the main bazaar of Pabbi town. He was in charge of the office. Any lover of Pushto language (be he a poet, writer or ordinary man) who visited the office of KPAJ was welcomed and held in great esteem by him, and was offered, invariably, tea from the nearest tea-shop. During the monthly mushaira of our KPAJ at Pabbi, he would call upon the servant of the tea-shop and would ask him to bring a number of big chainaks of tea plus a small one without sugar which was meant for him only because he was suffering from diabetes. At the end of mushaira, he would announce the date of the next meeting and would request all the present to come on due day.Farehan Shaida was a man with a mission. Indeed he had undertaken a task of making the people laugh by virtue of his humorous style and habits. Being an altruist and optimist, he always exposed the bright side of the life. Nature had endowed him with great patience. He never complained of his poverty. Rather he was generous and hospitable to the extent that sometime he had to borrow money. His humour had given a stunning defeat to the burdensome sorrows of life. Farehan Shaida was all selfless, having reached the acme of sincerity and devotion. He lived very simple life as a staunch religious person with deep nationalistic feelings. It was not only diabetes that he was suffering from, but other diseases, too, and the worst of all his poverty and old-age weakness, that were wearing his mortal being. But he exercised strong will power to activate his life. In his last days, he was taken to hospitals, first to Nowshera civil hospital, then Khyber teaching hospital and then Lady Reading hospital. He was visited by a great number of admirers. When he was brought back to home, after amputation of his one leg, he said to one of his admirers, with an agonized smile; "I had gone to hospital with two legs, and came back with one leg. Now I will not need even this one leg to go to my eternal home." Farehan Shaida belonged to Dag Behsud village. He was a poor man but had attained high social status due to his punctual social contacts and utmost sincerity. That was the reason that his death was announced by loudspeakers in almost every village in Pabbi area. But the funeral gathering was more thick than normal consideration. Because there were people from other areas and districts also, including a number of officials from the government departments. That was a reality which stunned the common man who considered Farehan Shaida an ordinary poor man of a village in which he seldom lived. Farehan Shaida was a skilled carpenter but he could not confine his mercurial nature to the job. He was interested in travelling and sociability which dragged him on to learn driving. He was driving passenger buses on daily wages. His honesty bridled his materialistic ambition of competition with his colleagues who made fortunes out of their profession and became leading transporters. He had developed one, and the only, mania of participation in mushairas. Having spent most of his time as a driver in Mardan district (now division), Shaida Baba used to make his last trip of the day to the village in which a mushaira would have been arranged. None of his masters had ever objected to his this luxury which, at last, made him a poet. His aptitude compelled him to learn reading. And then he took to formation of literary associations. He was patron-in-chief, patron or president of more than one associations at a time. He could build up his image and respect to that extent that the literary circles would were feeling pride in claiming his patronage. In Mardan, his permanent abode was a room in Khaksar Manzil where, too, he seldom stayed.In his last years he resigned his profession due to old age and returned his village. But he did not stay there regularly. He still continued his movements. Then he was the moving spirit of the literary associations at Pabbi and Nowshera, in addition to his regular participation in the activities of other associations. Shaida Baba had a magnetic personality to attract the poets and writers to gatherings. He was such a catalyst that had created many a good poets. His gentle nature, philanthropist ideas and humourist style exalted him to the climax of his fame.(Courtesy; daily Frontier Post, Peshawar; 3 April 1993)

Women role in Pukhto literature

Women role in Pukhto literature
Tuesday, 06 February 2007
Dr Sher Zaman Taizi
The patriarchal society of Pukhtuns does not encourage education, particularly in case of females. With conversion from different beliefs to Islam, they developed interest in religious education and literacy. The education reached them through Arabic and Persian media which had bright back grounds of literature, especially in the field of poetry. This influenced Pukhto also which was already very fertile for folklore. Since some excellent scholars ignored their own language and worked in other languages, mostly in Persian, they did not find proper place for their names in the history of Pukhto literature while they could not attain deserving status in alien cultures. Whatever value their contributions to arts and literature has, the authors could not assert their own value.
There is ample documentary evidence that Pukhto was a wide spoken language in the areas now covered by Afghanistan. In sixth century BC, as some researchers claim, the Zoroastrian religious book was written in this language. Some scholars, however, contend that it was a language which later grew into numerous branches, the main being Pehlvi and Pukhto. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that it was dominant during the reign of Kanishka in 130s AD.

A slab, discovered at Surkh Kotal and kept in Kabul museum, carries an inscription. It was decoded by late Abdul Haye Habibi, a renowned scholar, which reflects that it was a royal Farman. Its very opening word is Pukhto. It has some other words and phrases which are still spoken by Pukhtuns. But the most striking word of this Farman is "Eir" (for fire) which is spoken in soft dialect exactly in this pronunciation and in this meaning. But its other aspect is more significant for philologists as well as for historians. It was the time when most of the people followed Zoroastrian creed and worshipped fire. It is almost a universal human nature that the holy objects are mentioned in the language of origin. A Muslim feel pride in mentioned holy objects in Arabic. In this perspective, one can imagine that there was a significant part, if not the total, of Pukhto in the religious teachings of Zoroastrian belief.
Another point of interest for philologist in this slab is that it bears a blend of different languages in a single language style. It reveals that Kanishka wanted evolution of a state language in this way. Another attempt was made by Mahmood Ghaznvi but it was limited to the script. The Kanishka's Farman was inscribed in crude Roman alphabets. The relics found at other parts of Pakhtunkhwa show that different styles had been adopted from time to time for writing. Most of these scripts were inscribed on stones. One such inscription has been preserved at Shahbaz Garha, Mardan, which is attributed to the reign of Ashoka.
Mahmood Ghaznvi directed his court scholars to introduce common alphabets for writing of different languages spoken in his kingdom. They introduced Arabic alphabets. Mahmood himself took great interest in promotion of literature, and, therefore, he sponsored learned people from anywhere. It glorified Ghazni as one of the recognized seat of learning. The history of arts and literature can not be completed without the names of al Biruni and Firdousi. This initiative fertilized Persian and Arabic to flourish and prosper at awful pace, but harmed Pukhto. The erstwhile works, if there were any, vanished. And fresh imaginative works could not be carried out in Arabic alphabets which are deficient of many sounds of Pukhto language. The Pukhto writers had to load their writings with unfamiliar Arabic and Persian words and phrases. It discouraged writing in Pukhto. Although in the long run it proved useful in a sense that Pukhto borrowed considerable amounts of words from those languages. On this account some Pukhto scholars consider it the worst type of cultural exploitation
It was Bayazid Ansari alias Pir Roshan (b.1525) who realized and understood the notion of cultural entity which had been reduced to ignominious nothingness by the tyrant Mughul imperialism. When he resolved to rise against the mightiest emperor of his time, Jalaluddin Akbar the Great, he tried to appeal to his people in their own language. But he found that the current alphabets were quite incompatible to expression in Pukhto. To overcome this handicap, he invented some letters and, thus, reanimated Pukhto as a comprehensible means of communication. His innovation proved a cultural revolution which produced in short span of time immortal names of Khushhal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba, Hameed of Mash Gaga, Ali Khan, Kazim Khan Shaida and so many others to quench the prolonged thirst of Pukhto speakers. His own struggle for freedom also evoked positive response from the oppressed Pukhtuns.
Pir Roshan did not ignore call of the time. He rendered his mystic ideas into Pukhto. His outstanding contribution is Khair ul Bayan, written in four languages in the form of Surah Rahman. It was a new beginning of Pukhto literature with commendable religious and progressive values. His movement was a hard nut to crack. In the formidable defiles of the mountains of Pakhtunkhwa, the devotees of Pir Roshan could not be castigated. For the Mughuls, they were traitors and miscreants, as described in Tuzk i Jehangiri. Then, the Mughuls mustered support of 'religious figures. Akhund Darweza, then, emerged on the scene to incite Pukhtuns of the occupied areas against what he called `the saint of darkness (Pir Tareek)'. But that Pir was fully equipped with religious as well as cultural arms. Akhund Darweza, although he was a Tajik, also adopted the same way.
Both sides, while furthering their political causes, contributed tremendous values to Pukhto literature. Akhund Darweza wrote Makhzan in reply to Khair ul Bayan. Further more, disciples of both the warring Pirs added more to their contributions in form of poetry.
In this impervious social order of Pukhtuns, in which even the male does not dare to abuse social norms, one would not expect a female to do so. Here even the male poets and writers are under the strains and stress to honour social limitations. They concentrate more on religious aspects and preaching whether they are qualified for it or not, or on folklore, that, too, relating to other cultures, and moral values. It was Khushhal Khan Khattak who elated Pukhto literature to the level of versatility. The lively and lovely poetry of Rahman Baba with esprit de corps of affection, love and peace pull at the Pukhtun heart strings in any circumstance.
On the whole, the Pukhto poetry followed the pattern of Persian in depicting the objects of love, reverence, dignity, remorse, reproach, and so on, as male character. In Persian it does not sound strange. But in Pukhto it looks very odd. Therefore, the poets normally avoided sex romanticism and focussed more on divinity and morality. Exceptions are there as everywhere else.
Khushhal Khan Khattak was too bold to bow before the social commandments. His Ghazal, in some cases, crosses the barriers of poetic decency even. While Hameed of Mash Gagar, Ali Khan, Kazim Khan Shaida and others bestowed all the romantic ideas on their imaginary male objects which sense prevailed through the man possessed society until 1930s. Because, a common poet could not dare to express heterosexual ideas even in Ghazal.
It is, of course, very much confusing for a scholar to know that in this eccentric social order, Tappa is much more fertile and can conceive any idea ranging from the praise of God to erotomania and vulgar expression of love. It has multiplicity of rhythm which can be set to any tone of folk songs. And this is the monopoly of Pakhtun females. Tappa is single line verse of two unequal hemistiches, the first of nine syllables and the second of thirteen ending with the rhyme of "Na or Ma". It has such a vast diversity of ideas that it can be offered even as a proverb by a witty debater on any occasion. Its qualities are fluency, simplicity and spontaneity. Since it comes out of the mind which is almost devoid of erudition its style is direct, frank and meaningful, and, thus, absolutely natural.
Sometime back, an ordinary woman used to rise early in the morning to grind some cereals for the day’s meal with manual grinding machine called Mechan. In the dim light of muster or kerosene oil lamp, all by herself, she used to sing melodious Tappa with the monotonous noise of rubbing stone, without realizing its value and worth. At the spring, in the fields, in the meadows, every where the female folk give vent to their expression in full regard to the beauties of the nature. There will be hardly a woman who would not remember or sing Tappa in her own feminine environment. Many Tappas of unknown poetesses of the nature have become proverbial. One Tappa, of course, attributed to an Afghan woman named Malala. It was recited in the battle field of Maiwand when in the second Anglo Afghan war, the Lashkar of Sardar Ayub Khan was facing a defeat. She recited a Tappa:
If not martyred at Maiwand,
By God! you will live in eternal shame.
It is said that some chivalrous Afghans heard her. And the fleeing Lashkar reassembled abruptly to win the battle. This scribe was lucky to visit the graveyard of myrtrs at Maiwand, and was shown of heap of dust as the grave of Malala. Another such Tappa attained wide popularity during the red shirt freedom movement against the British rule in India:
If the youth failed to do,
Fakhr e Afghan; damsels will fight for you.
Just imagine the frankness, spontaneity and natural beauty of this Tappa (which, of course, could not be reflected exactly in the translation):
God is so gracious to high mountains;
To let snow fall on their peaks and flowers bloom in their feet.
Pour down rain, but slowly,
My travelling sweetheart has no shelter.
If the offended sweetheart were appeased,
I will put the pillow of my hair under his head.
Of late, Pukhto academies of Peshawar and Kabul compiled and published thousands of Tappas in book form. Unfortunately, this scribe has not yet seen the one published by the former. Individual efforts have also been made to compile Tappas in book form.
Apart from these countless poetesses, lecturer Shah Jehan has searched out some female poetesses and writers who have put properly their imaginative works in black and white. His article was published in Pa Sarhadi Suba Kshe Rombay Lisani Au Saqafati Conference 29 April 1986 on Pp. 353 367 (the first conference on the language and culture of the Frontier Province). It appeared in monthly Abaseen for September 1991 under the name of Atia Rubi. Some excerpts of this article are presented in the succeeding paragraphs:
In the nineteenth century, Zarghuna daughter of Mulla Din Mohammad Kakar rendered Bostan of Shaikh Muslihuddin Saadi in Pukhto. She wrote imaginative poetry of good standard also. Being a fine calligrapher, she had written herself her poetry for book.
Rabia was mentioned to have written poetry in 920 Hijri. A stanza of her poem is like this:
Adam was sent back to the earth,
His heart a flame with sorrow.
A hell on the earth was raised,
And that was called separation.
Bibi Nek Bakhta daughter of Shaikh Allah Dad Mamuzai of Hashtnagar, married to Shaikh Qadam, and mother of Mian Qasim Afghan, had authored a book in 969H. It was captioned Irshad ul Fuqara.
A wife of Khushhal Khan Khattak, the mother of Ashraf Khan Hijri, named Nautia Khattaka, had sent a Ghazal to her husband when he in jail. It says:
I will not see my face in the mirror,
Nor I will put collyrium in my eyes,
Nor I will redden my hands with myrtle,
Nor I will comb my hair.
May he be 'happy' wherever the darling is,
He may be happy, I will bear the sorrows (for him).
It may be clarified here that Khushhal was the name of the great poet as well as his pen name. Its literary meaning is the happy one. The poetess has given this word a very fine touch of ambiguity which reflects her mastery on the fine art of poetry.
Haleema was a daughter of Khushhal Khan Khattak and the real sister of Abdul Qadir Khan Khattak. She was a religious scholar and had memorized the Holy Quran by heart. She imparted education to females in her home like many other literate females. He has made valuable contribution to literature also.
Zainab was the daughter of Haji Mirwais Khan, Hotak Ghilzai, who had liberated Kandahar from the Safavid dynasty of Iran. Her one brother Mahmood had conquered Isphahan and put an end to the Safavid dynasty while the second was Shah Hussain who ruled Kandahar until the rise of Nadir Shah Afshar. Her teacher was Noor Mohammad Ghilzai. She acted as an adviser to her brothers in state affairs also and was very much fond of literature. Her elegy on the death of Mahmood is considered a master piece in this particular field. It blends her heart rending sorrow for the lass of a brother and expression of her worry about integrity of Pukhtuns and independence of Kandahar.
Piari sounds very strange. Mentioned to be living in 1300H, her available poetry erotic. It seems that she was living somewhere in India where Piari signifies love and affection. But it is not used in Pukhto, at all. The poetry attributed to her bewilders the mind to imagine that it has come out of the mouth of a Pakhtun female. But it is there on record. She must have lived. A writer of such a fine calibre would never bear to obliterate her/his name and throw away her/his poetry of such a high quality to anonymity. Her poetry reflects that she was properly, if not highly, educated, a regular student of fine arts and keen observer. It evokes the research scholars to find out something about this lady poet of romance. See! What she has said:
If my sweetheart sat for a while on the dining rug,
I will offer, submissively, my sweet lips in hospitality.
By God, I will offer everything of my life and property,
If and when the sweetheart of Piari shows up in her presence.
Misri Khanum was daughter of Qazi Ahmad Gul. She was also running a home school. Her book of poetry is not available but a Falnama (oneiromancy) that she had written in 66 lines was esteemed as a holy book at home.
Some other names are also mentioned in the history of literature. Some are Aftab Pari, Zaibo, Hameeda, Nazo, Sur Sanda, Shamo Jan, Sahibo Aajeza, Qadri, Musrifa, Nazo Ana, Noor Jehan Begum, Wabjana, Gul Bashara, Shahu, Torpekai, Rabia Kharoti, Bala Nesta, Bajaurai, Zeenat Jehan and Speena.
In the current phase, quite a good number of females have asserted their status in arts and literature. The leading, and living, figure of this lot is Zaitoon Bano daughter of Syed Mahmood of Spina Warai, Peshawar. She has authored several books and has an experience of journalism also. For self reliance, she has adopted profession of teaching. Her graceful features, sociability and frankness contribute more to charm and attraction of her personality. She writes poetry, novel and drama also, but known better for her short stories.
Dr Khadeeja Feroz ud Din did her Ph.D. on Khushhal Khan Khattak. Born in Bannu, she had completed her thesis in almost eleven years (1928 39). It was in two volume in English, and is considered the most extensive and intensive work ever done on this great man of pen and sword. Since Allama Iqbal was also impressed by this versatile genius, he used to see Khadeeja for exchange of thought.
Syeda Qanita Begum, born at Sra Dherai, Swabi, on April 21, 1908, was the sister of Mian Zia ud Din and Haya ud Din. She took significant active part in Pakistan's movement. But due to social limitations she did not come out to place her name on record, it must have topped the list of female liberators. She remained in obscurity in political life. But it proved a good omen that she diverted her attention to enrichment of Pukhto literature and contributed her invaluable travelogue captioned Zama Safarnama. It was published in 1947, reflecting her sharp observation through her excellent expression of her travels to Delhi, Kashmir, England, America, Canada, France, Rome, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Mubarik Sultana Shamim, daughter of Umar Khitab, was born in Shabqadar in 1925. She was co editor of Pukhto monthly Nangialay and has got some of her essays and a drama published in a book captioned Naway Sahar. Alif Jan Khattaka attained tremendous popularity in the red shirt movement of freedom through her contributions to weekly Pukhtun founded by Bacha Khan. She belonged to Ahmadi Banda, Karak. Her tutor was her father in law who was a government employee and did not like exposure to coercion.
Another freedom fighter behind the Purdah is Syeda Bushra Begum, known as Seen Be Be (abbreviation of the name). She is the daughter of Hakim Mian Azad Gul of Kaka Sahib. She had also run a home school and has tremendous contributions to Pukhto literature, in political field, in her credit. Zeray is the caption of her book of poetry.
Ulfat Begum wrote melancholic poetry in fine metaphorical language. In a line she expresses her melancholy as:
If you want to know about my spiritless soul,
Just drop two drops of water on a hot cooking iron plate.
Fauzia Anjum, a lecturer of Pukhto, is Khattak by tribe. Having faced harrowing tragedies in life, she still upholds her stature. Some critics consider her a poetess of romance.
Dr Lal Baha of Tor Dheri, Swabi, is a professor of history. Her thesis for Ph.D. is captioned "Pa Sarhad Ki Da Sahafat Irtaqa (Evolution of Journalism in the Frontier).
Bibi Maryam and Fatma Jan are added to the list of these illuminative stars on the horizon of Pukhto literature. Bibi Maryam has done her M.Phil and her thesis was published in 1986. It has been captioned Da Pukhto Da Nasar Tarikhi Au Tanqeedi Jaeza (a historical and critical analysis of Pukhto prose). It is a remarkable contribution to the literature as a scholar.
Fatma Jan of Mayar is the daughter of Haji Ghulam Rasul Khan and sister of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a former chairman of district council Mardan and president of Anjuman i Kashtkaran NWFP. She produced her first book, of poetry, Perzoene Da Fitrat in her 70s. Her poetry reflects that she has been influenced more by Rahman Baba, Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal.
There are many other females in this field, known and unknown, who are playing their noticeable role in promotion of Pukhto language and literature. Some of them are Salma Shaheen, Yasmeen Parvez Ahmad, Zakia Haleem, Zahida Tanha, Rafaat Parveen, Syeda Hasina Gul, Syeda Fazila Shahla, Taj Khattaka, Mrs A. Daud, Mrs A.R. Rauf, Sadaqat Sultana, Fehmida Shaheen, Mrs Haya ud Din, Safia Haleem.
The females of Afghanistan could not be included in this brief note due to lack of knowledge.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Peace in FATA: ANP can be counted on

Peace in FATA: ANP can be counted on
Hassan Abbas
On January 10, the Awami National Party (ANP) won a critical electoral battle in Bajaur Agency. The election marks the revival of a party that appeared to be hibernating during the recent Talibanisation process. The military’s hidden alliance with religious political parties made it difficult to effectively tackle the Taliban threat in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States. After 2003, the military opted for a show of brute force in the tribal belt which created more problems than it solved. The ANP was routed in national and provincial elections in 2002 because anti-Musharraf and anti-American sentiments were at their peak leading to support for the religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The mistakes committed by the United States in Afghanistan in terms of not providing enough financial resources for reconstruction and overwhelming dependence on military options to tackle extremists also contributed toward the marginalisation of the liberal and progressive forces in the region, including the ANP.Nevertheless, the potency of Pashtun nationalist forces should not be underestimated. Given their chequered history and traditional support base, they are potentially an effective and viable political force to challenge the MMA in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).In the present political context, the ANP is actively challenging the MMA and is critical of Musharraf’s policies in the tribal belt. Despite official obstacles, Asfandyar visited tribal areas in November 2006 to hold political consultations with his supporters to the dismay of pro-government tribal elders. If Afghan President Hamid Karzai respects and trusts anyone in Pakistan, it is the ANP and Asfandyar Wali. The idea of a regional Pashtun peace jirga (that was discussed at the recent Bush-Musharraf-Karzai meeting in Washington) was the brainchild of the Asfandyar-Karzai dialogue. Asfandyar had articulated his support of this idea when he visited Washington in early 2006. The Pakistani government, however, is wary of this concept despite its commitment to the United States to undertake such an exercise since it fears that such an arrangement may lessen the its direct role in the Pashtun areas. Islamabad, therefore, is now backtracking by delaying and modifying the spirit of the regional jirga idea.In Pakistan, it is difficult to challenge the military-intelligence establishment. Asfandyar, however, continues to do so, and recently he argued that the Pakistani government, instead of introducing new political or economic reforms in the tribal areas, has turned the region into a battlefield by using it as “a sanctuary for their guests” (September 28, 2006). Responding to Pakistan’s recent proposal to fence and mine the Pak-Afghan border in an effort to control Taliban’s movements, he bluntly called it a conspiracy to divide the Pashtuns.A Way OutIn a telephone interview with Asfandyar Wali on January 13, he argued that a Pashtun peace jirga involving Pashtun nationalists, civil society actors and religious players from both sides is the last hope for the region. He interpreted the recent ANP victory in the Bajaur elections as a bright spot in the overall troubling scenario and made a case for allowing liberal political parties to operate and function in the tribal areas. This can only happen, he emphasised, if the Political Parties Act is extended to FATA.In reference to the causes of conflict in the tribal areas, he lamented the fact that only pro-government maliks (tribal elders who are on the government payroll) are engaged and mushiraan (“people’s” maliks who are financially independent) were completely ignored. This led to a failure in resolving the crisis in FATA. Furthermore, he thinks that Pakistan should have distinguished between the pre-9/11 foreigners who are by now well settled in the area and the post-9/11 foreigners that came in to find a sanctuary.He also believes that fundamentalist forces are now battling for influence and territory in Sindh and Punjab provinces. He was very confident that the “ANP is in a position to take on MMA in NWFP and tribal areas, but we are not in a position to take on the establishment.” When asked what his expectations are from the international community and the United States, he replied: “the international community should ensure a level playing field for all political forces in the region.”Critics of ANP argue that supporting Asfandyar and his party might lead to the cessation of the NWFP from Pakistan and even to the unification of Pashtun areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is unlikely since the Pashtuns of Pakistan are well entrenched in the political system and have been integrated socially and culturally into the national fabric of the country. Another relevant criticism fired at the ANP is its provincial or nationalist identity. Since its inception, however, the ANP has always had some representation in the National Assembly and the Senate and has never called for a separate homeland. What it has asked for is more provincial autonomy, which is within the restraints and provisions of the Constitution.The ANP as a political party, however, needs better organisation. To be able to pursue its liberal and progressive agenda it will have to join hands with other secular forces in the NWFP as well as in other parts of Pakistan. The Bajaur by-election was a test case for the ANP. The seat was vacated by Haroon ur Rashid, an MMA representative who resigned his seat in protest against the bombing of a madrassa in which 80 people were killed. The ANP won because the MMA boycotted the election and other political parties (the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League-N) supported its candidate. Still, it was a success since a member of Pakistan Muslim League-Q, supported by President Musharraf’s followers, was also a candidate.The crux of the matter is that Asfandyar Wali and the ANP are potentially capable of reversing the Talibanisation trend in the tribal areas provided that the establishment recognises the high stakes involved, such as the growing influence of religious extremists in the region and the increasing number of suicide attacks within Pakistan itself. One may also hope that U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates’ policy statement declaring “success in Afghanistan is our top priority” leads to significant financial investment in the development of Afghanistan, crippling the appeal of the Taliban in the region (January 18). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s latest announcement that President Bush would ask Congress for $10.6 billion in aid for Afghanistan will, if approved, be a step forward for peace and stability in the region.The Statesman Peshawar