January  2004




January 2004 


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 Letter from Pakistan



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World Sqiuash Open2003-Lahore Old Airport -Rahmat +Winner-Shabbaana.jpg (66262 bytes)

Letter From Pakistan- December 2003 – January 2004

By Buk Mai

A Farewell to Arms in South Asia ? LOC Cease Fire.

For the last 100 year of the south Asian history much of the living among different religions has been along a peaceful coexistence . The British were smart enough to start the Balkanization of the south Asian territories so that their Imperial & economic hold never died down. So the recent peace overtures described in this letter have to be read with the old song playing in the background ………… "Bachpan ki Mohabat ko dil se na Juda Karan …………"

The Arts

Indian Literary Group in Pakistan : "Awaz dey Kahan hai, duniyan meri jawan hai …..[shout, where are you ?, my world is young …..]
On October 17 , Taran Kaur Gujral [ Punjabi poet, short story writer] stepped across Wagah border to be welcomed with garlands along with the rest of the Indian group.. She belongs to the Gujral family, related to the former Indian prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral. The family lived in Jhelum before 1947. Ajeet Cour, chairperson of the Academy of Art and Literature in New Delhi, Dr Gopi Chand Narang [ writer of Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata which became top Indian TV plays], Chitra Mudgal and Dr Kanwal Kumar were among the group members . In total there were seven women and three men in the Indian Literary delegation. They were to participate in a three-day seminar on Pen and Peace in Islamabad.  Present at the Wagah border to receive the Indian delegation were Kishwar Naheed, Dr Mubashir Hasan, Munno Bhai, Intezar Husain, Javed Shaheen, Saleema Hashmi and Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan.

MF Hussain and Satish Gujral's  arrival is awaited in Karachi to display their works at Pakistan –India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy [ PIPF-PD] . 200 paintings will be on display including those of 50 artists from India – A Classical dancer by the name of Rekha , and Seema Saigal a classical Indian singer will release her CD here – apparently she has sung the works penned by Iqbal and Faiz. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, famous Physics Professor & Peace activist from Islamabad University [ Quaid-e-Azam] will also be showing a documentary along with Anand Parvathan from India .

Ajoka theater group of Madiha Gauhar returned a few weeks ago after touring / performing in India yet again . This time it was "Bullah" , the play on Bulleh Shah the Sufi Poet . Their performances took them to the eastern Punjab towns of Jullundur , Amritsar , Ambala, etc .

Pooja Bhat and Mahesh Bhat the directors were also in Karachi from Bombay working on the shooting of the a film .

Karachi “Kara” Film Festival : Dec 11- 21

  The Karachi International Film Festival  concluded with a New Zealand's film 'A Small Life' walking away with eight awards. Around 80+  films entered in the festival competition. Director Michael Heath's musical "A Small Life" walked away with awards for best short feature, best director, best screenplay, best actor, best actress, best cinematography, best editing and best music. According to the jury with a unanimous vote, the film was perfect. Michael Heath flying in from New Zealand for the festival, was choked with emotions at the praise on his film.

Other films that bagged awards was the Iranian film 'A Girl Called Tondar', which won both the best feature film award and the best supporting actor award. The jury cited the film as a representative of the new Khatami led Iran.

Deepti Naval won the Best Supporting Actress award at the 3rd Karachi Film Festival for Leela . Like many Indians, Deepti's roots are also in Pakistan . and in 2001 she went to see Lahore to visit the places where her parents studied and lived.An Indian documentary, which explored the lives of slum-dwellers in Mumbai, won the best documentary award, and another Indian documentary 'The Play Is on' - on street theatre performers in Kashmir - won a special award from the jury.

A Pakistani short feature film by veteran actor Faisal Rehman and first-time writer and director Bilal Minto, 'World Ka Center,' won the special jurors' selection award for its realistic portrayal of lower middle-class life in Lahore. The film, set in September 2001, revolves around a day in the life of a group of young men, accompanying their friend, who is about to leave for the US.

Mohsin Hamid’s novel “Moth Smoke” [ about a young man’s genital life’s orbits in Lahore ] was made into a movie called “Daira” . “Khamosh Pani  [about woman’s compromises in Pakistani society – basically a sikh mother’s suicide in a village  well  to avoid shaming her young fundamentalist son  ] by Sabiha Sumar was also shown. “Raat Chali hai Jhoom Key “  , shows great the great potential of Pakistan’s new film directors . This movie is about a young MIT educated yuppie’s schizophrenic introduction into the life of the Karachi’s lower classes . He is about to sign a multi-million dollar Microsoft’s contract, when he is seduced into spending the night by a classic charms laden woman with whom he has been carrying on a phone-affair.     Dimple Kapadia starring in Leela, Anant Patwardhan's ‘War and Peace’ and a film based on tabla maestro Zakir Hussain ‘The Speaking Hand’.

The jurors for the short feature and feature films categories included Hameed Haroon, Sahira Kazmi, Aslam Rashidi, Aftab Manghi and Talat Aslam. Other members of the jury included Durriya Kazi, Ajmal Kamal, Sania Saeed, Sheherbano Hussain, Saqib Malik, Mujahida Hasan and Tehmina Ahmed.

  A total of over 80 films of all types - documentaries, features and shorts - from countries as diverse as the US, Canada, Germany, Iran, Bangladesh, Japan, Sri Lanka, Russia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan were shown during the festival. Thousands of people attended the eight-day festival. The KaraFilm Festival, the only international film festival in Pakistan is organized by the KaraFilm Society, a non-profit entity. The sponsors included Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari, Dawn, PIA, Avari Hotels, WorldTel, Platinum Bank and Pak Apex Leasing.


Bolo Polo …… [Speak Polo]
Lahore welcomed Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jaipur, General Shergill
, with the Indian Polo Team participating in the 4 nation Zone D Polo tournament being played in the Race Course Aibak Polo fields of Lahore . This was for the 2004 World Cup being held in France .President General Musharaff opened the ceremony at the Lahore Fortress Stadium on December 6 evening in a spectacular night show of fireworks and Buzkashi. Lt.General Tajindar Singh Shergill, Chef-de-Mission of the 14 member Indian Polo team was delighted to be in Lahore . Born in Lahore before 1947, General Shergill said he felt very much at home in Lahore and wanted that more matches be played by India and Pakistan to raise their the regional standards. Pakistan won by one goal 9-8 against India ,but lost in the final to Australia in the Final by 9-6 ; Iran did not fare well .


Snookered in Karachi
Remember in addition to the great games of Polo , Cricket , Squash , Hockey , and Bridge, south Asia also holds domination in the art of snookering . The Pakistani quartet of Naveen Kumar Parwani [ Captain] ,Muhammad Yousuf, Khurram Hussain Agha and Saleh Muhammad played and won against the IndianTeam of Pankaj Advani , Yasin Merchant, Alok Kumar and Manan Chandra , [manager Michael Ferreira, has also been a former world billiard champion.] They had previously met in in the World Snooker Championship held at Jiang Ming City (China) in October, where Advani won against Saleh in the final.

The New Zealand cricket team [ a B team surely with 4 of their members absent due to their security concerns ] are about to leave with a 5-0 One day defeat from Pakistan . The Pakistan juggernaut of fast bowlers took their toll of the New Zealand batsmen.

The World Squash Open
was played between Dec. 14- 21 at the old Lahore Airport. The place was full of plainclothesmen and khaki uniforms due to the appearance of the President General Musharaf. Old posters of the squash greats Hashim Khan, Azam Kahn, Roshan Khan, Mohibullah, Jehangir , Geoff Hunt, Jonah Barrington hung as murals in the lounge. Rahmat Khan, trainer of Jehangir, was present to see all the Pakistan seeds eliminated early on. All matches were played in a fish bowl glass court assembled in the entrance Hall of the old Lahore airport.

Sponsors were PIA, Chimera [ Nokia] and Bank Al- Falah. The marketing efforts need to be improved as there were no souvenirs . calendars , picture postcards , etc of our Squash Champions. Jansher and Jehangir watched the matches dressed impeccably in suits and ties . Amr Shabaana [ Egypt] who was the winner of this World squash Open in Lahore was a treat to be seen ; he is very fast - about twice as fast as his opponents ; left-handed - he has a devastating smash that puts the ball in the cross court front nick. He used it effectively in all his matches at will whenever the ball came on to his forehand at service time .He should be there for sometime – all players watch out.

Basant is lurking in the wings in Lahore and will be given official sanction in January as the kites are responsible for causing power failures due to short circuiting of electrical wires .

Of airplanes and trains

There is much talk of Jumbos-747 of Indian Airlines and PIA , flying across India and Pakistan by January 1, 2004 . Hyderabad in India is also being considered . Let us hope that the issues of Visas is synchronized properly. The Samjotha express train between Lahore and Delhi is also being tinkered with and greased up for the many journeys it may be sent out on .


SAARC on, Commonwealth Off

The SAARC Regional Prime-Ministers conference is on January 4-6, 2004 in Islamabad:

The Indian PM has finally agreed to meet the rest of the gang. Good for him. Can these bunch of leaders deliver any peace and good news for the ordinary folk? Not really. The Commonwealth, whatever they are supposed to do, has told General Musharaf to get out and give the power back to the Parliament – as if Parliaments really work. CDA in Islamabad has managed to pull down a monument of the Ghauri Missile at a local intersection.

Solution / way out is to create small links with peace loving , progressive, thinkers-activists in south Asia , via the NET . This is the only way forward and hope that the trigger happy armies don’t suffer from another ten year itch – call it the General Malaise & Hunger [ or have an ISI syndrome = Invisible Soldiers Incorporated], and a coup again in ten years. Governments can’t deliver anything of value in South Asia. The patient is dead but he does not know it .


Peshawar University botanical gardens, about a hundred years old, were saved in the nick of time. Thanks to some lobbying by the Sarhad Conservancy Network. Let us see if the same luck holds true for the temple where  the Peshawar Cantonment board has set its sights on.

The Lahore Mall road and Canal Bank underpass was at last completed on December 1, a long ongoing project that caused Lahorites to exercise their patience, thanks to the non-planning of the LDA..

Good fresh fruit and dry fruit [ chalgozas, almonds , pistachios] are in. Tomatoes were being sold for Rs.100+ a kilo in the days near Eid. Who says you can’t make money here. Indonesia's president ,Sukarnoputri Devi is here on a 4 day state visit . The Aga Khan and the President were at the convocation ceremony of the Aga Khan university in Karachi looking very elegant in their robes.


Karachi Stock Exchange rose by about 200 points at the news of the cease fire and confidence building measures. Similar tremors were felt across the border at the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The newly opened National Commodities Exchange has put in the highest bid for the Hyatt Regency Hotel, as part of the plans for its office space building. Good things never cease to happen in the land of the pure.

Car production of Hondas, Toyotas and Suzukis is to be stepped up from the current production level of 30,000 to 100,000.

Standard & Poor has raised Pakistan’s credit rating from Stable to Positive.

Un-employment is at an all time high. No figures have been published, due to possible embarrassment to the government; an opening for a secretary usually causes about 3000 applicants. At least the M.Sc. graduates are being absorbed as Daewoo bus drivers. The last time this happened [around 1990’s the case of the yellow cabs being driven by graduates] caused the dismissal of the PPP government by the old bureaucrat of a president G.I.Khan [ who mentioned this as a cause for the dismissal in his speech], in whose name a university [ one of the better ones ] now runs near Tarbela Dam in the boondocks. 

Happy Eid, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year to all the readers.



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