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Shafqat Tanvir Mirza Sahab is no more:

Profile:A life time of activism
Report by  Nazeer Kahut  

Lahore:Tuesday,Nov 20,2012.Shafqat Tanvir Mirza (STM)a prominent Pakistani Punjabi writer commonly known as encyclopedia of Punjab and One of the most eminent columnist of Pakistan’s leading English newspaper, Daily Dawn, passed away here on Tuesday at the age of 80 after prolonged illness(Inna lillahe wa inna elehe rajeon).According to family sources, STM was admitted to hospital few days back after his health immensely deteriorated. “He was suffering from various age related illnesses.”


Shafqat Tanvir Mirza was laid to rest in Lahore in the DHA graveyard near his residence on Tuesday evening. The funeral was attended by a large number of journalists, writers, intellectuals, poets besides family members and friends.Mirza was born on February 6, 1932, in Domeli area of district Jehlum. He studied at schools in Chakwal, Khushab, Wazirabad, Attock, Bahawalnagar and at Gordon College Rawalpindi.

As a journalist union leader, Shafqat Tanvir Mirza, popularly referred to as STM, was sent to jail twice. The first time during his struggle for daily Musawat, and later in the campaign for the Pakistan Times.He also taught at Shah Hussain College until it was nationalised. After Imroze was closed down, he joined the weekly Viewpoint before joining Dawn in mid-1990s.STM contributed regular columns on the Punjabi language and culture until his death on November 20, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Tamkinat Ara, and daughter, Tabashra Bano.He was awarded the Presidential Award for Pride of Performance in 2005. Besides writing several books in Punjab and about Punjabi language and literature, he also translated a number of works from English literature into Punjabi. These included Lahoo Suhaag and Boha Koe Na. He also wrote a book, Shah Hussain, in Urdu and translated the prose of Sachal Sarmast into Punjabi in Akhia Sachal Sarmast Nay.

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza was writer of numerous prose and poetry books and had won Presidential Award of Pride of Performance.The veteran journalist and carried out several works of literary criticism on Punjabi literature.His English book Resistance Themes in Punjabi Literature explores Punjab’s political history. In Punjabi some of his important works include Adab raheen Punjab de tareekh (Punjab’s history through literature) andTehreek-e-Azadee which Punjab da hissa (Punjab’s contribution in movement for freedom).Shafqat Tanvir Mirza was Pakistani Punjabi writer, an authority on literature and folklore,translated the plays of Lorca and Sartre, author of Punjabi Adab di Tarikh, literary history of Punjab, author of Shah Hussain, a biography.Mirza worked for dailies Tameer and Hilal in Rawalpindi as well as at Radio Pakistan at Rawalpindi. In 1970, he joined Musawat. Later, he worked for Imroze where he became the editor.
Profile: A lifetime of activism
By Saira Dar

Ideally, this interview should have been in Punjabi, and also by someone who had some in-depth knowledge of this language and the land it represents. So deep and profound is Shafqat Tanveer Mirza’s involvement with the land of Punjab, its history and all that it stands for, that one cannot but feel inadequate in attempting to present his achievements in an ‘English medium’ style write-up.

However, one can in this very predicament, reiterate the values that he expounds, and reaffirm the need, as he points out, for maintaining a deep and abiding relationship with one’s ‘motherland’, and ‘mother tongue’. As we both rambled on in Punjabi, frequently intercepted by the sound of his cough that poignantly indicated that all is not well with his health, it felt that one had discovered a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom that was not marred by any form of pretence.

An endearing aura of humility and simplicity pervades this now physically frail, albeit giant of letters and literature, and it is obvious that his achievements in his chosen field have not ensnared him in worldliness. In fact, he had agreed most reluctantly for the interview and complied after much cajoling.

Born on February 6, 1932, to Mirza Shukar ullah Khan and Rehmat Bano, his early education was in a school in Chakwal, and then later at other places including Khushab, Wazirabad, Bahawalnagar, Cambelpur, and finally at Gordon College, Rawalpindi.He was married to his first cousin Tamkinet Ara in 1963, and had a daughter Tabashra Bano who is now married with three children.

Mirza Sahib’s involvement with journalism has been both illustrious and problematic. He has worked for more than half a dozen daily newspapers including the dailies Taameer, Hilal, Nawai-waqt, Civil and Military Gazette, Imroze, Mussawat and Dawn, and has been equally adept at being fired from service for having not compromised on his stance on freedom of expression for the press. His curriculum vitae in Punjabi includes very matter-of-factly, not only his job assignments but also his being repeatedly thrown out of them, as well as a list of incarcerations in prison, (also specifically mentioning being accompanied by his wife in Central Jail, Karachi) during various martial law regimes. He proudly recalls how his wife courted arrest during General Zia ul Haq’s regime when they were protesting against the death sentence given to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

STM (his signature initials appearing in his columns) shares his extensive knowledge of the history and literature of Punjab through his regular column writings in Dawn and also through his various publications. His books in Punjabi include Adab raheen Punjab dee tareek (Punjab’s history through literature), Tehreeki-i-azadi wich Punjab da hissa (Punjab’s contribution in the movement for freedom), as well as translations of English works into Punjabi, such as Lahu suhag ( Blood wedding by Lorca) and Booha Koeena ( translation of Sartres drama, no exit ).

Then there are a number of books written by him in Urdu including those on Shah Hussain, Sachal Sarmast, and others, as well as two books in English; Resistance themes in Punjabi literature, and Making of a nation. There are other literary accomplishments besides these, and his critical analyses of various publications in Punjabi or about Punjabi literature are well respected for their incisiveness.

In the context of Pakistan’s predicaments, he has a clear view of where we have gone wrong. “At the time of Partition, an education emergency should have been declared. The emphasis should have been on cultivating good quality manpower and curbing feudalism.” He emphatically states, “For any society that wishes to progress, it is essential to develop three forms of manpower; imaginative, creative and productive. Unfortunately these three forms of endeavour have been systematically crushed by vested powers, especially the feudal lords and those with a similar mindset.”

Not surprisingly, he is also a vociferous advocate of education in one’s mother tongue, because “one can express oneself most authentically and forcefully in ones own indigenous language”. He laments the fact, “We have distanced ourselves from our roots, our land and our language. The present generation has been especially deprived of their language and has little connection with their motherland. Their only salvation seems to be in going abroad and earning foreign currency. They are unaware of the wisdom that emanates from Punjabi proverbs and even the folk songs that were a part of our childhood.” STM is particularly perturbed about what he calls the ‘ineffectual curriculum’, that is rampant in our educational institutions and which does not create any “affinity to one’s own land”. He is especially cognisant of the fact that teachers do not enjoy the type of respect they should have.

He feels, “The feudal culture that is still a part of our society accords little respect to professionalism. Our role models are still people with wealth and power, and respect for human dignity is minimal. I also feel appalled at the sight of these big cars and unnecessary show of wealth. Outside these expensive schools, one often sees that a child is sitting alone in a ten-yard long car, and one wonders where we are going with such values. Educational institutions must inculcate values of simplicity and discourage wastefulness.”

STM feels surprised that no one in our country has actually made an effort to scientifically quantify the wastage of resources that takes place. “There should be a special commission for the study of wastage, including wastage of working hours made by various strata of society. After all it is the management and utilisation of resources, including not only physical assets like minerals and agriculture, but also manpower that determines the status of a country.”
Unfortunately Mirza sees little light at the end of the tunnel. “We have not been able to address even basic issues in all these decades, and are still in the clutches of the same evils of apathy, greed and unbridled ambitions of a few powerful people.

However, it is difficult for me to predict anything with certainty what will happen in the future. People who claim to be able to bring change are still hostage to the same system.”STM is in sync with the ideals and philosophy of the Sufi saints of Punjab. He also knows that even centuries ago, there were issues of poor governance, institutional corruption, religious exploitation and the arrogance of the haves and the miseries of the have-nots. In a recent critical analysis of a book on Waris Shah’s poetry by Dr Shaista Nuzhat, he had mentioned all this in the context of the story of Heer Ranjha.

What from foreign intervention and conspiracies, to all the aforementioned maladies, it seems that our predicaments haven’t really changed. Perhaps, as Waris Shah had implored in his verses, and which STM had quoted in his column, we must ponder over the wisdom of the following words; “Leave the company of the millionaires and choose your leader amongst the noble, but poor men.”
DAWN.COM. 11th December, 2011

Tehreek-i-Azadi Vich Punjab da Hissa (Punjabi)
Adab Raheen Punjab de Tareekh (Punjabi)
Resistance Themes in Punjabi Literature (English)
Making of a nation (English)
Shah Hussain, a biography (Urdu)
Lahu suhag (Blood Wedding by Spanish writer Garcia Lorca)
Booha Koeena (No Exit by French writer Jean Paul Sartre)
Akhia Sachal Sarmast nay

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