The Dawn: May 5, 2006

More than a generation gap

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza 

SAUDA QABRAN DA by Ilyas Ghumman; pp142; price Rs125; Idara Punjabi Zaban Tey Saqafat, 24 Ameer Road, Bilal Ganj, Lahore.

I LYAS Ghumman is an engineer by profession. He holds a degree from an engineering college in Karachi. During the period he was studying there a popular slogan made the rounds in the Sindh capital:

Sindhi, mohajir bhai bhai Dhoti, naswar kahan sey aai This indicated the venom some of the Karachiites were made to spill against Punjabis and Pathans, fuelled by the then dictator Gen Ziaul Haq, who was trying his best to fan provincialism and ethnic intolerance. The purpose was to dampen the PPP’s popularity among Punjabis, and to create a rift between Punjab and Sindh. Zia’s obsession with the PPP was so obvious that after hanging Z A Bhutto, he wanted to crush his party which was then believed to be the only party representing the downtrodden in all the four provinces, particularly in Punjab where protest against the execution of Bhutto was unprecedented.

Though the parliamentary PPP was dominated by feudals from Sindh and from southern Punjab, people at a grass roots level had a significant role to play. The local elections of 1979 presented the solid proof when the Awam-dost candidates swept the poll, particularly in Punjab and Sindh.

The hate campaign against Punjabis in Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh turned the younger lot into nationalists and Ilyas Ghumman was no exception. He, with collaboration from other Punjabi students, compiled a Punjabi magazine,Sohni Dharti, a thick volume ever-published from Karachi. That was his first love with Punjab and its language.

After completing his education, he came to Lahore, joined at Wazirabad, his ancestral tehsil town, and started work for the promotion of Punjabi language and literature. He was transferred to Lahore which provided him a good opportunity to make contribution to the cause. He established a publishing house, started publication of a monthly magazine and special annual issues under the name of Sahit.

He also compiled and published some small books on science and technology. Then he turned to literature and contributed three collections of short stories to Punjabi. He also served as correspondent of a Jallunder daily Ajeet.

He was hauled up by Pakistani intelligence agencies and tortured in the traditional style. But nothing was proved against him and after a week or so he was set free. In those days another Punjabi scholar, Syed Sibtul Hasan Zaigham, also became the victim of the agencies. Ilyas continued his crusade, and with this book he emerged as a polished playwright — he had not touched the genre so far.

The play opens with a debate on the preservation of cultural heritage, including the people’s language and literature. The pivotal character of the play is Jamal Nasir Mufti, once a small land holder in a rural area locat ed around a big city. He sold all his land for giving higher education to his only son Sajid. In the process, he also worked as a vegetable vendor. All his efforts came to fruition when his son got a good job. But the son married Rubina, who belonged to a nouveau-riche background.

Sajid and particularly Rubina, therefore, began refusing to adjust with the Punjabi-speaking old-fashioned Mufti, who insisted that children studying in a modern English medium school should not forget their humble past and the language of the people. The old man remains popular with his grandchildren, and that annoys Rubina who ultimately succeeds in forcing Mufti to move out. Mufti has no place to go, so he ends up living with the homeless in parks and other public places.

One fine morning the son and the daughter-in-law come to the old man with the good news that a housing society has purchased all the lands and residential quarters of their ancestral village except their particular section of it, and for which the society is ready to pay Rs17 million.

Sajid tells the father that he has accepted a sum of Rs5 million as seed money. Now old Mufti should sign the deed because it is his property. Mufti is astonished at the deal because in the old ‘Ahata’ also lie the graves of the family elders, including that of Sajid’s mother, Mufti’s wife.

He flatly refuses to sell the graveyard, and immediately thereafter hands over the ‘Ahata’ to a charity trust. This enrages the son. He gets his father killed through the so-called ‘Pathhar’ group criminals, while the victim sleeps in a public park. Thus, the tussle between those who want to preserve heritage and those who are ready to sell out even the graves of their elders, comes to an end.


Monthly Punjabi international, edited by Junaid Akram; pp100; price Rs100; published from B-2, 125/3, Township, Lahore.

Monthly Savair International; edited by Jamil Ahmad Pal: pp84; price Rs25; published from 7-A, Street 6, Kucha Muhammadi, Sultanpura, Lahore.

Monthly Pukheroo; edited by Ashraf Sohail; pp84; price Rs30; published from Street no 64, Tajpura Road, Mughalpura, Lahore.

A LL these monthlies, and Lehran and Likhari are Punjabi magazines which are being regularly published from Lahore. Punjabi’s no 35 is a special issue on the renowned na’at writer, the late Prof Hafeez Ta’ib, who died on June 12, 2004. The longest and very interesting, informative article is by Ashgar Ali Nizami who remembers the visits of Hafeez to Madina.

Jamil Pal has produced the 100th issue of Savair, which he started some 12 years ago and has continuously produced quality paper adding to the prestige of Punjabi literary journalism.

Pukheroo is a monthly magazine for children which is being single-handedly managed by Ashraf Sohail for last 11 years. The issue under review is devoted to poetry for children by prominent poet Abdul Karim Qudsi.

Juniad Akram, Jamil Pal and Ashraf Sohail, all, with rare qualities, are committed to the promotion of Punjabi.—STM

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