Naveed Aman Khan
Goethe had said “the decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.” Events from the past and the present truly manifest the wisdom of this quote as we have experienced it and been struggling to get out of the quagmire of extremism and terrorism that actually dreaded the very spirit of our society which once enjoyed multicultural values and diversity. It was once our proud culture and of course a recognition across the world. Lahore and Karachi were torchbearers and center stage for literature and artistic touch. Gradually these colors vanished and social norms of appreciating thought and expression started dying. Crudeness upsurged instead leaving all those bewildered who cherished past memories.
The last couple of decades were the worst in terms of consequences and the price that our society has faced and paid due to this phenomenal change induced by the powerful elements home and abroad camped in the neighborhood under the much abused terms of peace, security and democratic values. Agendas may have been achieved by the powerful but at a cost that we had and are still paying. We lost the charms of literature that were rejoiced and respected in length and breadth of our homeland. Society lurking in the fear became the new face. It was like watching a horror movie that traumatized the nation. The tide was turned after May 11, 2013 elections that paved the way for PML-N to manage the unmanageable affairs.
Undoubtedly terrorists have been defeated on all fronts. Thanks to the political and military leadership that took straight path abandoning past policy of lame excuses at last which lingered on under one pretext or another by one party or another. It was the reason that never let our national narrative acquire the due reverence in and outside the country. A dreaded society found a new hope thus creating zeal among youth in reviving our natural tilt towards sports, literary and cultural activities. Now we have achieved miles in quest of peace and have rendered great sacrifices to which our valiant armed forces, law enforcing agencies and police deserve special applause. How can we forget those who laid their lives to realize the dream to bring peace and stability to motherland those whose selfless contributions made this possible again that we are enjoying each other’s company.
Irfan Siddiqui who is well recognized literary personality, marvelous writer and an equally inspiring poet was given responsibility. Critics are important to make society more vibrant and alive but appreciation brings balance. Irfan Siddiqui has proved his mettle by making and creating a fair difference when we compare him and his Division with traditional political figures and their Ministries.
For a literary person such task becomes almost impossible in view of previous examples when they are faced with a system run by bureaucrats with a fix mindset who instead of using the rules for solutions rather apply them to create illusions and delusions. Irfan Siddiqui was able to deal this problem as well and he has set forth an example for others who justify their failures by blaming others especially the state machinery for creating hurdles beyond their control. The Professor, who proudly enjoys respect of his countless brilliant students including General Qamar Javed Bajwa also prudently managed a resource starved Division and transformed it into an active entity. He harnessed his team and made them work as an active team.
Writers’ conferences and calligraphy exhibitions were arranged last month in memory of renowned calligraphist of the subcontinent Sufi Abdul Majeed Parveen Raqam who served Allama Iqbal as calligrapher. The Islamic art has been revived that was on the verge of being diminished. Khattaat Masjid-e-Nabvi Shafiq-uz-Zaman world renowned calligrapher was also invited to chair the National Calligraphy Competition and Exhibition to encourage never recognized youth. They were, for the first time, not only appreciated in terms of cash prizes but their art pieces were put on display as well.
Efforts for the promotion of book culture are also laudable. In this regard, initiatives of establishment of Shehr-e-Kitab, translations of literature in Urdu as well as in other languages, extension of Pakistan Academy of Letters offices in other parts of country including FATA and Sindh after a break of many decades, establishment of Translation Bureau, establishment of Calligraphy Wing, competition of Urdu Dictionary along with its digital version are highly commendable. An Urdu talking dictionary would be launched soon who is under compilation. This would be the first ever such Urdu dictionary and a milestone in promotion of national language.
First National Museum to be erected at Islamabad a project which would change the cultural landscape of beautiful Islamabad and would attract attention of the foreigners who frequently visit Pakistan. A voluminous and tiresome job of translation of Esta Code, laws, procedures and codes in Urdu to be used by the government departments has also been completed. For writers welfare an Endowment Fund has also been created with a hefty amount. The former PM Nawaz Sharif had launched this project on the proposal of Irfan Siddiqui to help the needy and ailing writers and poets.
An important role is being played by very talented officer Engineer Aamir Hasan, as the Federal Secretary NHLHD. He is a literary person whose potential has been best utilized when he joined Irfan Siddiqui as his team member. He recently signed an MoU with the Swiss Government that will pave way for mutual cooperation between the two countries in museums, culture, joint research, training and capacity building, scholarships for further studies in Museology. Department of Museums and Archeology and Zurich Museum will partner activities under the agreement which is a major breakthrough.
They have also started inviting Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Japan and other such countries to visit Pakistan every year on Visakh Mela on the eve of birth celebrations of Buddh which is being celebrated in Pakistan at official level to foster relations with Buddh countries on the same pattern of Sikh Yatris coming to perform their religious rituals. Change of Chandelier at Mazar-e-Quaid is another aspect of contribution by Irfan Siddiqui and his team. After 40 years it was replaced by our Chinese friends who prepared a state of the art Chandelier now installed at the shrine of founder of Pakistan.
Irfan Siddiqui and Engineer Aamir Hasan have created a best model of delivering in challenging environments. If a Professor and an Engineer can create a difference in less than two years then why can’t others follow the same and yield results in five years instead of blame game or accusations? Commitment and nationalism matter. This team should be given rather more public oriented tasks because they can deliver.
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.