Harvard to Shakargarh: Pakistan’s legendary author, professor, researcher finds eternal peace in a homeland


Aslam Khan


Wherever a human goes in the world, it is difficult for him/her to forget the homeland where he/she spent the early days of life because everything in their homeland keeps its love in their hearts. This unique love even never ends after death and a few of them wanted to be buried in the soil where they walked in their childhood.
Professor Dr. Kiren Aziz Chaudhry, a renowned scholar, author and economist at the international level, was one of them who wrote her will in the United States expressing a wish to be buried in her paternal village in Shakargarh, district Narowal, the village of his father Chaudhry Anwar Aziz, former minister and famous intellectual politician of Pakistan.
Professor Kiren died of a heart attack on June 25, 2020, at her house in the Berkeley Hills and her body was shifted to Pakistan after removing plenty of hurdles amid COVID-19 pandemic only to fulfill her lifetime wish to be hurried in her hometown. She was laid to rest in her hometown village on Tuesday with sorrows and tears after the funeral prayer was led by Pir of Ali Pur Shareef Syed Zafar Iqbal Shah. Thousands of people attended the funeral.
Professor Kiren was the sister of PML-N leader Daniyal Chaudhry and cousin of Member of the National Assembly Mehnaz Akbar Aziz.
Kiren Aziz had a unique impressive personality with a great love for her motherland Pakistan, its culture and its local languages despite living in the United States for decades.
She had completed her Ph.D. from Harvard and had been teaching in different renowned universities and institutes. Professor Kiren came a very long way from Pakistan where she born on March 17, 1959, to achieve academic excellence in the United States. Her journey culminated at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was an Associate Professor of Political Science. There was no school in her village in her childhood and she had to travel to a nearby village school where she started her learning at the age of 5 while sitting on jute runners under the trees, writing on a wooden slate with a reed pen and ink made from lamp black. She went to and from school on horseback because there was no direct road to the school.
After the family moved to Lahore, she attended Cathedral School and later at Essena, a private girls’ school. She finished her Pakistan education graduating from Lahore American High School in just three years.
Her college career began at the University of Massachusetts, transferring to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she received her B.A summa cum laude and high distinction in Political Science and English Literature in May 1980. She received the Senior Honors Thesis Award for the best Senior Honors Thesis at the University of Michigan.
At Harvard University where she did her graduate work, among several other awards she received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant. In 1988-90 she was a Kukin Fellow, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Shortly after receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University she joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley where she received several awards and fellowships, including a Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Award, two Mellon Grants, she was awarded an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Peace and Security Fellowship in 1996-98, and in 2001-03, a second MacArthur Peace and Security Fellowship. Articles and papers too numerous to mention were published in prestigious Political Science and Political Economy periodicals, all of which can be found online. But the writing achievement she prized most was her a book titled “The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle East”, for which she was co-recipient of the Albert Hourani Prize, awarded by the Middle East Association of America for best book on Middle East in 1998. Shortly before her death her second book, Trauma and Memory in Istanbul, reached the final edit stage and one of her colleagues has offered to see it through to publication by Cornell University Press.
Later in the summer of 2001, she taught at the Bogazici Universitisi Department of Political Science in Istanbul, Turkey. Her Berkeley “Post Fordism” class, which she started teaching in 2005, was her favorite. She also taught at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) in Lahore for few years where she impressed students and other faculty members with her wonderful English and knowledge about the world before she gave a shock to them one day by speaking in Punjabi fluently and in a pure local accent that she got from her father Chaudhary Anwar Aziz. She had been advising Pakistani students not to shun their mother languages otherwise they would lose their roots.
She was also a fluent speaker of the Arabic language and had served as a consultant to the U.S. government in economic affairs.

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