RANDOM THOUGHTS: Karachi of the Past - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Karachi of the Past
Dr. A.Q. Khan


Last week I received a message from a dear friend about Karachi as it was in the olden days. After reading it a number of times, I sat back, closed my eyes and reminisced about that time. Still ever the refugee, I come from lovely Bhopal State from where I did my High School in 1952. I joined Hamidia College till early August and then migrated to Pakistan with a group of other Bhopalis. We crossed the border at Khokrapar after having travelled via Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Loni, Barmair, Munabao, etc. The memory of the journey will remain with me forever. The Hindu railway officials were extremely rude and highly insulting to us and extorted money all the way. We finally entered Pakistan on 14th August, 1952. There were Pakistani flags flying everywhere with music playing loudly. In contrast to Munabao’s small, cosy railway station with shops filled with edibles, fruits and drinks everywhere, Khokrapar seemed a haunted place, just like any small village in Pakistan – thatched roof open huts for restaurants, no bathrooms, no edibles or drinks. Non-the-less, we were happy to be in Pakistan. We took a freight train, sat on the floor for many hours, finally reaching Karachi hungry and thirsty. Of the whole unforgettable journey, it was the treatment by the Indians that stands out most in my mind.

These memories were vividly brought back when I saw on TV how our soldiers were being brutally handled, kicked and baton-charged in 1971. I had never imagined to see such scenes. When the Indians exploded their nuclear device on 18th May, 1974 it came as a shock and made me realize that, if we did not give them a befitting response, Pakistan was bound to be further humiliated and broken up, with India occupying the whole of Kashmir and part of Punjab in order to create a Sikh province. My suggestion to Mr. Bhutto that we should start a nuclear programme of our own met with approval and in 1976 he requested me to return to Pakistan and a few months later I was put in charge of our nuclear programme. My colleagues and I worked with the same zeal as did our forefathers for the founding of Pakistan. It went at the cost of long hours, hard work, total commitment and loss of family life, but in the end we succeeded in turning this backward country into a nuclear power in the short span of 7 years – starting from scratch. Little did we know at the time how ungratefully we would later be treated. Our sovereignty sold by a dictator upon a single phone call from America and a national institution and its scientists and engineers (and the country) branded as traitors; and for what? Some dollars and acceptance as a national leader! What a shameful and disgraceful end.

Here is the message that set off this train of thought: “In memory of a forsaken city – what a beautiful period it was! People used to get up to the sound of Tilawate Quran by Qari Zahid Qasmi and go to sleep to the classical flute music of Bundu Khan. Rashid Turabi, Ehtasham ul Thanvi and Shafi Okarvi used to mesmerize audiences with the magical Qirat and sermons and Mufti Muhammad Shafi and Baba Zaheen Shah Taji held their audiences spellbound with their oratory. Shahid Ahmad Barelvi (Bhai Mujahid Barelvi nahin) taught us the intricacies of music and told stories of Ustad Jhando Khan. Babae Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq taught Mushaffiq Khwaja the secrets of research and explained the works of Dr. Jamil Jalibi and Prof. Abul Khair Kashfi to us. The great Seemab Akbarabadi poetized Wahis and Prof. Karrar Hussain, Syed Sibte Hassan and Hassan Askari showered us all with their knowledge. Arzu Lakhnavi mesmerized us with his flute and Josh Malihabadi and Qamar Jalalvi mesmerized their own audiences. Ibne Safi (the Arthur Conan Doyle of his time) told sensational detective stories about Imran and Faridi while Mulla Wahidi narrated the old Delhi stories. Ibrahim Jalees, Ibne Insha, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi and Behzad Lakhnavi kept their audiences spellbound with their works while Zareef Jabalpuri, Syed Muhammad Jafri and Dilavar Figar told their jokes. Khwaja Moinuddin and Ahmed Ali Shaikh performed on stage and Hasina Moin and Kamal Rizvi pleased viewers on TV. The descendant of Moghul rulers, Mehboob Nirale, sold chana joar garam and Alhaj Fazal Ahmad Kashmirwala (father of my friend Shakil Ahmed of Shakil Express) wrote letters to the Soviet PM Kosigin to console Nehru’s daughter while the son of Allama Mashriqui used to paint walls black so he could write political slogans on them. Mahirul Qadri and Anib Raipuri recited natia kalam and Ali Raza and Nasim Amnohvi recited natia kalam in praise of Imam Hussain. Ghulam Sabri used to sing at the tomb of Abdullah Shah Ghazi and Shaukat Siddiqui, Qurratulain Hyder, Siajuddin Zafar and Aziz Hamid Madni recited natia kalam. While Rasa Chughtai and Joan Elia recited ghazals in new, attractive tones and Mohsin Bhopali and Himayat Ali Shair entertained their audiences. While Tabish Dehlvi and Mehshar Badayuni plundered their audiences, Jamiluddin Ali and Rais Amrohvi touched the soft spots in their hearts. Shaukat Thanvi and Majeed Lahori made everyone laugh and Wahid Murad and Nadim ruled the cinema houses. Mehdi Hasan and Ahmad Rushdi mesmerized with beautiful songs while Zeba, Diba and Shamim A’ra ruled the mehfils. Allam Faqir and Abida Perveen enthralled and Sohail Rana composed Koko Kodina. Shehki and Jehangir kept us spellbound while Zahir Abbas, Hanif Muhammad, Imtiaz Ahmad, Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohd., Mahmood Hussain and Miandad raised the morals of youngsters. Jamsheed Marker and Omar Qureshi gave ball-to-ball cricket commentaries and Anwar Ahmed Khan, Islahuddin, Hamidi, Hasan Sardar and Waheed used to come back with bags full of gold medals. Edhi and Ruth Pfau were taking care of the sick and the needy………….”

Many of these people/events are alive in my memory too as are my D.J. College days and the friendships formed and places visited. Those were the good old days – it seems but a dream now – a sweet dream.

Posted on Aug 15, 18 | 1:16 am