Lessons for the US from Pakistan's Literature and from First Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who said in an address May 16, 1950 at USA's University of California at Berkeley: "We hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace..."
Excerpt about Ibne Safi: "The depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time...In (one) story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages."
IBNE SAFI (1928-1980) Posted Monday July 6, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi blogpost here
Ibne Safi is unique among fiction-writers of Urdu. He was equally popular in India and Pakistan (in India his books were also available in Hindi editions with the names of Muslim protagonists Faridi and Imran changed to Vinod and Rajesh).
This was quite an achievement if we remember that unlike some other writers of that time, Safi's purpose was to inspire patriotism (he wasn’t indifferent to religion, sovereignty, national identity and foreign policy, all of which were disputed between Pakistan and India who went on war more than once). That Safi was able to infuse patriotism on both sides of a war-torn border is remarkable (despite the promotional powers of Eon Productions, James Bond could never become acceptable for “political others” behind Iron Curtain).
Safi’s readers included intellectuals, cabdrivers, presidents and prime ministers (PM Nazimuddin and President Ayub Khan are said to be among his readers while Indian politician and later PM Lal Bahadur Shashtri presided over the launch of one of his books). Many who couldn’t read would listen to these stories being read out while the depth and variety of allusions in his 240 books was greater than any other writer in Urdu except Iqbal – and just like Iqbal, his works seem to be becoming more relevant with the passage of time.
In 1975, he wrote a series of novels about Shikral, a fictitious region based on FATA. In the story, people are “disappearing” from Shikral and transported to a far-off island where they are being kept in cages. “A battle of mind is fought alone,” says the hero Ali Imran. “One doesn’t need an army for that.” Can you see the relevance?
See also a much earlier essay on Ibne Safi: "Literature for thrill seekers literati" By Khurram Shafique (The Review - Daily Dawn 10 July 1997) Essays - English and Urdu here
From the Truman archives - Photos here were taken at the time of the following speech
US President Harry Truman with First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan May 1950.
Posted Sunday July 5, 2009 By Khurram Shafique The Republic of Rumi
A Message to America
With feelings, I send this message from my leader as my personal note of felicitation to American friends on the 4th of July. (Khurram Shafique):
I believe that your people earnestly desire peace. We, who have just begun to live, can hardly wish for annihilation to overtake us when we have not yet taken our first few breaths. What can we do to maintain peace in the world beyond keeping our own house in order? It seems to us in the East that only those who can make war can primarily maintain peace. If they are in earnest about it, is their way not clear?
When we find strong and powerful nations boldly defying aggression, we are heartened by their stand but we ask ourselves two questions:
* Firstly, is aggression to be defied only where we dislike the aggressor or is aggression to be defied in all its forms, big and small, and wherever it may appear? If the first, we will be doing no honor to democracy or justice or freedom but to the principle of biological survival. If the second, we will be serving the cause of freedom everywhere and giving hope to new nations.
* Secondly, is defiance, however stimulating it may be, enough? Are there not vast fields for constructive effort by which alone can enduring peace be built up?
Yours is a great country with enormous resources of wealth, experience and technical skill. We, who believe in individual initiative, effort and enterprise do not believe that the era of private ownership is over. But we do believe that we have entered upon an era when capital should come out of its shell and move in the spheres of international social objectives and move on from exploitation to production.
Your country fought for its own independence once. You have been great exponents and the jealous guardians of freedom. Words from your Declaration of Independence and your constitution have inspired men in far-off lands. You have shown to the world what human effort can do for human welfare. You have no colonies and I believe no territorial ambitions. Has not your history therefore equipped you more than most nations to be among the leading architects of the enlightened internationalism of the future?
We Asiatics in general and Pakistan in particular are waiting to see what your answer will be. We do not know what you will say but should you decide that construction is the best way to defy destruction, you will find the people of Pakistan amongst your staunchest friends.
I have spoken to you with great candor and from the depth of my heart for we are a simple and frank people as you are; we hold our freedom dear as you do and we love peace, if possible, even more than you do.
First PM of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan,
University of California, Berkeley, on May 16, 1950.