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Journal knowledge

Addressing a long standing demand, the Pakistan Study Centre launches an Urdu journal

Journal knowledge

The Pakistan Study Centre under the University of Karachi, set up through an act of Parliament in 1976, actually started to function in 1983. Since then, it has been offering doctoral and MPhil programmes, and publishing a research journal on sociological issues of the country by the name of Pakistan Perspective. Published with a degree of regularity, it has brought out two special issues on feudalism and the 1857 War of Independence.

But there has been a long-standing demand that an Urdu journal be brought out of the same quality and so Pakistan Shanasi came into existence. The journal is broad-based and includes various disciplines such as history, politics, economics, art, literature, culture, and civilization.

Its editorial board also boasts of outstanding scholars. The first article in this journal focuses on the comparative study of Urdu and English journalism in Pakistan. It is written by researcher Nisar Ahmed Zuberi who draws the right conclusions that the Urdu press caters to commoners in society while the English press focuses on the upper classes. It is evident that he wrote this article after an extensive study of journalism in both languages. He describes that the Urdu press takes sides with great openness and gusto while the English press does it subtly. News pieces in the Urdu press are numerous but undetailed, while in the English press it is the other way around, meaning that news articles are fewer in number, but are all very detailed. The English press carries more human and public interest stories than the Urdu press which has a much larger circulation than the English press.

It is assumed that the Urdu press is weak on analysis and heavy on emotion. It caters to the sentimental side rather than indulging in cold analysis like the English press.

It is generally assumed that the Urdu press is weak on analysis and heavy on emotion. It caters more to the sentimental and emotional side rather than indulging in cold analysis of an issue that the English press does. The Urdu press is thus much more effective in rabble rousing and offering a platform for people to galvanise and consolidate. It has a much greater, more direct impact on the day-to-day issues of the society in Pakistan.

Another issue which has rankled since colonisation is putting the education system in place. Embedded within this debate is the larger argument about what place modernity holds within our ethos, and how modernity and our education interact. Focusing not so much on the reality of education and the ability to conduct independent research based on independent thinking, Mueenuddin Aqeel has dilated more on political awareness as a product of the education process. He concludes that ever since the Khilafat Movement, students began engaging with the subcontinent’s politics and emulated examples of many institutions like Farangi Mahal and Deoband to measure up to.

This study must have been conducted in the light of Sir Syed Ahmed’s advice to students to concentrate only on their studies and not be distracted by society’s politics. Apparently, after the first few decades, this was abandoned by the Aligarh students and alumni, and they did take part in the awareness for the Muslim homeland in the latter part of the colonial rule.

It is still a difficult question to answer as to why our institutions do not produce first rate scholars and researchers especially in the field of physical sciences. Is there some fundamental problem with our approach to knowledge and its creation? Actually this issue should be addressed more persistently.

Aziz Ahmed’s ‘Iqbal Fahmi’ is based on a study by Aziz Ahmed called Iqbal Nai Tashkeel published for the first time in 1947. This analytical study by Humaira Ashfaq studies Iqbal in three phases — ‘Wattan Parasti’, ‘Islami shairi’ and ‘Inqalabi shairi’. The essential value that Iqbal upheld was the freedom to think and act, and so art for him was not a repetition of what existed but an envisioning of the creation of a new world. Individual freedom too was of great value to Iqbal and therefore, according to Aziz Ahmed, Iqbal’s message was not about repetition or regurgitation of the past in the name of religion but creating a new framework for a changed world while drawing from the values of the past.

Thus it was a forward looking approach where values are instruments of change rather than dogmatic intellectual structures to be passively acted upon to retard change or relive past glory. According to Aziz Ahmed, the published poems were edited by Iqbal later in his life for three reasons: first, anything that contradicted religion was cancelled out including references to Wahdatul Wajood, second for the quality of diction, and third all that was in praise of the rich and successful was taken out.

There is a very detailed article on Mumtaz Hussain by Muhammad Raza Kazmi. We all know that he was a leading Marxist literary critic and is labelled as an important figure who laid down the ground rules of an ideology. With deep analysis, he seems to have set a different course for himself than other taraqi-pasand naqqaads (progressive critics), and stresses on art being not a passive reflection but a creation that looked forward and beyond. Hussain was not at all dogmatic; rather he looked and analysed literature as being of value for contemporary times.

‘Sindh Mein Khanqahi Adab’ by Zulfiqar Ali Danish is a good document because it gives information to the Urdu-reading and speaking public about the great fund of literature of this nature that exists in Sindh. The analysis is a good beginning for further investigation for it is lamented that the greater bulk of literature in private collections is inaccessible and hence a problem. Similarly, ‘Gul Khan Naseer’s Urdu Shairi’ by Abid Mir is an expose for Urdu-centred readers of a leading Balochi intellectual.

There are also thought provoking articles on Waqar Azeem by M. Khalid Riaz, and another article on the role of Osmania University in the promotion of Urdu by Javed Ahmed Khurshid.

Pakistan Shanasi Volume 1
Publisher: Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi
Year: 2015
Pages: 423
Price: Rs400

Sarwat Ali

The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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