Browncast 72: Conversation with Salman Rashid

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else.

Would appreciate more positive reviews! It’s been a really really long time that we’ve been on 30 iTunes positive reviews. I notice that Alton Brown’s Browncast has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast there is!

In this episode we talk to Salman Rashid. Salman is an ex-army man who left the army to become a travel writer. He has written 10 books and countless articles, most of which can be found at his blog odysseuslahori.  We talk about partition, Pakistan, history, Alexander the Great and whatever else comes up..

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Baba Nanak Within Reach, by Muzaffar Ghaffar

A short introduction to the work of Muzaffar Ghaffar, who has published 30 volumes of classical punjabi poetry with detailed explanations and translation.  Written by Punjabi writer Nadir Ali (who happens to be my father)

Muzaffar Ghaffar on Guru Nanak

BAABA NAANAK Within Reach  –  in MUZAFFAR GHAFFAR’S series “Masterworks of Punjabi Sufi Poetry”

Publisher :Ferozsons (Pvt) LTD       Pages :  435        Price : Rs 1095

In the cultural wasteland that is our homeland these days, to be a man of culture doesn’t take much effort; you do some literary chit chat or somehow get your name printed with some work people assume as cultural or creative and you become a cultural or literary figure! Having known Muzaffar Ghaffar for over thirty years, he is an honourable and notable exception to this superficial trend.  He came to Pakistan with his savings and a couple of books in print, a book of English verse which has had a couple of editions published and a book On How a Government is Run .  In my involvement with Punjabi we came together in the weekly “Sangat” in readings of Punjabi classic poetry held at the residence of Najm Hosain Syed and Samina Hassan Syed and I have had the pleasure of knowing him for over 30 years now.

A digression first: Najm Sahib is already famous in Punjabi literary circles in both East and West Punjab.  To give you some idea I often quote a well-known Sikh scholar of Punjabi who was Head of Punjabi Department at Guru Nanak University, Amritsar.  He said, “There are two categories of Punjabis – those who have studied Mr. Najm Hosain Syed and those who have not; those who have not read him do not know much about Punjabi language or literature!”  To those not familiar with Mr. Najm Hosain Syed’s work, this may sound like an exaggeration.  But having attended weekly meetings at his house for nearly forty years and having read his poetry and books on literary criticism, plays and poetry, I venture to share this remark.  There are almost forty books of verse and landmark works of literary criticism and four books combining half a dozen plays  in Punjabi to his credit.  He keeps his books small so that the price remains within reach of Punjabi readers. “Recurrent Patterns in Punjabi Poetry” is his masterwork and the full text is online at apnaorg.com. 

Najm is Muzaffar’s guide and inspiration for the thirty volumes of the “Within Reach” series on Punjabi Classical poetry that are available to date, all in English.  But neither in the US, nor in England and rest of English speaking world abroad have I seen these books in the market, although Punjabi literature is taught in many places in institutes of repute in these countries, with considerable Punjabi speaking public.  Nor do I know of anyone abroad who talks of these books. In particular the worth and value of this remarkable volume “Baaba Naanak Within Reach” on Baba Nanak’s poetry is incalculable, and it is our enormous loss that this work of M. Ghaffar remains largely unknown. Continue reading “Baba Nanak Within Reach, by Muzaffar Ghaffar”

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The Ram Mandir Verdict in India. From Dr Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain. Dr Hamid is what might be described as a “secular” or “liberal” Muslim. These are his personal thoughts on the Ram Mandir judgement.

11 November 2019

 Someone had sent me excerpts of Spinoza’s God a day before the Indian supreme court verdict.  I was pondering over those words when I was asked about my comments.  Following was the result and all credit goes to Spinoza.

“If you are desirous of obtaining a great name, of becoming the founder of a sect or establishment, be completely mad; but be sure that your madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age.  Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagances, and to not forget to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.  It is certainly possible that you may get hanged; but if you escape hanging, you will have altars erected to you”.   Voltaire (1698-1778)

 Regards,

Hamid

 Babri Mosque Verdict

Hamid Hussain

 “The toughest kind of forgiveness is self-forgiveness and the road that leads to it is a lonely one but is also where mad meets the divine”.  (1) 

On November 09, 2019, Indian Supreme Court announced its judgment about the long standing dispute between Hindus and Muslims about a religious site in Ayodhya. Muslims claim that a mosque has been at this place since sixteenth century.  Hindus claim that it was built on the site of a Hindu temple.  The place has been locked since 1949 for fear of threat to public order.  On 06 December 1992, a Hindu mob demolished the mosque resulting in riots that resulted in death of over 2000 people.  After a three decades court battle, court awarded the site to Hindus to build a temple explaining that the sixteenth century mosque was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple. Continue reading “The Ram Mandir Verdict in India. From Dr Hamid Hussain”

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Review: The Army and Democracy by Aqil Shah

Book review as receieved from Major Amin

This is an interesting book and what the author wants to say is something I have always believed and said. However it is essential to examine in detail what Mr Aqil Shah has to say and offer some humble analysis .
On page- ix , would like to offer some comments on Mr Ahmad Mukhtar :–

Mr Mukhtar has been an industrialist who belongs to a town close to the military garrison town known as Kharian cantonment.He has always maintained good relations with the army like any good business man and ,frankly like most politicians in this world has no substance. Just like most generals worldwide are men without substance !

Firstly I do not agree with Aqil Shahs argument about Mr Jinnah on page-3 , nor with Aqil Shahs view that military coups and adventurism were not inevitable in Pakistan:–

We hold the view that Mr Jinnah the so called founder of Pakistan apart from British Raj , had inflicted the unkindest cut on Indian Muslims of Bengal and Punjab in 1916 and thereby by doing this had destabilized future politics of Indian Muslims for all times to come,Pakistan being the worst affected.

In the Lucknow Pact of 1916, without asking the Bengali Muslims or the Punjabi Muslims, he reduced Bengal Muslim majority in legislature from 52 to 40 % and in Punjab from 54 to 50 %. Continue reading “Review: The Army and Democracy by Aqil Shah”

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Browncast episode 71: Stand Up Comic Rajiv Satyal

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else.

Would appreciate more positive reviews! It’s been a really really long time that we’ve been on 30 iTunes positive reviews. I notice that Alton Brown’s Browncast has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast there is!

In this episode I talk to Rajiv Satyal, an Indian-American comic who is becoming increasingly visible on the standup circuit. We discuss his background and his thoughts about comedy, politics, identity, cancel culture and whatever else comes up.

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Review: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia (Pankaj Mishra)

This was a long rolling rant I wrote several years ago while reading Pankaj Mishra’s book “From The Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia”. The format is that I comment as I read the book. So early parts are comments on early chapters and so on. Quotes from Pankaj are in bolded italics. I am reposting today after someone complained that it still needs some editing. Hopefully this version will be easier to read.

First things first, this books is NOT about the intellectuals who remade Asia. That book would have to start with people like Aizawa in Japan, the first Asian nation to be “remade”, but that is one nation and one set of thinkers you will not find in this book. Why? because this book is not about Asia, its history or its renaissance, it (like most of Mr MIshra’s recent work) is about post-liberal virtue signaling. For details, read on..

Introduction: After being told that everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Pakistani Ambassador (and liberal feminist Jinnahist icon) Sherry Rahman is in love with Pankaj Mishra’s new book I started reading it. The first 50 pages set a certain tone. And its not a very encouraging one.

On  page 18 he says: the word Islam, describing the range of Muslim beliefs and  practices, was not used before the 19th century. 

WTF? This is then negated on the very next page by Mishra himself. The only explanation for this little nugget is that Pankaj knows his audience and will miss no opportunity to slide in some politically correct red meat for his them. He knows that sections of the liberal academia believe that Islam is unfairly maligned as monolithic (and monolithically bad) and Pankaj wants to let people know that he has no such incorrect beliefs. It is a noble impulse and it recurs. A lot. I do not need to add that this sentence is complete nonsense. Continue reading “Review: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia (Pankaj Mishra)”

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Review: Arabs. A Three Thousand Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires

Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Arabs . Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Tim Mackintosh Smith is one of those romantic Englishmen who used to go and settle in far off lands and “go native”. He lives in Yemen (apparently still there, even during the civil war) and has been writing about the region and the Arab people for several decades. This book is the culmination of a lifetime of study, a comprehensive history of a people and civilization to which he has become attached and about whom he knows more than most. It is well worth reading.

He begins by making it clear that this is a history of the Arabs, not a history of Islam. The first mention of the word Arab actually occurs in “in 853 BC (and) concerns the employment by the Assyrian state of a transport contractor, a certain Gindibu (‘Locust’), an Arab chieftain who owned vast herds of camels”. This is about 3000 years ago, and the coming of Islam lies about halfway through this history. While we know relatively little of the early (pre-Islamic) history of these people, Mackintosh-Smith wants us to be aware that the Arabs existed long before Islam did. Continue reading “Review: Arabs. A Three Thousand Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires”

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The Shias of Kashmir

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain. 

In my last piece about Kashmir, I briefly mentioned Shia factor in Kashmir in current context and Ahmadi factor in historical context.  Many otherwise well informed individuals admitted that they had little idea about these.  Others with more direct interaction with Kashmir issue asked questions and this is in response to these exchanges.  Enjoy if you are bored of black and white narratives on the subject and interested in ‘fifty shades of grey’.

Hamid

Shia of Kashmir

Hamid Hussain

Shia of Kashmir has a unique history.  There were two groups of Shias who migrated to Kashmir from present day Iran and Iraq in fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  One group escaped persecution and other were missionaries.  Some artisan classes also joined these groups.   Local conversion due to efforts of missionaries increased Shia numbers.  In Gilgit-Baltistan area with geographic links to Badakhshan province of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Ismaili missionaries were successful in small pockets while mainstream Ath’na Asha’ari (followers of twelve Imams) missionaries were successful in areas that are now part of Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK).  Separation of Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan Controlled Kashmir (PCK) which is ethnically and linguistically different from Kashmiris left no significant Shia population in PCK.

In ICK, there are about one million Shia out of a total Muslim population of 8.5 million.  Shia are geographically and politically separated in ICK.  Sparsely populated Ladakh which is now separated from Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as Union territory has equal numbers of Buddhists and Muslims.  In Kargil area, ninety percent of Muslim population is Shia numbering about 125’000.  There are small numbers of Sunnis in Drass area.  Remainder Shia population is concentrated in the Valley. Continue reading “The Shias of Kashmir”

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Film Review: Drone

Film review from Major Aghan Humayun Amin. (Spoilers ahead)

DRONES 

REVIEW ESSAY 

Last night I watched a movie named “ Drone” with immense interest. 

Drones have been a major part of my research since 2006 when I personally and closely saw some drone strikes while serving as a consultant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My main client were Canadians and to be specific SNC Lavalin , at that time Canada’s largest consulting company and worlds fifth largest. The movies director is a Canadian citizen which multiplied my interest as Canada sometimes moves opposite United States and has been doing so with varied levels since loyalists fled to Canada after the rebellion of the American Colonies. 

The first issue with this movie which could be very hard hitting and a block buster is that it misses the small details , which is a case of lack of common sense and sweeping judgements which were entirely avoidable. 

The first image failure occurred when while claiming to depict Pakistans wild west Waziristan region the area filmed and shown was Pakistans biggest city Karachi. To deliver the most unkindest cut of all as Shakespeare would have described it , the first shot titled Waziristan shows sky scraper buildings in Karachi rather than mud houses and totally opposite images for which Waziristan is famous and known.  Continue reading “Film Review: Drone”

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Film Review: Berlin Falling

Review from Major Agha Humayun Amin.  I am sure some of Major Amin’s observations will invite comment 🙂

I was very keen to watch this movie and watching it was a big disappointment.

While the movie is low budget , budget by no means could have reduced it from reaching the stature of greatness if the man who made the movie was more intellectually dishonest !

The entire historic context of this movie is drastically flawed and fallacious.
The movie conveys a German military in Afghanistan that committed serious war crimes , whereas my personal observations having constructed five clinics in Kunduz in 2004-5 and having been involved in CASA 1000 survey passing through Kunduz province where German military was deployed , leads me to the irrevocable and unflinching conclusion that the German military in Kunduz was the most humane military outfit in entire NATO or non NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan.

Now this was entirely avoidable had the author carefully studied the history of German military record in Afghanistan.

As one who lived in Kabul and travelled extensively I found that Afghans loved no foreign country more dearly than Germany who they lovingly referred to as ”ALMAAN” and Turkey.

The reason was simple ! Both these states simply refused to enter areas where the public was hostile to NATO presence. While it is another issue that the German governments reasons for not doing so were based on pure and simple lack of moral courage or strategic resolution , in not annoying the large Muslim population of Germany , the result was positive, at least in terms of human rights. Continue reading “Film Review: Berlin Falling”

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