Punjab Research Group

PRG Meeting Coventry University – 29 June 2013

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted by Shinder Thandi and Coventry University.

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang

Malik Hammad Ahmad Lang, Civil Resistance Movements of Pakistan: Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) 1981-84

The research project focuses on political civil resistance in Pakistan covering the period of 1977-88, the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. The worst martial law in the history of Pakistan changed the political, social, economical and cultural outlook of the country. To resist the dictatorship, democratic forces launched a movement to restore the democracy in the country in 1981 called MRD, which continued periodically until 1988. However, my presentation looks at its first phase covering 1981-84. Political scholarship, largely, blamed Punjab of not taking part effectively in the movement along with Sindh, and made it a reason of its failure. Countering the argument, this study tries to highlight some facts to overruled the blame.



Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee

Pippa Virdee, Emergence and Resistance: the dichotomy of women’s space in Pakistan.

This paper is based on work in progress that will explore the transformation of women in Pakistan. In colonial Punjab reformers often took up the cause of women and advocated change that encouraged girl’s education and bringing women out of ‘purdah’ (veil/seclusion). This had limited results until Jinnah embraced the need to encourage women within the Pakistan Movement, which led many elite women to come out in support of it. This period is therefore crucial in understanding the transformation of women in public spaces. Yet by the 1980s (some thirty years later), women form resistance movements against oppressive legislation introduced by Zia. The Women’s Action Forum led the way in opposing this and resisting the curtailment of freedoms. Through visual and oral accounts this paper will attempt to understand the transformation of women in public spaces and the dichotomies of this within their private lives.






Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot

Kavita Bhanot, Depicting a dera community in Birmingham: extract from novel in progress

I will be presenting a chapter from my novel-in-progress, a fictional depiction of a dera community that gathers around a guru in Birmingham in the 1980’s. The novel spans ten years and charts, through the lives of first and second generation Punjabi immigrants , the growth of this dera community and the opposition that it faces in its local, national and international context. I recently edited an anthology titled ‘Too Asian, Not Asian Enough,’ which brought together short stories by British Asian writers – stories which go beyond marketable formulaic narratives about inter-generation/culture clash.  While one approach is to avoid the predictable subjects or writing about ‘Asians’ at all, my personal intention in my writing is to bring particularity, knowledge, a sense of history and context, into my depiction of Punjabis in Britain. To interrogate the Orientalist gaze that tends to dominate English language South Asian literature, a gaze that “strip(s) specific traditions, rituals, religions and other forms of lived faith…of their context and detail – of history, politics, class and caste.”


Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad with Virinder Kalra

Umber Abad, Singular Muslim Identity and trail towards Auqaf; a becoming post-Colonial modern

The politics of Colonial Urban Punjab engendered a unique singular conception of Islam in the first half of twentieth century. The singular Islam, initially strived to open itself for all streams of Muslims within one religious idea, compelled to exclude deviant forms in order to clear the path for the prevalence of its politics. The singular Islam considered deviant any form of Muslim community and the mystical insight that threatened the idea of finality of prophet-hood and the idea of unity of God. The singular Islam, as became the basis of singular Muslim identity and a central point in the politics of Muslim League, in its exclusionary form prevailed further within the political elite of postcolonial state. In order to land in the modern world, the political elite strived to develop a society where the idea of singular Islam attached with high-moral practices could be implemented. However, the political situation eased to control the excluded forms of Islam. The efforts for Islamization soon found ways to control Waqf Properties, largely attached with shrines through an institution, as during 1952-53 to make Auqaf Board in order to curb un-Islamic practices. However till 1958, largely due to the incapacity of the state institution the control could not produce any significant effect. Re-surfacing the appropriating position of singular Islam through interpreting the thoughts of Allama Iqbal, however, military rule found it justified and co-related with its urge of reforming archaic society to take over the excluded religious practices at shrines through Auqaf Administration.


Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines with Ali Usman Qasmi and Chris Moffat

Daniel Haines, Making places national: Local agency in the Punjab borderland, 1952-1955

The India-Pakistan border in Punjab today features highly visible fences and guards. Shortly after Partition, however, many parts of the border were not demarcated, and the authorities on each side had different ideas about where the boundary line lay. Examining two incidents of minor border conflict between 1952 and 1955, the paper sets out a view of a historical moment in which the lack of a clear boundary gave space to the localised agency of minor officials, lower-ranking military and police officers, and even civilian agriculturalists. Rather than being hemmed in by territorial limits that the state’s higher echelons imposed, everyday actors explored the ill-defined borderland between the two countries. On both sides of the border, these actors themselves made de facto boundaries. Drawing on the wealth of political geography literature that informs border studies, as well as historical studies of border politics in post-Partition South Asia, the paper’s case studies examine the relationship between local agency and ideas of national territory in partitioned Punjab. Both case studies illustrate how civilian and petty-official mobility in the borderland forced the provincial authorities on both sides to continually negotiate the spatial dimensions of their authority, based as much on practical coercive power as on the disputed meaning of the Radcliffe Boundary Award. The paper argues that such local actions politicised the parts of the borderland in which they took place. Through the symbolism of land in the mythology of territorial nation-states, and through the hydro-geographical connections between canal headworks on the border and Punjab’s vast irrigation network, these incidents were integral to the definition of borderland spaces as national places. The paper is based on archival work in the Punjab Archives, Lahore, and the National Archives, New Delhi.


Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Round table discussion chaired by Ian Talbot

Tahir Kamran, Ali Usman Qasmi, Ifitkhar Malik and Yunas Samad, Round table discussion on the 2013 Elections in Pakistan: A Punjab perspective.









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