Punjab Research Group

A living encyclopedia By Haroon Khalid

Posted in News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on May 28, 2013

This article originally appeared in The News on Sunday: http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2009-weekly/nos-14-06-2009/she.htm#1. It is worth publishing here in full as it highlights the tremendous work done by Iqbal Qaiser on Punjab. Visit the Centre he has set up in Kasur, further details are available: http://punjabikhojgarh.org/.

There is hardly a person who has more knowledge about Punjab than Iqbal Qaiser. Coming from a humble background, he could not afford formal education beyond matriculation but his thirst for knowledge kept him going outside the formal environment. He kept on studying and traveling to learn as much as he could about the land that he adores, and now his expertise in the field is such that he guides people doing Doctorate and Post-Doctorate through their thesis.

Iqbal Qaiser is a historian, anthropologist, poet, story writer, activist, etc. He also happens to be a prolific writer having adventured in numerous fields. What makes this man really special is his unrelenting commitment to Punjabi. Despite the fact that the readership of Punjabi is negligible, and being aware of the fact that one can’t expect to make a living at all by writing in Punjabi, this man continues to serve Punjabi. He says, he knows that if he writes in Urdu, his readership would improve tenfold and also his financial status but he wants to write in his own language. Who else would do it if he doesn’t, he says.

There is hardly any historical site in Punjab which he hasn’t visited or is not aware of. In his late 50s, Iqbal Qaiser is still not afraid to go out in the scorching summers of Punjab. Without a private conveyance, he travels on foot or public transport. With the amount of work that he has already done, one can only conjecture what he would have been able to do if he had the resources.

He is currently in the process of writing ‘A History of Lahore District’, which of course would be in Punjabi but would also be translated into English and in Gurmukhi script. This work of his is an encyclopedia of Lahore, having reached proportions, never even thought of earlier. Perhaps, the greatest contribution so far in noting down the history of Lahore is of Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chisti. This late 19th century work is a must in the library of any person who is interested in Lahore. This book is roughly of around 1000 pages. The Encyclopedia that Iqbal Qaiser is in the process of writing would be divided into five volumes, and each one would include roughly around 1000 pages. Comparing the work of these two scholars, the former would only appear as a shadow to the latter. However, this is not to take away the credit from Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chisti, whose work acted as a beacon of light for Iqbal Qaiser. No stone has been left unturned in the Lahore District. No neighborhood, no village, no personality, site has been spared. This contribution of Iqbal Qaiser would make him immortal in the annals of history.

Simultaneously he is also working on another book, which he would call ‘Historical Jain Shrines in Pakistan’. This would be a survey of all the extant Jain temples across Pakistan. This speaks in volumes about the dedication of a person. Not many people would dare to take such two projects simultaneously, however for Iqbal Qaiser this second project is a piece of cake in his own words.

‘Historical Jain shrines in Pakistan’ is inspired by his own earlier work which got him international acclaim and numerous awards. This book is called ‘Historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan’. This book was published in 1998 in Punjabi with a rendition in English and Gurmukhi script. When he was writing this book, he was also a primary school teacher. He says he used to do his field work during the summer vacations. This book covers 175 important Sikh Gurdwaras all over the country, describing their present condition, locality and history. In the project, he has been able to achieve what the Department of Archaeology could not accomplish, even with all the funds.

‘Historical Sikh Shrines’ made Iqbal Qaiser from a parochial writer to an internationally recognised author. He was invited to America and Canada for book launching ceremonies. The Sikh community world over lauded his efforts and bestowed him with various titles and awards. The Punjab Times Gold Medal, Guru Nanak Award, Punjabi Saat Lamparada Award are just tip of the ice berg. He even got the honour to have lunch at the White House because of this book. The recognition that Pakistani Government gave him was harassment from ISI. Today at the Patiala University, a Ph.D programme is being offered on this book by the History Department.

With the money which he amassed from the sale of this book he bought a piece of land in Lalyani and opened a research institute there by the name of Punjabi Khojgarh. This is yet another effort to promote the cultures of Pakistan but things are not working smoothly for the institute at the moment, which is facing water and electricity issues because of shortage of funds but the struggle is going on.

Besides being a historian and anthropologist, Iqbal Qaiser also happens to be a Punjabi poet. Inspired by the Sufiyana kalam, Iqbal Qaiser has two collections of Punjabi poetry to his credit, one of which was given the Bulleh Shah Award by Majlis Bulleh Shah. During Zia’s Martial Law, he was sent to jail for having read one of his poems at a conference condemning the Martial Law. This poem was called ‘Aaj boodh dardiya boodh vai’. This poem was dedicated to Bhagat Singh on his death anniversary, 23rd of March when these people dared to organize a Bhagat Singh day.

Besides writing books and finding jobs to make a living, Iqbal Qaiser writes for Indian Punjabi newspapers Ajeet and Nawa Zamana. Unfortunately, here too he is not properly compensated for his efforts, as the newspapers are Indian and the governments don’t allow them to pay him. He prefers to write in Indian newspapers over Pakistanis because there is greater reverence for Punjabi there than here, where it has become a second if not third language.

Iqbal Qaiser is an inspiration for any person who wants to do something but believes that certain factors are holding him/her back. He teaches us to face all difficulties head on without fear through his persistence in doing what he wanted to do. Iqbal Qaiser says in one of his poems:


‘Kaal jithe se Baba muya

Mein utho he panda choya

Mein khure hun kithe marna

agla panda kine karna’.

‘Yesterday where our predecessors ended their journey

I have begun from there

Now I don’t know where my journey will end

And who would pick up the thread’.


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Journal of Punjab Studies Volume 19, no 2

Posted in Academic Journals by Pippa on February 12, 2013

The latest issue of the Journal of Punjab Studies is now uploaded at the following link: http://www.global.ucsb.edu/punjab/journal/v19_2/index.html

The issues includes the following articles:

Pritam Singh    Globalisation and Punjabi Identity: Resistance, Relocation and Reinvention (Yet Again!)
Tahir Kamran    Urdu Migrant Literati and Lahore’s Culture
Ilyas Chattha    Economic Change and Community Relations in Lahore Before Partition
Akhtar Hussain Sandhu    Sikh Failure on the Partition of Punjab 1947
Rana Nayar    The Novel as a Site for Cultural Memory: Guridal Singh’s Parsa
Ashutosh Kumar    2012 Assembly Elections in Punjab: Ascendance of a State Level Party

Naming of Shadman Chowk, Lahore as Bhagat Singh Chowk welcomed in India

Posted in News/Information by Pippa on October 1, 2012

New Delhi, Eminent personalities and groups from India have welcomed the renaming of Shadman Chowk in Lahore-Pakistan to Bhagat Singh Chowk on the occasion of birth anniversary of the martyr. Eminent journalist and author of ‘Without Fear’, book on Bhagat Singh-Kuldip Nayar, Justice(Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, Editor of Bhagat Singh’s documents and author of several books in many Indian languages on Bhagat Singh-Prof. Chaman Lal from JNU, New Delhi, activists from Indo-Pak Dosti Manch, Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy(PIPFPD), National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers(NFFPFW), People’s Saarc, Bhagat Singh’s family members, have welcomed the notification issued by Lahore officials to this effect as reported in Pakistan daily ‘Dawn’(Link attached).

Pakistan civil and political groups have been demanding the renaming of Chowk, which was the location, where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were actually hanged on 23rd March, 1931, as it was execution ground of Central Jail Lahore at that time. In 1961, the jail was demolished and new colony Shadman colony was set up and at execution ground Shadman Chowk was built. Civil society activists from both countries have been holding candle march at this location on every 23rd March and have many times themselves put up the signboard of ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’. This year on 23rd March, Kuldip Nayar has extracted promise from former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party is ruling in Punjab (Pakistan) to get the chowk officially named as Bhagat Singh Chowk, that promised has been fulfilled on the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh. Kuldip Nayar has complimented Nawaz Sharif and other Pakistani leaders for this gesture, strengthening Indo-Pak peace process further.

This year for the first time, Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary was celebrated in Dayal Singh College hall in Lahore on 28th September by Pakistan Labour party and 23 more organizations, where Bhagat Singh was described as the representative of struggling [people of whole Asia. The organisers demanded to set up a museum in birthplace of Bhagat Singh in Chak no. 105, Lyalpur Bange in Faislabad district. Advocate Iqbal Virk, who is now occupant of Bhagat Singh’s birth house participated in the function and offered all cooperation in this regard.27 member Indian delegation, which included Bhagat Singh’s nephew Kiranjit sandhu and author of several books on Bhagat Singh-Prof. Chaman Lal, could not join the jointly planned anniversary due to non-clearance of visa till last day.


Book review: “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place” by Anna Suvorova

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on March 1, 2012

25 February 2012

It is a mystery as to how a layered city such as Lahore has attracted little scholarship in the past few decades. This is why Anna Suvorova’s book “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place” is a major book of our times. Suvorova is a distinguished scholar and currently heads the Department of Asian Literatures at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Her earlier works on Urdu, Sufism and numerous translations of Urdu prose works are well known. This book, while a work of formidable scholarship is distinctive for its personal dimension. Like countless others, Suvorova is an ardent admirer of Lahore and tells us why Lahore has survived historical vicissitudes and also why its memory is so lovingly remembered, invoked and reproduced.

Suvorova begins the book following the style of an oracle and explains why she chose to explore the topophilia, literally ‘love for a place’. This apparently simple term, as we finish the first very chapter, becomes a kaleidoscope to view the boundless affection that many across the globe experience vis a vis Lahore. Suvorova is one of such Lahore-philes, if one can be excused for inventing such a term. Her fascination for Lahore, as it emerges in her book, is evident throughout the narrative as she takes the reader into the labyrinth of history, cultural memory, urban geography, and sociology of the city.

Read full review: http://razarumi.com/2012/02/25/book-review-lahore-topohilia-of-space-and-place/

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PRG meeting October 2011 – Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 31, 2011

This meeting was kindly organised by Kaveri Qureshi and supported by Wolfson College, University of Oxford.

Adnan Rafiq, DPhil Candidate Politics, University of Oxford
‘Challenging Social Structures: A Practice-based Model for Understanding Maverick Behaviour’

Muhammad Shafique, Department of History, University College London
‘Cunningham’s Lahore 1832-1849: Cultural Homogenization of Religio-Political Heterogeneity under Sikhs’

Pritam Singh, Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University
‘Instrumentalist versus intrinsic worth conception of human rights: the context of India and Punjab’

Gurdeep Khabra, PhD Candidate, School of Music, University of Liverpool
‘Music and the Heritage of the Punjabi Diaspora: Narrations of Cultural Memory and Cultural Identity’

Rusi Jaspal, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham
‘The construction of ethno-religious identity among a group of second generation British Sikhs: a socio-psychological approach’


Posted in Articles by Pippa on February 28, 2010

When the British conquered Lahore in 1849, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, declared that he would educate the “wild illiterate Punjabis” in a new system of Anglo-Vernacular education. When they started the East India Company Board was shocked by what already existed.

The board was amazed to find that the literacy rate in Lahore and its suburbs was over 80 per cent, and this was qualified by the description that this 80 per cent comprised of people who could write a letter. Today, in 2010, less than nine per cent can do this, while 38 per cent can sign their name, and, thus, are officially ‘literate’. If you happen to read Arnold Woolner’s book ‘History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab’ you will come across some amazing facts we today just do not know. To understand the situation it would interest scholars to go through the ‘A.C. Woolner Collection in the Punjab University Library. My review is a scant one. But studying other similar pieces provides a picture of the educational system as it existed in Lahore in 1849 when the British took over.
Read full article: http://watandost.blogspot.com/2010/02/when-wild-proved-more-educated-must.html

Tale of two Pakistans

Posted in Articles by Pippa on November 7, 2009

Pakistan has been described by Newsweek magazine as “the most dangerous place in the world”. However, as intense fighting continues and casualties rise, Mohammed Hanif in Karachi says that for the moment there is still a thriving social life.

Last week I received an e-mail from the foreign editor of a European newspaper who said: “So I wonder if you could write a story for us about living in Pakistan which, looking from here, seems to be the bottom of hell.”

I was tempted to write to him and tell him that we were not at the bottom of hell yet, but we were trying hard to get there.

Or something like, yes, we are at the bottom of the hell but at least the weather is fine.

I also thought of asking whether the bottom of hell is supposed to have hole-in-the-wall cash machines and art galleries.

Read further: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8318121.stm

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The Historian – GCU

Posted in Academic Journals by Pippa on September 14, 2009
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Starved of literary gatherings

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

August 27, 2009  http://www.thenews.com.pk/

Lahore has always been a hub of cultural and literary activities and has produced a lot many men of letter. Most of these activities have traditionally been revolved around cafes and restaurants that served intellectuals, writers and artistes with endless cups of tea and coffee and provided them with an opportunity to discuss subjects and matters close to their hearts and minds.

The colonial Lahore was full of restaurants and cafes with most of them locating along The Mall. One such place was the India Coffee House established by two Sikh brothers. Immediately after the Partition, the name India was dropped from the title and it was renamed as Pak Tea House. The Pak Tea House was located opposite to the Coffee House and Cheney’s lunch home on The Mall near Anarkali Bazaar. These two places used to have intellectual gatherings. Cheney’s lunch home was popular with people from different walks of life. University teachers and students were also frequent visitors.

The Pak Tea House had had a different status altogether. It was a hub of literary gatherings. Non-residents of Lahore used to call it their information centre that served them round the clock. Giants like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sa’adat Hassan Manto, Muneer Niazi, Ahmad Faraz, Mira Ji and Kamal Rizvi frequented the .Pak Tea House which became unofficial headquarters of an eclectic bunch of writers, artistes, musicians and the Halqa e Arbab e Zauq.

The celebrated fiction writer, Intizar Hussain, who had been a regular visitor to the tea house since 1949 till its closure, believed it was a cultural institution known all over the sub-continent.

No other literary institution of the country, including the Academy of Letters had credibility equal to the Pak Tea House,” he said. He said people freely expressed their political views in the Pak Tea House even in the repressive days of the military regimes of Generals Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq. Literary interaction as well as literary programmes was the core of Pak Tea House.

It was recognized as a National Level Centre as people from all fields and schools of thought visited it.

This centre had played an important role in the promotion of literary people in Pakistan but during Sarajuddin’s era the Pak Tea House had faced a couple of disputes as it was a part of the YMCA so the authorities demanded its evacuation and took this case to a court of law. All literary figures and people had protested and the court very fairly announced that poets and writers were the soul of a society and were spiritual guardians and the Pak Tea House was known as a centre of knowledge and depicted the culture of Lahore so this place could not be used for any other purpose. After Sarajuddin’s death, his son Zahid Hasan owned the place. Because of financial constraints and his heart surgery, he wanted to open a garments or tire shop. However, the YMCA authorities again demanded evacuation of the tea house and the court didn’t give any decision at that time and the matter was still pending.

The Pak Tea House, having served against all odds for well over 50 years to countless poets and writers of all shades and political stripes, finally yielded to the irreversible forces of commodity culture raging. After the tea house places like Aadbi Baithak in Alhamra and Chaupaal in Nasser Bagh failed to serve the purpose. Many senior writers and poets had died, some have gone abroad. Sarfaraz Syed, a senior journalist and writer who was once a member of the committee of the Pak Tea House said that cities were recognized and respected because of their culture and literature.

For him, thePak Tea House and places like it were a source of intimation, information, education, knowledge and wisdom. —SAKEENA IBAD

(The writer is an intern from the Lahore College for Women University)

The heart of Punjab – book reviews

Posted in Book reviews, New Publications by Pippa on July 5, 2009

Reviews of an authentic account of a Punjabi village and the first sizeable document about the historical and revolutionary Sikh National College

By heart of Punjab I do not mean Lahore, the terribly enlarged heart of Punjab. I mean a “Punjabi village” which by its community life and tradition, language and idiom — including a farmers and craftsman’s working life, vocabulary and folklore — represents the heart of Punjab.

Dr. Shamsher Singh Babra is a renowned economist, has been a Divisional Head at the World Bank, a visiting fellow at Oxford, a consultant at the UNO and has appeared as an expert at the British House of Lords. His Punjabi book, Vichchoray da Dagh, is about Chotian Galotian, his native village in Sialkot at Gujranwala-Sialkot district border where he lived until his graduation from Sikh National College Lahore 1947. Unblossomed Buds, his other book in English, is the first sizeable document about the historical and revolutionary Sikh National College. It is also the key to Vichchoray da Dagh, which is arguably the best book written about a Punjabi village with the ability to thrill and move its readers to tears.

The Punjabi village — as my generation born in the nineteen thirties, or the author’s, born in the twenties knew it — is almost dead now. Punjabi village died without anyone writing its obituary or, as in this case, its elegy. It is a historical document because, with an economist’s discipline, the distinguished doctor has collected data from fellow villagers all over the world.


Prof. Jagan Nath Azad: Creator of Pakistan’s First National Anthem by Adil Najam

Posted in Articles by Pippa on June 9, 2009

I am ashamed that until recently I did not know who Jagan Nath Azad was, or what he did. I am glad that I now know. I hope you are too.

First, the basics: Jagannath Azad (1918-2004) was an Urdu poet, a Punjabi Hindu, and a scholar of Iqbal’s poetry who, on the direct invitation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wrote Pakistan’s first national anthem, which remained Pakistan’s official anthem for its first year-and-half and whose first lines were as follows:

Aé sarzameené paak
Zarray teray haéñ aaj sitaaroñ se taabnaak
Roshan haé kehkashaañ se kaheeñ aaj tayree khaak
Aé sarzameené paak

 Jagan Nath Azad was born in 1918 in Isa Khel in the Punjab (later of Atta Ullah Khan Eesakhelvi fame), he studied at Gordon College in Rawalpindi, and the University of the Punjab in Lahore. At the time of partition in 1947, he was a journalist and a poet living in Lahore. Mr.  Jinnah asked him to write a new national anthem for Pakistan. The anthem was used for 18 months, until it was replaced (after Mr. Jinnah’s death). Some time after writing the national anthem, he migrated to India, where from 1977 to 1980 he was a Professor of Urdu and head of Urdu department at the Unversity of Jammu. Prof. Azad was a noted authority on the works of Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal. He was awarded the President of Pakistan’s gold medal for his services to Urdu literature.

Read full article: http://pakistaniat.com/2009/06/05/jagannath-azad/

Moving Journeys An Exhibition of Photographs of the Colonial Punjab

Posted in Events, Photography by Pippa on June 2, 2009
Bakshi Mulray (Governor of Gilgit) & Mehal Singh (Commanding Radur Regiment) in the Vale of Kashmir

Bakshi Mulray (Governor of Gilgit) & Mehal Singh (Commanding Radur Regiment) in the Vale of Kashmir

Venue:  Old Social Science Wing, LUMS Time: 6 pm, June 4, 2009
RSVP:   kalra@lums.edu.pk

Photographs of the Punjab taken by London’s Royal Geographical Society (RGS) members during the late 19th and early 20th centuries form the core of the exhibition. The RGS images provide a glimpse of the Punjab province through the ages, capturing the changes brought on by different empires and the impact of internal and external migration. To help interpret the pictures, the exhibition also makes use of travelogues collected and written by RGS members during the colonial period.
The images record a wide range of events in the Punjab?s past and reflect the way these were linked to British history. For instance, during both World Wars, over 50% of the Indian Army was recruited from this region. Workshops held with Punjabi veterans of military service for Britain were consulted and their testimonies have been used to interpret this aspect of Punjabi history. India and Pakistan?s stormy relationship is traced in images relating to 1947?s Partition when over 500,000 people died in the violent upheavals and the region saw 15 million people migrate.
The RGS has allowed the exhibition to be produced and shown across Pakistan and the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences is proud to be able to host and launch the exhibition in Pakistan.

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