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September 10, 2019

One who proved Shaw was mistaken


September 10, 2019

Irish playwright and poet George Bernard Shaw writes in his famous play Man and Superman: “He who can does; he who cannot, teaches.” And again at some other place Shaw quotes, “Experience fails to teach when there is no desire to learn.”

Herein below is a list of distinguished persons in contemporary history who were once members of the teaching profession: Alexandar Graham Bell, J.K. Rowlings, Sylvester Stallone and Lyndon Johnson. One schoolteacher in Pakistan who made waves in several areas of human endeavors was Wakil Nasir Qureshi.

Habib Public School, Karachi, is well known for its sports and creative achievements amongst students. It was believed at one time that the Pakistan hockey team was never complete without a Habibian in its ranks, two Olympian captains (Hasan Sardar and Ahmed Alam) and two highest scorers in the game (Sohail Abbas and Hasan Sardar) are too well-known to need repetition. Athletes like Iqbal A.R., Ali Kamani, Zulfiqar Kazmi, Mobin Hamid, Mubashir, Fazalur Rehman, Shakeel Pal, Nadeem Islam, Mehmood Alam, Hussain Ali were household names on athletics – track and field events.

Into this plethora of athletic talent, after a nine-year stint in Saudi Arabia as an accountant, walked in Wakil Nasir, as an athletic coach, to hone the skills of young Habibians in athletics. The school went from strength to strength in athletics and other sports where physical fitness was necessary under the watchful eye of their new coach.

Soon the school management realised that Nasir could make a fine Urdu teacher as he not only carried a postgraduate degree in Urdu literature but was also a gifted Urdu poet and creative writer. For the next 20 years or more Nasir inspired students to learn Urdu even as the trend among pupils and their parents was to go for English language learning for better career prospects.

Asad Raza, a student of Nasir in Habib Public School and presently a marketing executive of Proctor and Gamble, writes about Wakil Nasir: “He was an inspiration to all students that had the privilege of interacting with him. Not only did he have an excellent command on the Urdu language, but was an excellent orator as well. Listening to him was like a beautiful symphony of language, prose, and emotion. He was also a very loving and encouraging man who made a big difference to the lives of many that he thought, and mentored. I will always remember him as one of the reasons I started debates and acting and who helped polish me at a very young age. He will be missed a lot.”

Wakil sahib injected some life into the athletic meets in Habib School that he once described as a meet lost in the deserts of Thar in Sindh. Student runners arrived into the “stadium” (school ground) in white shorts and vests carrying a torch. The final runner came in with the message from Quaid-e-Azam. The one he had sent for the first National Games. This was handed over to me to read as Wakil jocularly remarked, “Your voice resembles that of the Father of the Nation.” For the next three years there was great exuberance over the Annual Athletics Championship before this Wakil dream too was lost under the weight of textbooks and academia pressures.

But Wakil Nasir’s interest was not confined to sports and athletics but to many diverse creative areas. The high point of his creativity was a full length serial “School Kahani” he wrote and directed for PTV. The entire serial was shot on the Habib Public School campus and classrooms and the cast comprised students, teachers and principal of the school in their uniforms and apparels. Into the script was woven lessons in good behaviour and conduct in an interesting and dramatic manner. The serial ran for several weeks and the students and staff participating in it were recognised in public.

During one of the five goodwill visits that Habib Boys took to neighbouring India, Wakil and his team presented Sadat Hasan Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh” at eleven locations and schools in India. One leading school offered Wakil a two-year paid contract to teach drama in the Indian school. Wakil excused himself politely as he had commitments in his home country.

Habib Public School was well known for its accomplishments in debating halls and other schools. Habibians like Senator Raza Rabbani, politician Hussain Haqqani, Professor Khurshid Hasnain, Kh. Imran Moiuddin, Nusrat Jamshedpur, gave to their school an envious record in bagging trophies for declamation and debates all over the country, including Faisalabad, Islamabad, Petaro, Hyderabad and other centres. When Asad Raza won for HPS the debating trophy in Karachi Grammar School, we rejoiced and declared that it was like disarming the lion in his cage!

But Habib Public School had not then hosted any debate on its premises. In 1992 Wakil Nasir along with Shabih Abbas and some of the others decided that it was time that Habib Public School also hosted schools for All Pakistan debates. Earlier, efforts to host debates were all stillborn. “Why not extempore debates?”, “Why an Urdu debate?”, “Where will the visiting students and staff stay since Habib is a day school?” And finally “Who would meet the expenses?” These and other questions required answers and until then approval could not be given.

Wakil Nasir got his team together and decided that nonetheless they would go ahead with organising to All Pakistan Inter School debates in HPS. Managing Trustee Mr. Muslim Habib was the collaborator, Senator Javed Jabbar was the first chief guest for the English debate and the school hall adjoining the swimming pool was polished, readied and decorated with photographs and banners to mark the momentous debates. The debates/ declamations continue to date.

The subject of a debate “Jamhooriyat ek lanat hai” lays a controversy when Mahmood Shaam, then Editor Jang, who was chief guest at a debate, wrote an editorial on it. Sleuths of the Intelligence Bureau came to the school to have a copy of the debates proceeding. Wakil Nasir had the CD of the proceedings in his bag but asked the officials to return the next day for the copy. That night Wakil Nasir and some of the others edited the CD and removed all offensive remarks made by young and innocent students so as not to offend the IB officials.

Shabih Abbas, former director sports, Habib Public School, sums up Wakil Nasir’s career as a multi- dimensional person in the following words:

“A few words about Mr. Vakeel Nasir are as under:

1. Outstanding athlete, world-class announcer, Incharge Bazme Adab, artist of high repute, poet, English and Urdu translator, full knowledge of Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal, dedicated teacher and supporter of needy athletes and common men, devoted and hardworking sports organiser, member sports committee YMCA for 20 years member KAAA executive committee for 10 years.”

Wakil was a regular commentator for national and international sports events and a committee member of sports of YMCA Karachi. He passed away about three months ago, leaving behind a wife who is also a teacher and three daughters, two of whom are doctors.

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