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February 24, 2021

Remembering Mohammad Anwar, Mehmood Jamal and Irfan Hussain

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February 24, 2021

LATE MOHAMMAD ANWAR: Life in exile is an excruciating experience. Its bitter taste is only known to people who have suffered it. The parting of the company is unbearable and hurtful when one himself is at the fag end of his innings when those with whom one had ‘sweet and sour’ relations running over decades without much of misunderstanding—back to the Creator to whom we all have to return to account for our lives here and hereafter.

When I heard the tragic news of Anwar Bhai’s death the other day, I could not believe it. Just a few days back I had a chat with him on phone and we promised to meet over a cup of coffee as soon Covid restrictions were relaxed. Cruel Death took him away before we could deliberate on ‘halat-e-hazra’ (current situation). We shared two different schools of political thoughts as manifested in PPP and MQM. I also knew him to be son–in-law of late Barrister Ashraf, a leader of Pakistan Movement and perhaps first Attorney General of Pakistan. As long as he served he was a devoted flag bearer of MQM Quaid Altaf Bhai.

When Anwar Bhai was around he often invited me and my wife Zarina to share the wonderful cuisine by his talented Begum Asma Anwar whose Quarma with Sheermal were out of this world.

Notwithstanding the fact that politically I as a Bhutto follower and Anwar Bhai as Altaf Bhai’s—-looked across each other in protest outside the Pakistan Embassy in London’s Lowndes Square but never beyond letting cultural indecency taint our relations. My heartfelt condolences to Begum Asma Anwar, two daughters Anam Anwar, Saher Mallick, and a son Muhammad Emaan Anwar Ansari. May Allah give them strength to bear the irreparable loss of Anwar Bhai. Amen.

LATE MEHMOOD JAMAL, POET, AUTHOR AND FILM MAKER: Indeed, news of his death too was a bolt for the blue for me broken to me on phone by Alderman Mushtaq Lashari. Mehmood never shared with me that he was suffering from incurable cancer. He lived cheerfully and died cheerfully with a smile on his face never complaining about life. He lived near my flat on Finchley Road and we often ran into each other to enjoy a cup of coffee. He was no ordinary individual. Though unassuming he had achieved much in life as a poet in English, a translator and a film producer of high caliber. My association with him was multifaceted, both family and otherwise. His revered father Maulana Jamal Mian Faranghi Mahli was a contemporary Muslim Leaguer of my father late Syed Shamsul Hasan. I remember my father had just then expired, Jamal Mian was in London. He wanted to visit our house to condole my father’s death. He too was not too well and I did not want him to take the trouble of climbing 45 stairs to my second floor flat. He insisted and came over. We heard him in awe and how he had opposed Objectives Resolution as an afterthought after Partition. I wish Liaquat Ali Khan and successive Muslim League leaders had listened to him and not succumbed to retrogressive religious leaders who fronted the Punjabi feudal class to impose its version of Jinnah Sahib’s ideology sans socialism and progressive liberalism in it. His eldest son Bari Mian is still holding his fort, his pristine cultural values and Jamal Mian’s liberal political philosophy. It is an irony that despite being close to each other, I could not attend Mehmood Jamal’s funeral in London nor condole with his brother Allauddin as I am restricted to strict isolation being an extremely vulnerable case. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace and give strength to his near and dear ones to bear the irreparable loss. Amen.

LATE IRFAN HUSSAIN: How helplessly crippling one is when one cannot even attend to the burial of close friends like famous columnist Irfan Hussain, son of famous father and literary mother Begum Akhtar Hussain Raipuri. I came to know of Ifran as a journalist and later when he was a staff member of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s team. Irfan was a prolific writer, a biting columnist who had excelled in the art of tongue and cheek bite. We often disagreed on many issues only to agree at the end. Had he stuck with Benazir Bhutto’s government he would have risen to apogee of excellence but such writers don’t get room for tolerance. Irfan to satisfy his itch to write used to adopt different pseudonym to air and convey his thoughts. Credit must also be given to Dawn’s Chief Executive Hameed Haroon for daring to publish him and whatever he said in between the lines.

Columnist like Irfan Hussain and one like him in the yore Yusuf Afghan, IH Burney, M H Abbasi (Editor of Comment), Ameen Tareen, Sultan Ahmed, Jawaid Bokhari, H K Burki, I A Rehman, late Aziz Siddiqui and others that could be counted on finger tips helped us a long way in educating our readers to read between the lines and thus subvert all the efforts of the successive governments to censor our thinking.

Last but not the least, we must celebrate the 90th Birthday of our Guru—I A Rehman who continues to use a prolific pen to keep the fight going. May Allah give him many years more with all his sharp faculties to keep on writing his fruitful thoughts.

The writer is former high commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and a veteran journalist.