From Sirhind to Toba Tek Singh

Jamil Athar Qazi’s journey through the history of Pakistan

From Sirhind to Toba Tek Singh


riting memoirs is not everyone’s cup of tea. Most people find it hard to summon the courage to do so. Those who do write often either shy away from revealing some facts or portray themselves as ‘saintly.’ Both approaches make the narrative dull and jarring for readers.

Some people write about those they met or interacted with during their life’s journey. In doing so, they try to piece together their own life’s story. Jamil Athar Qazi, the veteran journalist, has adopted this approach. He has reminisced about various people from different walks of life with whom he interacted. In his virtual rags-to-riches story, he has recounted the days gone by.

Aik Ehed Kee Sarguzasht, as the title suggests, tries to bring back the memories from his early career to the present times. Written in fluent prose, the account keeps readers hooked until the last page. In the first part, he tells us about his family background and how they settled in Toba Tek Singh city after the partition in 1947.

He was born in a town called Sirhind in Indian Punjab, where his family had a small business. They were also responsible for the affairs of the shrine of Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani, the famous Sufi adept of the Naqshbandi order.

Like millions of others, they had to leave their homes and everything behind and start from scratch as refugees struggled to settle in the newly formed country, which lacked the resources to handle the mass migration.

His father tried to form a non-political party to address the issues and complaints of the refugees in Toba Tek Singh. He fought hard for their rights, but his efforts bore no fruit. Instead, the local administration denied his settlement claim. He then joined a newspaper in Lahore as a city correspondent. This marked the start of the family’s long association with the print media.

These candid reflections offer valuable insight into the historical and social fabric of Pakistan, making his memoir a significant contribution to the literary world.

Later, he and others in the family started various other ventures. Jamil Athar saw his father struggling to make ends meet and took on odd jobs to help. He began by hawking the Ghareeb newspaper, which was a massive hit in Faisalabad and the surrounding cities. Every day, he would take the morning train to Faisalabad and return the same day with a bundle of newspapers and sell them on the train.

Jamil later joined several national dailies as a city correspondent, sending his dispatches from Toba Tek Singh. One of his cousins, Qazi Ghiausuddin Janbaz, who later became a PPP stalwart, was working with leftists.

Jamil got to work for several Urdu dailies and to observe some of the country’s top political leaders including like Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Hosein Shaheed Suhrawardy, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani. He covered many of their political meetings as a journalist. Some of them became his friends.

The book is divided into separate sections according to categories of people he has written about. A very interesting chapter is about Riasat Ali Azad, whose newspaper Ghareeb was remarkably popular among the poor. Among media men, Jamil has also written about Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Agha Shorish Kashmiri, Hameed Nizami and ZA Suleri.

The author has written about people from both the left and right wings in Pakistani politics and does not appear prejudiced against any of them. However, some of the pieces, like those on Ghaffar Khan and Suhrawardy, are very brief and leave the readers wishing for more. He has written in greater detail about some of the less-known media men.

Jamil Athar’s candid reflections are a valuable insight into the historical and social fabric of Pakistan. The memoir is a significant contribution to the genre.

Aik Ehed Kee Sarguzasht

Author: Jamil Athar Qazi

Publisher: Book Home, 46 Book Street Lahore

Pages: 616

Price: Rs 1500

The reviewer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad

From Sirhind to Toba Tek Singh