Shaheryar Ali

Martyr Shabana

Martyr Shabana

Shabana’s bullet ridden body was found slumped on ground in the centre of Mingora’s green square, strewn with money, CD recording of her performances and photographs from her albums. Shabana was a traditional singer and dancing girl from Swat. She was brutally murdered for defying the ban imposed by Taliban. A Taliban leader later appeared on the FM Radio [which our most professional Army with one of the best technical skills, failed to block and claimed it was impossible to do so and which resulted in satirical responses from rival Indian Army as well as from distinguished physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy] and claimed the responsibility for her murder and warned that the Taliban will not tolerate any “un Islamic vices”

This all started when, enlightened and progressive General Pervez Musharraf , who than enjoyed the support of Judiciary [Honourable Justice Iftikhar including], the “civil” society, liberal Imran Khan, gave the province of NWFP to Mullahs of MMA , who in return passed the 17 amendment and legalized Musharraf’s coup. The conscientious judges followed suit.  Molana Fazul-ur Rehman and Qazi Hussein Ahmad enjoyed the fruits of governance for years and later became voices of democracy along with conscientious judges, civil society and of course Imran Khan! The 5 year rule of MMA in NWFP [Pakhtoonkhawa] resulted in banning of music, destruction of arts including the commercial Arts. The thugs of Jamate Islami blackened the feminine figures on the billboards in Peshawar. The traditional bazaars where music instruments were made and sold and where the artists and artisans lived were targeted by police and moral bigots who forced most of these people to flee the province. When MMA left, the province was in the hands of Taliban and Shabana got murdered.

A lot was written in foreign press, Shabana couldn’t finds even a two column10 space in our “free media”, just like that poor Pushto singer who was murdered in Peshawar a few days back. The girl was not even named! Only one who lamented Shabana was “buri auart”, that communist and Indian agent Kishwar Naheed. A representative of second wave feminism, who is now expressing the 3rd wave sensitivities, Naheed was part of the pro-communist Afro-Asian writers association with Faiz Ahmad Faiz. A living witness to the progressive movement and the tradition of resistance literature and Art, Naheed’s response to the times of Jihad has been a collection of poetry which has been titled Wehshat aur barrod mein lipti hue shairi”. ‘Poetry wrapped in explosives and barbarism. The poetry is the expression of a true artist living in the age of Jihad and Crusade! The moral relativism demonstrated by most of newly emerged pro-imperialist liberals by their silence on crimes of United States imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Pashtunkhawa, is not to be seen in this work by a great progressive. Whilst the focus of the book remains the Islamist barbarism, one finds echoes of Guantanamo bay, Fallujah and Sarajevo as well. The book includes touching poems on lost comrades like Ahmad Fraz, Benazir Bhutto and Edward Said.

Buddha crying in Swat

Buddha crying in Swat

Hundreds of years old historic statues of Lord Buddha were also wrapped in explosives and were blown. This monstrous attack on Pashtun history and cultural identity also took place during General Pervez Musharff’s golden rule. September 2007, the giant Buddha in Swat dating from 2nd century BC, was attacked twice in 20 days. The Taliban worked in broad day light putting dynamite with help of drill machines. The BBC, Hindustand Times, Dawn and Daily Times reported and highlighted the issue, but nothing was done and Taliban, re attacked it after 20 days. There was hardly any news in Urdu press; no protests were seen in any city of Pakistan. The free media channels of Pakistan also showed a complete apathy. Now Taliban are blowing humans in Swat. The attack of Taliban on statues and silent collaboration of MMA government scarred the artists especially those who earned their living craving Buddha sculptures which were popular amongst tourists.

The Seriaki speaking Pashtun city, Dera Ismail Khan, also known as DI Khan, the fusion of seraiki and Pushto civilization gave the city a unique status. A cultural hub, it was once known as “Dera Phulla’n da Sehra” [Dera is garland of flowers!]. After destruction of Jhang , this city has seen the curse of Jihad! Hundreds of people have been murdered. For years now target killing of Shia population and progressive artists and intellectuals is going on. Silence is the criminal response of Pakistan. The facts are buried in media grand meta-narrative of “sectarian violence”. There is no sectarian violence in DI Khan, there is no rift or collusion between any two sects which are living together for hundreds of years. What’s going on is an Anti-Shia holocaust by Jihadis: Target killing of intellectuals, writers and artists.

Philosopher, poet and linguist, author of 22 books Jamshaid Nayab , was tortured and his bullet ridden body was thrown in front of his house in DI Khan. The Molana praised the act of killing Kaffirs like him in the Friday sermon. Mr Nayab was an intellectual par excellence, a refined poet who authored books of history of western philosophy, on languages and civilization. He belonged to progressive tradition of intellectuals. He was member of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The left wing intellectuals and political activists have been the main target of Jihadi/Taliban forces in Pakistan. More than 450 socialists/Marxist/nationalists political activists have been murdered in Swat and Pashtunkhawa Most activists of PPP and ANP who have been murdered in Pashtunkhawa were those who belonged to socialists/Marxist wings within these parties. It must be noted 98% of  attacks and murders of political activists by Taliban are on 3 parties PPP, ANP and CPP  [all left wing parties]Many of these activists were poets and artists as well or main organizers of art and cultural activities in their regions. Great Urdu poet Mohsin Naqvi also fell a victim to these Jihadi forces in the 90s. His crimes were multifold, being a poet [Koran explicitly condemns poets and poetry in Chapters of Poets], was Shia , was progressive and socialist and supported PPP. He also famously wrote a poem on Benazir Bhutto. The poem has acquired a mythical status “Ya Allah Ya Rasool—–Benazir Beqasoor”

Music is a inseparable part of Pakhtoon culture and tradition. Pakhtoons have never lived without music and dance! For the first time such a thing is happening. The shrine of greatest Pashtu poet and Sufi, Rehman Baba was blown up by the Taliban. Rehman Baba had played a central role in building Pashtun identity, language and tradition. A humanist his poetry teaches peace, love and tolerance. He was known as “Nightingale of Pashtunkawa”. Barbarism didn’t spare the most sacred place of the Pashtun Culture. Hundreds of music centers and shops have been destroyed. Years back , great revolutionary and Marxist academic Eqbal Ahmad vested Kandahar of Taliban. He saw a graveyard of Pashtun culture and tradition. The living Kandahar of coffee houses, story tellers and musicians was no where to be seen. He wrote his impressions in form an article which was titled “Land without Music”. Now Pakistan is becoming the Land without Music.

To be continued

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Shaheryar Ali

Today I searched my old closet looking for some thing, a book which I had read long time ago. Since the last few days I have been longing to read that book again. Its Oscar Wilde’s “The picture of Dorian Gray”.

Picture of Dorian Gray

Picture of Dorian Gray

Considered a classic in English literature, the book is an experiment with the concept of “duplicity”. Just as the “Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Strikingly handsome Dorian Gray is painted by a painter who becomes obsessed with Gray’s beauty. The portrait is a masterpiece in itself and looking at it Gray wishes he be able to remain young for ever, the wish is granted. Dorian Gray falls into a life of corruption and evil, one day he looks at the picture; instead of the serene beauty he sees a monster. While Grey was granted youth and beauty, his picture became the mirror of his soul which was sinking into pits of evil. With his every act of evil, the picture became disfigured. When Grey looks at the picture he realizes how hideous he really is and what has he become. We in Pakistan are suffering from the same “Dorian Gray Syndrome

we want to keep living in the “Utopia of Mumliqat e Khudadad”, our great rivers, our spring, our winters. Land of four seasons, the modern progressivedorian_gray_1970 Muslim democracy Jinnah created. Such is our obsession and insecurity that most advanced of our thinkers spent all their energies in charting out an “intentionalist” perspective on Partition of India. What was intention of Muhammed Ali Jinnah. He was a liberal and secular leader who was fighting for socio-cultural-economic rights of a community. A community defined by a confessional faith. Pakistan was a “bargain card” of a sort. Nehru’s and Gandhi’s refusal to address Muslim insecurities resulted in partition of India etc etc. All correct. Have any one of us ever tried to discuss the “consequentionalist” perspective on Partition of Indian. What were the natural consequences of creating a “secular” state for members of a community defined by religion? The linguistically absurd terminology we created “Muslim state” or “Islamic state”, did it make any sense to mostly ignorant and primitive “natives” on whom a highly developed colonial apparatus was being imposed with an immigrant leadership? Are muslim and Islam by any stretch of imagination mutually exclusive terms? Is it possible to be muslim without Islam or can Islam be alien to muslims? How could a “secular” muslim state exist without being evolving into a Islamic state? This is the absurd debate we are engaged in for last 50 years, muslim state or Islamic state. All abstract absurdities. Millions died in communal violence when all 3 characters of partition were secular. These were the delusions of modernity, western educated elitists leaders failed to understand what would be the consequences of their lofty ideas of secular nationalism and secular nationalism of a community defined by religion [if such a pathetic thing makes any sense] in ignorant masses. . We killed millions of Pakhtuns to defend Islam against evil of communism. Pakistan ka Matlab kiya . La Illaha Illallah. When Taliban of our country say that “this meaning” is lost and they rise to impose La Ilaha illallah on us we start lamenting ah whiskey drinking secular Jinnah. Our Constitution states Quran and Sunnah will be supreme laws of Pakistan but when Quran and Sunnah are imposed in Swat we start crying . We are so busy in our logically absurd non sense that reality has become irrelevant to us. We killed 3 million Bengalis trying to impose our “muslim nationalism”. Our state sponsored thugs are killing people but we see India’s hand. The paranoia of Hindu majority engulfing us, the remedy of which we thought was creating a Muslim state has now become paranoia of state of India. We see all evil in India. Gandhi was fascist, Nehru was hypocrite, despite both these evil characters India is a functioning secular democracy. We people of land of pure with most pure, liberal and modern leader are a failed state. No but we must keep the mantra of Jinnah’s speech and Jalal’s work on Jinnah and in this narcissism of ours we keep sinking in the pits of evil. Millions of East Pakistanis were slaughtered by our Army and Jamate Islami, we have never seek justice for them. Now Baluchiis are being butchered, silently as state has learned more. We are drunk on “sharab e tahoora”, lecturing other countries how to behave. Islamic fascism our joint venture with United States of America to provide us with “strategic depth” against the “evil Hindu” India has eroded our very roots, but we want to keep denying our evil deeds. Few days’ back Nadra Naipaul’s brother was shot dead. He was a General. The reason it appears to hush up the “deals” GHQ had with Taliban. None of our great prophets of “constitutionalism” and “Rule of Law” have even spoken a single line to demand at least an 

The brother-in-law of VS Naipaul, the British novelist and Nobel laureate, was murdered last month after threatening to expose Pakistani army generals who had made deals with Taliban militants.

Major-General Faisal Alavi, a former head of Pakistan’s Special Forces, whose sister Nadira is Lady Naipaul, named two generals in a letter to the head of the army. He warned that he would “furnish all relevant proof”.

Aware that he was risking his life, he gave a copy to me and asked me to publish it if he was killed. Soon afterwards he told me that he had received no reply.

“It hasn’t worked,” he said. “They’ll shoot me.

Four days later, he was driving through Islamabad when his car was halted by another vehicle. At least two gunmen opened fire from either side, shooting him eight times. His driver was also killed.

This weekend, as demands grew for a full investigation into Alavi’s murder on November 18, Lady Naipaul described her brother as “a soldier to his toes”. She said: “He was an honourable man and the world was a better place when he was in it.”

It was in Talkingfish, his favourite Islamabad restaurant, that the general handed me his letter two months ago. “Read this,” he said.

General Alavi and Doug Brown

General Alavi and Doug Brown

Alavi had been his usual flamboyant self until that moment, smoking half a dozen cigarettes as he rattled off jokes and gossip and fielded calls on two mobile phones.

Three years earlier this feted general, who was highly regarded by the SAS, had been mysteriously sacked as head of its Pakistani equivalent, the Special Services Group, for “conduct unbecoming”. The letter, addressed to General Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of army staff, was a final attempt to have his honour restored.

Alavi believed he had been forced out because he was openly critical of deals that senior generals had done with the Taliban. He disparaged them for their failure to fight the war on terror wholeheartedly and for allowing Taliban forces based in Pakistan to operate with impunity against British and other Nato troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Alavi, who had dual British and Pakistani nationality, named the generals he accused. He told Kayani that the men had cooked up a “mischievous and deceitful plot” to have him sacked because they knew he would expose them.

“The entire purpose of this plot by these general officers was to hide their own involvement in a matter they knew I was privy to,” he wrote. He wanted an inquiry, at which “I will furnish all relevant proof/ information, which is readily available with me”.

I folded up the letter and handed it back to him. “Don’t send it,” I said. He replied that he had known I would talk him out of it so he had sent it already. “But”, he added, “I want you to keep this and publish it if anything happens to me.”

I told him he was a fool to have sent the letter: it would force his enemies into a corner. He said he had to act and could not leave it any longer: “I want justice. And I want my honour restored. And you know what? I [don’t] give a damn what they do to me now. They did their worst three years ago.”

We agreed soon afterwards that it would be prudent for him to avoid mountain roads and driving late at night. He knew the letter might prove to be his death warrant.

Four days after I last saw him, I was in South Waziristan, a region bordering Afghanistan, to see a unit from the Punjab Regiment. It was early evening when I returned to divisional headquarters and switched on the television. It took me a moment to absorb the horror of the breaking news running across the screen: “Retired Major General Faisal Alavi and driver shot dead on way to work.”

The reports blamed militants, although the gunmen used 9mm pistols, a standard army issue, and the killings were far more clinical than a normal militant attack.

The scene at the army graveyard in Rawalpindi a few days after that was grim. Soldiers had come from all over the country to bury the general with military honours. Their grief was palpable. Wreaths were laid on behalf of Kayani and most of the country’s military leadership.

Friends and family members were taken aback to be told by serving and retired officers alike that “this was not the militants; this was the army”. A great many people believed the general had been murdered to shut him up.

I first met Alavi in April 2005 at the Pakistan special forces’ mountain home at Cherat, in the North West Frontier Province, while working on a book about the Pakistani army.

He told me he had been born British in Kenya, and that his older brother had fought against the Mau Mau. His affection for Britain was touching and his patriotism striking.

In August 2005 he was visiting Hereford, the home of the SAS, keen to revive the SSG’s relationship with British special forces and deeply unhappy about the way some elements of Pakistan’s army were behaving.

mehsudHe told me how one general had done an astonishing deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the 35-year-old Taliban leader, now seen by many analysts as an even greater terrorist threat than Osama Bin Laden.

Mehsud, the main suspect in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto late last year, is also believed to have been behind a plot to bomb transport networks in several European countries including Britain, which came to light earlier this year when 14 alleged conspirators were arrested in Barcelona.

Yet, according to Alavi, a senior Pakistani general came to an arrangement with Mehsud “whereby – in return for a large sum of money – Mehsud’s 3,000 armed fighters would not attack the army”.

The two senior generals named in Alavi’s letter to Kayani were in effect complicit in giving the militants free rein in return for refraining from attacks on the Pakistani army, he said. At Hereford, Alavi was brutally frank about the situation, said the commanding officer of the SAS at that time.

“Alavi was a straight-talking soldier and some pretty robust conversations took place in the mess,” he said. “He wanted kit, skills and training from the UK. But he was asked, pretty bluntly, why the Pakistani army should be given all this help if nothing came of it in terms of getting the Al-Qaeda leadership.”

Alavi’s response was typically candid, the SAS commander said: “He knew that Pakistan was not pulling its weight in the war on terror.”

It seemed to Alavi that, with the SAS on his side, he might win the battle, but he was about to lose everything. His enemies were weaving a Byzantine plot, using an affair with a divorced Pakistani woman to discredit him.

Challenged on the issue, Alavi made a remark considered disrespectful to General Pervez Musharraf, then the president. His enemies playeda recording of it to Musharraf and Alavi was instantly sacked.

His efforts to clear his name began with a request that he be awarded the Crescent of Excellence, a medal he would have been given had he not been dismissed. Only after this was denied did he write the letter that appears to many to have sealed his fate.

It was an action that the SAS chief understands: “Every soldier, in the moment before death, craves to be recognised. It seems reasonable to me that he staked everything on his honour. The idea that it is better to be dead than dishonoured does run deep in soldiers.”

Alavi’s loyalty to Musharraf never faltered. Until his dying day he wanted his old boss to understand that. He also trusted Kayani implicitly, believing him to be a straight and honourable officer.

If investigations eventually prove that Alavi was murdered at the behest of those he feared within the military, it may prove a fatal blow to the integrity of the army he loved.

Britain and the United States need to know where Pakistan stands. Will its army and intelligence agencies ever be dependable partners in the war against men such as Mehsud?

James Arbuthnot, chairman of the defence select committee, and Lord Guthrie, former chief of the defence staff, were among those who expressed support this weekend for British help to be offered in the murder investigation.

Inside the Pakistan Army by Carey Schofield will be published next year by Soap Box Books.

Thanks: Times on Line

This Blog endorses Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi for Senate nomination and strongly appeals to Mr Asif Ali Zardari to nominate Mr Gardezi to represent Saraiki wasaib [South Punjab],working classes , women and minorities in upper house of Pakistani Parliment. This blog also appeals others to support this man of principles.

Shaheryar Ali

Dr Ahmad Arslan

400px-shah_rukhn-i-alam_multan

Some people have to be called saints despite their expressed iconoclasm. When Jean Paul Sartre wrote on Jean Genet, he called him Saint Genet. Helene Cixous’s commentary on Jacques Derrida is called “Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Jewish Saint”. The words Noam Chomsky chooses to describe his dear friend and comrade, Eqbal Ahmad were “Secular Sufi”. There is something about such creed of men which though may be Anarchists, Marxists or morally non-conformist writers with police records makes them saintly. Saints are strangers in the world of men, people who live in the material world but who shun all its relations. One such stranger in Pakistani politics is Haider Abbas Gardezi.. Kishwar Naheed in her column in Jang mentions him as the only intellectual who has applied for Senate. She has expressed her wish that the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party makes the wise choice of putting the intelligent heir of Syed Qaswar Gardezi in Pakistan’s upper house of Parliament

Whilst Kishwar Naheed is a master of words and a witness of the progressive movement and history in Pakistan, the names she mentions sound unfamiliar to young Pakistanis who have been taught a monolithic version of history, culture and politics of Pakistan. Mr Gardezi is son of Syed Hasan Raza Gardezi, the phenomenal Saraiki poet. A true bohemian, he was the founder of modern Saraiki poetry. A satirist par excellence and a social anarchist he was the soul of literary and cultural life of Multan. A whole generation of Multani intellectuals grew up under his wings with his memories still fresh in their minds. Famous progressive writer and academic Dr Anwar Ahmad has sketched him in his latest book which covers the personalities who left their imprint on culture of Multan. Hasan Raza Gardezi was a master poet of Urdu and Persian as well but he published only his Saraiki poetry. His book “Dhabay Dohray” is considered one of the most important modern saraiki text. With it he introduced not only modern poetic craft to Saraiki but also a modern consciousness which re-invents meaning of traditional saraiki mystic themes. This book has been translated into English as “Tenements on Sand”

Whilst Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi got love of literature, culture and liberty from his father. His political mentor and teacher was Syed Qaswar Gardezi. He later became his father in law. Mr Qaswar Gardezi holds a very important position in history of democratic and progressive movement in Pakistan. A member of feudal aristocracy which held religious and spiritual leadership due to its association with shrine of Shah Yousaf Gardez one of the patron saints of Multan who is one of the earlier mystics who arrived in Indian subcontinent, Qaswar Gardezi against his class interest joined the Communist movement of Pakistan. He had in front of him an easy way of rising to power by joining the establishment like his contemporaries from similar family backgrounds but he choose a very difficult path of progressive politics, A fast friend of Mian Iftikharuddin , he joined Azad Pakistan Party which later merged with other left wing forces of Pakistan to make “National Awami Party” Pakistan’s first popular social-democratic party. He worked closely with Mian Iftikaruddin and Molana Bhashani and worked as “vice-president” of the party under Molana Bhashani. Mr Qaswar Gardezi also served as secretary general of NAP. He accompanied Mian Iftikharuddin on his tour of USSR and Eastern Europe. On his return he was imprisoned by dictatorship. He was imprisoned many times during different martial laws as well as “democratic regimes”. After disintegration of NAP he worked with Wali Khan and Mir Bizenjo and remained active during the MRD. It was this ideological and principled politics which Haider Abbas Gardezi learned from people like Mian Iftikharuddin, Qaswar Gardezi, Molana Bhashani,Wali Khan and Mir Bizenjo. As a young boy he remembers attending meetings and protests with these great men. He worked in Socialist Party of Pakistan, NAP and PNP of Mir Bizenjo: Always standing with the working class, oppressed nationalities and democratic forces. During the reign of terror of General Zia ul Haq when people were being hanged, lashed and tortured, most of the feudal joined Zia ul haq but Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi stood firm in his opposition to fascist dictator. During the MRD he defied the Martial law and presented himself for arrest at Town Hall Multan in front of hundreds of of people boldly declaring General Zia as a traitor. When he was tried in the Martial Law tribunal, he refused to stand up in honour of the military officer who was trying him. In his statement to the court Mr Gardezi stated that he and others like him are not traitor but those who have abrogated the constitution and hanged the elected prime minister have committed high treason. People of Pakistan, the workers, students, minorities, artists writers all of them support progressive movement against Islamist dictatorship of Zia. He was charged with high treason sent to jail with orders of confiscation of his estate and property and public lashing. It was one of the harshest punishments awarded to any member of feudal classes. Due to public and intellectual uproar he was not lashed but was kept in jail for long time.

During the exile days of London Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi came in contact with Benazir Bhutto. A dialogue continued between them on political problems of Pakistan, national question, left wing insurgency and restoration of democracy, it continued in informal meetings, letters and drafts. After restoration of democracy when Bhutto’s government was dismissed Mr Gardezi sent her a dossier on reasons of this disaster. Benazir Bhutto who had a deep understanding of progressive politics greatly admired his thesis and asked him to Join PPP. Mr Gardezi who was long resisting these requests for the reason that he didn’t want to join a party which was in power joined PPP when it was in opposition. He was soon taken in Punjab Council and he enjoyed confidence of Benazir Bhutto who was a guest at his home when ever she visited Southern Punjab. A man of mild manners and ideological principles Mr Gardezi never engaged in the usual electoral politics. His deep insight into problems of Pakistan and his pro-people stance was acknowledged by Bhutto who elevated him to “Federal Council of PPP”. He was also put in the “Policy Planning Cell” where he closely worked with Benazir Bhutto, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Munno Bhai and others on important issues. Benazir Bhutto also entrusted him with drafting of her important speeches and policy papers in which Mr Gardezi contributed a lot. The exile and martyrdom of Benzir Bhutto affected him greatly, a misfit in power politics and politics of corruption he fondly talks about Benazir Bhutto as the “Nihati Larki” who all her life tried to light candles in hostile rainstorms.

He passionately wrote on her assassination and often speaks about her vision for Pakistan. He firmly believes that the result of recent elections should have been used to build a New Republic which should replace this oppressive post-colonial system. The democratic forces instead of limiting their agenda on small issues like “restoration of certain judges” and “independence of election commission” should have joined hands to bring about “Constitutional Reforms” which transforms Pakistan into a democratic republic: Solving the nationalist question, giving genuine provincial autonomy, ending discriminatory laws against minorities and women. Instead of a Ideological religious state Pakistan should be a voluntary democratic federation of nationalities: A new republic which should address the “economic-redistribution”, land reforms and Industrialization. He states that judiciary needs “reformation” not “restoration” because a restoration without reform will result in the judiciary which is historically a pro-establishment partisan which is inherently anti people. Same is the issue of “restoration of constitution”, restoration of a constitution which discriminates against women, minorities and nationalities. What purpose will it serve? The democratic forces should join hands for “Reforms” and not for “restoration” of old orders. A firm believer in “non capitalist mode of development” which is sustainable and environment friendly he is critical of capitalist globalization which threatened natives, their languages, cultures and heritage. An internationalist who admires Eqbal Ahmad and Arundhati Roy

This man could be an asset for PPP and Pakistan must be utilized, to quote veteran progressive writer Mr Haneed Akhtar who has also requested Mr Asif Ali Zardari to consider Mr Gardezi for Senate. We can only wish his appeal be heard.

[Dr Ahmad Arslan is doctor by profession and a political activist who associates himself with working class tradition of PPP. He is also a volunteer from PPP Punjab in NDI’s Youth Politics development programme]

AAGN001278I recently discovered
a very interesting blog, its called (mass)think!. The blog is a
treasure for those who are concerned with “radical philosophy”. Avant-garde
works regarding Marxism, Post-structuralist theory, radical feminism and Gender
theory are available to read and learn, on the top of it are the Aesthetics and
Arts which illuminate ones being. This story written by Ryan and Aless on
(mass)think! Which can be reached here
is important because it aesthetically deconstructs the romantic discourse of
love in western tradition of metaphysics and aesthetics which pre-conceives
essentialist notion of gender as spirit of love. The relationship between myth and
knowledge and its ramifications on culture manifest through the title “Romio
and Julio”. This in turn establishes a non essentialist, non temporal link between
the pre-modern and the post modern. Those who are interested in contemporary approaches
to textuality and narrativity will find it to be a treat. With Judith Butler’s contribution
into non essentialist understanding of Gender and sexuality as primarily “performative”,
the story is interplay of logic, rhetoric, passions and desire. Enjoy

Shaheryar Ali

Romeo and Julio

Ryan and Aless, (Mass)think!

“Let’s leave. Tonight.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you have any idea how
much it kills me whenever you get jealous of me? Talking to a girl, or talking
about them? Don’t you think I see? Don’t you think I saw just now—And that
wasn’t even a friend!”

“You don’t know what you’re
talking about.”

“I can’t have any more of it.
I won’t have any more! I wanna be with you. I wanna try it. So let’s go. Leave.
Just go for it!”

“You have a girlfriend.”

“So? I’ll break up with her.”

“You’re crazy . . .”

“So what? Isn’t that,
according to you, the hallmark of love? Its inexplicability, its irrationality
. . .”

“You’re not even gay.”

“Wasn’t it you who told me
that sexuality is but a performance, that it’s just a convenient, how did you
call it, ‘molar’ way to represent in collectivity the everyday actions we
perform, that in truth we are all polymorphously perverse, capable of anything,
capable of connecting to everything, that over the years we’ve just been
rigidified by social codes that normalize us so we forget our multiple
potentialities and become the boring, monomaniac machines that we are?”

“You
don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So you’re saying all those
late-night phone calls, all those conversations . . . All those theories were
not meant to convince me? Make me believe?”

“I . . . simply articulated
what I believed . . .”

“Look, I don’t know if I’m
gay—but as you said, it doesn’t matter. I know what I feel for you. I know, at
the end of the night, I wanna call you. I know, at the end of the day, despite
all the other people around me, I wanna come home to you . . . Wasn’t it you
who said that we’re all capable of anything? Everything? Of being both sexes.
Of being all the sexes! It doesn’t matter what we do now, who we sleep with. It
matters who we can do what with. How we feel. My body parts can learn. In fact,
they’re able. They just need to be awakened. And they will. My heart knows . .
.”

“What are you saying?”

“I wanna try it, see if my
parts can resonate with yours. There is no other person that I admire, no other
person that I . . .—I’m not gonna let the way I’ve been sexually trained to
hinder what I feel for you, limit me—most of all, hurt you . . .”

“It’s crazy. I’m leaving
tomorrow. I got a job . . .”

“So? Forget it. F**k it! I’m
leaving my girlfriend.”

“I . . .”

“Leave your commitments.
Let’s just go! Leave. Leave everything behind . . . Isn’t that what people do?
For love . . .”

“No, no . . . I’m not this
disturbed anymore. A year ago, I might have done this—”

. [kiss] . .

“I know what you feel. I felt
what you want. What do you say?”

“Yes, yes . . . Let’s go . .
.”

shalome1

Shaheryar Ali

We live in strange times when it is easy to hate and difficult to love. The spirit of enlightenment, the goddess of liberty is now under attack in Universities of France herself. We live in the age of “Late Capitalism”, this is the age of rampant capitalism, the age of extreme alienation. With the extreme alienation things start loosing their “corporeal beings”, concrete ideas take the form of ghostly phantoms, and reality seems to merge with fantasy. The expression of this phenomenon can be seen everywhere, Salman Rushdie’s most original protest against colonialism, the hegemonic dualities created by the immigrant experience, the identity crisis, the de-humanizing experience of disillusionment from both cultures, the old and new, the very division of self brought about by modernism, through colonialism and immigration, the lament and cry of pain and anguish became the object of hostility of those for whom it was done. The ghostly or hallucinatory expression termed as “magical realism” represent this epochal phenomenon in literature.

Extreme fluidity of the narrative, the interplay of contradictory streams of meaning, the nauseous experience of existence in the hostile universe is not the monopoly of literary giants; rather it has become an everyday experience of life. The monstrous war between two illegitimate children of Capitalist imperialism Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism is one of such events. While some want us to believe that heartless fascists, the prophets of Gaza are champions of progressive cause others wants us to believe that the blood thirsty child killers , the Zionists are fighting the war for the very survival humanity against the forces of darkness. The people are being killed. They are victims of this age of confusion. The Islamic Republic, just like the Zionist state was a “liberal” act of British imperialism to provide the national homeland to “Muslims” in India. The “ideological” state has been one of the most loyal allies of United State’s imperialism rivaled only by its distant cousins Israel and Egypt. The Pakistani middle classes who take these ideological fallacies of state quite seriously have got a new hero in recent times, Adolf Hiter. Angered by the scenes of Zionist barbarism in Gaza and fuelled by the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Pakistani Islamist and Liberal dominated media the middle classes are chattering about the “great vision” of Adolf Hitler in his recognition of “Jewish evil” and his great efforts to save humanity from it.

The Jewish evils of course being the good old theories of Jews controlling “all the banks” and “state institutions” of USA etc.: their inherent “racism”, “their intolerance”, “their non acceptance of our great holy prophet” etc. In this discourse Pakistan and Islam becomes the “greatest, best and most tolerant and humanist ideologies and state which ever existed in this cosmos. The ideological paradise of the Islamic Republic in which the Pakistani middle and chattering classes live and play the eternal victim of every thing which exists in this universe ; Big bad India, USA, Jews all the cunning, evil enemies who want to destroy humanist and tolerant Pakistan, the “divine land”, the “land of the pure”. We who are the critics of Islamic Republic occasionally remind the chattering classes about the things which don’t fit in their “ideological paradise”, things lost in the “collective amnesia” of divine state and Pure of pure. We are so much threatened by perceived “Indian hegemony” that we find our selves permanently scarred by “Gandhi, the Movie” but we don’t bother 3 million Bengalis butchered by us and thousands of Bengali women raped by our macho Jawans

“Where are the Pakistani Jews?” I just ask this question. The picture you see above is that of “Magain Shalome Synagogue”. The synagogue was built by the small but vibrant Jewish community of Karachi in 1898. The Jews of Karachi enjoyed tolerance and acceptability as British subjects in India. In 1936 one of the leaders of the Jewish community, Abraham Reuban became the first “Jewish councilor” of the city corporation. The city also had a number of “support organizations” like “Young Man’s Jewish Association”, the “Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund” and “Karachi Jewish Syndicate”. In 1947, Jinnah got his laboratory of Islam and for Pakistani Jews the clock started ticking. As the people, who have been victim of tyranny for thousands of years Jews knew the warning signs. Partition of India on religious lines and formation of a “Laboratory of Islam” was a bad omen. The Pakistani Aliya had started. Jews started leaving for India and Iran. The “night of broken glass” for Pakistani Jews was a night in 1948 when State of Israel was proclaimed. Karachi which was home to Jews for decades suddenly became hostile. The anti Jew pogroms started. The mob attacked and torched the “Magain Shalome” synagogue. Every thing was broken, the windows, the ornaments. The Mujahids also desecrated the Holy Ark and Bible.

The community still tried to live with the illusion of “Jinnah’s words”, “you are free to go to your temples and your mosques—” , the anti Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic rhetoric intensified with the Arab , Israeli wars, the synagogue remained the point of hatred of the mob. 1948, 1956 and 1967 were the periods where small Bene Israeli community of Pakistan faced the rage and hatred. The Magain Shalome resurrected itself after every fire till nobody was left to pray. Those who called themselves anti-Zionists pushed Jews from every land which was their home, pushing them to look for their mythical homeland, The Zion. Peshawar had a Jewish community as well, with two synagogues. Along with Bene Israeli community, “Bukharin Jews” also called Peshawar their home. Now none is left. A whole community vanished , along with their language, culture, art and most important their ‘stories”. I once read a novel which had a haunting line, “You scratch a Jew and you will get a story”. I have now no one to ask too; all that is left are few graves and Stars of David on certain buildings in both cities. The Magain Shalome Synagogue was finally demolished in 1980 when Fascist General Zia ul Haq was ruler of Pakistan to make a shopping plaza. The Jews from Karachi now live in Ramle, Israel. They have made a “Magain Shalome” there. 200 or so Jews still live in Karachi; they have disguised themselves as “Parsies”.

Such are the fascist societies where people are forced to live as some one who they are not, weather Jews or Homosexuals.

Picture: Naveed Riaz Karachi

Magain Shalome was built by Shalome Solomon Umberdeker and his son Gershone Solomon; Karachi’s last synagogue was demolished in 1980

Pinko Playwright  Weds Sex Goddess ,[The Culture of the Cold War: by  Stephen J  Whitfield]were the headlines in Bigoted American Press when greatest Playwright  of the century Arthur Miller married actress Marylin Monro and  soon  was called to testify in what we now know was  one of the  worse witch hunts of history after the Spanish inquisition. McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt was one of the worse and most oppressive times in United States, lots of innocent lives were destroyed. Friends were played against friends, Black listing destroyed the careers of some of the best writers, actors, directors and artists in United States. The conflict of loyalties in the McCarthy witch hunt has been subject of some of the best Art and Literature which has been produced in United States and else where.

Whilst many broke under state pressure and betrayed their friends , who lost their jobs and careers, many committed suicide, some brave people stood up against bigotry. Miller was one of them. He wrote “The Crucible” one of the best Play of all times in which he explains the “Anti communist” mania in United States using the imagery of Salem Witch -trials. Pakistan itself had a very oppressive red scare which started in Liaqat Ali Khan’s time by “Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case” where Urdu’s greatest poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was arrested . Communist Party of Pakistan was banned. Faiz Ahmad Faiz immortalized the moments of his arrest and humiliation for being a communist in his epic Urdu poem “Aaj Bazar mein Pa ba jolan Chalo” “Lets cross the market with chains around the feet”.

Later writer and political activist Shaheed Hassan Nasir was tortured to death in Lahore fort, for being a commie pinko. Numerous writers and artists were jailed and exiled for being communists alleged, real or suspected. Great Urdu poetess Fehmida Riaz who herself had to go to exile vividly describes the sad events in a court room of Karachi where young student leader Nazeer Abbasi was brought as a tortured , broken corpse in her poem “Aewaan e Adalat mein—“. The anti communist hysteria and witch hunt continues , irony is by those who nod their heads in spiritual ecstasy on listening to Faiz Ahmad Faiz “Hum jo Tareek Rahon mein maare gaye” ” We were those who were murdered on dark passages” , the poem Faiz wrote for The Rosenbergs, who were the victims of Anti-communism themselves.

Shaheryar Ali


Arthur Miller, “Are You Now Or Were You Ever?”
from The Guardian/The Observer (on line), Saturday, June 17, 2000

Are you now or were you ever…? The McCarthy era’s anti-communist trials destroyed lives and friendships. Arthur Miller describes the paranoia that swept America – and the moment his then wife Marilyn Monroe became a bargaining chip in his own prosecution

Saturday June 17, 2000

It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of 1692 had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s. My basic need was to respond to a phenomenon which, with only small exaggeration, one could say paralysed a whole generation and in a short time dried up the habits of trust and toleration in public discourse.

I refer to the anti-communist rage that threatened to reach hysterical proportions and sometimes did. I can’t remember anyone calling it an ideological war, but I think now that that is what it amounted to. I suppose we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language. The object was to destroy the least credibility of any and all ideas associated with socialism and communism, whose proponents were assumed to be either knowing or unwitting agents of Soviet subversion.

An ideological war is like guerrilla war, since the enemy is an idea whose proponents are not in uniform but are disguised as ordinary citizens, a situation that can scare a lot of people to death. To call the atmosphere paranoid is not to say that there was nothing real in the American-Soviet stand-off. But if there was one element that lent the conflict a tone of the inauthentic and the invented, it was the swiftness with which all values were forced in months to reverse themselves.

Death of a Salesman opened in February 1949 and was hailed by nearly every newspaper and magazine. Several movie studios wanted it and finally Columbia Pictures bought it, and engaged a great actor, Frederick March, to play Willy [the central character].

In two years or less, with the picture finished, I was asked by a terrified Columbia to sign an anti-communist declaration to ward off picket lines which the rightwing American Legion was threatening to throw across the entrances of theatres showing the film. In the phone calls that followed, the air of panic was heavy. It was the first intimation of what would soon follow. I declined to make any such statement, which I found demeaning; what right had any organisation to demand anyone’s pledge of loyalty? I was sure the whole thing would soon go away; it was just too outrageous.

But instead of the problem disappearing, the studio actually made another film, a short to be shown with Salesman. This was called The Life of a Salesman and consisted of several lectures by City College School of Business professors – which boiled down to selling was a joy, one of the most gratifying and useful professions, and that Willy was simply a nut. Never in show-business history has a studio spent so much good money to prove that its feature film was pointless. In less than two years Death of a Salesman had gone from being a masterpiece to being a heresy, and a fraudulent one at that.

In 1948-51, I had the sensation of being trapped inside a perverse work of art, one of those Escher constructs in which it is impossible to make out whether a stairway is going up or down. Practically everyone I knew stood within the conventions of the political left of centre; one or two were Communist party members, some were fellow-travellers, and most had had a brush with Marxist ideas or organisations. I have never been able to believe in the reality of these people being actual or putative traitors any more than I could be, yet others like them were being fired from teaching or jobs in government or large corporations. The surreality of it all never left me. We were living in an art form, a metaphor that had suddenly, incredibly, gripped the country.

In today’s terms, the country had been delivered into the hands of the radical right, a ministry of free-floating apprehension toward anything that never happens in the middle of Missouri. It is always with us, this anxiety, sometimes directed towards foreigners, Jews, Catholics, fluoridated water, aliens in space, masturbation, homosexuality, or the Internal Revenue Department. But in the 50s any of these could be validated as real threats by rolling out a map of China. And if this seems crazy now, it seemed just as crazy then, but openly doubting it could cost you.

So in one sense The Crucible was an attempt to make life real again, palpable and structured. One hoped that a work of art might illuminate the tragic absurdities of an anterior work of art that was called reality, but was not. It was the very swiftness of the change that lent it this surreality. Only three or four years earlier an American movie audience, on seeing a newsreel of Stalin saluting the Red Army, would have applauded, for that army had taken the brunt of the Nazi onslaught, as most people were aware. Now they would look on with fear or at least bewilderment, for the Russians had become the enemy of mankind, a menace to all that was good. It was the Germans who, with amazing rapidity, were turning good. Could this be real?

In the unions, communists and their allies, known as intrepid organisers, were to be shorn of membership and turned out as seditious. Harry Bridges, the idol of west coast longshoremen, whom he had all but single-handedly organised, was subjected to trial after trial to drive him back to his native Australia as an unadmitted communist. Academics, some prominent in their fields, were especially targeted, many forced to retire or fired for disloyalty. Some were communists, some were fellow travellers and, inevitably, a certain number were unaffiliated liberals refusing to sign one of the dozens of humiliating anti-communist pledges being required by terrified college administrations.

But it is impossible to convey properly the fears that marked that period. Nobody was shot, to be sure, although some were going to jail, where at least one, William Remington, was murdered by an inmate hoping to shorten his sentence by having killed a communist. Rather than physical fear, it was the sense of impotence, which seemed to deepen with each week, of being unable to speak accurately of the very recent past when being leftwing in America, and for that matter in Europe, was to be alive to the dilemmas of the day.

As for the idea of willingly subjecting my work not only to some party’s discipline but to anyone’s control, my repugnance was such that, as a young and indigent writer, I had turned down lucrative offers to work for Hollywood studios because of a revulsion at the thought of someone owning the paper I was typing on. It was not long, perhaps four or five years, before the fraudulence of Soviet cultural claims was as clear to me as it should have been earlier. But I would never have found it believable, in the 50s or later, that with its thuggish self-righteousness and callous contempt for artists’ freedoms, that the Soviet way of controlling culture could be successfully exported to America.

Some greatly talented people were driven out of the US to work in England: screenwriters like Carl Foreman and Donald Ogden Stewart, actors like Charlie Chaplin and Sam Wanamaker. I no longer recall the number of our political exiles, but it was more than too many and disgraceful for a nation prideful of its democracy.

Writing now, almost half a century later, with the Soviet Union in ruins, China rhetorically fending off capitalism even as in reality it adopts a market economy, Cuba wallowing helplessly in the Caribbean, it is not easy to convey the American fear of a masterful communism. The quickness with which Soviet-style regimes had taken over eastern Europe and China was breathtaking, and I believe it stirred up a fear in Americans of our own ineptitudes, our mystifying inability, despite our military victories, to control the world whose liberties we had so recently won back from the Axis powers.

In 1956, the House Un-American Activities Committee (Huac) subpoenaed me – I was cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to identify writers I had met at one of the two communist writers’ meetings I had attended many years before. By then, the tide was going out for Huac and it was finding it more difficult to make front pages. However, the news of my forthcoming marriage to Marilyn Monroe was too tempting to be passed. That our marriage had some connection with my being subpoenaed was confirmed when Chairman Walters of the Huac sent word to Joseph Rauh, my lawyer, that he would be inclined to cancel my hearing if Miss Monroe would consent to have a picture taken with him.

The offer having been declined, the good chairman, as my hearing came to an end, entreated me to write less tragically about our country. This lecture cost me $40,000 in lawyer’s fees, a year’s suspended sentence for contempt of Congress, and a $500 fine. Not to mention about a year of inanition in my creative life.

My fictional view of the period, my sense of its unreality had been, like any impotence, a psychologically painful experience. A similar paralysis descended on Salem. In both places, to keep social unity intact, the authority of leaders had to be hardened and words of scepticism toward them constricted. A new cautionary diction, an uncustomary prudence inflected our way of talking to one another. The word socialism was all but taboo. Words had gotten fearsome. As I learned directly in Ann Arbor on a 1953 visit, university students were avoiding renting rooms in houses run by the housing cooperative for fear of being labelled communist, so darkly suggestive was the word cooperative. The head of orientation at the university told me, in a rather cool, uninvolved manner, that the FBI was enlisting professors to report on students voicing leftwing opinions, and – more comedy – that they had also engaged students to report on professors with the same views.

In the early 50s, along with Elia Kazan, who had directed All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, I submitted a script to Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures. It described the murderous corruption in the gangster-ridden Brooklyn longshoremen’s union. Cohn read the script and called us to Hollywood, where he casually informed us that he had had the script vetted by the FBI, and that they had seen nothing subversive in it. But the head of the AFL motion picture unions in Hollywood, Roy Brewer, had condemned it as untrue communist propaganda, since there were no gangsters on the Brooklyn waterfront. Cohn, no stranger to gangsterism, having survived an upbringing in the tough Five Points area of Manhattan, opined that Brewer was only trying to protect Joe Ryan, head of the Brooklyn longshoremen (who, incidentally, would go to Sing Sing prison for gangsterism).

Brewer threatened to call a strike of projectionists in any theatre daring to show the film. Cohn offered his solution to the problem: he would produce the film if I would make one change – the gangsters in the union were to be changed to communists. This would not be easy; I knew all the communists on the waterfront- there were two of them (both of whom in the following decade became millionaire businessmen). So I had to withdraw the script, which prompted an indignant telegram from Cohn: “As soon as we try to make the script pro-American you pull out.” One understood not only the threat but also the cynicism: he knew the mafia controlled waterfront labour. Had I been a movie writer, my career would have ended. But the theatre had no such complications, no blacklist – not yet – and I longed to respond to this climate of fear, if only to protect my sanity. But where to find a transcendent concept?

The heart of the darkness was the belief that a massive, profoundly organised conspiracy was in place and carried forward mainly by a concealed phalanx of intellectuals, including labour activists, teachers, professionals, sworn to undermine the American government. And it was precisely the invisibility of ideas that was frightening so many people. How could a play deal with this mirage world?

Paranoia breeds paranoia, but below paranoia there lies a bristling, unwelcome truth, so repugnant as to produce fantasies of persecution to conceal its existence. The unwelcome truth denied by the right was that the Hollywood writers accused of subversion were not a menace to the country, or even bearers of meaningful change. They wrote not propaganda but entertainment, some of it of a mildly liberal cast, but most of it mindless, or when it was political, as with Preston Sturges or Frank Capra, entirely and exuberantly un-Marxist.

As for the left, its unacknowledged truth was more important for me. If nobody was being shot in our ideological war but merely vivisected by a headline, it struck me as odd, if understandable , that the accused were unable to cry out passionately their faith in the ideals of socialism. There were attacks on the Huac’s right to demand that a citizen reveal his political beliefs; but on the idealistic canon of their own convictions, the defendants were mute. The rare exception, like Paul Robeson’s declaration of faith in socialism as a cure for racism, was a rocket that lit up the sky.

On a lucky afternoon I happened upon The Devil in Massachusetts, by Marion Starkey, a narrative of the Salem witch-hunt of 1692. I knew this story from my college reading, but in this darkened America it turned a completely new aspect toward me: the poetry of the hunt. Poetry may seem an odd word for a witch-hunt but I saw there was something of the marvellous in the spectacle of a whole village, if not an entire province, whose imagination was captured by a vision of something that wasn’t there.

In time to come, the notion of equating the red-hunt with the witch-hunt would be condemned as a deception. There were communists and there never were witches. The deeper I moved into the 1690s, the further away drifted the America of the 50s, and, rather than the appeal of analogy, I found something different to draw my curiosity and excitement.

Anyone standing up in the Salem of 1692 and denying that witches existed would have faced immediate arrest, the hardest interrogation and possibly the rope. Every authority not only confirmed the existence of witches but never questioned the necessity of executing them. It became obvious that to dismiss witchcraft was to forgo any understanding of how it came to pass that tens of thousands had been murdered as witches in Europe. To dismiss any relation between that episode and the hunt for subversives was to shut down an insight into not only the similar emotions but also the identical practices of both officials and victims.

There were witches, if not to most of us then certainly to everyone in Salem; and there were communists, but what was the content of their menace? That to me became the issue. Having been deeply influenced as a student by a Marxist approach to society, and having known Marxists and sympathisers, I could simply not accept that these people were spies or even prepared to do the will of the Soviets in some future crisis. That such people had thought to find hope of a higher ethic in the Soviet was not simply an American, but a worldwide, irony of catastrophic moral proportions, for their like could be found all over the world.

But as the 50s dawned, they were stuck with the past. Part of the surreality of the anti-left sweep was that it picked up people for disgrace who had already turned away from a pro-Soviet past but had no stomach for naming others who had merely shared their illusions. But the hunt had captured some significant part of the American imagination and its power demanded respect.

Turning to Salem was like looking into a petri dish, an embalmed stasis with its principal moving forces caught in stillness. One had to wonder what the human imagination fed on that could inspire neighbours and old friends to emerge overnight as furies secretly bent on the torture and destruction of Christians. More than a political metaphor, more than a moral tale, The Crucible, as it developed over more than a year, became the awesome evidence of the power of human imagination inflamed, the poetry of suggestion, and the tragedy of heroic resistance to a society possessed to the point of ruin.

In the stillness of the Salem courthouse, surrounded by the images of the 1950s but with my head in 1692, what the two eras had in common gradually gained definition. Both had the menace of concealed plots, but most startling were the similarities in the rituals of defence, the investigative routines; 300 years apart, both prosecutions alleged membership of a secret, disloyal group. Should the accused confess, his honesty could only be proved by naming former confederates. The informer became the axle of the plot’s existence and the investigation’s necessity.

The witch-hunt in 1692 had a not dissimilar problem, but a far more poetic solution. Most suspected people named by others as members of the Devil’s conspiracy had not been shown to have done anything, neither poisoning wells, setting barns on fire, sickening cattle, aborting babies, nor undermining the virtue of wives (the Devil having two phenomenally active penises, one above the other).

To the rescue came a piece of poetry, smacking of both legalistic and religious validity, called Spectral Evidence. All the prosecution need do was produce a witness who claimed to have seen, not an accused person, but his familiar spirit – his living ghost – in the act of throwing a burning brand into a barn full of hay. You could be at home asleep in your bed, but your spirit could be crawling through your neighbour’s window to feel up his wife. The owner of the wandering spirit was obliged to account to the court for his crime. With Spectral Evidence, the air filled with the malign spirits of those identified by good Christians as confederates of theBeast, and the Devil himself danced happily into Salem village and took the place apart.

I spent 10 days in Salem courthouse reading the crudely recorded trials of the 1692 outbreak, and it was striking how totally absent was any sense of irony, let alone humour. I can’t recall if it was the provincial governor’s nephew or son who, with a college friend, came from Boston to watch the strange proceedings. Both boys burst out laughing at some absurd testimony: they were promptly jailed, and faced possible hanging.

Irony and humour were not conspicuous in the 1950s either. I was in my lawyer’s office to sign some contract and a lawyer in the next office was asked to come in and notarise my signature. While he was stamping pages, I continued a discussion with my lawyer about the Broadway theatre, which I said was corrupt; the art of theatre had been totally displaced by the bottom line, all that mattered any more. Looking up at me, the notarising lawyer said, “That’s a communist position, you know.” I started to laugh until I saw the constraint in my lawyer’s face, and I quickly sobered up.

I am glad that I managed to write The Crucible, but looking back I have often wished I’d had the temperament to do an absurd comedy, which is what the situation deserved. Now, after more than three-quarters of a century of fascination with the great snake of political and social developments, I can see more than a few occasions when we were confronted by the same sensation of having stepped into another age.

A young film producer asked me to write a script about what was then called juvenile delinquency. A mystifying, unprecedented outbreak of gang violence had exploded all over New York. The city, in return for a good percentage of profits, had contracted with this producer to open police stations and schools to his camera. I spent the summer of 1955 in Brooklyn streets with two gangs and wrote an outline. I was ready to proceed with the script when an attack on me as a disloyal lefty opened in the New York World Telegram. The cry went up that the city must cancel its contract with the producer so long as I was the screenwriter. A hearing was arranged, attended by 22 city commissioners, including the police, fire, welfare and sanitation departments, as well as two judges.

At the conference table there also sat a lady who produced a thick folder of petitions and statements I had signed, going back to my college years, provided to her by the Huac. I defended myself; I thought I was making sense when the lady began screaming that I was killing the boys in Korea [this was during the Korean war]. She meant me personally, as I could tell from the froth at the corners of her mouth, the fury in her eyes, and her finger pointing straight into my face.

The vote was taken and came up one short of continuing the city’s collaboration, and the film was killed that afternoon. I always wondered whether the crucial vote against me came from the sanitation department. But it was not a total loss; the suffocating sensation of helplessness before the spectacle of the impossible coming to pass would soon help in writing The Crucible.

That impossible coming to pass was not an observation made at a comfortable distance but a blade cutting directly into my life. This was especially the case with Elia Kazan’s decision to cooperate with the Huac. The surrounding fears felt even by those with the most fleeting of contacts with any communist-supported organisation were enough to break through long associations and friendships.

Kazan had been a member of the Communist party only a matter of months, and even that link had ended years before. And the party had never been illegal, nor was membership in it. Yet this great director, left undefended by 20th Century Fox executives, his longtime employers, was told that if he refused to name people whom he had known in the party – actors, directors and writers – he would never be allowed to direct another picture in Hollywood, meaning the end of his career.

These names were already known to the committee through other testifiers and FBI informants, but exactly as in Salem – or Russia under the Czar and the Chairman, and Inquisition Spain, Revolutionary France or any other place of revolution or counter-revolution – conspiracy was the name for all opposition. And the reformation of the accused could only be believed when he gave up the names of his co-conspirators. Only this ritual of humiliation, the breaking of pride and independence, could win the accused readmission into the community. The process inevitably did produce in the accused a new set of political, social and even moral convictions more acceptable to the state whose fist had been shoved into his face, with his utter ruin promised should he resist.

I had stopped by Kazan’s house in the country in 1952 after he had called me to come and talk, an unusual invitation – he had never been inclined to indulge in talk unless it concerned work. I had suspected from his dark tone that it must have to do with the Huac, which was rampaging through the Hollywood ranks .

Since I was on my way up to Salem for research on a play that I was still unsure I would write, I called at his house, which was on my route. As he laid out his dilemma and his decision to comply with the Huac (which he had already done) it was impossible not to feel his anguish, old friends that we were. But the crunch came when I felt fear, that great teacher, that cruel revealer. For it swept over me that, had I been one of his comrades, he would have spent my name as part of the guarantee of his reform. Even so, oddly enough, I was not filling up with hatred or contempt for him; his suffering was too palpable. The whole hateful procedure had brought him to this, and I believe made the writing of The Crucible all but inevitable. Even if one could grant Kazan sincerity in his new-found anti-communism, the concept of an America where such self-discoveries were pressed out of people was outrageous, and a contradiction of any concept of personal liberty.

Is all this of some objective importance in our history, this destruction of bonds between people? I think it may be, however personal it may appear. Kazan’s testimony created a far greater shock than anyone else’s. Lee J Cobb’s similar testimony and Jerome Robbins’s cooperation seemed hardly to matter. It may be that Kazan had been loved more than any other, that he had attracted far greater affection from writers and actors with whom he had worked, and so what was overtly a political act was sensed as a betrayal of love.

It is very significant that in the uproar set off by last year’s award to Kazan of an Oscar for life achievement, one heard no mention of the name of any member of the Huac. One doubted whether the thought occurred to many people that the studio heads had ignominiously collapsed before the Huac’s insistence that they institute a blacklist of artists, something they had once insisted was dishonourable and a violation of democratic norms. Half a century had passed since his testimony, but Kazan bore very nearly the whole onus of the era, as though he had manufactured its horrors – when he was

surely its victim. The trial record in Salem courthouse had been written by ministers in a primitive shorthand. This condensation gave emphasis to a gnarled, densely packed language which suggested the country accents of a hard people. To lose oneself day after day in that record of human delusion was to know a fear, not for one’s safety, but of the spectacle of intelligent people giving themselves over to a rapture of murderous credulity. It was as though the absence of real evidence was itself a release from the burdens of this world; in love with the invisible, they moved behind their priests, closer to that mystical communion which is anarchy and is called God.

Evidence, in contrast, is effort; leaping to conclusions is a wonderful pleasure, and for a while there was a highly charged joy in Salem, for now that they could see through everything to the frightful plot that was daily being laid bare in court sessions, their days, formerly so eventless and long, were swallowed up in hourly revelations, news, surprises. The Crucible is less a polemic than it might have been had it not been filled with wonder at the protean imagination of man.

The Crucible straddles two different worlds to make them one, but it is not history in the usual sense of the word, but a moral, political and psychological construct that floats on the fluid emotions of both eras. As a commercial entertainment the play failed [it opened in 1953]. To start with there was the title: nobody knew what a crucible was. Most of the critics, as sometimes does happen, never caught on to the play’s ironical substructure, and the ones who did were nervous about validating a work that was so unkind to the same sanctified procedural principles as underlay the hunt for reds. Some old acquaintances gave me distant nods in the theatre lobby on opening night, and even without air-conditioning the house was cool. There was also a problem with the temperature of the production.

The director, Jed Harris, a great name in the theatre of the 20s, 30s and 40s, had decided that the play, which he believed a classic, should be staged like a Dutch painting. In Dutch paintings of groups, everyone is always looking front. Unfortunately, on a stage such rigidity can only lead an audience to the exits. Several years after, a gang of young actors, setting up chairs in the ballroom of the McAlpin Hotel, fired up the audience, convinced the critics, and the play at last took off and soon found its place. There were cheering reviews but by then Senator McCarthy was dead. The public fever on whose heatwaves he had spread his wings had subsided.

The Crucible is my most-produced play. It seems to be one of the few surviving shards of the so-called McCarthy period. And it is part of the play’s history that, to people in so many parts of the world, its story seems to be their own. I used to think, half seriously, that you could tell when a dictator was about to take power, or had been overthrown, in a Latin American country, if The Crucible was suddenly being produced in that country.

The result of it all is that I have come, rather reluctantly, to respect delusion, not least of all my own. There are no passions quite as hot and pleasurable as those of the deluded. Compared to the bliss of delusion, its vivid colours, blazing lights, explosions, whistles and liberating joys, the search for evidence is a deadly bore. My heart was with the left. if only because the right hated me enough to want to kill me, as the Germans amply proved. And now, the most blatant and most foul anti-semitism is in Russia, leaving people like me filled not so much with surprise as a kind of wonder at the incredible amount of hope there once was, and how it disappeared and whether in time it will ever come again, attached, no doubt, to some new illusion.

There is hardly a week that passes when I don’t ask the unanswerable question: what am I now convinced of that will turn out to be ridiculous? And yet one can’t forever stand on the shore; at some point, filled with indecision, scepticism, reservation and doubt, you either jump in or concede that life is forever elsewhere. Which, I dare say, was one of the major impulses behind the decision to attempt The Crucible.

Salem village, that pious, devout settlement at the edge of white civilisation, had displayed – three centuries before the Russo-American rivalry and the issues it raised – what can only be called a built-in pestilence in the human mind; a fatality forever awaiting the right conditions for its always unique, forever unprecedented outbreak of distrust, alarm, suspicion and murder. And for people wherever the play is performed on any of the five continents, there is always a certain amazement that the same terror that is happening to them or that is threatening them, has happened before to others. It is all very strange. But then, the Devil is known to lure people into forgetting what it is vital for them to remember – how else could his endless reappearances always come as such a marvellous surprise?

Shaheryar Ali

I was just surfing the blogsphere, when i came across this very good progressive blog by the name of “Bradistan calling Archives”.It contained a post on a Moslem Gay Poet. Ifti Nasim, who is a life long anti war and anti imperialist activist. He as one can understand, had to wage a existential battle against religious orthodoxy and cultural bigotry which plagues Moslem societies.

These men are now the rare creed of “radical subversives” who are increasingly becoming an endangered specie in Moslem world.

Ifti Naseem , must be called a “cultural Hero”, because if ever a Modern Progressive Culture developed in the moslem world , he will be hailed as a hero. He comes from the Pakistani city “Faisalabad”. A city which was robbed of its soul, identity and being by re-naming it after fundamentalist King of Saudi Arabia, King Faisal.

Naseem was aware of what Michel Foucault calls the “absolute difference”, and he never tried to hide it. He spent time with the Eunuchs in Pakistan as a young boy. Associating with “Hijras”, the local Eunuch and cross dressers, is considered an ultimate insult for Pakistani males. When he went to meet the greatest of the Urdu writers, Quratulain Haider, he was wearing a lipstick.

This is celebrating the difference, which is the only way to make non-fascist societies where difference is celebrated not killed in name of conformity.

I can re-call some thing from Foucault, which perhaps depicts the similar dilemma, why some one needs to assert  his or her absolute “difference”

“But there is another kind of loneliness which is terrible to endure.”
“He paused.
“And that is the loneliness of seeing a different world from that of the people around you. Their lives remain remote from yours. You can see the gulf and they can’t. You live among them. They walk on earth. You walk on glass. They reassure themselves with conformity, with carefully constructed resemblances. You are masked, aware of your absolute difference. That’s why I always live in the bars — les lieux de drague — simply to be among the others who were like me.”

It was this which took Naseem to the Hijras, the Eunchs. Naseem lives in USA, but he is not happy, its not the USA he came to. The naked imperialism of USA haunts him, and he does not remain silent. This moving poems tells us how pure the heart of this moslem “fag” is:

The Iraqi Children

you wanted a villain
so you got him
you wanted to create a monster
so you did
life is not a Hollywood movie
and the desert was not a backdrop
of a studio
Armed forces were not the extras
(They are now suffering from the desert storm syndrome)
there were no props and cuts
Baghdad was not a movie set
Where the real bombs were dropped
Did you ever go back to see if the splinter
Of bomb had licked the life of a civilian
or a child.
what do you care you just wanted to show
your military superiority
so you did.
A little country smaller than your toe has
Kicked you so hard that you have to invite the whole world To attack her.
Was it an experiment of a new weapon?
Baghdad is a not laboratory. Baghdad is a history.
The economic embargo is the biggest racist notion.
I have ever seen in the modern history.
Iraqi children are drinking milk and eating food
Laced with your arsenic.
You have sown a crop of hatred and I am afraid
When it is going to be the harvest time.

The hell which is being the “other” both in USA for being Moslem and Gay, and also being the “other” in Pakistan for being a Progressive and a Gay, is a  dual hell, Naseem’s poem expresses this pain, when he talks about his “otherness” in USA. A poem that touches ones heart.

Why the Children did not Knock on My door

There was no knock at the door
My cats were waiting in the foyer,
Listening to the steps passing by.
Children were knocking at door
of the apartment in front of  mine.
“Trick or treat. Trick or treat”
My money jar full of quarters
looked so empty.
What happened? Who played
These dirty tricks on me?
Thirty one year as a law abiding citizen
I am still a foreigner. Foreigner
With a crude face and features of
a terrorist. My color two shade
Darker than an average white man
Is not accepted anymore.
My café ole color, once I was so proud of,
Is a guilt trip for me now.
My ethnicity has become a crime.
Mean streets of Chicago have become meaner.
“Go back to your country. Go back to your country.”
They yell at me.
And I am a citizen of USA
with no country.

Airports, train stations, shopping malls, schools,
Hospitals wherever I go, I am watched and scrutinized.
I yearn for the freedom I came here for.
Right now I am worst than a slave.
I am tired. I am tired. I feel like Rosa Park
and there is no bus for me.
Because I am not only two shade darker
than an average white man
But I am also a Muslim

Ifti Naseem has no country, just like a Palestanian, becase he is a Moslem, Gay and Progressive. He is the “other” in USA because he is a Muslim and he is an insult in Islamic Republic of Pakistan because , to quote him “God made me Gay so—-“

Ifti Naseem is a Cultural Hero, he is pure and honest , he is more brave than any male chavunist will ever be, he is living a dual hell, and he is proud of it.

The Bradistan entery can be reached here

http://bradistancalling.blogspot.com/2007/07/coz-allah-made-me-gay-ifti-nasim-editor.html

A particularly beautiful Ghazal can be reached here, for those who enjoy the traditional ursu poetry

http://www.kamli.com/poetry/poetry_detail.asp?poetry=412&poet_id=59&title=Taq%20par%20jazwan%20may%20lipti%20duaenrah%20gayin