Thursday, June 25, 2009

'I am Pakistan'

The best definition of Pakistan which I have found anywhere, was given by the poet Sehba Akhtar (1930-1996): “Pakistan is faith as well as certainty; it is ideology as well as land. In this many-hued world, there is only one way to recognize it: I am Pakistan, and you are Pakistan too.”

We inherit faith from ancestors but we need to find certainty on our own. Likewise, the ideology of Pakistan was handed down to us by Rumi, Attar and Bhittai but we had to acquire a land for it by ourselves. You cannot understand this through any number of debates and discussions unless it comes from within.

Hence again we come upon Simorgh or the collective ego: everyone becoming aware of their individuality at the same time is the Unity sought by genuine Sufis. It is not the otherworldliness of charlatans and hypocrites. It is the oneness of humanity, and Pakistan is the first state in modern history which was founded on this concept.

The poet Sehba Akhtar was the son of Rehmat Ali Rehmat, a contemporary of Agha Hashr Kashmiri. He was born in Sri Nagar, brought up in Amritsar and first visited Karachi with Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to attend a gathering organized by students. Later he settled in this city where a beautiful road and a library are named after him. He is widely known as ‘The Poet of Pakistan’.

Like other celebrities who are being introduced in this series, he was ostracized by the academic circles for saying, “I am Pakistan.”

Next: Sohni Dharti – we all know this national song but who was the man behind it?


  1. Very true he can be termed as Poet of Pakistan, I remember those mushairas' where his loud, rich and emotional voice, in which he recited national songs were used to momentarily charged up the audience but like the academics who ostracized him, the common man were also more interested in the “gul o bulbul“ stuff and his poetry could not find the place which it deserved. I also vividly remember the Waheed Murad Classic Samander in which Sehba Akhter wrote some excellent numbers, “tera mera sathi hey lehrata samander” was a real treat.

  2. Akhtar, you amaze me with your contribution to these discussions - while writing these posts I often count on the fact that you will bring in the points which I have to omit due to limitations of space :). Thanks.

  3. And, Akhtar Sahib, who could beat Sehba Akhtar in delivering "gul-o-bulbul" to the common folk in the true manner of the common folk: "Hayya yoyo"! [Remember that one?]

  4. Khurram Sahib, did you mean IK URAN KHATTOLA!!?

  5. The Story of Seventeen Days

    the remembrance of those seventeen days is unparallel in our history. The names Aziz Bhatti, Sarfraz Rafiqi, Yunus Ahmed, M.M.Alam and Cecil Chowdhary are so embossed in mind that their referral fills the whole consciousness with love and gratitude for them and energizes us.

    I had the honour of meeting Ghazi M.M.Alam in 1993 and had a long, lively and relaxed conversation with him.

    I loved the way this chapter eight starts, builds up and ends with a song that brings awe, shine and mist to eyes all at same time.

  6. Akhtar Sahib, yes, 'Ik Uran Khatola'. I wonder if Sehba was trying to hijack socialism ("lal pari") for SOMEHOW converting it into that Simorgh which was his lifelong quest:

    Woh jiss ki yaad mien kiya hai pyar sabhi say
    Woh jiss kay pyar ki bujhi nah aag kissi say
    Woh jaye mil tuo gaye dil
    Khushi say ho kay deevana..."

    There is a reason why I am seeking double-meaning in his film songs too (would love to explain but I think you are probably on the same tune already).

    Connie, and non-Urdu speaking friends, "lal pari" means "the Red Fairy" and the lines quoted here mean, "She whose remembrance made me fall in love with everyone but the fire of whose love could not be quenched by any. If she is found then my heart can sing in the ecstasy of joy..."

    The movie was a Pak-Iranian version of James Bond, and hence you may be amused to see how Rumi meets Ian Fleming in these lines, lol.

    Compare these with: "From Russia With Love, I fly to you/ But wiser since my goodbye to you/ I've travelled the world, and seen places, faces/ Till I knew that I must return/ From Russia With Love...")

    The plot thickens? :)

    1. Greetings,

      @ Khurram Ali Shafique, I'm amazed to read what you and others share here.

      Thank you for it.

      All good wishes,


  7. Akhtar Sahib, by the way, why dont you write your reminiscences? Maybe on your blog if not in book form due to your other engagements? I would surely love to read your reflections and snippets, the kind you share with us here.

  8. So would I, Akhtar Sahib!

    Also, I really loved the translated phrase from your comment above, Khurram Sahib "...whose remembrance made me fall in love with everyone..." and without yet making any acquaintance with the other references, am wondering if this is a discerning principle for any who is worthy of our attention? (Including poets, prophets and the Deity of our most alive understanding?)

    A second goal might be, perhaps, the disciplined goal of that emphasis of "everyone" above the longing so endlessly for the "one"?

  9. Beautiful translation of Sheba Akhter/Ahmed Rushdi's URAN KHATTOLA from the movie named "James Bond 007 operation Karachi". The Iranian hero driving a convertible and singing this song while doing all sorts of acrobats.

    Khurram Sahib, I always have in mind of writing a novel, its lingering with me as a romance. If you agree to read it, I mind find heart to write knowing that I have one prospective reader! Do you agree?

    1. Greetings,

      @ Akhtar Wasim Dar, I agree!

      All good wishes,


  10. reminds me of another classic which is somewhat related to the central theme here:

    ...teray ishq mein jo bhi dooob gaya ussay duniya ki lehroon sey darna kya...

    Muhammad Ali Shehki a guitar strumming musician and Allan Faqeer a tumbhoora striking mystic, both singing the same tune....

    Jissay darya ka paani jeevan dey..
    ussay darya ki lehron sey darna kya?

    Gehrai mein jitna bhie jaaoon ...
    tujh ko paas mein itna hi paaon...

    teray ishq mein jo bhie doob gaya ...
    usay duniya ki lehron sey darna kya?

    rough translation:

    he who get doused in your love...
    has no reason to fear the tsunamis of the world...

    he who is granted life by the oceans...
    need not fear the river's commontions...

    the deeper I drown...
    you seem nearer to be found...


  11. Dharkan hai Punjaab agar...
    Dil apna Mehraan hai...

    Sooraj hai Sarhad ki Zameen
    Chand Baluchistan hai...

    dil kis ki tareef karay...
    har gosha hai aap haseen...

    (This is so true...As someone who has had the fortune of travelling through some of the remotest areas of Pakistan, I can vouch for this. Some of the wonders on display in Pakistan are unbelievable. Here's a sample:

  12. wow... sehba akhtar was my grandfather, but i never knew him as a poet. the urran khatola song is something my mother would often sing to us, and in fact most of his poetry we knew from plaques up on our walls or such memrobilia. its fascinating to understand it through such profound critique - i am indebted to you, and to keeping my nana's memory alive, although his poetry is self-exemplary enough. i would love to read more of your thoughts.

    i did a report on him while i was working as a journalist, here is the link