Derawar Fort Panorama

Wednesday  8th March 2017

Allama Iqbal  – A talk on his life and work by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

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Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal (1877–1938) is now revered – and best known – as a poet, but his philosophy and his political ideas, first as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council and later as president of the All India Muslim League brought him fame and also very considerable influence. Though he had believed in the notion of pan-Islamic nationhood, he came to think that the only way for Indian Muslims to be able to live according to the tenets of Islam was in a Muslim state. For this reason he is regarded by some as the first proponent of the two-nation theory in support of what would ultimately become Pakistan, and he is often referred to as ‘the spiritual father of Pakistan’. His writings, speeches, and ideas played a crucial role in the development of the Muslim League, and he was both a supporter of, and an influence upon, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. However, as Bishop Michael said, it is because Iqbal has become the main ideologue of Pakistan,that it is important for us, in this 70th year of independence, to listen carefully to the whole of his thought rather than merely to what has become popular.

Bishop Michael has long studied Iqbal’s philosophical, theological and literary work. He outlined the life of Allama Iqbal and discussed the development of his philosophical ideas and how these influenced his religious and political thoughts. He concentrated on to Iqbal’s Persian and Urdu poetry and its engagement with the nature of the self and of spiritual knowledge, with his assessment of other traditions and of perceptions of truth in them, as well as the renewal and reform of his own tradition for which he worked ceaselessly.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was Bishop of Rochester from 1994–2009. He has been Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan, and General Secretary of CMS, and a member of the House of Lords.  Having read Economics, Sociology and Islamic History in Karachi, he went on to read Theology at Cambridge, and did further research at Oxford, Cambridge and elsewhere. His interests have led him to study in several fields, including comparative literature and comparative philosophy of religion. He has taught at colleges and universities in the UK and Pakistan, and been a visiting lecturer in Canada, the USA, Australia, Uganda and Egypt. He is the author of 13 books and of numerous articles, many of which focus on the relationship of different faiths, particularly between Christianity and Islam; and he has long experience of Christian-Muslim dialogue at Al-Azhar, the Iqbal academy and the Holy City of Qom.


Thursday, 23rd February, 2017

Abdul Sattar Edhi
A talk, with personal recollections, by Peter Oborne

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‘I have met presidents, prime ministers and reigning monarchs. But until meeting Abdul Sattar Edhi, I had never met a saint. Within moments of shaking hands, I knew I was in the presence of moral and spiritual greatness.’  These are Peter Oborne’s words – and also the views of millions of Pakistanis. No Pakistani since Jinnah has commanded the same reverence.

Edhi’s life was legendary long before he died. Born in British India, he moved to Pakistan six days after it was formed in August 1947. Soon after, he set up a simple pharmacy offering drugs and basic medical care, regardless of people’s ability to pay, next to his family home in Jodia bazaar. The area is still the headquarters of the Edhi Foundation; it is run out of a ramshackle building where he lived to the end of his days, in the austerity that was the hallmark of his life. The Foundation now owns and runs Pakistan’s largest ambulance service, as well as nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, maternity wards, morgues, homes for the elderly, and women’s shelters, along with rehabilitation centres. Since its inception, it has rescued more than 20,000 abandoned babies, rehabilitated some 50,000 orphans and has trained more than 40,000 nurses. Its guiding principle, based on Edhi’s determination to ignore considerations of creed, cast or sect, is that no one is ever turned anyone away. Once asked why he was prepared to help Christians and Hindus alike, Edhi replied, ‘because my ambulance is more Muslim than you’.

Peter Oborne told us how he met Mr Edhi, and what he discovered about him through his many conversations, and what he believes Edhi stood for. As he concluded, ‘The story of Mr Edhi coincides with the history of the Pakistan state. More than any other living figure, he articulates Jinnah’s vision of a country which, while based on Islam, nevertheless offers a welcome for people of all faiths and sects.’

Peter Oborne, the well-known journalist and commentator, is particularly interested in politics, Pakistan, and cricket. (His talk on a combination of these last two subjects was one of our liveliest evenings of 2014.) He has long been an admirer of Edhi, and in 2008 interviewed him for a major article in The Daily Telegraph, and then made a film about Edhi’s work for Channel 4 in 2011. He was the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph from 2010–15, and has since then written a weekly column for The Daily Mail. He has reported for Channel 4’s Dispatches and Unreported World and is a regular on BBC programmes Any Questions and Question Time.


Tuesday, 24th January 2017

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: his life and legacy – a talk by Professor Iftikhar Malik and Syed Mahmood Masood, Sir Syed’s direct descendant

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2017 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the great founding fathers of Pakistan, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

Mahmood Masood began the evening by telling us where he himself fitted into the family of his great-great-grandfather, Sir Syed. He outlined the major contributions that Sir Syed made to Pakistan, and also traced Sir Syed’s influence on his son, Justice Syed Mahmood, who was the first Muslim High Court Judge under the British Raj, and his grandson, Sir Syed Ross Masood, who was also a great educationalist and became a distinguished Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

Professor Malik then traced Sir Syed’s pioneering, profoundly influential ideas and reviewed his outstanding achievements.

Sir Syed was born into the nobility of Delhi and educated within the Mughal court, but went on to serve the East India Company and become a lawyer and judge. He developed an admiration for Western-style education and, despite being a devout Muslim, began to recognize the disadvantages that traditional dogma and religious orthodoxy were imposing on the Muslims of India. He argued instead that the Qur’an rested on an appreciation of reason and natural law, making scientific inquiry important to being a good Muslim. So firmly held were his views that he remained undaunted when his ideas were severely rejected by Muslim clergy, and he intensified his work, founding successful modern schools and universities, most famously at Aligarh.

Not only was he thus the founder of what we would now term Islamic Modernism, but  Sir Syed also emerged as a protagonist of Urdu as the symbol of Muslim heritage and the natural language of the Muslim community. Thus he is often described as the progenitor of the ‘two-nation’ theory – the ideological foundation of what became the Pakistan Movement which was to have such a strong influence on the Quaid.

Professor Iftikhar Malik, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, teaches International History at Bath Spa University. He was the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, for five years and has been a visiting faculty member at universities in Barcelona, Berkeley, New York, Brussels, Koblenz, Athens and Helsinki. His chief areas of research are Asian intellectual history and politics with special reference to Modern South and South-west Asia, the British Empire, Muslim communities in the West, and the US/Western-Muslim world relationship. He is author of a great many books and scholarly papers, and has given lectures and presented papers at academic institutions throughout Europe. His most recent book Muslims and Western Europe in the Modern Era: Contemporary Debates in Historical Perspective, will be published in London by Bloomsbury in 2018.

Syed Mahmood Masood, was born soon after partition in Karachi, and from an early age experienced at first hand ‘the inescapable appreciation of the wide spread reverence that Pakistani’s of all backgrounds held for his great-great- grandfather’. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and practised in Pakistan, followed by a career change in his late twenties which subsequently afforded him and his family the privilege of living in nine different countries and twelve cities over a thirty four year period. He has recently retired and lives in London.


Wednesday,  14 December  2016

Architectural Jewels of Pakistan – from Sind to the Hunza Valley

An illustrated talk by Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi

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This talk ranged in time from the beginning of the second millennium  to the nineteenth century, and spanned the geographic breadth of Pakistan, Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi  explained the whens, whys and hows of many of Pakistan’s greatest architectural gems, focusing on palaces and tombs and other funerary spaces.

Dr Chida-Razvi presented her talk as a series of case studies, describing the architecture and, almost more importantly, explaining the context in which it came into being. While Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim heritage took centre stage, she also include buildings and sites created by, and for, other religious groups and peoples. Thus she  encompassed monuments from the fabulous necropolis of Makli Hill to the grand Muslim mausoleums commemorating a single saint or ruler, and explored the range of palatial residences from those built for the Shamanistic rulers in the Hunza Valley to those of the Sultanates and Mughals.

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi is a Research Associate in the Department of the History of Art at SOAS, and Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture. She is a specialist on the art, architecture and material culture of Mughal South Asia and has lectured extensively on Islamic and Indo-Islamic Art at SOAS, University of London, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the University of Oxford, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Her publications include contributions to books and articles on European views of the Mughal Empire, urbanism in Mughal Lahore, aspects of Mughal painting and architecture, and the links between architecture and power. She is currently writing a book on the patronage and production of the Mughal mausoleum of Emperor Jahangir.

Many of the superb photographs that illustrated Dr Chida-Razvi’s talk were taken by Sohail Azhar. Sohail set up TravelPak in 2004 in order to put Pakistan back on the world-wide tourist map. As a keen trekker, he began by arranging treks but soon realised that there was so much more to offer and now organizes specialist archaeological, architectural and religious tours, as well as more general historical and cultural tours across the length and breadth of country. His penetrating eye for telling detail as well as for the perfect panorama is obvious in his photographs – though he maintains any success he has is owed to Pakistan being a dream location for any photographer.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Ruddy on the Frontier: the young Rudyard Kipling in the Punjab 1881-1885 – An illustrated talk by Charles Allen

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Based on his much-acclaimed biography of Rudyard Kipling, Charles Allen will tell us the story of how ‘young Ruddy’ transformed himself into Rudyard, the most celebrated writer of the 1890s. (Kipling received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907; he was the first English-language writer to do so and, at 42, still the youngest ever to win it.) Kipling was born in Bombay, but after an unhappy childhood in England, returned to the subcontinent, to Lahore, where Allen’s great-grandfather gave the 16-year-old Kipling his first job as assistant editor of the Civil and Military Gazette. He was a sahib, inevitably, but as Allen reveals, one who did not belong to the class of those who administered the Empire, men whom he criticised, often fiercely and sometimes unfairly. He had the ability to put himself sympathetically alongside all manner of men and women and to find in them material for stories. He came to know an India scarcely touched by the British Empire – his night-walks, for example, took him into the depths of Lahore’s inner city where few Europeans ventured, and in his Masonic Lodge he found himself ‘on neutral territory, where Indians and English met as equals’. As Charles Allen says, ‘India was where Rudyard Kipling was happiest, where he learned his craft, where he rediscovered himself through writing and came of age as a writer. India made him.’

Charles Allen is a well-known writer, and popular historian and broadcaster, much of whose work focuses on the British Raj and the Indian subcontinent. He was born in British India where several generations of his family had served under the British Raj. He first met with public success through his involvement with the BBC’s history series Plain Tales from the Raj, which became a best-selling book, and has since written over 20 further books. His biographical study of Kipling, Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1900, was described by reviewers as ‘brilliantly insightful’ and ‘a vivid and fully-rounded picture’. Most recently he was key to BBC2’s documentary earlier this year, Kipling’s Indian Adventure, much of which was set in Lahore.


Tuesday 18 October, 2016

My Life in Cricket – a talk by Ehsan Mani

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Ehsan Mani, who represented Pakistan at the International Cricket Council, and then became President and Chairman of the International Cricket Council, talked about his life in cricket. He explained how Pakistan became a member of the ICC following partition, and how he personally became so immersed in it. He discuseds some of the challenges he faced as the only Pakistani to chair the ICC in the 107 years since it was formed. One of the toughest of these was India’s refusal to play in the ICC T20 Events. In hindsight, this proved to be ironic, as today India hosts the largest and most successful T20 tournament in the world. He outlined the process of transforming the ICC from an organisation run by the MCC with no financial resources to a multimillion-dollar organisation and an independent body. He looked at the issues that Pakistan cricket faced at the international level and, in doing so, touched on the personalities, the problems and the pleasures that he encountered. He rounded up by looking back at cricket in Pakistan since he retired as President of the ICC.

Ehsan Mani was President and Chairman of the International Cricket Council from 2003 to 2006; previously he had represented Pakistan at the ICC between 1989 and 2002. He was also Chairman of the ICC Finance and Marketing Committee form 1996to 2002 when he became Vice-President. Having been educated in Rawalpindi and Lahore, he qualified as an accountant in the UK and had a distinguished career in the city of London, serving as a director of two banks, and a number of other companies, for over 25 years. He has also been a co-opted member of the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Inspection Commission to review and report on WAPDA and PIA. He sits on the boards of a great many notable trusts and charities, in both Pakistan and the United Kingdom.


Wednesday 21 September, 2016

The history, culture and importance of plants – from the Qur’an and other early Islamic texts – An illustrated talk by Dr Shahina Ghazanfar, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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With particular reference to the plants and flowers of Arabia mentioned in the Qur’an and Haddith, Dr Shahina Ghazanfar explained how the power of plants can preserve history and culture, and thus how important it is to conserve these plants. She traced the contribution made by botanic gardens, the plant hunters and collectors of south-west Asia, and flora writers over the centuries to our knowledge and understanding of those plants, and demonstrated how this knowledge is still extremely useful – sometimes vital – as well as fascinating to us today.

Shahina A. Ghazanfar graduated from Kinnaird College and did her post-graduate studies at the Punjab University, Lahore, and at Cambridge University, UK at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. She has a deep interest in plants that are of medicinal or economic importance in Arabia, and has spent many years in studying and researching those of the Middle East – many of which are also native to Pakistan. She is the author of books that include a Flora of Iraq, and Handbook of Arabian Medicinal Plants.


Wednesday 24 August 2016

Travels through Central Asia to Pakistan – An illustrated talk by General Charles Vyvyan

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In 2015 Charles Vyvyan travelled on horseback and jeep through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, across the Chinese border to Kashgar, then over the Khunjerab Pass down into Gilgit and Chitral, in Pakistan. This was the furtherance of his long-held fascination with Central Asia and with the campaigns of Alexander the Great. During his career in the British Army he was able to serve in Oman with the Sultan’s Armed Forces and to travel through Asia Minor, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and subsequently in Uzbekistan, becoming more intrigued with the area each time.

As Charles says, there can be no doubt that Central Asia is of increasing significance in current geo-politics. China is on the move across the region and into the Middle East with its new ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative which will see roads and railways extending from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, with ports and entrepots in strategic locations along the way – and with significant investments to support its ambitions. Both Pakistan, where China is directing considerable investment, and the UK for more strategic reasons, need to gain a renewed familiarity with the region. In this illustrated talk about his travels in Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang, Charles hopes to convey the nature of the landscapes, the people, their history and their aspirations, and in so doing, to further a better understanding of this complex, captivating region.

Major General Charles Vyvyan CB CBE MA MSc studied Modern History at Oxford; he then joined the British Army and was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets. He subsequently spent 35 years in a variety of staff, command, and operational appointments, completing his career as Defence Attaché in the British Embassy in Washington DC and Head of the British Defence Staff throughout the USA. Since retiring from the Army in 2000, he has worked as chairman of three companies which he helped to establish; and he has combined a commitment to a variety of voluntary organisations with his role as a strategic adviser on political risk to a number of UK and US companies.


Thursday, 20 July 2016

Pakistani food and how I learned to cook it – A talk by Irfan Husain

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Primarily known for his pithy columns on an encyclopaedic range of subjects for a variety of publications, Irfan Husain talked about his experiences and adventures in learning about, and learning to cook, Pakistani food. It was when he began to spend over half the year in England, about 13 years ago, that he found he missed the authentic, home-cooked dishes of Pakistan so much that he decided to teach himself how to cook them.

The more he cooked, the more he discovered about the origins and history of Pakistani cuisine. He explained the ways in which that cuisine has been shaped and influenced: the effect, for example, that Central Asia has had on barbecued food, especially along the north-west frontier, the contribution made by the families from Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad – the centres of gastronomic excellence in undivided India – who brought with them their culinary traditions, and the popularity of the varieties of street food that also crossed the new border after 1947. Irfan also talked about the practical side of cooking – about his own trials and triumphs, and gave advice about the musts and the shortcuts.

Irfan Husain has been writing for publications around the world for over three decades, having also had a distinguished career in the Pakistan civil service and then run a private university. He is the author of the award-winning book, Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West (2011) and is often invited to comment on current affairs by the BBC, the Voice of America and National Public Radio. He has long had a serious interest in the culinary arts and this has evolved into a bi-monthly column for Dawn, Pakistan’s most-respected, biggest-selling English-language newspaper.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Pakistan Society’s Annual General Meeting

Time: 6.00pm.
Venue: High Commission for Pakistan, 36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 8JN.
Admission: This event is open to Members of The Pakistan Society only.
RSVP: Please register your attendance for security and catering purposes.
Email: info@thepakistansociety.org.uk    Mobile: 07427 500 377


Thursday, 18 February 2016

The British Encounter with Sindh – An illustrated talk by Rosemary Raza

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This talk shone a light on one particular area of the British Raj: Sindh. The history of British involvement with Sindh, from their first forays into what was then considered extremely inhospitable territory, through further exploration, then conquest and full-blown annexation, was the backbone of Rosemary Raza’s talk, but she brought the story vividly to life with the extraordinary illustrations she had found. These showed not just momentous events and topography, but a developing interest in architecture, archaeology, arts and crafts, and – most of all – people. Together they created an engrossing record of Sindh in the 19th century. Rosemary Raza revealed how changing political realities and strategic interests influenced the portrayal of Sindh by British artists and, in turn, how the illustrations were shaped by technical advances in illustration, from sketches and watercolours, through prints to photographs and even postcards. Whatever one’s views on the British in the subcontinent, it cannot be denied that had it not been for their obsession with creating records, both written and illustrative, we would have little idea of what Sindh looked like in that seminal era.

Rosemary Raza is a British scholar who spent many years in Pakistan. She returned to Oxford to do a doctorate that led to the publication of her book In Their Own Words: British Women Writers and India 1740–1857, which was an antidote to the misconceptions surrounding the British women of the Raj. She has since continued her particular interest in the British engagement with the subcontinent and in doing so unearthed two centuries of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, many of which appear in her new book Representing Sindh: Images of the British Encounter.


Thursday, 21 January 2016

An exclusive tour of Tate Britain’s display of the work of Anwar Jalal Shemza

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Our visit to Tate Britain to see the work of Anwar Shemza was a real treat. His granddaughter Aphra Shemza, an artist in her own right, talked us through all the paintings of his that were on display, starting with the earliest works. Shemza attended art school in Lahore and was soon recognised as a leading artist and literary figure. He moved to London in 1956 to study at the Slade, where his art underwent a fundamental transformation. He developed his own niche that fused calligraphy and Islamic architecture with Western abstraction.

Aphra began by explaining one of his early works which developed the idea of the interconnectedness of a circle to a cube. His comment written in the painting in Urdu was that one lifetime wasn’t enough to solve this. She explained the Arabic letter ‘Meem’ in his work and what it stood for in Islam.


Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Tribute to Gulgee – An illustrated talk on his life and work by his brother, Professor Colonel Noori Ismaili

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Dr Noori Ismaili brought several of his brother’s paintings to put on display while he spoke. He outlined the development of Gulgee’s work over six decades, showing with many images how his gifts as a portrait painter led to commissions from heads of state, and then how his talent, based on his deep understanding of the traditions of Islamic calligraphy, evolved into a unique form of abstraction. Dr Ismaili also touched on Gulgee’s sculptures, such as his renowned calligraphic lines from the Surah-e-Rehman in Kufic Script and his work in the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. He then showed us a short, moving film of an interview that he had done with Gulgee before his tragic death.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Glimpsed through Gravestones: The British on the North West Frontier – An illustrated talk by Sue Farrington

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Having studied and photographed British memorials in Pakistan for 30 years, Sue Farrington presented a unique view of the history of the British involvement on this border of undivided India. With a presentation using two screens, she showed us gravestones from all corners of the country and entertained us with a wealth of extraordinary, often elucidating, sometimes poignant, information.

Since Sue Farrington first visited Pakistan in 1981, she has repeatedly returned there, criss-crossing the country for her research, and was the Pakistan representative for the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia for 25 years. In 2010 she was awarded an MBE in recognition of her services to British Heritage in Pakistan.


Thursday, 22 October 2015

The history of the Durand Line and its relevance today – A talk by Bijan Omrani

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Bijan Omrani explained how the Afghan/Pakistan (British Indian) frontier evolved and why it has been a source of controversy almost since the line was established in 1893. He looked its difficult history and the various problems faced in the administration and practical governance of the line, and made a convincing case for the need for a lasting political solution, particularly for those who live on either side of the line.

Bijan Omrani is an historian and classicist specialising in the history of Afghanistan and Central Asia. He is Editor of Asian Affairs, the Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, and has published and spoken on various aspects of Afghan and Central Asian history.

Moenjodara Terracotta Figure

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