Tuesday, 26th June, 2018
The Royal Workshops of Lahore An illustrated talk by Susan StrongeView Details
This talk tells the intriguing story of artistic production in Lahore at the height of its Mughal glory: the exquisite miniatures and manuscripts, the gold-inlaid swords and daggers, the sumptuous carpets, the jewels, the astonishing astrolabes and celestial spheres. In the in the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Mughal emperors travelled regularly to the northern capital of their empire, staying for weeks, months or even years. Court workshops, artists, and the royal library sometimes moved with them from Agra and Delhi, and some of the emperor Akbar’s most famous and beautiful manuscripts, including the history of his reign, the Akbarnama, were written and illustrated in Lahore. At the same time the city had its own luxury industries. Carpets of the highest quality were made for the court, for the elite of the empire and for foreign traders. Families of hereditary craftsmen made highly sophisticated astrolabes and celestial spheres, while others made the swords and daggers for which the city was renowned, or the highly coloured glazed tiles that ornamented imperial structures across the city.
Lahore’s fortunes declined in the political turmoil of the 18th century, until a young Ranjit Singh united Sikh forces behind him and took control of the city in 1799. Two years later he was proclaimed the first Sikh Maharaja of the Punjab. With her extensive knowledge of the period, and access to a vast library of beautiful images, Susan Stronge will describe how, under his patronage, the traditional art and crafts industries of the city were revived, and how Ranjit Singh’s historians consciously evoked the Mughal past in praising the splendour of his court.
Susan Stronge is a Senior Curator in the Asian Department of the V&A Museum, London. Her main interest is Mughal court art of the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and she has published on a wide range of topics ranging from the Mughal art of the book to the jewellery of this period. Her exhibitions include the award-winning Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, and Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection, both held at the V&A. Her books include Painting for the Mughal Emperor (2002), Made for Mughal Emperors (2010), Tipu’s Tigers (2009) and Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection (2015). Her most recent research concentrates on the glazed tile revetments of Lahore and Kashmir made during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Wednesday 9th May 2018
Annual General Meeting
Held at: High Commission for Pakistan, 36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 8JN.
Tuesday, 24th April, 2018
The Langlands School and College in Chitral – A talk by Carey SchofieldView Details
Few people connected with Pakistan have not heard of the Langlands School and College in Chitral. Since 2013 Carey Schofield has been its Principal. It is a not-for-profit independent school high in the Hindu Kush mountains of Northern Pakistan. The school educates about eight hundred pupils (a third of them girls) between the ages of four and eighteen. The pupils include Sunni, Ismaili, Kalash and Christian children, and represent a cross-section of the community, from the families of shahzadas to those of sweepers.
Chitral, a princely state that was only fully absorbed into Pakistan in 1969, is changing rapidly, with the Lowari tunnel making access to the rest of the country quicker and easier than it has ever been. Life is generally becoming more comfortable, with the supply of electricity from the new Golen Gol Power Station, but it is still very hard for the poor. The district has still not recovered from the worst floods, and the worst earthquake in its history, both of which occurred in 2015.
Carey will talk about the pleasures of living in Chitral, and the difficulties of trying to achieve and maintain high educational standards in a poor and remote district. Most people would consider Carey to be a heroine to have taken on the challenges and faced the hazards that such a position involves; she regards it differently. As she says, although she still visits London, she feels that her home is now in Chitral.
Carey Schofield has had a role in education for many years and spent decades as a School Governor in London schools in the private and state sectors. She has been visiting Pakistan since 2004, initially as a writer and journalist. She is the author of Inside the Pakistan Army ( Biteback, 2011). She was a member of the Pakistan Society’s Executive Committee for several years.
Wednesday, 4th April, 2018
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III: A Muslim Leader of the Twentieth Century – An illustrated talk by Dr Wafi Momin
View Details Although Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (1877–1957), is perhaps most widely known as the 48th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, his highly distinguished and multi-faceted public career bears witness to his services for all Muslims and, indeed, for the world at large. Born in Karachi on 2nd November 1877, it was apparent that even as a young man he was gifted with the qualities of a statesman and leader. Sir Aga Khan’s efforts towards the promotion of Muslim interests in India, and elsewhere, are legendary. He led his fellow-believers in politics, education, social reform and other arenas. He was one of the founders and then became the first president of the All-India Muslim League. He played a critical role in the creation of Aligarh Muslim University. In times of war and religious conflict, he actively championed the cause of peace and advocated communal harmony. His innate and deep concern for the betterment of human condition is best reflected in his election as President of the League of Nations in 1937. For the Ismailis, he was more than a spiritual leader; he guided his followers in such wide-ranging spheres as social welfare, education, economic matters, as well as in religio-ethical concerns. Perhaps, the most salient feature of his legacy as a leader of the Ismaili community was to restructure it along modern lines, preparing his followers to cope with the challenges of a new era. By weaving together the many and different threads of Sir Aga Khan’s life and career, Dr Momin showed just how important and influential a Muslim leader he was during the twentieth century and how his legacy lives on in his successor. Dr Wafi Momin holds a doctorate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. His research interests include Islam and the interaction of religious ideas in South Asia. He is currently Head of Ismaili Special Collections Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and in this role he has the overall responsibility for the Institute’s collections of special materials, their development and preservation, as well as for conceptualizing and overseeing research projects and educational activities pertaining to these materials. In addition, he teaches within the Institute’s educational programmes, dealing especially with the topics of Ismaili history, and Islam and Muslims in South Asia.
Although Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (1877–1957), is perhaps most widely known as the 48th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, his highly distinguished and multi-faceted public career bears witness to his services for all Muslims and, indeed, for the world at large.
Born in Karachi on 2nd November 1877, it was apparent that even as a young man he was gifted with the qualities of a statesman and leader. Sir Aga Khan’s efforts towards the promotion of Muslim interests in India, and elsewhere, are legendary. He led his fellow-believers in politics, education, social reform and other arenas. He was one of the founders and then became the first president of the All-India Muslim League. He played a critical role in the creation of Aligarh Muslim University. In times of war and religious conflict, he actively championed the cause of peace and advocated communal harmony. His innate and deep concern for the betterment of human condition is best reflected in his election as President of the League of Nations in 1937.
For the Ismailis, he was more than a spiritual leader; he guided his followers in such wide-ranging spheres as social welfare, education, economic matters, as well as in religio-ethical concerns. Perhaps, the most salient feature of his legacy as a leader of the Ismaili community was to restructure it along modern lines, preparing his followers to cope with the challenges of a new era.
By weaving together the many and different threads of Sir Aga Khan’s life and career, Dr Momin showed just how important and influential a Muslim leader he was during the twentieth century and how his legacy lives on in his successor.
Dr Wafi Momin holds a doctorate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. His research interests include Islam and the interaction of religious ideas in South Asia. He is currently Head of Ismaili Special Collections Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and in this role he has the overall responsibility for the Institute’s collections of special materials, their development and preservation, as well as for conceptualizing and overseeing research projects and educational activities pertaining to these materials. In addition, he teaches within the Institute’s educational programmes, dealing especially with the topics of Ismaili history, and Islam and Muslims in South Asia.
Tuesday, 20 February 2018
The legacies of Sir Ganga Ram: a man ahead of his times – An illustrated talk by Dr Paul FlatherView Details
Sir Ganga Ram (1851–1927) is rightly revered as a great son of the Indian subcontinent and as one of the modern ‘fathers of Lahore’. He can lay claim to many major achievements: he is chiefly known as an engineer who constructed major colleges and hospitals including The Lahore Museum, Aitchison College and the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, and who also devised ways to irrigate vast areas of the Punjab; but in addition he was a reformer who designed a Model Town and promoted the education of girls; a stalwart social supporter of the less fortunate, including child widows, the elderly and the disabled; and a policy-maker who supported industry and harmonious communal relations.
What can we make of such legacies today? In his talk, Paul Flather, who is his great-great grandson, discussed Ganga Ram’s many contributions, focussing on five key strands: agriculture, industry, social wellbeing, education, and, of course, philanthropy. In conclusion, he argued that Ganga Ram must be seen as a man who was ‘ahead of his time’, a modernist, a humanitarian, who lived his life well and to the full, and who continues to speak to our times in the 21st century.
Dr Paul Flather’s own heritage can be tracked back to Lahore. He was sent to school in London, eventually winning a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. Throughout his varied career as a journalist, politician, human rights activist, education manager, and academic, he has never lost his links to the Indian subcontinent. He has published numerous articles and chapters on India, lectured in Delhi and Karachi, helped run an Asian Centre for Democracy Studies. He has chaired the Vicky Noon Educational Foundation for 17 years, overseeing between 4 and 12 awards a year to Pakistani students coming to study at Oxford and Cambridge. He has worked for the BBC, Times Newspapers, New Society, and the New Statesman. He was founding Secretary-General and CEO of the Central European University, helping to found several major Open Society–Soros programmes. He returned to Oxford as Director of International and External affairs, and is currently a Fellow of Mansfield College. In 2000 he was appointed founding Secretary-General of the Europaeum association of leading European universities, and still retains his links with the association.
Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018
The early British High Commission in Pakistan: its role and history – A talk by Professor Ian TalbotView Details
The Pakistan Society was delighted to co-host this event with Bloomsbury Pakistan. It was introduced by Professor Edward Simpson, Director of SOAS South Asia Institute, and chaired by Sir Nicholas Barrington, a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.
The literature on the legacies of Partition for Pakistan has overlooked the history of the creation of diplomatic embassies within the new country. In this talk, Professor Ian Talbot, who has long had a particular interest in Pakistan, recounted the story of Britain’s early High Commissions and the difficulties that they faced. The very first one had to be established in great haste in the weeks leading up to Independence, and the Chancery had to lodged in a leased office in the British Chamber of Commerce building, while what had been the Sindh Collector’s residence became the official Residency.
Professor Talbot examined the roles played by the first four British High Commissioners: Sir Laurence Graffety-Smith (1947-51), Sir Gilbert Laithwaite (1951-4), Sir Alexander Symon (1954-61) and Sir Morrice James (1961-5). As he said, they each brought very different personalities and priorities to the instructions from London. Their task was far from easy: there was always the difficult job of maintaining a fine balancing act between Pakistan and India, and they also had increasingly to compete with the Americans for influence. He looked at their management of the High Commission and its outposts in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Dacca; and analysed the ways in which the diplomatic mission undertook the important tasks of political reporting, mediating in the Kashmir conflict and protecting British interests at times of conflict in what was a formative period in Pakistan history.
Ian Talbot is a Professor of Modern British History at the University of Southampton. He wrote the seminal work, Pakistan: A Modern History, which was first published in 1999, reissued in an expanded form, and is now in its third edition. He was presented with the Pakistan Society Award in 2011 for his many scholarly and sympathetic publications on the country. He is an acknowledged expert on Partition and, in addition to several articles, he co-authored a major study on the subject and its aftermath for Cambridge University Press. He was a speaker at the recent Lahore Literary Festival in London.
Wednesday, 13 December, 2017
St Thomas in Taxila – an illustrated talk by Serena FassView Details
There has long been evidence that St Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, travelled from Jerusalem via Persia to Taxila, as well as to other places in the south of the sub-continent. In her talk, Serena Fass concentrated on the three years in the middle of the 1st century AD when it is said that St Thomas was in Taxila. Here, she explained, he was a guest of the Zoroastrian King Gondolpheres and, among other things, he built a palace for the King.
The plausibility of St Thomas being in Taxila is not the same as absolute proof, but there is more than just tradition to substantiate his presence there, including a 1st-century coin found in the excavations at Taxila, which bears the likeness and name of the King in Aramaic script, the language of Judea. A ‘St Thomas’ cross was discovered in Sirkap, near Taxila, which also dates from the 1st century, and a contemporary manuscript, The Acts of Saint Thomas, discovered in Syria in the early 19th-century, corroborates the story of Thomas’s arrival in Taxila. As the highly-respected historian and broadcaster, Professor Michael Wood, says, ‘this is a literally amazing story.’
Serena Fass has been studying and researching the life and times of Jesus, and the spread of early Christianity, for many years; she is the author of three books on the subject, including her most recent one, In the footsteps of St Thomas, for which she travelled extensively in Pakistan, and for which Michael Wood wrote the introduction.
Thursday, 23rd November, 2017
A special tour of the Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeView Details
We were offered a private tour of this fabulous Grade 1 Victorian building. In brief, the tour included the magnificent, richly decorated Durbar Court, the India Office Council Chamber, the Locarno Suite and the exuberant triple-height grand staircase.
Although the first-ever Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was appointed in March 1782, the first purpose-built Foreign Office was not begun until 1861. The well-known architect George Gilbert Scott was responsible for the overall classical design, in partnership with Matthew Digby Wyatt, the India Office’s Surveyor. Lack of money during post -1945 austerity Britain and distaste for anything Victorian saw the former grandeur reduced to squalor, and many of the fine areas were lost from sight behind false ceilings and plasterboard partitions. In the 1960s, as part of the plans for a new Whitehall, it was decided to demolish Scott’s buildings and to erect new offices on the same site. Fortunately lack of money and public outcry led to the offices being designated as Grade 1 and then to a rolling programme of lavish restoration. After two decades of work, not only have the glorious fine rooms and public spaces been brought back to life but also produced 25% extra usable space – which houses many of the 1,200 staff – for far less than the cost of demolition and rebuilding. It was originally conceived as ‘a kind of national palace or drawing room for the nation’, to impress foreign visitors. It certainly continues to do so.
Wednesday, 18 October, 2017
The End of an Empire – how a handful of people changed the world for ever A talk by Alex von TunzelmannView Details
In August 1947, in one of the defining moments of the 20th century, the sovereign nations of Pakistan and India came into being. Some 400 million people gained independence, and Britain lost four-fifths of its empire. This pivotal, cataclysmic event had been brought about by a tiny number of people. The chief players were Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the formal, highly disciplined politician, the future Quaid-e-Azam; Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery prime minister-to-be; Gandhi, the profoundly influential yet mystical figure; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India without delay.
Alex von Tunzelmann’s bestselling book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire was published to great acclaim ten years ago. To mark another decade in Pakistan’s history, she re-visited the scene and talked about those events and personalities. She conveyed the extreme pressures under which they were all working. She considered the main charges against Mountbatten and whether all the main protagonists were at times guilty of obstinacy, pride, ill-temper and bad judgment. She examined the roles played by Churchill and Attlee and posed the idea that perhaps the mayhem and massacres that accompanied partition were the legacy of decades of chaotic, violent, unresponsive and wilfully divisive British rule.
Alex von Tunzelmann is an historian and screenwriter. Her first book was described by the writer William Dalrymple as ‘Unquestionably the best book I have ever read on the Independence and Partition of India and Pakistan, and pretty close to a flat-out masterpiece.’ Her most recent book is Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary and the Crisis that Shook the World. She has remained deeply interested and involved in Pakistani matters, and took part in the most recent Lahore Literary Festival both in Lahore and in London.
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017
Private view of Jamil Naqsh exhibition at the Pontone Gallery
with a talk by Edward Lucie-Smith
The Pontone Gallery gave us a private view of their exhibition of new works by Jamil Naqsh and an exclusive introductory talk by the art historian and critic Edward Lucie-Smith, who had known Jamil Naqsh and his work for a very long time.
In his words, ‘Jamil Naqsh’s new series of images reaffirms his reputation as a master draughtsman, with a sidelong glance at established Western traditions to which he both does and doesn’t belong.
What Naqsh offered were close-up portraits of beautiful young women, of a type familiar from the romantic dream world of Mughal miniature painting, but enlarged to life-size, or maybe a little beyond that, and presented in warm sepia monochrome.’
Jamil Naqsh is one of the best-known contemporary artists from Pakistan, long famous in his own country, but also well established in international auctions. His work reflects not only the culture of Pakistan, but also that of the whole of the subcontinent, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Recognizable in it are echoes of the Mughal regime, and the calligraphic traditions of his upbringing. He was born in 1939 in Uttar Pradesh, moved to Karachi at Partition, and studied miniature painting with the late Ustad Mohammad Sharif, at the National College of Arts, Lahore. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2009. He now lives and works in London.
Edward Lucie-Smith is an internationally known art critic and historian, and also a published poet, an anthologist and a practicing photographer. He has published more than sixty books about art, chiefly – but not exclusively – about contemporary work. Several of his books on art, including Movements in Art since 1945, Visual Arts of the 20th Century, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Art Today are used as standard texts throughout the world.
For further information, see: www.albemarlegallery.com/artists/jamil-naqsh-figurative
Tuesday, 18 July, 2017
What’s in a name? An illustrated talk on Faiz Ahmad Faiz by his younger daughter, Moneeza Hashmi.View Details
Faiz Ahmed Faiz is – after Allama Iqbal – Pakistan’s most celebrated poet. His work has been translated into a great many languages. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962 and, posthumously, Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, and remains a highly influential figure in Pakistan continuing literary tradition, venerated for his stance on peace and human rights.
He was a scholar of Persian and Arabic, and leading intellectual. After Partition he edited The Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper, but in 1951 he was arrested under the Safety Act and spent four years in prison. Later, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he served with the National Council of the Arts and as principal of Abdullah Haroon College, but when Bhutto was overthrown by Zia Ul-Haq, Faiz was forced into exile in Beirut, Lebanon.
He married Alys George, a British expatriate and convert to Islam, with whom he had two daughters. As the younger one, our speaker, said, “Theirs was a love story which knew no geographical or cultural boundaries and survived tests of separation,jail sentences,trials and exile.”
Moneeza talked about both her parents and what it was like to grow up under their influence, and illustrated her talk with video clips of family life and of the work of the Faiz Foundation Trust in Lahore which continues to promote peace, tolerance and human rights.
Mrs Moneeza Hashmi had a very distinguished career in Pakistan Television, retiring as programme director of 5 channels. She was President of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association for 3 terms, and General Manager International Relations of HUM TV until recently. She is now Creative and Media Head of the KASHF Foundation and, in her commitment to empowering women in Pakistan has represented Pakistan on many international forums, seminars and conferences on the subject. She is the author of a book titled Who Am I? based on is a collection of interviews with role-model women in Pakistan.
Wednesday 12 July, 2017
In Search of the Essence of Mughal Architecture – An illustrated talk by Taimoor KhanView Details
This talk aimed to solve – perhaps for the first time – a centuries-old mystery: what were the design methods used to achieve the sublime beauty of the best known and loved examples of Mughal architecture? Two of these masterpieces, Humayun’s Tomb (1570) in Delhi and the Taj Mahal (1632-43) in Agra, were the focus of this presentation.
Taimoor Khan, an architect specializing in traditional Islamic architecture, outlined the context in which these buildings were created when the emperor Shah Jahan (1628-58) presided over a court that patronised all the arts. One of the greatest Mughal architects who worked for him was Ustad Ahmed Mimar Lahori (originally from Lahore, he eventually settled in Delhi). Taimoor proceeded to explain, with the use of his own many drawings, how the use of geometry was used to achieve the sublime proportions in both buildings.
Maintaining that architecture should be viewed as any other classical art form with a given grammar, vocabulary and concepts of beauty, Taimoor also explained how proportion is the common principle between architecture and music – reminding us of al-Ghazali’s statement that proportion or harmony is the root of all sensorial beauty.
Taimoor Khan trained as an architect at the National College of Arts in Lahore. He gained an MA in South Asian Design and Architecture from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. He is also the founding director of Hast-o-Neest – Institute of Traditional Studies & Arts – in Lahore, which promotes the research and study of traditional art and culture.
Thursday, 29 June, 2017
A private tour of the Royal Military Academy, SandhurstView Details
Fifteen members of the Society were fortunate to be given a private tour of the Royal Military Academy (RMAS) by Major Uqbah Malik, the first-ever Pakistani, as well as the first-ever Muslim military officer, to undertake duties as Platoon Commander there. He himself had passed out of Sandhurst in 2007 with the Sword of Honour, the highest accolade for a cadet.
Major Uqbah welcomed us and explained how and why Sandhurst works in the way that it does. Essentially it is where all officers in the British Army are trained to take on the responsibilities of leading soldiers under their command. The training, which lasts 44 weeks, covers military, practical and academic subjects and is both mentally and physically demanding. Major Uqbah then took us round the various departments and buildings of the Academy. We started in what is now known as the Old College, which was purpose-built for the college in 1812 (though the Academy had been established in 1741); we also saw the Indian Army Memorial Room, the Library and the Royal Memorial Chapel as well as more mundane but essential working and teaching rooms. The tour lasted about two hours and we felt we had been given an excellent overview of the Academy and what it does.
Wednesday 5th April 2017
Annual General Meeting
Held at: High Commission for Pakistan, 36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 8JN.
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Allama Iqbal – A talk on his life and work by Bishop Michael Nazir-AliView Details
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
‘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
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
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 AllenView Details
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 ManiView Details
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, KewView Details
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 VyvyanView Details
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 HusainView Details
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
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: email@example.com Mobile: 07427 500 377
Thursday, 18 February 2016
The British Encounter with Sindh – An illustrated talk by Rosemary RazaView Details
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 ShemzaView Details
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 IsmailiView Details
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 FarringtonView Details
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 OmraniView Details
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.