The feel of old icons in Pakistan

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It was at the invitation of Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA), which organized international seminar on higher education in Barangali summer campus of Peshawar University in July ’08 that I along with some friends could visit Pakistan again. Though it was not without strains. PUTA had sent invitation well in advance, but Pakistani embassy in Delhi dilly dallied in issuing visa to participants. All Pakistan University Teachers organization and PUTA had to hold media conference in Islamabad to force the Pakistan authorities to issue the visas, which were issued just in the nick of time for seminar. Seminar was from 18th to 25th July, but we could reach there by 20th only. This time we traveled by Delhi Lahore bus, a comfortable journey. From Lahore we were taken to Barangali campus in the night journey on a taxi. Apart from participating in seminar on higher education, where common problems like privatization etc. were discussed, mine interest was visiting the some cultural sites like Texla, Panja Sahib, Murrey hill station etc. In the seminar women participation was quite impressive, despite the impression that in NWFP part of Pakistan, Taliban do not allow women participation in social life. Dr. Afridi, President PUTA and Dr. Mukhtar, an archeologist of Peshawar University and a friend since his two three visits to JNU earlier, made excellent arrangements for us to visit Texla museum, also Texla University sites, Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, all these sites in close vicinity. Dr. Mukhtar even managed to show us the Peshawar state Museum, despite being holiday on that particular day of our visit to Peshawar, apart from showing us Peshawar University museum and introducing us to Vice Chancellors of Peshawar University and Govt. Islamia University. The Vice Chancellor of newly established Govt.Islamia University was none else than the grandson of Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan. Every where we were welcomed with warmth and given special attention, even favored than other foreigner visitors. Peshawar University Vice Chancellor Dr. Ajmal Hayat Khan, a well known west Asia scholar remembered his friends like Kuldip Nayar and narrated stories of Bhagat Singh having stayed for months in NWFP for arms training. He also spoke about Shaheed Harikishan’s family in Mardan, a nearby town, whose father Gurdas Ram Talwar was still remembered in the area. Harikisha from Mardan had shot at Punjab Governor in convocation of Punjab University Lahore in 1931 and was executed little after Bhagat Singh’s execution. Bhagat Singh had written about Harikishan’s case in one of his letters. They were together in Lahore jail and Harikishan was inspired by Bhagat Singh.

The most interesting sites for me to visit were Texla University site, Texla Museum, Peshawar Museum—all sites of Buddhist culture and Gandhara art. All the artifacts of Gandhara period are well preserved. Visiting Punja Sahib with the closely seeing the mark of hand of Guru Nanak in flowing water was something which left a very pleasant feeling on all of us. We had langar in Gurdwara even at late afternoon hours. In Abbotabad we could see a taxi with the board of ‘Shimla Akhbar’, we crossed Haripura, name sounding so Indian. Murrey- Shimla road was known in pre partition times and nowadays Murrey is the summer site for Punjabis, it is part of Punjab province in Punjab. Briefly we touched Ayubia another hill stop, name in the memory of former military backed president of Pakistan-Ayub Khan. On return with two days stay in Lahore I was lucky to visit Punjab archives in civil secretariat and take some photos of Anarkali mazar and also of some paintings of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Durbar. A total of 62 paintings of Maharaja’s Durbar are on display here. We visited Shalimar Bagh, Jehangir and Noorjehan’s tombs as well. While Jehangir tomb is well preserved, not so well Noorjehan’s tomb. I could also visit Dyal Singh College and Library and newly established Dyal Singh foundation. Foundation director Dr. Zafar Cheema welcomed us with open arms and he presented foundation publication on Shaheed Bhagat Singh in Gurmukhi. Here are some rare photographs of this visit…….

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