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Friday, May 17, 2024

Dream of a modern metropolis Lahore: A family struggle

It is my dream to turn Lahore into a model metropolis where no one has to sleep hungry at night together with the fulfillment of basic human needs as enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

June brings memories and emotions as it is the month of my birth. During this period, I usually write about my own journey. Hailing from the first-born generation of Pakistan, we are an important link between the founding fathers and the future generations of Pakistan.

My father, the soldier of the Quaid and Tehreek-e-Pakistan Gold Medallist was born in Ludhiana on July 15, 1920. To celebrate the birth of a male heir, my grandfather built a Haveli in Gul Chaman Gali named after him called: ‘Nazir Manzil’. Little did he know that their eldest son will one day have to fight a battle from the rooftop of this building to save the Muslim neighbourhood from the Hindu mob.

My father Nazir Ahmed Malik joined the Muslim Students Federation (MSF) during his college years at Government College Ludhiana. After graduating, he formally joined the Muslim League and rose to be the Secretary Finance and Vice President of the local chapter. On August 15, 1947 a mob attacked their neighbourhood.

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Originally the Muslim League believed that the boundary of the new land would include their city but after the Radcliffe Award, massacres started in all major cities of Punjab including Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Lahore. Being an astute planner, my father at the age of 27 years, was prepared to defend the neighbourhood with his friends.

From the roof of Nazir Manzil, they opened fire on the Hindu and Sikh zealots who were also armed. A pitched battle took place; eventually the mob had to retreat. Arrest warrants were issued against the defenders but they managed to escape. He was tried in absentia and convicted for murder; ‘head money’ of Rs5000 was also offered for his capture.

After leaving a flourishing watch business in Ludhiana, the family had to start all over again in the new land. While the elders settled in Rawalpindi with the hope of returning to their roots in Kashmir, my father moved to Lahore to start his business.

It is my dream to turn Lahore into a model metropolis where no one has to sleep hungry at night together with the fulfillment of basic human needs as enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

In lieu of ‘Nazir Manzil’ Ludhiana, he was allotted a property in Anarkali for the ownership of which he had to fight several court cases. After a long successful struggle, he succeeded in owning the building which he named ‘Nazir Manzil.’ My journey started from here in 1953. Last year in June I wrote about my struggles in the land of the pure titled: “From Anarkali to 11th Street.”

Compared to Ludhiana, Nazir Manzil Lahore was more vibrant and diverse. My mother added the intellectual flavour into a predominantly business family. The after-dinner discussions were interesting and intense. My uncle (maternal), the progressive writer and poet Dr Saleem Wahid Saleem, talked about socialism and the red revolutions that were taking place while my father, the entrepreneur took pride in the struggle for an honest and dignified living.

Then came the martial law in October 1958, which shook the foundations of the evolving nation. With my father the ‘leauger’, we stood on the Mall near the Kim’s Gun to receive the long march led by the great Muslim League leader Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, but he never made it. Instead he was arrested at Ravi Bridge and taken to the dungeons of Lahore Fort. For his freedom, he signed an agreement with the dictator and retired from active politics.

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My father got disillusioned from the political environment and decided to concentrate on his business. However, progressive writers decided to take on the usurper. Dr Saleem decided to go on a hunger strike outside the Civil Secretariat. Every morning, the family walked from Nazir Manzil to the protest camp nearby, urging him to reconsider his decision but he stuck to his demands. Through false promises and negotiations, his life was saved but Pakistan and its fledgling democracy were damaged beyond repair.

After the 1965 war debacle, demonstrations started against the dictator. Though we were too young to protest but through the proximity of Nazir Manzil we became a part of it. Finally, the bubble burst when the usurper decided to celebrate his decade of progress. There were pitched battles on the Mall between the students and the Police.

Tear Gas and lathi charge was common. Living in Nazir Manzil became difficult though we were very much a part of the protests. Finally, my mother succeeded in convincing my father to move to Shadman. Thank God this time the move was more orderly and no guns were fired, just a few trucks and we were on the ground. Then came the question of Nazir Manzil’s future. My father wanted to form a trust to use part of the income for charitable causes.

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Unfortunately, he died before completing the paperwork. With some effort, I was able to adjust my share in the family inheritance to take ownership of Nazir Manzil, for the purpose of forming a trust as desired and to preserve the legacy of Nazir Manzil. Paperwork has been floated for the creation of A.N Foundation in memory of our remarkable parents (Akhtar, Nazir). We do not know what became of Nazir Manzil in Ludhiana, as a convicted killer/freedom fighter, my father could never visit the city of his birth.

It is my dream to turn Lahore into a model metropolis where no one has to sleep hungry at night together with the fulfillment of basic human needs as enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The crusade that started in Ludhiana will continue at Nazir Manzil Lahore, InshaAllah.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). An expert on mining and energy, currently working on developing clean Coal Technologies for Thar Deposit. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.