Category Archives: Cafe Black

The 10 best Pakistani political/social parody songs … ever!

10: Saban-Waban Chor: Majid Jahangir and Ismail Tara (1978)


The passionate South Asian music genre of the Qawali reached a peak in popularity among urban Pakistanis in the mid and late 1970s.


Two of the most famous exponents of the genre were Aziz Mian Qawal and the Sabri Brothers.

Over a period of time a rivalry of sorts developed between Aziz Mian and the Sabri Brothers, and a time came when both began to record qawalis mocking each other with taunting lyrics.

Aziz Mian was the wild man of Pakistani Qawali. Long-haired, almost always sloshed on his favourite brand of whisky, and punctuating his qawalis with sudden spoken-word interludes that he would shout out as if he was having an argument with God and the conservative clergy.

Though the Sabri Brothers too came from the same Sufi-music background as Aziz Mian, they were more subdued and harmonious in their approach towards their music.

As crowds in Karachi, Lahore and other major cities of the country flocked to see Aziz Main and the Brothers, they loved their professional rivalry even more.

In 1977, the Brothers released a long Qawali, Peena Weena Chor: O’ Sharabi, Chor De Peena (hey, drunkard, stop drinking), that indirectly taunted Aziz Mian’s obsession with whisky.

Aziz Mian retaliated with an even longer and sarcastic Qawali, Aye Kambakht Tu Nein Pi Hi Nahi (O’ unfortunate soul, you never even drank).

In 1978 the year Pakistan’s state-owned TV channel, PTV, launched Fifty-Fifty – a weekly 30-minute show of comedy skits – one of the show’s initial skits parodied the rivalry between the Brothers and Aziz Mian.


Comedians Majid Jehangir and Sakhi Iqbal (who was still studying at the Karachi University at the time and was a member of a progressive students outfit) played the Sabri Brothers, and Ismail Tara played the long-haired and uninhabited Aziz Mian.


Aziz Mian and the Brothers had taunted each other by using high Sufi symbolism in their respective lyrics. But Jahangir, Sakhi and Tara not only parodied the Qawali styles of the Brothers and Aziz Mian, but also their words by replacing their lyrical Sufi symbolism with mundane issues such as indigestion, quality of soap and fried chicken.

The results were hilarious.

Video | Saban-Waban Chor (1978)



9: No Love and Yes Love: Doctor Aur Billa (1994 and 1995)


During the early and mid-1990s when the modern Pakistani pop scene had well and truly broken out of its ‘underground’ status and went mainstream, there emerged a quirky pop band (from the famous Lahore College of Arts), calledDoctor Aur Billa (Dr and Billa).


Led by Javad Bashir, the band at once began to parody the mainstream themes of the Pakistani pop music scene of the time.

Two of its most famous songs in this respect were 1994’s No Love and its 1995 sequel, Yes Love.

The band consisted of Javad Bashir and also included Faisal Qureshi, Adeel Hashmi, Ahsan Rahim and a number of other guys, all of whom would go on to become established TV comedians, actors, directors, VJs, etc.

At a time when famous pop and rock acts like the Vital Signs, Awaz, Strings, Junoon, Ali Haider, Sajjad Ali, Hadiqa Kayani and numerous others had begun to be courted and pampered by large multinational sponsors and put large sums of money in their videos, Dr. Aur Billa arrived on the scene consciously behaving like poppers but with an almost arrogant DIY attitude.

They self-financed the recording of their songs and made low-budget videos because no multinational sponsor would go near them.

Not that they were subversive in an overtly political sense, they were just impossible to pigeonhole even as funny guys. Because not only were they not behaving like ‘regular comedians’, they were dressing up like 1970s over-the-top hipsters.

In 1994 when a majority of popular Urdu pop songs/videos in the country were about Romeos chasing Juliets, Dr. Aur Billa came up with a song and video called No Love.

It turned the thematic tables by making a woman chase a man! When the video was played on the now defunct NTM (a semi-private TV channel), it became a sudden hit, taking everyone (even the band) by surprise.

When in 1995 some pop groups tried to add more ‘social substance’ into their songs and videos, Dr. Aur Billa perversely released Yes Love in which they turned the haughty and impersonal protagonist of No Love into a helpless, nervous romantic failingly trying to get the attention of the girl he had ignored. Macho had turned into mush.

Both the songs though based on minimalistic compositions, were extremely catchy.

What’s more, as famous pop acts began to hire equally famous fashion designers to update their images and looks, Dr. Aur Billa decided to appear in gaudy 1970s attire designed by the band members themselves from bits and pieces of contemporary shirts, trousers and even from worn-out women’s saris!

Video | No Love (1994)



Video | Yes Love (1995)



8: Chief Saab: Sajjad Ali (1994)


Sajjad Ali began his career as a young semi-classical crooner in the 1980s. But by the early 1990s, he had successfully established himself as a highly talented and famous pop vocalist.


He achieved this with his first pop album in 1993 (Babiya ’93), but it was his second album in 1994 that turned him into one of the biggest selling pop acts of Pakistan.

Though the album was studded with Ali’s trademark pop melodies about the birds and the bees, one song on it, Chief Saab, saw him completely depart from his usual style and lyrics.

The song is about a righteous and cool street toughie of Karachi mocking another (more villainous) toughie in typical Karachi street lingo and slang.

The tune has a hypnotic slow-burn groove and is paced with the Karachi cool dude attitude, but it became controversial when the video of the song hit the TV screens.

The video is cheaply shot at an apartment block in Karachi. Sajjad Ali plays the cool dude trying to cow down three hooligans with his macho and witty lyrics fattened with the city’s twisty street lingo.

Though long hair (on men) had gone out of fashion in the 1980s, for a while they came back into vogue (the world over) in the early 1990s. So, Ali grew his hair long as well and appears in the video with a full stock.

Two theories emerged about the song. The first was that Ali was parodying street hooligans and gangsters that had begun to infest the streets and colleges of Karachi from the 1980s onwards.

The second theory was that Ali was actually addressing a notorious member of the city’s gangster community that was supposedly being patronised by a political party.

Ali suggested that he was simply parodying men who act tough but were normal run-of-the-mill guys. The video would seem to suggest the same in which Ali and the hooligans are seen locked in a tense battle of tough postures only to break down and become ordinary guys who were just interested in making some dance moves in front of the camera.

However, Ali suddenly left Karachi and ended up in Lahore. Some newspapers reported that he had been threatened by the gangster. Ali again denied the news, even when his thick flock of hair suddenly end up alarmingly trimmed.

Video | Chief Saab (1994)



7: Dubai Janey Walley: Bushra Ansari and Majid Jahangir (1979)


In the mid-1970s a number of Pakistanis from working-class backgrounds for the first time began being able to travel to oil-rich Arab countries for work.


By the late 1970s the trend had considerably picked up and more and more Pakistanis were sending back or coming back with the kind of money and consumer goods that were once beyond their reach.

However, as more Pakistanis from small rural areas and the working-classes in the main urban centres tried to make it to cities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, hundreds of fraudulent travel agencies and agents cropped up who would rob the hopeful travellers’ by running away with their savings after issuing them fake visas and passports.

In 1979 such crimes hit a peak and thousands of poor Pakistanis lost their savings in their desire to make big money in the Arab countries. The same year PTV’s comedy show, Fifty-Fifty, ran a song/video about the alarming phenomenon.


The song was sung by Bushra Ansari and Majid Jahangir. In the video, Bushra plays the wife of a lowly paid employee of Karachi’s municipal city government (Ismail Tara) who is walking around his small house (in a shanty town) with a puffed up chess because he has managed to get a visa for Dubai.


The wife sings to him the list of things he must send back for the poor family (TV, fridge, jewellery, etc.), from Dubai.

However, as the husband is strolling about and already acting like a king, his brother (played by Majid Jahangir) comes in. He laments that he (Tara) would not be going to Dubai because his travel agent had been arrested and his visa was a fake.

In the end, Tara suddenly loses his snooty and puffed up posture and complains that now he doesn’t even have his tiny government job.

The composition of the song is based on a famous Pashtu folk tune.

Video | Dubai Janey Wallay (1979)



6: Mr.Faudiay: Awaz (1995)


The 1990s were a time when democratic governments replaced the Zia dictatorship of the 1980s.


But as governments rotated between Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s IJI/PML-N, remnants of the Zia regime still exercised great influence and power within the country’s military, security agencies and the bureaucracy.

The culture of patronage and corruption and that of violence that had begun to develop during the Zia dictatorship mushroomed within Pakistan’s political and social scene of the 1990s.

It reached a peak on the eve of the dismissal of the second Benazir regime in 1996 (on corruption charges by her own President), and the controversial, ‘establishment-backed’ election of the second Nawaz government.

The nouveau-riche phenomenon that the situation generated was often populated by shady seths, politicians and businessmen, who had made quick money through drug and banking scams, fraudulent business deals and through their connections in political parties and military ventures.

Awaz, though a conventional ‘boy-band’, however, managed to successfully parody all this with a jazzy song and video (on their third and last album).

Video | Mr. Fraudiya (1995)



5: Taroo Maroo: Ali Gul Pir (2012)


‘Tarna’ in Urdu slang means lecherous staring and ‘Taroo’ is a guy who does this.


In 2012 entertainer, performing artiste and singer, Ali Gul Pir, decided to satirise the bothersome Taru with a funky hip-hop song and an irreverent video.

The song treats the Taroo as a social parasite with an obsession for staring at women.

He maybe a rickshaw driver, a college student, a restaurant waiter, a small-time hoodlum or a rich man’s son, who stares at women like they were objects deserving to be started at in the most lascivious manner.

The song then goes on to suggest that the Taroo is basically a sociopath who (if he can’t find a woman to stare at), would end up staring everything from aunties, uncles, buildings, babies and even bakris (goats)!

The song and the video hit all the right chords. The composition is carefully crafted and manages to immediately catch ones attention, whereas the video and the words sardonically capture the lecherous absurdities of the Taroos.

Though the song was an immediate hit across the social media, some criticised it for showing the Taroo (played by Ali Gul Pir) lewdly staring at a small girl.

They accused Pir of ‘encouraging paedophilia.’ Of course, this was a rather ridiculous accusation because in the context of the song and the video, he was mocking the starer as a sociopath who would stare at almost anything to meet his obsessed, unethical need to stare.

Video | Taroo Maroo (2012)



4: Soh Lakh Milien Gey: Bushra Ansari (1986)


Though even the top satirists struggled to comment on politics and government during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s (without either being ‘blacklisted’ from state media or even jailed), writer Anwar Maqsood found unique ways to satirise and criticise the Zia government.


One way he used in this respect was to comment on the burgeoning materialism and (with it) the fake displays of piety that had begun to infiltrate deep inside the Pakistani society during the dictatorship.

It was a dictatorship propped up by millions of US dollars and Arab Riyals and Dirhams dished out to conduct the ‘anti-Soviet Afghan Jihad’.

Some of this money began to trickle down, and along with the rise of a ‘black economy’ that it triggered, the chaotic trickle-down also saw a number of Pakistanis suddenly become very rich, very fast (the nouveau-riche).

The tendency also graced the cricket scene, especially in Sharjah where rich Arab sheikhs began pouring in huge sums of money into India-Pakistan games.

In 1986, during an India-Pakistan final in Sharjah when Pakistani batsman, Javed Miandad, hit a last-ball six to win the game, he was showered by millions of Dirhams and gifts by the sheikhs and the Pakistani government.


Anwar Maqsood penned a song satirising the event in which he said that though Miandad got millions of Dirhams, his partner, Tauseef Ahmed (who was on the non-striker’s end), just got eight Dirhams!


This was Maqsood’s tongue-in-cheek take of the lopsided economic prosperity witnessed during the Zia regime.

The song was sung by versatile actress, Bushra Ansari, in the style of famous vocalist and film star, Salma Agha.

It was reported that after the song was aired on state television, Tauseef suddenly realised that he too should get as much money for being there with Javed. He got none.

Video | Soh Lakh Milien Gey (1986)



3: Billo De Ghar: Abrarul Haq (1994); Waderey Ka Beta: Ali Gul Pir (2012)


At the peak of the country’s pop music scene in 1994-95, Abrarul Haq burst onto the scene with an idiosyncratic Punjabi pop tune, Billo De Ghar.


The song that told the tale of a young man hell-bent on meeting a girl (Billo) and in the process is harassed by the cops and assorted moralists, was an instant hit.

However, in late 1995, some Urdu newspapers began quoting a couple of mullahs from Lahore who claimed that the song was actually about a guy who fell in love with a prostitute and wanted to marry her.

Abrar did not respond to the accusations and continued to enjoy his new-found fame.

In 1997 when Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N defeated Benazir Bhutto’s PPP in that year’s election and formed a majority government at the centre, it immediately banned the song from being played on state-owned TV and radio channels.

The Sharif government’s Information Ministry described the song as ‘an attack on the social and moral traditions of the country.’

Interestingly, a group of prostitutes from Lahore’s (in)famous Heera Mandi area told newspapers that even if the song was about a prostitute, the hero of the song wanted to rescue the prostitute from poverty and marry her. ‘Would any mullah ever do that?’ One of the call girls was reported to have asked.

Abrar never clearly explained exactly who Billo really was.

Video | Billo de Ghar (1994)



In 2012, at a time when the once thriving and vibrant Pakistani pop scene had become a distant memory, and the country had slipped into one of its most awkward existentialist crises (due to the rise of extremist violence), emerged a young Sindhi lad with a deliciously funky little ditty called Waderey Ka Beta.


One is still not sure exactly what sort of a reception the song’s author and singer, Ali Gul Pir, was expecting, but it went viral (via YouTube) and soon debates were breaking out on social media about whom or what the song was satirising.


On the surface, the song is a clear parody of the lavish and spoilt lifestyle of the young sons of Sindh’s feudal lords; but on a sub-textual level it also satirises the kind of paranoid repulsion that the urban middle-classes usually feel towards those from semi-rural or rural backgrounds and cultures.

In the scene (in the video) where Pir is bouncing on a sofa between two young ‘Burger’ girls at a party is like him actually celebrating the outlandish behaviour of the feudal’s son at the expense of the city girls’ near-xenophobic horror.

After gaining quick popularity, Pir began being asked by the media to explain whether he was just talking about feudal lords and the antics of their sons or was there more to the song than what met the immediate eye.

Pir suggested that he had used the feudal lord’s son to symbolise a brash and autocratic mind-set that can be found across various sections of society including businessmen, seths and maulvies, and not just among the feudals of Sindh.

Video | Waderay Ka Beta (2012)



2: Laga Rai: Shahzad Roy (2007)


When General Pervaz Musharraf toppled the Nawaz regime and imposed Pakistan’s fourth Martial Law in 1999, his ideological antics actually fitted well with the convolutions of the post-‘96 generation of middle-class Pakistanis.


Musharraf was modern, authoritative, hated the politicians, harboured a contempt for the ‘illiterate masses,’ talked about ‘enlightened moderation’, and yet insisted on nurturing sectarian and Islamist militant organisations whom his military believed would be ‘strategic assets’ against India (in Kashmir), and against an anti-Pakistan government in Afghanistan.

During the early years of his rule many pop musicians happily dished out saccharine-laced and overtly romanticised odes to the armed forces – until Musharraf fired the Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2006 on corruption charges.

The consequential uprising (‘Lawyers Movement’) against the firing of a supposedly ‘clean’ Chief Justice by Musrarraf was like an exemplary chapter from the neo-Marxian ‘Critical Theory’.

One aspect of this theory suggests that the urban middle-classes usually ally themselves with authoritarian regimes.

But after such an alliance brings relative economic benefits to these classes, they then experience a political awakening of sorts in which they want to prosper politically as well.

Usually a demand for democracy becomes their cry.

If one is to understand the ‘Lawyers Movement’ in Pakistan through this theory, then one can suggest that the economic growth experienced by Pakistan’s urban middle-classes under the Musharraf dictatorship eventually turned against the authoritarian regime that had originally triggered it.

But democracy was not quite so cohesive a call by those who now wanted more political participation in the running of the country.

The movement was a hotchpotch of democrats, lawyers, non-militant Islamists, leftist fringe groups and emerging right-wing outfits.

One can say that the overall make-up of the movement was rightist in orientation and not exactly democratic, as such.

Amidst all the turmoil and confusion, emerged a fantastic song and video.

Written and performed by famous pop singer Shahzad Roy, it was called ‘Laga Rai’(Keep at it).

In an era of widespread electronic media and YouTube, it became an immediate hit.

The sharp satirical ditty takes to task the agitating lawyers who are shown involved more in protests and politics than in what they are actually paid to do.

However, taking in its stride the contradictory nature of the movement, the song then goes on to mock the lazy fatalistic nature of the Pakistani masses as well.

Maybe Roy was satirising the extremes that the Pakistani society and polity were displaying: i.e. of overt political agitation counterbalanced by numb political inactivity?

Social disgust and political cynicism expressed through wit and satirical imagery remained to be at the centre of the song and the video. Not bemoaned by Roy as such, but rather used as a weapon to mock the two above-mentioned extremes.

However, though the agitating lawyers, politicians, their supporters, the electronic media and the numb, fatalistic sections of the society were all taken to the cleaners, nowhere to be found in the song and the video was the military.

Yet again it was conveniently left out by a rolling urban middle-class pop protester, given the benevolent benefit of the doubt whereas civilians and their representatives were cynically ridiculed.

Whatever the case, the song turned Roy from being a popular pop tart into becoming a sardonic protest pop icon.

Video | Laga Rai (2007)



1: Aalu Anday: Beygairat Brigade (2011)


In 2011, just when one thought Pakistani pop music had eaten itself up and choked on its own self-indulgences, emerged a band called the‘Beygairat Brigade’ (the Dishonoured Brigade).


The name said it all: It was a tongue-in-cheek take on what is called the ‘gairat brigade’(honour brigade). The band sarcastically embraced a title that the peddlers of ‘qaumi gairat’ (national honour) spit at and/or at those who disagree with the gairat brigade’sconspiratorial rants and an almost xenophobic brand of ‘patriotism.’

In the wee hours of the 17th of October 2011, the Beygairat Brigade (BB) uploaded a video of a song called ‘Aalu Anday’ (Potatoes and Eggs) on YouTube.

It was not just another ‘funny song’ about a guy talking about his mom cooking some potatoes and eggs. Nor was it a ditty toeing the usual lopsided (anti-politics) line taken by the many political spoof shows and social parody songs that have been doing the rounds on popular TV news channels in Pakistan in the last decade or so.

For years one has come to expect everyone from talk show hosts, to their ‘expert guests’ all the way to mainstream pop stars and actors to (as if on cue) roll-out a now much worn-out and self-comforting narrative about the awkward political and social ills besieging Pakistan.

This is how it goes: Politicians are corrupt, America is evil, Indians want to break-up Pakistan, acts of terrorism are either being carried out by US/Indian/Israeli agents or by Pakistanis trained by these agents, or by non-Muslims posing as Muslims, or even if they were Muslims they are not Pakistani and if they are really Pakistanis then they are .. errm … not circumcised.

In other words, the whole wide world (except Saudi Arabia) wants to destroy Islam (and thus Pakistan, which is the ‘bastion of Islam’).

The song and video came down hard on the sacred cows fattened by the self-claimedGairatmands (the honourable patriots). The satirised cows in the song included military dictators, intelligence agencies and jihadists; as well as middle-class morality and right-wing parties like Imran Khan’s PTI, PML-N and Jamat-i-Islami.

With biting satirical irreverence and joyous cynicism, the song, sang the unspoken (or the strategically hidden).

But whereas the band experienced overnight success, it also faced the expected criticism: That they were from the ‘heretical’ Ahmadi sect; that they were on the payroll of foreign agencies; that they were anti-Islam, et al.

One needs to understand well the political discourse in Pakistan at the time to fully appreciate the lyrics that are largely studded with allusions.

It’s easy making fun of politicians (because most of them do not bite back), but the military’s top brass has been one of the sacred cows that the media cannot touch, let alone mock. But the song does that.

So, after lamenting the apathetic and confused state of the so-called ‘moderate’ right-wing politicians, and winking at Imran Khan’s desire to see the ‘chief’ (former ISI chief, Pasha) come in and light up Khan’s political career, the song then gets to what are perhaps the most loaded and boldest lyrics of the whole tune.

In a clean, unadulterated sweep the song wonders about a country where killers like Mumtaz Qadri (who assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer after accusing him of committing blasphemy) are treated as royals; and where Ajmal Kasab (the Pakistani terrorist who took part in the attacks in Mumbai) is a hero; and wheremullahs escape after adorning women’s burqas (like the head cleric of the Lal Masjid); and how noone ever mentions men like the Nobel Prize winning Pakistani scientist Dr. Abdul Salam (just because he belonged to the outlawed Ahmadi sect).

As the song moves on, the singer can’t help but comment on yet another one of our favourite obsessions: the notorious Blackwater.

In a lyric that instead of absolving Blackwater’s many reported misdeeds in the world, the song instead suggests that we shouldn’t be worrying about Blackwater because the terrorist attacks taking place in our mosques, schools, shrines and markets are coming from within.

There is so much more here that doesn’t actually get sung but appears as placards in the video: ‘Nawaz Sharif bye, bye, papa Kiyani no likey you’ (alluding to the schism between the once pro-military Nawaz and the army); ‘Free Judiciary = Hanged PPP’(the so-called free judiciary’s lopsided bias against the Pakistan Peoples Party);‘Tehreek-i-Insaaf = A Good Looking Jamat-i-Islami’ (or how Imran Khan is just a more good-looking fundamentalist); ‘Your money + My pocket = We’re still enemies’ (a taunt at Pakistan posing to be anti-America after pocketing millions of dollars’ worth of aid from the US); ‘Mullah + Military = Ziaul Yuckee’ (the alliance between religious parties and the military that began strengthening during the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq).

Then halfway through the video, as if pre-empting what the ‘gairat brigade’ would be decrying about in this video, one of the band members is seen holding up a placard with the words, ‘This video is sponsored by Zionists.’

However, the joke in this respect turns darker still when at the end, the singer pulls up another placard with the words ‘If you want a bullet through my head, like this video,’scribbled on it.

The song and video attracted a record number of ‘likes’ and views on YouTube and Facebook and even managed to get aired on a number of conventional TV news channels!

The band led by Ali Aftab and Daniyal Aziz became an overnight sensation.

Though they have gone on to record and release three more songs (one of them was banned), they never could turn this success into a more financially satisfying arrangement, and for obvious reasons.

Though the band’s radical politics has continued to give it slots at literary festivals and at seminars, but no multinational sponsor or TV channel is willing to back them financially.

This means the band has to completely self-finance the recording and shooting of its songs and videos.

However, early this year the group finally did get some mainstream recognition (and some much deserved income), when the young chief of the left-liberal Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto, invited Ali Aftab to record a song for Bhutto’s lavish Sindh Festival.

The band was also invited to perform live at the Festival’s opening ceremony. This was the first time that the band managed to actually make some money.

Video | Aalu Anday (2011)



The science of farce

I still remember a conversation I once overheard between two cops standing just outside my grandfather’s office as a teenager in the early 1980s.


The conversation was in Punjabi and went something like this:

First cop: “Pakistan is about to make an atom bomb.”
Second cop: “No, I think we already have one.”
First cop: “Not yet, because I have heard we still do not have the atoms required to make the bomb.”
Second cop: “We do not have atoms?”
First cop: “No, they are on their way from China.”
Second cop: “Yes, China has a lot of atoms, that’s why America is against Pak-China friendship.”
First cop: “Yes, they do not want China to export atoms to Pakistan.”

These were simple police constables trying to talk nuclear physics.

God knows what they thought atoms looked like, but in all probability to them, atoms might have been steely ball bearings that are fitted in a big metallic shell which when dropped from a plane, explodes.

Nevertheless, even though their chatter conformed to the distinct political paranoia of the Cold War era, they remained simple, half-literate men, somewhat endearingly trying to make sense about what the whole ‘atom bum’ hoopla was all about.

However, what was funnier in this respect did not have to do with simple people, but so-called scientists.


Dr. Parvez Hoodbhoy’s book, ‘Islam & Science: Religious Orthodoxy & Battle For Rationality’ (1991) lamented the unscientific thinking being encouraged in Muslim societies.
Dr. Parvez Hoodbhoy’s book, ‘Islam & Science: Religious Orthodoxy & Battle For Rationality’ (1991) lamented the unscientific thinking being encouraged in Muslim societies.


The following episode might have dissolved into history had not Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy reminded us about it in his excellent first book, ‘Islam & Science: Religious orthodoxy and the battle for rationality’ (1990).

In one of the chapters of this lamenting commentary on the fall of ‘universal science’ and rational thought in the annals of scholarship in Muslim countries, Dr. Hoodbhoy tells us how in the mid-1980s millions of rupees were dished out by certain oil-rich Arab countries and the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in Pakistan, to hold lavish seminars in Islamabad dedicated to celebrate the validity of ‘Islamic science.’

Before the late 1970s, Islamic science usually meant the exemplary work produced in the fields of mathematics, geometry, astronomy, chemistry and philosophy by a number of noted Muslim academics and scholars between the eighth and 14th century CE. In other words, it was about universal science practiced by objective men who also happened to be Muslims.


Children climb the statue of famous 9th century Muslim mathematician, Musa Al-Khwarizmi, in the capital of Uzbekistan.
Children climb the statue of famous 9th century Muslim mathematician, Musa Al-Khwarizmi, in the capital of Uzbekistan.


By the late 1970s, however, the whole idea about Islamic science began to disintegrate into utter farce.

It largely began with a brain wave emitting from the oil-rich Saudi monarchy. Suspicious that Western education systems and models were producing free thinkers and secularists (or ideas that could threaten the theocratic basis of the monarchy’s power and hold); and repulsed and alarmed by the growth of revolutionary nationalism and socialism in the Muslim world (in the ’60s and ’70s), the Saudi government began pumping in ‘Petro-Dollars’ in projects designed to supposedly bring contemporary Islamic thought at par with western science.


The idea had a noble ring to it. But alas, it wasn’t put into motion by putting money into schools, colleges and universities in Muslim countries in an attempt to upgrade and modernise their curriculum and teaching standards.


Instead, the big Petro Dollars went into hiring ‘scientists’ whose job it was to generate evidence that ‘secular science and thought’ was inferior to ‘Islamic science.’

As a stream of handpicked Western, Pakistani and Arab scientists and doctors, lured by the promise of big bucks and perks, began making their way into the new-found institutions of ‘Islamic science’ in Saudi Arabia, nobody was quite sure exactly what ‘Islamic science’ really was or meant.

Renowned author and scientist, Ziauddin Sardar, was one of them. In his book ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise,’ Sardar writes he soon bailed out (from Saudi Arabia) after realising that all the Saudis really wanted were ‘cranks masquerading as scientists.’


Well-known scientist and author, Ziauddin Sardar, who was hired in the late 1970s/early 1980s by a Saudi university, but soon bailed out.
Well-known author, Ziauddin Sardar, who was hired in the late 1970s/early 1980s by a Saudi university, but soon bailed out.


The 1976 publication of Maurice Bucaille’s ‘The Bible, Quran and Science’ finally laid out exactly what the new concept of Islamic science would mean.

The book became a sensation in the Muslim world but at the same time left a number of Muslim scientists baffled by what Bucaille was suggesting.

The book is a fascinating read. It claims that various scientific phenomenon discovered by modern Western scientists had already been predicted and explained in the Quran. However, one would sit up and take a little more notice of the claims made by Bucaille had he been a scientist, but he wasn’t.

Maurice Bucaille was a French medical doctor, who in 1973 was appointed as the personal physician of Saudi monarch, King Faisal.

Bucaille’s claims were based not on empirical observation, but rather on his uncritical acceptance of certain musings of some of the most conservative and inflexible ancient Muslim jurists.


Maurice Bucaille.
Maurice Bucaille.

Bucaille faced stern criticism from both Western and Muslim scientists, especially Muslim scientists who accused him of misleading Muslim youth and encouraging them to shun the conventional study of modern sciences just because everything that they needed to know about physics, chemistry, astronomy and biology was supposedly in the Quran.


His critics also suggested that the Quran was primarily a moral guide that actually persuades people to understand God’s world around them, and this can only be done by studying the sciences and philosophy.

Though Bucaille’s book is shaky and on soft ground if and when put against the rigors of conventional empirical science, it set off a somewhat mind-altering change in the thinking of a majority of Muslims.

Impressed by the fantastical claims made by a French Christian doctor, very few Muslims were bothered by the fact that he was on the payroll of the Saudi monarchy, a regime trying to ward off the threat it had faced from various nationalist movements in the Muslim world, and the growing influence of secularism and socialism among the Muslims (between the 1950s and the 1970s).

The idea was that if politics could be ‘Islamised’ (Mauddudi, Qutab, and later, Khomeini), then so could science and (later), economics (banking).

Grudgingly recognising the economic and political advances made by the Jews after World War-II through education and economic initiatives, the Arab world tried to come up with their own notion of advancement.

But this advancement was not really about producing large numbers of highly educated and skilled Muslims, but rather, a populace fed on pulpy feel-good ‘scientific’ twaddle produced by overpaid groups of men calling themselves scientists and economists. And anyway, the new post-Bucaille Muslim mind-set also began labelling the universal sciences as ‘secular science’ invented by Jews to subjugate the Muslims.

Bucaille enthusiasts were also not bothered (rather not aware) about the entirely unoriginal make-up of his theory. Many still believe that proving scientific truths from Holy Books has been the exclusive domain of Muslims.

Before Muslims, certain Hindu and Christian theologians had already laid claim to the practice of claiming that their respective Holy Books held metaphoric prophecies of scientifically proven phenomenon.

They began doing so between the 18th and 19th centuries, whereas Muslims got into the act only in the 20th century.

Johannes Heinrich’s ‘Scientific vindication of Christianity (1887)’ is one example, while Mohan Roy’s ‘Vedic Physics: Scientific Origin of Hinduism’ is another way of observing how this thought has actually evolved from the fantastical claims of the followers of other faiths.



As quasi-secular/progressive ideas in Muslim countries began to wither in the event of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979), and the eruption of jihad in Afghanistan, the idea behind Islamic science being the celebration of the achievements of ancient and modern Muslim scientists was gradually replaced by unsubstantiated and fancy convolutions being defined as science.

So, it was only natural that Pakistan’s military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, heavily influenced and financed by the Saudis, would be the man to green light a seminar of Muslim ‘scientists’ who met in Islamabad in 1986 to unveil the wonders of Islamic science where so-called learned men actually set about discussing things like how to generate energy and electricity from djinns, how to calculate the ‘speed of heaven’, etc.

The seminars may as well have been Star Trek conventions, but were actually promoted as a ‘giant step in the advent of Islamic science.’

The message seemed to be, why read books of science, or enter a lab to understand the many workings of God’s creations – just read the Holy Book. Forget about all those great Muslim scientists of yore, or Abdus Salam, Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Just get in touch with your friendly neighbourhood djinn for all your energy needs.

Such was the babble many Muslim governments in the 1980s were ‘investing’ their money and efforts in while continuing to struggle to up their literacy rates.

This practice sanctified myopia and an unscientific bend of mind in the Muslim world.



Rationalist Islamic scholars have been insisting throughout the 20th century that the Quran is less a book of laws or science, and more an elaborate moral guide for Muslims, in which God has given individuals the freewill to decide for him or herself through exerting their mental faculties and striving to gain more empirical knowledge.

Iranian writer, Vali Reza Nasr, is right to mourn the trend today in which most Muslims are quick to adopt the fruits of universal sciences but simply refuse to assume the rational scientific mind-set that is behind these sciences.

No wonder then, for example, most Pakistanis still don’t have a clue about what the country’s only Nobel Prize winning scientist, Dr Abdus Salam, got the award for, but many are quick to quote from books written by Harun Yahya and some others, explaining how things like the Big Bang and others are endorsed in the Holy Book.


Prolific Turkish author, Harun Yaya, who is also an active exponent of ‘Islamic science’, has a large readership in the Muslim world. Many scientists have accused his theories of having no grounding in empirical knowledge and in established scientifc principles.
Prolific Turkish author, Harun Yaya, who is also an active exponent of ‘Islamic science’, has a large readership in the Muslim world. Many scientists have accused his theories of having no grounding in empirical knowledge and in established scientifc principles.


Though such bosh is thankfully no more a part of the state’s agenda (at least not in Pakistan), one still does come across absurdities in which oddballs manage to use mainstream media and forums to define sheer drivel as science.

But not always are such folk mere cranks. Some ‘respected scientists’ have also been known to take the Bucailleian tradition and fuse it with some post-9/11 conspiratorial claptrap.

Apart from some TV channels actually running shows in which grown-up men go around with meters in their hands to record ‘energy signatures’ of djinns, more disconcerting is the fact that men placed in positions of authority in the higher echelons of the scientific and education community in the country have gone on record to furnish and endorse some bizarre theories in this context.

Critics in this respect suggest that such men actually make a mockery of faith with their claims because scientific truths are not doctrinal and fixed. They are highly evolutionary, mutable and prone to change.

For example, had some Muslim scientists of yore claimed that Newton’s Law of Gravity was already present in the scriptures; they’d have to change their stance after Einstein proved that Newton’s law was flawed.

Would that mean the scriptures were flawed as well?

Recently when a Vice Chancellor of a college in Lahore claimed that the Big Bang Theory was already mentioned in the Holy Book, he conveniently forgot that like most scientific theories, this theory too is not fixed and doctrinal and has been under the microscope of even those who do not reject it.

As scientists continue to dig deeper, the theory may as well collapse and be replaced with another one. What would the Vice Chancellor say then?

Muslim critics of this trend accuse those who claim scientific truths in the scriptures of discouraging Muslims to gain empirical knowledge by going out in the field or testing out their theories in the labs.

They lament that not only is the said trend doing a great disservice to science in the Muslim world, but to the faith as well.

Great Pakistan cricket captains (and then some)

Cricket is perhaps the only sport in which a captain actually does more than just play the game or wear an armband.

Apart from having good, consistent cricketing abilities, he has to also exhibit a penchant for the kind of leadership found in a military general or in a political leader.

Most good cricket captains have also been inspirational and innovative thinkers. In fact, sometimes this quality has taken precedence over cricketing ability, as was demonstrated by one of the finest captains the game has seen in the shape of Mike Brearley, who captained the England side between 1977 and 1979 and then again in 1981.

Brearley, who was at best a mediocre opening batsman, lifted the English side to become the world’s leading Test team between 1977 and 1979.

But this supremacy crumbled after his retirement, so much so that two years later, he was recalled to lead the team again (at the age of 43) half-way through the 1981 Ashes series against the Aussies.


Mike Brearley (left) tosses the ball to fast bowler Bob Willis during the 1981 Ashes series.
Mike Brearley (left) tosses the ball to fast bowler Bob Willis during the 1981 Ashes series.


England were 1-0 down in the series when Brearley was recalled. His presence turned the tables and England went on to win the series 3-1!

A cricket captain has to manoeuvre his men like pieces on a chessboard. This allows the whole idea of ‘mind games’ to play an important part in the game.

One of the finest practitioners in this regard was Australian skipper, Ian Chappell. When Chappell was made the Australian captain in 1971, he consciously went about changing the way a team was supposed to conduct itself on the field.

He asked his players to grow their hair long and get rid of the idea of wearing their cricketing whites as if they were about to attend a formal wedding reception.


Ian Chappell relaxing in the dressing room after leading Australia to a 5-1 series victory against West Indies in 1975. Chappell’s captaincy added a dash of flamboyance, ruggedness and controversy to Test cricket.
Ian Chappell relaxing in the dressing room after leading Australia to a 5-1 series victory against West Indies in 1975. Chappell’s captaincy added a dash of flamboyance, ruggedness and controversy to Test cricket.

It was also under him that the Australian team began to develop what soon became to be known as ‘sledging,’ in which the bowlers and the fielders would intimidate batsmen by cracking rude remarks and hurling abuses at them. 

Under Chappell, the Australian side became one of the most feared and intimidating teams in cricket. Its quick bowlers chugged beer in the dressing room and publicly declared that they liked watching batsmen bleed.

It was under him that the Australian side developed the kind of never-say-die attitude it is still famous for.

Sometimes cricket captains have had to quite literally play the role of statesmen. That’s exactly what another great captain, Clive Lloyd, found himself doing when he was handed the captaincy of an underachieving West Indian side.

Though he managed to lead the Windies into winning the first cricket World Cup in 1975, the same year the team was hammered in a Test series 5-1 by Ian Chappell’s Australians.


Nicknamed 'Supercat', Clive Lloyd led the revival and eventual supremacy of the West Indies cricket team. The team’s fortunes steadily began to decline after his retirement.
Nicknamed ‘Supercat’, Clive Lloyd led the revival and eventual supremacy of the West Indies cricket team. The team’s fortunes steadily began to decline after his retirement.
The West Indies team is made up of various independent Caribbean island states. In the 1970s most of them were facing political turmoil and their combined cricketing squad seemed disjointed and full of talented underachievers. 

Lloyd managed to gel them well and play as a fighting unit. Inspired by the radical black civil rights movement in the United States, Lloyd convinced the players that through cricket, the Caribbean nations could rise above their political problems and differences and make the West see that they were a lot more than just a bunch of happy-go-lucky ‘black entertainers.’

For the next 15 years, the Windies would go on to dominate the cricketing world as perhaps the best cricket team of the 20th century.

So, now keeping in mind all that makes a good cricket captain, who have been Pakistan’s finest in this respect?

One should remember that apart from being a skilful player and a good, innovative thinker, a Pakistani cricket captain also has to be a clever politician, considering the politicised and volatile state of the game in this part of the world.

Ever since Pakistan made its debut as an international Test playing nation in 1952, it has had 30 Test captains!

Out of these only eight’s captaincies have survived for five years or more, and that too in stints.

Experts and cricket historians all agree that captaining the Pakistan side is perhaps one of the most stressful tasks. A Pakistani cricket captain has to not only tackle the power games that are played in the country’s cricketing board, but he also has to face constant player rebellions, groupings and power tussles that Pakistan cricket teams are infamous for.

And then, of course, there is the knee-jerk media and an entirely emotional fan base that blows hot and cold at the drop of a hat.

Yet, not only has Pakistan continued to generate an impressive number of exciting and skilful cricketers, it has also produced its own batch of Brearleys, Chappells and Lloyds.

Below is a study of some of the best cricket captains of Pakistan. A position that usually rotates between men like the heads of state do in banana republics.

Abdul Hafeez Kardar


Haughty, authoritarian, and stubborn, the Oxford-educated Kardar was exactly what Pakistan’s first ever Test side needed.

Given the task to lead an almost entirely inexperienced bunch of talented young cricketers of a country whose first cricket board could not even fully pay for the players’ cricket kit and equipment, Kardar soon turned the team into a side that every Test playing nation of the world came to admire.

In Kardar’s six-year-reign as skipper (1952-58), Pakistan managed to win a Test against every Test side of the world, except, of course, South Africa, that at the time was under an apartheid regime and was boycotted by India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

Under Kardar, Pakistan played 23 Tests; it won 6 and lost 6 while drawing the rest – an impressive record for an underpaid team of young novices.

Despite his autocratic demeanour and average cricketing skills, Kardar was deeply respected by his teammates and was treated as a father figure by most of the team’s young players.

He almost always drew the playing strategies and plans on his own and expected his players to stick to what he had laid out in team meetings. Dissenting views and voices were discouraged.

Another thing Kardar managed to do was to strike friendships with influential political leaders who subsequently stayed away from meddling in the affairs of the board and the team.


Kardar (left) with Pakistani players Khan Muhammad and Mehmood Hussain during the team's first full tour of England in 1954. Pakistan dramatically squared the series 1-1.
Kardar (left) with Pakistani players Khan Muhammad and Mehmood Hussain during the team’s first full tour of England in 1954. Pakistan dramatically squared the series 1-1.

In fact, when Kardar retired from the game (at the age of 34) in 1958, the then President of the country, Iskander Mirza, requested him to stay on as captain. Kardar politely declined.


Since Kardar had led the young and cash-strapped team to victories against some of the top sides of the world, his almost dictatorial hold over the team and his overwhelming influence in selection matters were largely tolerated by the board.

But sometimes this did lead to him preferring friends over other more deserving candidates. For example, he kept the highly talented brother of the equally talented batsman, Hanif Mohammed, out of the squad just to make room for his buddy and drinking partner, Maqsood Ahmed.

Raees Mohamed was taken on tours but never given a chance because that would have meant dropping Maqsood, even though Maqsood too was a skilful batsman.

Kardar’s departure suddenly created a long-lasting leadership vacuum in Pakistan cricket.

As the fans and the media couldn’t stop comparing every new captain with Kardar, the team’s performances nose-dived and it saw the coming and going of seven captains between 1958 and 1975.

Captaincy Record (1952-58):
Tests: 6 won, 6 lost, 11 drawn.

Mushtaq Mohammed



From the year that Kardar retired (1958) till Mushtaq was appointed as captain (in 1976), Pakistan had played 48 Tests (under seven captains) out of which it could win only 5 and lose 15.

Kardar was made the chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board in 1972 and it was he who appointed the captain who would finally be able to beat his (Kardar’s) long-standing record of 6 victories. That man was Mushtaq Mohammed.

Unlike Kardar, Mushtaq wasn’t an Oxford graduate. In fact, he never attended any college. He was still in school and just 16 when he was selected to represent the Pakistan side in 1959.

Coming from Karachi’s famous cricketing family, the Mohammed brothers, Mushtaq had established himself as a solid middle-order batsman and a useful leg-break bowler in the team. He was 33 when he was made the captain in 1976.

There was one thing common between Kardar and Mushtaq, though. The latter was equally stubborn. It was this aspect of Mushtaq’s personality that almost cost him his captaincy during his very first Test series as captain.

No Pakistani captain before Mushtaq had ever demanded a pay raise for his players. But Mushtaq did exactly that during Pakistan’s home series against New Zealand in 1976.

The Kardar-led cricket board out-rightly refused the demand and in fact threatened to remove him as captain. Mushtaq responded by leading the team to win the New Zealand series 2-0.

With a huge win in the bag and support of the team’s top players, Mushtaq again asked for a pay raise for the team just before Pakistan’s long tour of Australia and the West Indies. Both were the top two sides in the world at the time.

The board again refused and finally dropped Mushtaq as captain. But just before Intikhab Alam was set to return as captain, the government stepped in and agreed to meet Mushtaq’s demands.

Mushtaq was reinstated as captain and led Pakistan to a gruelling 5-month tour of Australia and the West Indies that included eight Tests.

After being 1-0 down against the mighty Australians, Mushtaq regrouped his troops and managed to famously win the third Test to square the series 1-1.

It was during the Australian series that Mushtaq (inspired by the aggressive on-field tactics of the Australian side), adopted sledging and intimidation.

The turn-around came during the first Test when as a tradition some Australian players came into the Pakistan dressing room to share a few beers.

Mushtaq asked Australian tearaway fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, how can he expect the Pakistani players to share a drink with the Australians when the latter had abused and cursed them on the field?

Lillee laughed and replied: ‘Drink up, Mushy, what takes place on the field, stays on the field.’

From the second Test onwards, Mushtaq encouraged his players to abuse the Australians on the field, and during the third Test he gave his quick bowlers, Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz, a free hand to bowl as many bouncers as possible to the Australians.


Mushtaq arguing with the umpire during the third Test in Sydney. The umpire had warned Imran Khan for bowling a series of bouncers to Australian tail-enders. Khan is standing behind the umpire with his hands on his hips. He took 12 wickets in the match.
Mushtaq arguing with the umpire during the third Test in Sydney. The umpire had warned Imran Khan for bowling a series of bouncers to Australian tail-enders. Khan is standing behind the umpire with his hands on his hips. He took 12 wickets in the match.


Pakistan’s flamboyant opening batsman, Majid Khan, once related how, apart from what Mushtaq had learned from the Australians, he also had a great knack of correctly reading how a pitch would play.

Just before the third Test in Sydney, Mushtaq eyed and marked out a spot just short of good length on the pitch and asked Imran to keep hitting that mark.

Consequently, the Australians just could not understand how Khan and Sarfraz were getting so much pace and lift on a pitch on which Australian tearaway pacers were being taken to the cleaners by the likes of Asif Iqbal (who scored the only century of the match).


Pakistan came back strong in the third Test and squared the series 1-1 (Australia, 1976).
Pakistan came back strong in the third Test and squared the series 1-1 (Australia, 1976).


On the West Indies leg of the tour that included 5 Tests, the team showed exceptional fighting spirit against a belligerent West Indian side and hostile crowds, going down 2-1 in a hard-fought series.


Pakistan team lifts Mushtaq on the shoulders after defeating the West Indies in the fourth Test. (From Left): Iqbal Qasim, Mohsin Khan, Haroon Rasheed, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Mushtaq, Sadiq Mohammad, Asif Iqbal, Intikhab Alam, Zaheer Abbas, Saleem Altaf and Wasim Raja.
Pakistan team lifts Mushtaq on the shoulders after defeating the West Indies in the fourth Test. (From Left): Iqbal Qasim, Mohsin Khan, Haroon Rasheed, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Mushtaq, Sadiq Mohammad, Asif Iqbal, Intikhab Alam, Zaheer Abbas, Saleem Altaf and Wasim Raja.


Mushtaq lost the captaincy when he joined five other Pakistani players to play for Australian media tycoon, Kerry Packer’s renegade World Series Cricket (WSC), in Australia. The event destroyed a number of teams.

Mushtaq, thus, missed the two series against England in late 1977 and 1978. However, after Pakistan had lost the away series against England 2-0 (under Wasim Bari), the board lifted the ban on the five players.

Mushtaq was recalled as captain for India’s tour of Pakistan in late 1978. The series was won by Pakistan 2-0. In the third Test in Karachi, Pakistan was set a seemingly impossible target of chasing 164 runs in 25 overs on the fifth day.

Though one-up in the series, Mushtaq refused to close shop and decided that his team would attempt to win the Test. He promoted Asif Iqbal to open the batting with Majid Khan. He then sent in young Javed Mianad after Majid fell early.

In an era when ODI cricket was still new and the T20 format was decades away, Asif and Javed thrilled the huge crowd at Karachi’s National Stadium by scoring at almost 7-runs an over.

But Pakistan still needed 44 runs in four overs when Asif got out. Instead of sending in Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq gambled again and sent in the young hard-hitting all-rounder Imran Khan.

Khan struck a quick-fire 31 and Pakistan reached the target with an over and a half to spare.

When Mushtaq led Pakistan to a 1-0 series victory against New Zealand (in New Zealand) in 1979, he surpassed Kardar’s record of 6 victories.

Pakistan then went on to level the series against Australia (1-1), before Mushtaq was replaced by Asif Iqbal as captain for Pakistan’s 1979 tour of India. He was 37 at the time.

Though Mushtaq lacked Kardar’s charisma and educational background, he was armed with a bagful of street-smart tricks he had gathered from playing on the roads and in the cricket clubs of Karachi. He also had a wealth of experience of playing county cricket in England.

It was under Mushtaq’s captaincy that Imran transformed into becoming a formidable fast bowler. Though not a harsh disciplinarian like Kardar, Mushtaq was a firm and empathetic man-manager. He got the best out of two of Pakistan cricket’s most volatile and eccentric players, Wasim Raja and Sarfraz Nawaz. And it was also under Mushtaq’s guidance that Imran transformed into becoming a formidable fast bowler.

He was asked to return as captain in 1980 when Asif Iqbal retired after losing to India 2-0. Mushtaq declined and instead suggested 23-year-old Javed Miandad for the job.

Captaincy Record (1976-77/1978-79):
Tests: 8 won, 4 lost, 7 drawn.
ODIs: 2 won, 2 lost.

Javed Miandad



During a discussion on great Pakistani cricket captains with some former Test players at a gathering a few years ago, I noticed that though Javed Miandad’s name kept coming up, it wasn’t always about his captaincy skills.

There is still unanimous agreement across the board about Miandad being perhaps the greatest batsman ever produced by Pakistan. But there is, however, no such agreement on him as a captain.

When Mushtaq Mohammad suggested his name to the cricket board in 1980, Miandad was just 23-years-old.

But the board’s new chief, Nur Khan, agreed with Mushtaq that the young batsman had a sharp cricketing brain and his batting exploits had already earned him the respect of his seniors.

Miandad won his first series 1-0 (against the visiting Australians), but went down 1-0 against the West Indies and then 2-1 against Australia in Australia.

Miandad exhibited his youth and inexperience by accusing the senior players for the team’s defeat in Australia. This did not go down well with the team and in early 1982, ten players, led by Majid Khan, refused to play under him. They demanded his removal.

Miandad refused to step down and was supported by Nur Khan. He led a brand new team against the visiting Sri Lankan side and won the first Test match easily.

Mohsin Khan, Wasim Raja and Iqbal Qasim broke ranks from the rebels and joined the team for the second Test. But when Pakistan narrowly escaped defeat against the inexperienced Lankans in the second Test, Miandad offered his resignation to Nur Khan.

Nur Khan encouraged Miandad to continue and soon Imran Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Sarfraz Nawaz and Wasim Bari too broke away from the rebellion.

It is believed that Miandad had asked the local employers of the rebelling players (banks and PIA), to terminate their playing and employment contracts. The only players who still refused to play under Javed were Majid and Sikander Bakht.

Nevertheless, Miandad stepped down after the Lankan series (that Pakistan won 2-0) and agreed to play under any captain except Majid or Zaheer. Imran Khan was appointed as the new captain.


Miandad speaking to radio commentators.
Miandad speaking to radio commentators.


Miandad returned as captain in 1985 when he replaced Zaheer Abbas (who in turn had replaced Imran after he got injured). Javed lost a series against New Zealand before making way for Imran’s return in 1986. Miandad became the vice captain.

Captaincy rotated between Imran and Miandad across the late 1980s. And even when Miandad led Pakistan to a 2-1 series victory against England in 1992 (after Imran’s retirement), he faced yet another rebellion when the team performed miserably in an ODI tournament in Australia in 1993-94.

This time the rebellion was led by the celebrated fast-bowling pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

This was Miandad’s last stint as captain.

So how can a captain who failed to retain his position for more than two years at a stretch and faced two players’ rebellions be considered great?

To begin with, out of the 34 Tests that he captained, he won 14 and lost just 6.

Miandad had one of the sharpest cricketing brains and understood the game like any good cricket captain would. But unlike a good captain, his man-management skills were a disaster.


Miandad arguing with the umpire during a Test match against New Zealand (in New Zealand) in 1985.
Miandad arguing with the umpire during a Test match against New Zealand (in New Zealand) in 1985.

He would recklessly confront his players openly (especially the seniors), and at times he wasn’t taken very seriously because he retained his ‘cheeky ways’ even when he became an established player.


He was a master at sledging and at ‘working up the opposition’ with his continuous chatter and insults. And though he used this as a tactic to disturb the opposition, it also got the team into unnecessary controversies.

But interestingly many experts believe that more than a captain, Miandad was the perfect vice-captain. Apart from captaining the side whenever Imran Khan was injured or unavailable, Miandad always willingly returned to being Imran’s deputy.

Former Australian skipper, Ian Chappell, and Pakistani cricket commentator, Chisti Mujahid, once described the Imran-Miandad combination as one of the most formidable think-tanks in the game.


Javed Miandad and Imran Khan on the plane during the 1989 ODI tournament in India that Pakistan won.
Javed Miandad and Imran Khan on the plane during the 1989 ODI tournament in India that Pakistan won.

This combination turned the Pakistan team into a strong side in the late 1980s, and both the players then played a leading role in helping Pakistan win the 1992 cricket World Cup.

During Pakistan’s 1987 tour of England, Pakistan, after being one-up in the series, was in danger of losing the fifth Test match when England needed 118 runs in about 20 overs.

Batting aggressively, England batsmen seemed to be well on their way when captain Imran and his deputy Miandad decided to halt the runs in a unique manner. Miandad martialed the field on the off side while Khan (who was also bowling most of the overs), looked after the field on the on-side.

Famous commentator, Richie Benuad, was fascinated by the tactic. Pakistan saved the game and won its first ever series against England.

Miandad was also instrumental in forcing Imran to drop an out-of-form Abdul Qadir and fly in left-arm spinner, Iqbal Qasim, for the last Test of the 1987 Pakistan tour of India.

Miandad convinced Imran that on a turning wicket, not only Qasim’s bowling will be effective, but since he was a left-handed batsman, he could neutralize India’s spin bowling attack. Pakistan won the game and the series.

Miandad retired from cricket in 1996.

Captaincy Record (1980-82/1985-86/1988/1992-3):
Tests: 14 won, 6 lost, 14 drawn.
ODIs: 26 won, 33 lost, 1 tied, 2 no result.

Imran Khan



The decision to make Imran Khan the captain of the Pakistan cricket team in 1982 took a lot of people by surprise.

Known more as a flamboyant fast-bowler/bowling all-rounder and ‘playboy,’ nobody quite expected him to ever lead the national cricket team. Not even Imran himself.

When Javed Miandad was ousted by a players’ rebellion, he was expected to be replaced by either Zaheer Abbas or Majid Khan.

But since Majid and Zaheer were the central figures in the rebellion against him, Miandad (after resigning from the captaincy), made it clear to the cricket board that he was not willing to play under either of the two aspirants.

The board came up with a compromise candidate in the shape of Imran Khan. Khan was reluctant. His close friends warned him that captaincy would destroy his career and form.

Nevertheless, after some thought, Khan accepted. Quite the opposite happened to his career and form. Not only did he win 7 of the first 12 Tests that he captained, his form as all-rounder also reached a peak.

With his performances he was able to quickly gain the respect of his teammates and successfully weave a fragmented side into a tightly-knit unit. However, in 1983 he suffered a career-threatening stress fracture in one of his shins that prevented him from bowling.

He tried to hang on as a batsman and captain, but couldn’t help arrest the team’s sudden decline. He finally decided to take a break from the game and heal his fracture.

When he returned to the team in 1985, Miandad was once again the captain but he voluntarily handed over the captaincy to Khan.

Khan’s second stint as skipper was equally successful but at the same time a lot more controversial.

After reestablishing himself in the team as its premier all-rounder and captain, Khan began to exercise an almost dictatorial hold over the team and regularly clashed with the selectors and members of the board.

He claimed that since it was the captain’s head that lands on the chopping block when the team does not do well, the captain should have the most say in selecting the team.


A page from Khan’s 1986 interview in The Pakistan Cricketer.
A page from Khan’s 1986 interview in The Pakistan Cricketer.


Khan would often throw away and reject touring squads selected by the selectors, and refuse to play if his recommendations were not entertained in selection matters. This attitude bore both fruit and frustration.

For example, he fought hard with the board to get in players like Abdul Qadir (who would go on to become a world-class spinner). He also dotingly nurtured fast men like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed who went on to lead a fast-bowling revolution in Pakistan in the 1990s.


Khan with his three fast-bowling protégés: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed (1989).
Khan with his three fast-bowling protégés: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed (1989).


However, the attitude also saw him disastrously bet on some losing horses. He stuck with batsman, Mansoor Akhtar, at the expense of more deserving players in spite of the fact that Akhtar, albeit talented, clearly lacked temperament for international cricket.

He also gave an undeserving run to average fast bowler, Zakir Khan, just because Zakir had become a close buddy of his.

But the board could not do much about Khan’s tantrums as long as he had the backing of the team, was performing well as a player, and producing unprecedented victories.

For example, it was under Imran that the team notched its first ever Test series wins against England (in England) and against India (in India) – both in 1987.

No player, except his vice-captain, Javed Miandad, dared disagree with him, and the selectors and board officials mostly did what he told them to.

He would also often exhibit his anger on the field at players he thought weren’t giving their all, and the spectacle of Khan admonishing players with some choice Urdu and English abuses became a common sight.

Khan admonishing one of his players for a fielding lapse (1987).
Khan admonishing one of his players for a fielding lapse (1987).


No wonder then that one of Khan’s heroes was former Australian captain, Ian Chappell. Like Chappell, Khan regularly applied tactics involving mind games.

For example, when he managed to bring back Abdul Qadir from oblivion for the team’s 1982 tour of England, he told the British press that there has never been a trickier leg-spinner than Qadir. He then asked Qadir to grow a ‘wizard’s goatee’ so he would look like a mysterious magician.


Khan setting the field for his ‘wizard’ in England.
Khan setting the field for his ‘wizard’ in England.


During an ODI tournament in Australia in 1986, Khan advertised all-rounder, Manzoor Elahi, as being ‘perhaps the hardest hitter of the cricket ball in the world.’ Of course, he wasn’t.

In 1989, while playing an international ODI tournament in India (that Pakistan won), Khan (to distract the Indian team), told the press that the issue of Kashmir should be resolved and settled (between India and Pakistan), on the cricket field!


Imran was considered to be one of the most powerful cricket captains in Pakistan. This image was cleverly used by the makers of Power Cricket Shoes in their 1988 press ads.
Imran was considered to be one of the most powerful cricket captains in Pakistan. This image was cleverly used by the makers of Power Cricket Shoes in their 1988 press ads.


Players found him to be uncompromising and stern on the field, but also remember his captaincy to be a ‘very fun period’ in their careers.

Khan was famous for being a ‘party animal’ who encouraged his team to live it up, especially when it came to women.


Khan shares a joke with Aaqib Javed in India during the Nehru Cup (1989).
Khan shares a joke with Aaqib Javed in India during the Nehru Cup (1989).


However, his dictatorial on-field disposition and off-the-field antics did not always go down well with some players.

Qasim Omar, a dashing middle-order batsman, after he was admonished by Imran in the dressing room for getting out playing a rash stroke in Australia, returned to Pakistan and accused Khan and his team of being ‘compulsive hashish smokers’ and for ‘regularly bringing women into their hotel rooms.’


A famous Pepsi poster featuring Imran (1988).
A famous Pepsi poster featuring Imran (1988).


Younis Ahmed, whom Khan had brought back into the side in 1987, accused Khan of offering him a hashish-filled cigarette at a nightclub in India.

Khan finally wrapped up his career by leading Pakistan to win the 1992 World Cup in which his vice-captain, Javed Miandad, and he played pivotal roles.


The Pakistan team celeberate after winning the 1992 World Cup in Australia.
The Pakistan team celeberate after winning the 1992 World Cup in Australia.


Imran retired immediately after the World Cup, aged 41. After getting married, he entered politics as a ‘born-again Muslim.’

Captaincy Record (1982-84/1986-88/1989-92):
Tests: 14 won, 8 lost, 26 drawn.
ODIs: 75 won, 59 lost, 1 tied, 4 no result.

Wasim Akram



Ace fast bowler, Wasim Akram, made his debut in Test cricket at the age of 18 in 1985. He had been plucked by Javed Miandad to tour New Zealand, but it would be Imran Khan who would go on to nurture and train him into becoming one of the game’s finest left-arm fast bowlers.

With Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed, Akram unleashed a fast bowling revolution in Pakistan that also saw the emergence of genuine pace men like Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Zahid and Mohammad Sami.

Akram’s march towards captaincy, however, was controversial. When he was made captain in 1993, Javed Miandad, who had replaced Imran Khan as skipper in 1992, accused Imran of inciting Akram and his fast bowling partner, Waqar Younis, against his captaincy.

Akram’s first stint as captain ended in a disaster. After squaring a closely fought ODI series in the West Indies, Akram and at least three other Pakistani players were arrested from a beach in the Granada Island, for publically smoking marijuana.

The incident almost turned into a serious diplomatic row between the Pakistan and Granada governments till the players were finally released for the Test series which Pakistan promptly lost 2-0.


Akram with his bowling partner, Waqar Younis, during the ‘drugs incident’ in Granada (West Indies), 1993. Both the players, along with Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed, were arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana at a beach.
Akram with his bowling partner, Waqar Younis, during the ‘drugs incident’ in Granada (West Indies), 1993. Both the players, along with Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed, were arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana at a beach.

In spite of the incident, Akram was retained as captain. However, he soon faced a full-blown rebellion from ten players led by Waqar Younis and spinner Mushtaq Ahmed after the 1994 series against Zimbabwe.

The rebelling players accused Akram of being rude and abusive and exercising nepotism. Akram was ousted and replaced by Salim Malik.

After a few players turned whistle blowers and accused Malik of indulging in match-fixing, Malik was removed by the board and replaced with Ramiz Raja.

Raja soon gave way to Akram’s return as skipper in 1996.

His second stint as captain saw him leading a formidable team of batsmen, all-rounders and fast bowlers, and it was under Akram that Pakistan became one of the most powerful cricket teams of the 1990s.

Though Akram continued to perform well as a player and capably led the team, his dream of winning the World Cup never came true. He was captain during the 1996 as well as the 1999 World Cup events.

In 1996, after leading the team into the quarter-final of that year’s World Cup, Akram suddenly dropped himself from the squad due to a muscle injury. The match was against arch-rivals India (in India).

After Pakistan lost the game and was ousted from the tournament, Akram’s decision was severely criticized by the media and fans alike, and some even went to the extent of accusing him of throwing away the game for money.

Akram’s home in Lahore was also attacked by angry protesters.


Akram as captain was also infamous for throwing tantrums and loudly admonishing his teamates on the field.
Akram as captain was also infamous for throwing tantrums and loudly admonishing his teamates on the field.

Shaken by the reception, Akram decided to take a short respite from the game. His absence saw Ramiz return ever-so-briefly as captain, but by late 1997, Akram had been reinstalled as skipper by the board. 

But Akram’s third stint was extremely brief (but in which he led Pakistan to its first ever white-wash against the West Indies in a 3-Test series in Pakistan).

He soon decided to step down after accusations of match-fixing and nepotism continued to chase him. He was first replaced by Saeed Anwar and then by Aamir Sohail, both of whom did not last long.

In 1998-99, Akram was back for his fourth stint as skipper. He proved his growing maturity as a player and captain after leading Pakistan in a tense series against India (in India) when political hostilities between the two countries had reached a new peak.

Facing hostile crowds, threats from extremist Hindu groups, and a hawkish Indian media, Akram’s team won two of the three Tests that were played on the edgy tour.


Akram and Manager Javed Miandad in the dressing room during the first Test (India, 1998-99).
Akram and Manager Javed Miandad in the dressing room during the first Test (India, 1998-99).


During the 1999 World Cup Pakistan under Akram galloped its way to the final of the tournament where it was defeated by Australia.

In 2000, Akram relinquished the captaincy and in 2003 retired from the game.

Cricketers and experts around the world have continued to praise Akram as being perhaps the finest left-arm fast bowler the game has ever seen.

He (along with Waqar Younis), led one of the most feared and potent fast-bowling attacks in world cricket in the 1990s that included Aaqib Javed, and (from the late 1990s), Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Zahid, all capable of bowling deliveries over 90 mph.

But in spite of the fact that during his second and fourth stints as skipper he managed to largely realise and utilise the unprecedented talent available in Pakistan cricket in the 1990s, and convert it into becoming a powerhouse, many experts still hesitate to call him a great captain.

Akram led by example, but the accusations that he faced of match-fixing, gambling and throwing tantrums on the field against his players have sullied his reputation as a captain – even though the match-fixing allegations were never fully proven (as they had been against players like Salim Malik, Mohammad Azaruddin, Hansie Cronge and a few others).

Also, on many occasions, he would simply announce his unavailability to play in a Test series for Pakistan, opting instead to play county cricket in England.

His critics also point out that his job as captain was made easier by the fact that in the 1990s Pakistan cricket was regularly producing some outstanding batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders. However, the same talent was also available to stop-gap skippers like Ramiz, Anwar and Sohail, all of whom could not transform it into producing the kind of results Akram’s captaincy was able to.

Akram’s greatest achievement in this regard remains to be Pakistan’s tour of India in 1998-99, where Akram amicably led the team on a politically tense and somewhat hazardous tour.

Captaincy Record (1993-94/1996; 1997-98/1998-2000):
Tests: 12 won, 8 lost, 5 drawn.
ODIs: 66 won, 41 lost, 2 tied.




Purely as a batting talent, Inzamam is rightly placed alongside three of the greatest batsmen produced by Pakistan: Hanif Mohammed, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad.

Just like Zaheer and Miandad, Inzamam too was a natural when it came to batting, something that cannot be said about him as a captain.

In fact, he was an unlikely candidate in this capacity, having an extremely laid-back personality and not much experience as a captain even across his local first-class career.

But certain events conspired to not only make him a more responsible and serious person, but also prompt the cricket board to actually hand over this once lazy, relaxed but highly talented batsman, the captaincy.

One of these events was the way he lost all form during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and produced a series of low scores, as the Pakistan team crashed out of the tournament.

The (albeit erratic) powerhouse that the Pakistan team had become in the 1990s had clearly begun to crash, and by the time the team exited from the 2003 World Cup, it at once lost a number of players that had helped it become this powerhouse: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Moin Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Anwar, Aamir Sohail, etc.

Inzamam’s position in the team also became doubtful and he, along with other remnants of that era, Rashid Latif and Shoaib Akhtar, seemed to be on their way out.

Though the selectors brought in a number of new players into the side, they also decided to stick with Rashid Latif (who was made the captain) and Inzamam. Later, Akhtar too was recalled.

Latif’s captaincy did not last long and the selectors decided that an experienced player like Inzamam should be handed over the captaincy because much of the new team was packed with youngsters.

Inzamam, who had made his Test debut under Imran Khan in 1990, had experienced the dizzying highs and sudden lows of the Pakistan cricket team across the 1990s and early 2000s. He had witnessed the emergence of outstanding talents (of which he was one), and the team pulling off some unbelievable victories in the 1990s.

At the same time he had also seen vicious power struggles between players over the issue of captaincy, angry player rebellions, accusations of match-fixing, drug taking, womanising and infighting.

He knew well the erratic, volatile and perplexingly flamboyant culture of Pakistan cricket when he was handed the captaincy to lead a team that was now mostly made-up of young players.

Inzamam did not have an urbane and aristocratic background that great captains like Kardar or Imran had; nor did he possess the street-smarts and sharpness of captains like Javed and Mushtaq Mohammed.

Also, though he was a contemporary of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, unlike them he did not readjust his petty-bourgeoisie disposition and turn himself into a more cosmopolitan entity.

He held on to his small-town moorings even though he was a willing participant in many of the team’s raunchy off-field activities (in the 1990s).

The question was how would this easy-going gentle giant face the rude, awkward challenges that the country’s cricket culture often throws at captains?

Instead of adjusting his demeanor to suit the ways of this culture, Inzamam decided to change the culture itself.

Cleverly, he decided to use religion as a tool, in spite of the fact that till he joined the large Islamic evangelist outfit, the Tableeghi Jamat (TJ), in early 2003, Inzamam had not been a very religious man.


Inzamam shares a joke with Rameez Raja (left) in India (1996-97). Rameez was captain of the Pakistan team during an international ODI tournament in India.
Inzamam shares a joke with Rameez Raja (left) in India (1996-97). Rameez was captain of the Pakistan team during an international ODI tournament in India.

But he became one in 2003, persuaded by his former colleagues, Saeed Anwar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed, who had joined the outfit in 2001-2002. 

Though respected in the team as an outstanding batsman, Inzamam, initially, was not entirely accepted as a captain by the team. But backed by his Tableeghi colleagues and mentors, he went about constructing a whole new culture in the team that would be more suited to his new-found temperament and world-view.

The TJ as a movement, though apolitical, is highly exhibitionistic and ritualistic. It were these two aspects of the movement that Inzamam used as a way to instill discipline in the team and to also keep at bay dissent from the players.

Regular prayers and gatherings were organized and the players lectured by TJ men on the virtues of faith.

The young lot soon fell in line believing that failing to do so may isolate them in the squad or even cost them their place in the team.

Players were also encouraged to openly display their religiosity and many of them hailed the team’s new-found culture. But it wasn’t only the players that did that.

After the team under Inzamam began to settle down and produce impressive results, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the team’s South African coach, late Bob Woolmer, also began to praise Inzamam’s tactics.

They agreed that these tactics had not only changed the team’s culture for good, it had stabilised Pakistan cricket (after the 2003 World Cup debacle) and made the players more hard-working and disciplined.


Joint prayers on the ground became common under Inzamam.
Joint prayers on the ground became common under Inzamam.


Inzamam’s captaincy reached its peak when his team toppled the Ashes-winning English side 2-0 in 2005-6, and then went on to not only square the hard-fought Test series against India (in India), but pulverise the Indian side 5-1 in the following ODI series. Inzamam himself was in devastating form as a batsman during these series.

By 2006, however, Inzamam’s tactics had begun to wear thin. By then the team was regularly going on tours with an entourage of famous TJ members and preachers. As his insecurities as a captain grew, so did his demands for a show of religiosity from the players.

Some players began to react negatively. His vice-captain, Younis Khan, though a religious man (who kept his faith private), never fell in line with Inzamam’s demands.

Former PCB chief, Shahryar Khan, claims that Inzamam was never secure as a captain and was weary of Younis whom he thought was out to usurp his captaincy.

Khan also suggested (in a 2013 book), that Inzamam kept talented players like Misbah-ul-Haq and Saeed Ajmal out of the team. According to Khan, Inzamam thought that Misbah’s cosmopolitan, world-weary and liberal disposition might threaten his (Inzamam’s) regime based on a particular brand of the faith.

But it was tear-away fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, who reacted the most aggressively against Inzamam’s devices. Being a throwback of the more flamboyant and extroverted era of Pakistan cricket, Akhtar regularly clashed with Inzamam and refused to toe the new party line.


Shoaib Akhtar and Inzamam had a stormy relationship.
Shoaib Akhtar and Inzamam had a stormy relationship.

Even before Pakistan crashed out of the 2007 World Cup, the board had now begun to advise Inzamam to tone down the religious factor in the team. Some players had begun to grumble that they were being forced by the skipper to join the TJ.


Inzamam’s captaincy finally collapsed during the 2007 World Cup. Officials touring with the team complained that Inzimam and other players who had joined the TJ were putting more effort in trying to find fresh recruits for TJ than in playing cricket.

Inzamam retired from the game in 2007 and became a full-time preacher with the TJ.

The most remarkable thing about Inzamam’s captaincy was how seamlessly he managed to change the culture of the Pakistan team, smartly using religion and then actually succeeding in infusing a sense of stability and focus back into a fragmented, young squad.

However, apart from the fact that this tactic isolated some of the players, it eventually collapsed under its own weight.

In one of his many outbursts at the time, Akhtar had claimed that the exhibition of piety from most players was based on hypocrisy and only practiced by them to remain in the captain’s good books.

He seemed to have judged his colleagues correctly because Inzamam might have diverted players from drinking and womanising, the culture of piety that he constructed only managed to replace these ‘sins’ with more damaging ones.

After his retirement, the same players were exhibiting unabashed greed and some of them could not find anything wrong in getting money from bookmakers for spot-fixing.

Then the same players who would so willingly take part in Inzamam’s demonstrations of public piety began to conspire against each other for the captaincy slot.

Inzamam’s exit from the game was a sad affair. A brilliant stroke-maker and a surprisingly influential skipper had to exit with tears in his eyes and fend accusations of misusing religion to promote favoritism and nepotism.


Inzamam bows out, 2007.
Inzamam bows out, 2007.


Captaincy Record (2003-2007):
Tests: 11 won, 10 lost, 9 drawn.
ODIs: 55 won, 33 lost, 3 no result.
T20: 1 won.




As captain Misbah-ul-Haq is unique. Not only in the context of Pakistan cricket, but also world cricket. He might be the modern-day game’s first war-time captain.

Consider: When he was handed over the captaincy in 2011, Pakistan was already facing a terrible existentialist crisis. Religious extremists were bombing mosques, shrines and schools and slaughtering civilians, cops and soldiers.

Pakistan was on the brink of a civil war that today has become a forgone reality, as the government, the military and the country’s ravaged polity prepares for an all-out war with the extremist insurgents in the country’s mountains and cities.

Misbah’s captaincy is also unique because he has never led the Pakistan team in Pakistan. No foreign team has been willing to tour the country ever since extremists attacked the Sri Lankan squad in Lahore in 2009.

All of Misbah’s games as captain have been played, won, lost and drawn on foreign soil. Teams have to do well outside of their own countries, on foreign tours and in front of foreign crowds, to fully prove their prowess. That’s what the Pakistan team has been doing ever since 2009, especially after Misbah took up the captaincy in 2011.


A captain in exile.
A captain in exile.


When Misbah was handed over the captaincy, he was making his third comeback to the side (at the age of 36). He had made his debut for the national squad in 2001, but lost his place after losing form in 2002.

But in spite of the fact that he continued to perform well in the domestic circuit, he could not break back into the team till five years later when he was finally recalled in 2007. Though this time around he lasted longer and did well, he again lost form and his place in early 2011.

Between Inzamam’s retirement (in 2007) and Misbah’s elevation to the post of captain in late 2010-11, the team went through five captains! It could not play at home that kept plunging into extremist violence and political turmoil. The team was being torn from all sides by vicious infighting, multiple players’ rebellions and charges of spot-fixing.

What’s more, when a struggling, disoriented cricket board decided to hand over the captaincy to Misbah, he was in the process of making yet another comeback.

Asked to hold the fort till the board could come up with a more permanent candidate for captaincy, Misbah began to play his best cricket.

After consolidating his place in the team again, Misbah began to undo whatever that was left of the culture weaved by Inzamam.

Cricket alone became the devise to measure a player’s worth. Misbah also tried to subdue the team’s reputation of being highly unpredictable by promoting a more watchful and cautious approach towards the game.

He was vehemently criticized for this by some critics and fans, but quietly he managed to pull the team out of the doldrums and make it begin its slow march upwards in world rankings.

Misbah’s steady approach and tactics not only encouraged the curbing of flamboyant batting skills for the benefit of a more cautious attitude, it eventually (and consequentially), made the role of spinners become more prominent than that of the quick bowlers.

This was a clear break from the past in which for almost three decades the Pakistan team had largely banked on fast bowlers to win matches. Under Misbah, the spinners took precedence, and this precedence saw him introduce one of the finest and most innovative off-spinners in the game today: Saeed Ajmal.


Under Misbah, Ajmal has become the team’s main strike bowler.
Under Misbah, Ajmal has become the team’s main strike bowler.

Batsmen exhibiting patience and good technique were preferred and encouraged, even though, bulk of the batting load continues to be shared by Misbah and the team’s other old warhorse, Younis Khan.


Misbah’s tactics bore fruit ever so slowly but surely. However, on the way, he also managed to gather some highly vocal critics who seemed disturbed by his cautious attitude and the way he was dismantling the team culture designed by Inzamam and then by the short-term captains that followed him.

Nevertheless, within two years, Misbah had notched up more Test and ODI victories under his belt than most Pakistani captains. He was able to establish himself as a highly respected and liked skipper in the team by both the seniors and especially by the younger players, all of whom treat him like a father figure.


The younger players treat Misbah as a father figure.
The younger players treat Misbah as a father figure.


His batting average as a captain has remained to be over 50 and he has notched up more fifties and hundreds as a skipper than he was able to at any time in his career.

Teams under good and influential captains begin to reflect the personality of that captain. Mushtaq and Imran’s teams reflected the daredevil and flamboyant ways of their captains, and same can be said about the team under Akram.

Inzi’s team became as introverted and conservative as Inzamam had become. The current team under Misbah seems to be as down-to-earth, stoic and determined as the man himself. Also, like Misbah, the team does not wear its religion on its sleeves. Faith has once again become a strictly private matter in Pakistan cricket.

With a stoic, quiet but secretly ferocious determination, Misbah has managed to become one of the few great captains that Pakistan cricket has produced.

And it won’t be wrong to suggest that with his advancing age, the criticism that his tactics had to face, and especially, the kind of circumstances he as a Pakistani is faced with both at home and abroad (with all the violence and turmoil in his country), he had to beat mightier odds to become a great captain compared to his contemporaries in this elite group of cricketers.

Captaincy Record (2011-Current): Tests: 12 won, 7 lost, 8 drawn.
ODIs: 39 won, 27 lost, 2 ties, 1 no result.
T20: 6 won, 2 lost.


Exclusive Interview: A captain in exile


“Most captains and cricketers improve their records at home, on grounds that they played their initial cricket on and in front of home crowds,” sighs the enigmatic Pakistan cricket captain, Misbah-ul-Haq.

He is talking to me in a secluded corner of the hotel where the Pakistan team was staying during the recently concluded Test match against Sri Lanka in Dubai.

The team is now getting ready to travel to Sharjah for the third and last Test of the series.

Misbah is rueing the fact that he hasn’t been able to captain the Pakistan side in a Test in Pakistan. No team has been willing to tour the country after the bizarre 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan side in Lahore.

Ever since he was made the captain in late 2011, Misbah has captained the side in 26 Tests, all on foreign soil. He’s won 11 of these and lost seven.

“More than half of my side has never played for Pakistan in Pakistan,” he laments. “We have continuously been playing abroad for years now. Apart from players like Younis, Hafeez and I, most of the players in the side today have no idea what it means to play international cricket at home.”

Though, ever since he got the captaincy he has continued to be Pakistan’s leading run-scorer, Misbah has also managed to gather a number of critics.

Most of them believe he is too defensive as a captain, and that he goes into a shell too often while batting. But interestingly, his record as a captain and batsman in the last three years actually contradicts such criticism.

“I do not mind constructive criticism,” he claims. “But it should remain within the boundaries of the ethics and values that I exhibit towards my critics. There is only so much one can tolerate.”


Talking to the skipper in Dubai. –Photo by Amber
Talking to the skipper in Dubai. 


A lot of criticism that has come his way is indeed misplaced, if not entirely wrong. He was made the captain when the team was in total disarray. After former captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s retirement in 2007, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had to change five captains until finally settling for Misbah.

Shoaib Malik replaced Inzamam but lost form and influence and was replaced by Mohammad Yousuf, who, though a stylish stroke-maker, was never captaincy material.

Solid middle-order batsman, Younis Khan, became the new skipper but resigned within a year, allegedly due to a players’ rebellion against him.

He was replaced by the temperamental all-rounder, Shahid Afridi, who retired from Test cricket after leading Pakistan in just a single Test. Opener, Salman Butt was made Pakistan’s fifth Test captain in a rocky span of just two years, but he was fired after being caught dealing with shady spot-fixers.


A young Misbah.
A young Misbah.

When Misbah was handed over the captaincy, not only was the team in a terrible flux, the country too, had been tumbling down the spiral of extremist violence and political turmoil. What is more, Misbah at the time was trying to make his third comeback after he was first selected to play for Pakistan in 2001.


Making his debut at the age of 26, Misbah soon lost his form and place in the side just before the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

After the event, captain, Waqar Younis, along with his legendary fast bowling partner, Wasim Akram, retired from the game, and a number of established players were dropped due to the team’s horrendous performance in the tournament.

Wicketkeeper, Rashid Latif replaced Waqar as captain but was soon replaced by the dashing stroke-maker, Inzamam-ul-Haq.

New spots and positions opened up and the selectors began to look for replacements. But, in spite of performing well in the domestic circuit, Misbah just couldn’t find his way back onto the side.

Misbah finally returned to the team in 2007 after spending four years in seclusion, at the age of 33.

Former Chairman of the PCB and diplomat, Shaharyar Khan, wrote in his most recent book that Misbah’s return to the squad was blocked by Inzamam.

According to Khan, Misbah was far more educated than Inzamam and had a better cricketing brain. This threatened Inzamam who was very insecure about his captaincy.

Then, early last year a leading Urdu daily alleged that Inzamam, who was trying to change the culture of the team by infusing a particular brand of Islam into the squad, kept Misbah out because he knew Misbah would never have toed the new line.

I asked Misbah about his sudden disappearance from the scene and whether Shaharyar Khan was correct in stating what he did (in his book).

“It’s a matter of perceptions,” he answered, guardedly. “I personally want to believe that politics or whatever is not what kept me out of Inzamam’s team. I don’t think any captain would like to keep out a player he thinks would be good for the team. I think with Younis, Yousuf and Inzamam so well established in the middle-order, it was always tough for a middle-order batsman like me to break my way back into the team. Then, all-rounders like Shoaib Malik, Afridi and Razzaq were also part of the Test and ODI squads in those days.”

Misbah’s diplomacy in the matter is understandable. He’s still the captain of a volatile cricket team of an equally volatile country. But I did ask him what made Shaharyar Khan, a highly respected diplomat and cricket insider; say what he did about his (Misbah’s) exclusion from Inzamam’s team.

“As I said, it’s a matter of perceptions,” he repeated. “That is how Shaharyar Sahib saw things. That’s his perception. Inzamam, I am sure, he has his (perception) about the issue, and I have mine. But I would like to believe that it wasn’t politics that kept me out.”


A bitter-sweet return. Misbah returned to the squad for the 2007 T20 World Cup and became Pakistan’s leading scorer in the tournament. However, after helping the team pull-off an almost miraculous victory against India in the final, he got out in the last over of the game, playing an unorthodox shot.
A bitter-sweet return. Misbah returned to the squad for the 2007 T20 World Cup and became Pakistan’s leading scorer in the tournament. However, after helping the team pull-off an almost miraculous victory against India in the final, he got out in the last over of the game, playing an unorthodox shot.


Sensing his hesitation to commit himself any further to the topic, I return to talk about his present-day critics.

During the Dubai Test, most of which I saw from the general stands, I noticed a genuine respect and admiration for Misbah by all sorts of folks who came to watch the game: Labourers, taxi drivers, young school kids.

It wasn’t the kind of raunchy, passionate reception players like Afridi get in this part of the world, it was something more subtle.

As the crowd saw Misbah yet again stand firm and try to stem the fall of wickets that usually stumble like nine pins around him, shouts of “Well done, Misbah,” “Jammahrai, Misbah” (stay there, Misbah), continued to echo around the stadium, even when he would just dab the ball for a single or two.

As he has gone on to accumulate big scores in Tests and ODIs, his fans have increased as well. In fact, he has also managed to attract some of his most vehement critics on to his side.

Former Pakistan captains and famous commentators, Ramiz Raja and Waqar Younis, both of whom had been critical of his captaincy in the past, were recently heard praising Misbah not only as a captain and batsman, but as a person as well.

Ramiz praised him for keeping things from spinning out of control with his calm and reserved disposition, whereas Waqar described him as being a thorough gentleman.

But, there still remain to be some former players who are not convinced. I asked Misbah that isn’t it strange that some former players, who understood the pressures of captaining a team like Pakistan, have continued to criticise him, considering the circumstances he was given the captaincy in?

“I always welcome criticism. I’m not afraid of being criticised. But sometimes when it becomes criticism for the sake of criticism, I begin to ignore it,” he explained.

What about his family, how do they cope with it?

Misbah breaks into a slight smile: “It’s tough for them.” But the smile slowly begins to fade as he continues: “My family members had actually suffered health issues due to the kind of things they sometimes have to hear about me. I have learned to ignore certain things, and I can escape all the talk by being on tours, but my family doesn’t always travel with me. They are sometimes hurt by what they hear on TV back home. They are a lot more sensitive to negative criticism than I am.”


Misbah with wife.
Misbah with wife.


Misbah is famous for absorbing all kinds of pressures on and off the field. Though known to be a very private, quiet and stoic man, he is also liked in the team for his dry sense of humour and subtle wit. Does this help him in handling pressure?

The smile returns: “I’ve always been this way. My love for the game has kept me going. I try never to quit. Thrice I lost my place in the side and thrice I came back, stronger than ever. One just needs to focus on the goals he or she has set for themselves, the rest takes its own course.”

So he keeps his wits about him?

“I have to. I have to make sure the team and I continue to enjoy playing the game.”

A year ago, Misbah lost the captaincy of Pakistan’s T20 side. He also lost his place in the T20 squad. The selectors believed that Misbah, now 39, was too old for the hectic pace of this format of the game.

And yet, he was the highest and fastest scoring batsman in the 2013 national T20 tournament. He was also in crackling form when he took his domestic T20 side, the Faisalabad Wolves, to India for the IPL, where he smashed 13 sixes in just two games. So, does he think he’s too old for T20?

“I believe I can still play all formats of the game,” he insists. “I enjoy playing T20 as much as I do Tests and ODIs. But when the selectors told me that my being in the T20 squad might be blocking the entry of some younger players, I stepped aside myself. I did it for the youngsters. But I am still available for the T20 format if the selectors believe I have a role to play there.”

Misbah was replaced by Mohammad Hafeez as the T20 captain. Hafeez has been Misbah’s vice captain in Tests and ODIs.

Last year when Pakistan was being taken to the cleaners by the South Africans in South Africa, media reports began to emerge about a possible rift between Misbah and Hafeez.

The charismatic former Australian captain and commentator, Ian Chappell, once said that behind every successful cricket captain, is a good vice captain.

There have been many examples of this in international cricket, and in Pakistan cricket too, some of the strongest captains have had solid (and loyal) vice captains.

Mushtaq Mohammad had Asif Iqbal; Imran Khan had Javed Miandad; Wasim Akram first had Waqar Younis and then the dependable, Moin Khan. Inzamam-ul-Haq had Younis Khan.

However, in most cases, these firm and successful partnerships ended in animosity between the skippers and their once loyal deputies.

At the end of his career, Mushtaq accused Asif Iqbal of underhandedly usurping the captaincy away from him (in 1979), whereas after Miandad finally replaced Imran as skipper in 1992, he accused the ex-captain of encouraging Wasim Akram to lead a players’ rebellion against him in 1993.

Akram himself was toppled in a players’ rebellion led by his vice captain, Waqar Younis, even though one of the rebelling players, Basit Ali, recently told cricket expert, Dr. Nauman Niaz, that the rebellion was mostly masterminded by leg-spinner, Mushtaq Ahmed.

When Inzamam retired, it was said that his vice captain, Younis Khan, had had a falling out with Inzamam during the latter’s twilight years as skipper.

Misbah has now become a deserving candidate for joining the ranks of other renowned Pakistani cricket captains such as Hafeez Kardar, Mushtaq Mohammad, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram. And in Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah has found an able deputy, with a sharp cricketing brain.

But was the media right in pointing out that the pair was starting to experience the dreaded captain and vice captain fall-out?

“The whole episode was dreamt up in the minds of some journalists,” says Misbah, dismissively.

“There has always been very good understanding between Hafeez and myself. Even when we played domestic cricket together, we used to willingly let go of the captaincy for the benefit of the other. The media made Hafeez look like a man who was hungry for the captaincy and was willing to do anything to get it,” Misbah softly chuckled.

Wasn’t he?

“Absolutely not!” says Misbah, his usually stable and steady stare getting a tad intense. “He never ran after captaincy and neither have I. We just like playing cricket. If, for example, tomorrow the selectors select me in the T20 squad, I will have no problem playing under his captaincy.”


The captain with his trusted deputy, Mohammad Hafeez.
The captain with his trusted deputy, Mohammad Hafeez.


As media reports about the rift began to become the main topic of sports shows on local TV channels, Misbah and Hafeez decided to hold a joint press conference to quash the rumours. They were largely successful and the rumour gradually faded away.

We now come back to how Misbah’s team has been forced to play all of their matches on foreign soil. I asked that though the UAE is said to have become a home away from home for the Pakistan cricket team, does the team feel the same way?

“Not really,” says Misbah. “I mean, we get good crowds of Pakistanis supporting us at the stadiums here, but it’s still another country. None of us can go to our real homes after the day’s play. We all have to go back to a hotel.”


Pakistani cricket fans at an ODI in the UAE.
Pakistani cricket fans at an ODI in the UAE.


What about the pitches? Does he have as much say in their preparation here as he would have had in Pakistan?

Misbah slowly shakes his head: “Unfortunately not. In Pakistan, a captain would personally know a groundsman and vice versa, and it would be easier for him to get the kind of a pitch that would truly help him gain what is called, the home advantage.

Here (in the UAE) sometimes I’m not even sure who is going to prepare the pitches. For example, I didn’t get the kind of pitches I was looking for against the South Africans and the Sri Lankans. Back home, the groundsman would fully understand the strengths of our bowling line-up and prepare pitches according to this understanding. Here, somehow, something gets lost in communication. For example, for the first and second Tests against the Lankans, I had asked for hard and bouncy pitches that would help our quick bowlers who hit the deck hard. These kind of pitches then go on to help spinners like Saeed (Ajmal) in the latter stages of the Test. Instead, we got pitches that had grass and seamed on the first day, but then totally flattened out. In the second Test, the Lankans won a crucial toss and bowled well on a seaming wicket.”

After going quiet for a bit, he added: “Maybe it was the uncharacteristic weather. It was colder and wetter than usual in the UAE this year. Conditions were good for swing and seam bowling. Our bowlers rely more on pace and bounce.”


Misbah with one of his main strike bowlers, Saeed Ajmal in a hotel room. Ajmal, who today is considered to be one of best off-spinners in the world, was discovered by Misbah in early 2000s. Ajmal and Hafeez are considered to be Misbah’s closest colleagues in the team.
Misbah with one of his main strike bowlers, Saeed Ajmal in a hotel room. Ajmal, who today is considered to be one of best off-spinners in the world, was discovered by Misbah in early 2000s. Ajmal and Hafeez are considered to be Misbah’s closest colleagues in the team.


At least twice, young Pakistani cricket fans tried to interrupt and asked Misbah for an autograph. He politely declined saying he was doing an interview.

Then one of the four main lifts in the hotel lobby opened and out came the team’s Australian coach, Dav Whatmore. With him were his wife, the team’s fielding coach, and physio.

After glancing at Misbah, they sat down on a nearby cluster of sofas, ready to leave for Sharjah. Moin came back through the front door with Misbah’s wife and they joined Whatmore and company.

But Misbah did not flinch even once. He stared at me again, waiting for another round of questions.

“All set for Sharjah?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders: “Yes. We are leaving today.”

As he said this, left-arm spinner, Abdur Rehman, and young opener, Shan Masood, arrived with their luggage as well. Both are expected to get their first games in the Test series in Sharjah.

I asked how the atmosphere in the team was these days. It had been highly volatile when he took over as captain, with infighting and the team tarnished by cases of spot-fixing.

“Things are settling,” he said. “But the team is quickly evolving. Lots of young players are coming in.”

Before Inzamam took over as captain in 2003, the Pakistan cricket teams were known for their flamboyant ways both on and off the field. Players were extremely outgoing and loved their bit of partying.

Things began to change in this respect under Inzamam. Introversion and inertia crept in and the players’ interaction with the other teams and with the cultures of the countries they were touring reduced drastically.

Things got even worse when Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were hurled up and kicked out for spot-fixing.

When Misbah took over, he was given a team harassed by the media, suspected by the ICC, and asked by the PCB to keep a low profile at all times.

Misbah agrees: “It was very tough. We would go straight to the hotel from the stadium, and stay there.”

What about now?

“It’s much better. We’ve given some good performances and a lot of youngsters have come in. Their presence has infused a lot of new energy into the team’s culture,” he smiles.


Misbah says today the Pakistan cricket team is a happier and more outgoing side than what it was a couple of years ago.
Misbah says today the Pakistan cricket team is a happier and more outgoing side than what it was a couple of years ago.


He also praises Moin Khan for this: “Ever since Moin’s appointment as Manager, we have become more outgoing. He comes from that era of Pakistan cricket when cricket was much more than just being about batting, bowling and fielding. He encourages the boys to interact more with other teams and go out for dinners and to events outside of cricket.”


With manager, Moin Khan in Dubai. Khan is being tipped to become the next coach after the departure of Dav Whatmore.
With manager, Moin Khan in Dubai. Khan is being tipped to become the next coach after the departure of Dav Whatmore.


Moin was made the Manager by PCB’s caretaker chief, Najam Sethi. Sethi, a well-known liberal journalist and TV anchor, was asked to head the PCB by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last year.

But his powers were seriously curtailed by the Islamabad High Court. This meant his decision to name Moin as the new chief selector was reversed by the court. Sethi responded by making him the manager.

As Sethi waits to see whether he would be allowed more powers, Misbah does not appreciate the instability created by the court’s decision: “These sorts of things affect the team. You strike up a good working relationship with the management only to see it being neutralised.”

He seems to have struck a good relationship with Sethi and Moin. And he hopes things don’t take a drastic turn at the board level.

“A stable team requires a stable management,” he quips.

(Editor’s note: On January 15, Sethi was removed as PCB Chief by the Islamabad High Court. The Court reinstated Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman, even though it had been the same court that had removed Ashraf).


Misbah being interviewed by Najam Sethi and Muneeb Farooq on Sethi’s popular talk show, ‘Aapas Ki Baat.’
Misbah being interviewed by Najam Sethi and Muneeb Farooq on Sethi’s popular talk show, ‘Aapas Ki Baat.’


Seeing the players slowly gathering in the lobby, I asked Misbah whether he’s had any players who have been tough to handle.

Captains in the past struggled to reign in highly talented but temperamental players such as the late Wasim Raja and Sarfraz Nawaz. Inzamam had no clue how to handle firebrands like Shoaib Akhtar.

“Not as such,” Misbah says. “The seniors are very professional and most of the team is still very young.”

I tell him how during an interview of his when he was captain; Imran had said that a captain has to get along with even those players he may detest as people, as long as the players were beneficial to the team’s cause.

“Exactly,” Misbah responded. “But I see it slightly differently. I see teams like being large, extended families with all kinds of people. They play, work and rejoice together, but they may also develop differences, just like in any family. But a family knows that it has to stick together to survive, and survive successfully. That’s how I see my team. We are a family of different individuals but with similar goals.”

It is quite apparent that Misbah has successfully won the loyalty and respect of the team.

He has a quiet but strong presence that demands a lot of physical and mental space around him, because no player or official attempted to even come close to the area where I was interviewing him.

It was only after he got up, shook my hand and bid farewell that the players who were there began to gravitate towards him.

The team and its captain may be in perpetual exile, but home seems to be the foremost thing on their minds. And each one of them knows, that though they have done relatively well abroad, their individual records and that of the team’s could have been twice as good had they also been playing on home grounds, in front of home crowds.


Playing out of a suitcase. A section of the team’s luggage in their Dubai hotel. –Photo by Amber
Playing out of a suitcase. A section of the team’s luggage in their Dubai hotel.


But till that comes about, Misbah will take whatever life throws at him as he grows into becoming Pakistan’s senior most cricketing statesman in a world that would not come to Pakistan.

Years of the gun: A political history of the AK-47 in Pakistan

On the 24th of December, Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Russian gun designer, died at the ripe old age of 94.

The rifle that he invented, the Kalashnikov/AK-47, in 1946, went on to become one of the most popular rifles in the 20th century, especially among militants, terrorists and guerrilla fighters on both sides of the conventional ideological divide.

The AK-47 also became a permanent feature across various militaristic, criminal and militant sections of Pakistan. The weapon of choice during student movements, ethnic and sectarian clashes, kidnappings, bank heists and militant uprisings, the AK-47 continues to feature in most acts of violence committed in this country. And yet up until the late 1970s the AK-47 was actually a scarce entity in Pakistan.


Mikhail Kalashnikov with an AK47
Mikhail Kalashnikov with an AK47


The first burst

It is believed that some of the militant Baloch nationalists who were fighting an insurgency against the Pakistan Army in the remote mountains of the arid province of Balochistan in the 1970s had acquired a couple of AK-47s from Iraq, whose ruling Ba’ath Socialist Party was allegedly supporting the insurgency.

In 1973 the Pakistan government under the leadership of the populist, left-leaning prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, claimed to have confiscated a cache of arms and ammunition that included up to 300 AK-47s from the Iraqi attaché’s house in Islamabad.

The cache, the government claimed, was destined for Balochistan. In fact, some of the guns, it was believed, had already reached Baloch militants.

Despite the government’s claims, there are very few reported incidents where the fighters of the leading Baloch militant organisation of the time, the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), or its youth wing, the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), were said to have used AK-47s in their battles against the heavily armed Pakistan Army.


Z A Bhutto shares a cigar with Baloch leader Akbar Bugti in 1974. Bugti supported the Bhutto regime's action against Baloch insurgents. However, after a decade Bugti himself became a staunch Baloch separatist and was assassinated by the military in 2006.
Z A Bhutto shares a cigar with Baloch leader Akbar Bugti in 1974. Bugti supported the Bhutto regime’s action against Baloch insurgents. However, after a decade Bugti himself became a staunch Baloch separatist and was assassinated by the military in 2006.


Instead, the Kalashnikov is reported to have first appeared in Pakistan on university campuses in Karachi and Lahore.

However, sophisticated weapons were hardly available or used by the youth in campus violence during the 1960s and 1970s. The brawling students usually used bare fists, chains, knuckle-dusters and knives.

For example, in all the reported cases of campus clashes between the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF) and the fundamentalist Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) in the 1960s, there is no mention at all of students ever using any firearms.

Similarly in the early and mid 1970s as well, when NSF and BSO frequently clashed with right-wing student groups like IJT, there are only two reported cases of firing: One at the University of Karachi (in 1974) and the other at Lahore’s Punjab University (in 1975). On both occasions old pistols were used, and that too for aerial firing only.

The AK-47 largely remained an elusive and somewhat unknown weapon on the campuses of Pakistan, even though some IJT militants who met future Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in Peshawar in 1975, brought back tails of this “amazing weapon that was easy to use and twice as effective.”

Hekmatyar had been a leader of Afghanistan’s radical Muslim Youth organisation at the Kabul University in the early 1970s. First arrested in 1970 after he had killed a Maoist student leader, Hekmatyar was released when nationalist Pashtun leader, Daoud Khan, toppled the Afghan monarchy in 1974. Hekmatyar soon turned against Daoud as well and in 1975 escaped to Peshawar.

Here he was approached by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime and Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the ISI) that financed and armed his group of Islamist renegades for an insurgency in Afghanistan against the Daoud regime that had been calling for uniting Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP) with Afghanistan as part of Daoud’s plan for the creation of a ‘Greater Pashtunistan.’

Hekmatyar also managed to get his hands on a couple of AK-47s, bought with Pakistani money in Afghanistan’s illegal weapons market. Even though his group of insurgents comprised disgruntled young Afghan Islamists, some IJT members claim to have met him in Peshawar in 1975, and offered their services.


A 1975 photo of Hekmatyar taken in Peshawar.
A 1975 photo of Hekmatyar taken in Peshawar.


The insurgency was a complete failure and was easily crushed by Daoud. Hundreds of Hekmatyar’s men were killed and arrested. Nevertheless, Hekmatyar escaped arrest and returned to Peshawar where under the patronage of the Bhutto regime he formed the Hizb-i-Islami and started planning another insurgency against the secular Daoud government.

The Klashnikov arrives

Things for the failed Islamist guerrilla changed dramatically when, in 1978, Daoud was toppled in a communist coup led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), and its supporters in the Afghan military. Soon after, when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in Dec 1979, the CIA showed interest in helping Islamist groups stationed in Peshawar.

At the start of the CIA-ISI backed anti-Soviet ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in 1980, Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami was the biggest anti-Soviet group in Peshawar. It was also one of the first groups of Afghan jihadists to receive arms and aid from the CIA, ISI and Saudi Arabia.

When in July 1977 General Ziaul Haq overthrew the elected government of Bhutto and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he invited the staunchly anti-PPP Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) to join his first cabinet.

By 1980, the JI was vowing to help Zia bolster public support for the ‘Afghan jihad’ and expunge all leftist and pro-Soviet elements in Pakistan’s intelligentsia, journalistic circles and campuses. The JI also developed strong links with Hekmatyar opening up channels of regular contact between IJT and him.

As the first batches of Afghan refugees started to cross into Pakistan from war-torn Afghanistan, with them also came black marketers dealing in AK-47s and heroin.

By early 1980s, markets in the tribal regions of Pakistan were flooded with AK-47s and heroin. The Afghans trading in these items were profitably escorted by assorted Pakistanis looking to make a fast buck. These included military personnel, tribal leaders, pro-Zia politicians and some enterprising civilians.

The AK-47 first made its proper introduction in Pakistan in mid-1979 when the then leader of the IJT in Karachi and president of the student union at the University of Karachi, appeared on the campus with ‘bodyguards’ armed with AK-47s.

The bodyguards were led by Rana Javed, the notorious leader of IJT’s militant wing, the ‘Thunder Squad’ — a violent group formed at the University of Karachi and Punjab University to “curb immoral activities on campuses.”

NSF, BSO, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) — the student-wing of the PPP — and the Liberal Students Organisation (LSO) had a history of regularly clashing with IJT and its moral squad.

In 1979, the Thunder Squad demonstrated the first (recorded) usage of an AK-47 in Pakistan when it fired upon a gathering of progressive students at Karachi University.

There were no deaths, but the incident left anti-IJT forces badly shaken but awakened to the reality of an enemy that was fast changing its tactics.

Rana and his men had come into contact with a Pakistani middle-man who had gotten them in touch with an Afghan gun dealer in Peshawar. Funds were raised by the IJT in Karachi (accommodated by the JI and its connections with Hekmatyar), and a group of IJT men travelled to Peshawar to buy their first cache of AK-47s.


A gun seller in the village of Darra Adamkhel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A gun seller in the village of Darra Adamkhel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


The guns were stashed under the beds of the hostel rooms occupied by IJT members at the Karachi University and the NED University. These guns were once again used in April 1980 during a clash between NSF and IJT in which one NSF student was killed, shot in the stomach by a burst of an AK-47. This is reported to be the first casualty witnessed in a clash at the university.

Alarmed by the rapid arming of the IJT — allegedly a part of Zia and JI’s plan to push out ‘pro-Soviet students’ from campuses — the PPP’s student-wing, the PSF, and the Baloch nationalist BSO, were the first two non-IJT organisations to acquire AK-47s.

Already put under tremendous pressure by constant arrests, torture and jailing by the dictatorship, the PSF in Karachi grew a more militant wing, led by Salamullah Tipu.

Tipu, who came from a lower-middle-class Urdu-speaking family of Karachi, had been a member of the NSF in 1974-75 and was considered ‘a terror’ by the IJT. He switched to the PSF sometime in 1977 and soon became the leading member of PSF’s somewhat anarchic militant wing. This wing was not under the direct control of the PPP.

Soon after the death of the NSF member at Karachi University, Tipu and a few members of the BSO travelled to Peshawar. There they got in touch with a Pakistani middle-man who drove them to the open weapons and drugs markets in the tribal areas of KP.

These markets were now brimming with smuggled AK-47s and drugs arriving from war zones in Afghanistan. Many of the guns were also pinched away for private sale by Pakistani administrators handling the arming of Afghan jihadists.

There, Tipu and BSO activists were unable to get the AK-47s because their contact there was arrested. Back in Karachi, Tipu and some members of the United Students Movement (USM) — an anti-Zia progressive students’ alliance at Karachi University — consequently raided a van carrying AK-47s for IJT members in Karachi’s Shah Faisal Colony, and got away with a number of rifles.

A few days later, the progressive students’ alliance held a violent demonstration at the Karachi University against the Zia regime and set an army major’s jeep on fire.

The demonstration was attacked by IJT activists who helped the police apprehend some progressive students. One of them was a dear friend of Tipu.

In early 1981, Tipu, along with at least three other PSF members, entered the Karachi University in a white vehicle. He started shouting pro-Bhutto and anti-IJT slogans in front of an IJT camp on the campus. To the IJT members’ surprise, he whipped out an AK-47 and started to fire at the camp. No one was hurt.

Tipu then sped forward in his car and looking at a senior IJT leader, Hafiz Shahid, strolling outside the university’s library, started to shout anti-Zia and anti-IJT slogans mixed with a barrage of choice Urdu abuses, all the while waving his brand new AK-47.

Incensed by the commotion, Shahid pulled out a pistol and fired in the air. He is reported to have fired at least three shots. Tipu jumped out from his car and fired a burst from his AK-47 at Shahid, who was hit in the chest and head. He soon succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. He became the first IJT man to be downed by the same gun his own organisation had introduced on the campus two years earlier.

After the killing, Tipu and his group of PSF militants escaped to Peshawar, and with the help of some members of a small pro-Soviet party in KP, tracked across the tribal areas into Kabul, where they joined Murtaza Bhutto’s left-wing urban guerrilla outfit, the Al-Zulfikar Organisation (AZO).

AZO was formed by Bhutto’s sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz, with the help of the radical regimes of Syria and Libya. The outfit was initially armed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and allowed to set base in Kabul by the Soviet-backed regime there.


Shahnawaz Bhutto in 1979. He was allegedly poisoned and killed by Zia's agents in 1985.
Shahnawaz Bhutto in 1979. He was allegedly poisoned and killed by Zia’s agents in 1985.


With temperatures rising, IJT members now started distributing AK-47s to Thunder Squad personnel in Punjab as well. Distressed by IJT’s violent growth there, leftist militant students formed the Black Eagles. Outside the IJT, the Eagles were the first student group to acquire AK-47s in Lahore.

In mid-1981, the AK-47 claimed its third victim at the University of Karachi when IJT members mowed down Shaukat Cheema, a member of the USM.

In 1977, IJT had successfully campaigned to have a mosque built on the campus. But by 1980, the organisation was using the mosque to stash its pistols and AK-47s. And it was near the same mosque that Cheema was ambushed and downed by a hail of bullets from an AK-47.

In reaction to Cheema’s killing, USM brought in two notorious young militants, BSO’s Boro (a Baloch) and PSF’s Shirin Khan (a Pashtun), on the day of the 1981 student union elections.

Boro and Shirin entered the University of Karachi from the neighbouring NED University with AK-47s.

They positioned themselves on the roof of the university’s student union office and began firing at IJT members standing outside the Chemistry Department. Soon an intense gun fight ensued in which one IJT member, Danish, was killed.

Boro, Shirin Khan and IJT’s Rana Javed would all die violent deaths. Boro was killed in an encounter with the police in 1984 as was Rana Javed. Both had become criminals. Shirin Khan who returned to his village in KP after quitting Karachi University was gunned down by an Afghan insurgent in the late 1980s.

By 1982, IJT, PSF, PkSF, BSO, USM and the Black Eagles all had caches of AK-47s stashed in their hostel rooms. Universities and colleges in Karachi and Lahore were now sitting on a volcano.

The volcano erupts

In March 1981, Tipu had re-entered Pakistan from Kabul (as a card-carrying member of Al-Zulfikar), and along with at least three more PSF militants, hijacked a Peshawar-bound PIA flight and forced it to land at the Kabul Airport.

The hijackers were first reported carrying pistols and grenades, but by the time the plane touched down in Kabul, Tipu was seen brandishing an AK-47 from the cockpit of the hijacked plane.


Tipu brandishing an AK-47 from the cockpit of the hijacked plane (1981).
Tipu brandishing an AK-47 from the cockpit of the hijacked plane (1981).


The hijackers demanded an end to Zia’s military rule and the imposition of socialism. They also handed a list of 55 political prisoners cramped inside various Pakistani jails that they wanted the Zia regime to release.

The list included arrested members of the PPP, PSF, BSO, NSF, some radical journalists as well as some members of small communist and regional parties, all picked up by the police between 1977 and 1980.

Tipu shot dead one of the passengers when the Zia regime stalled. The unfortunate victim was a young Pakistani diplomat. He was accused by Tipu and Murtaza of being a Zia agent. He wasn’t. In fact, he had been an attaché of Murtaza’s father, Z A Bhutto!

Zia didn’t budge. He refused to release the prisoners. The PPP’s young co-chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, who was in jail at the time, denounced the hijackers and criticised them for hurting the democratic movement against Zia.

After the merciless killing of the diplomat, the Kabul authorities (under pressure from an embarrassed Soviet regime), asked Tipu to leave or they would storm the plane.

The plane was flown to Syria’s capital, Damascus, where the passengers were finally allowed to go. This happened when Tipu again began waving his AK-47 from the cockpit and threatened to kill the 11 American passengers on board the plane. This threat worked. Zia at once capitulated and agreed to release the 55 political prisoners as demanded by the hijackers.

The released prisoners were flown to Damascus. Many stayed there as exiles and some were given asylum in Libya. A few flew with Tipu to Kabul where they joined the AZO. However, in 1984 Tipu began challenging Murtaza’s leadership and threatened to form his own group. As Murtaza flew out to Damascus, Tipu led AZO in Kabul. But in the process he killed an Afghan who was close to the Afghan intelligence agency.

He was arrested and sentenced to death. He was shot dead by a firing squad and buried in an unmarked grave in Afghanistan. He was 28 years old.


Salamullah Tipu with an AK-47.
Salamullah Tipu with an AK-47.


It is interesting to note that until 1982, the AK-47 was only used by pro-Zia student organisations such as the IJT and subsequently by anti-Zia student militants. It had yet to fall into the hands of organised gangs involved in theft, kidnapping and other crimes.

However, it is believed that the first time the AK-47 was used in a robbery in Pakistan was in 1981, during a bank heist in Karachi on the I I Chundrigarh Road.

But this heist too was planned and executed by Al-Zulfikar men, to raise money for their anti-Zia operations. These men then used the same AK-47s to assassinate three pro-Zia politicians the same year, two in Karachi and one in Lahore.


Razzak Jharna, a former PSF militant who joined the AZO. He was implicated in the shooting and murder of pro-Zia politician Zahoor Elahi in 1981. He was hanged by the Zia regime in 1983.
Razzak Jharna, a former PSF militant who joined the AZO. He was implicated in the shooting and murder of pro-Zia politician Zahoor Elahi in 1981. He was hanged by the Zia regime in 1983.


A change of hands

During the 1983 PPP-led MRD movement in Sindh, many young activists from PPP, PSF and Sindhi nationalist groups like the Jeay Sindh Students Federation (JSSF), managed to escape arrest and disappeared into the thick forests near the dusty Sindh towns of Dadu and Moro. These forests were already infested with dacoits.

After the MRD action subsided, leaving behind a trail of destruction and thousands of arrests, many of the dacoits and their new comrades came into contact with separatist Sindhi elements who had direct links with Afghans and Pakistanis involved in the booming gun-running trade in KP.

By early 1984, most of these dacoits had armed themselves with AK-47s, using them for murder, highway robberies and kidnappings.

Meanwhile, in 1984, the Zia dictatorship used the growing violence in student politics as a pretext to ban student unions across the country. The same year, a major battle in which the AK-47 was prominent took place at Karachi University between USM militants and the police that was sent to clear hostels after the student union ban.

The battle lasted for over 10 hours, during which time USM students armed with pistols and AK-47s fought the police from the rooftop and windows of the hostel building. The police responded with pistol and rifle fire and teargas. Scores of policemen and students were injured before the hostel was finally taken by the cops.

By 1985, an AK-47 was easily available in Karachi and its usage extended beyond university and college campuses; organised criminal gangs were now armed with them as well.

The major reason behind the weapon’s widespread availability was the influx of Afghan refugees, who in the early 1980s had started moving into the shanty towns of Karachi.

With them came gun and drug runners. Compared to the 1970s, crime in Karachi almost quadrupled in the 1980s, and Karachi soon had the second-biggest population of heroin addicts in the world.

Almost 51 per cent of the city’s population was Mohajir (Urdu-speakers), and their anger towards Afghan gun-runners and drug peddlers (most of whom were Pashto-speaking) metamorphosed into agitation against the city’s Pashtuns, who had migrated from KP in the 1960s.

The tension between the two communities erupted into deadly riots and pitched battles. This violence eventually saw the APMSO give rise to the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM).

In the bloody 1986 riots between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns — the latter had used AK-47s, while the former had to make do with crude homemade weapons — especially those prepared by the Biharis from Karachi’s poverty-stricken Orangi area.

These Biharis had migrated to former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the 1947 partition, where they saw militant Bengali separatists make home-made weapons to use against the Pakistan Army in 1971. Many of them escaped to West Pakistan after East Pakistan separated from the rest of the country.

Baptised by fire and bloodied by the AK-47s of the enraged Afghans of the city, the MQM became desperate for modern weaponry.


The spark: Female college students in Karachi raise slogans against the government and Afghan refugees in 1985. They were protesting against the killing of a Mohajir female student who was run over by a bus being driven by a Pashtun. The accident led to major riots between the two communities in Karachi.
The spark: Female college students in Karachi raise slogans against the government and Afghan refugees in 1985. They were protesting against the killing of a Mohajir female student who was run over by a bus being driven by a Pashtun. The accident led to major riots between the two communities in Karachi.


An APMSO delegation met with PSF militants and asked to buy AK-47s from them. But on the behest of the PPP, the PSF refused. However, in late 1986, another group of APMSO leaders was advised by a PSF member in Karachi to travel to Hyderabad and meet with the leaders of the JSSF at Sindh University, who would be interested in selling them arms. The APMSO bought three AK-47s from the JSSF and managed to secure a link with contacts also operating as middle-men for Afghan gun-runners.

By 1987, the APMSO was flush with AK-47s. It began supplying the MQM with militants. At this point, a separate militant wing of the party called ‘Black Tigers’ was also formed.

It was also sometime in 1987 that the AK-47 started to be called ‘Klashni’ (a word coined by APMSO militants) and the phrase “Kalashnikov culture” started to appear in the press.

In Punjab, too, the AK-47 became the weapon of choice for criminals. Most of these deadly rifles were now brought into the city by members of Afghan jihad outfits and sold to nascent sectarian outfits that had started to appear in Punjab during the peak of the Zia regime.

Many of these organisations, which also became involved in various crimes, started to stockpile AK-47s and other weapons.

One of the most violent sectarian organisations was the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), formed in 1985 in the city of Jhang in Punjab. The SSP’s first action was fomenting anti-Shia riots in Lahore in 1986.


Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founding member of the militant anti-Shia SSP. He was assassinated in 1990.
Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founding member of the militant anti-Shia SSP. He was assassinated in 1990.


Back for more

By the time Zia’s C-130 military aircraft crashed over Bahawalpur on Aug 18, 1988, the Kalashnikov culture had been ingrained in Pakistani society.

This culture was defined by violence, corruption and intolerance, and caused the bullet to replace the ballot in the national political arena as well as on campuses.

It was not surprising, then, that within a year of Benazir Bhutto’s election as PM in Nov 1988, violence erupted in Karachi, especially between APMSO and PSF. Both organisations now had strong militant tendencies and were well-equipped with AK-47s.

MQM had swept the polls in Karachi and was part of the PPP coalition government at the centre and in Sindh. However, there were some radical elements in PPP and PSF who had opposed an alliance with the MQM, terming it “an anti-Sindhi party created by General Ziaul Haq”. While friction grew between the two parties, its student wings clashed on university and college campuses of Karachi.

The APMSO had become an important player in the student politics of Karachi, successfully sidelining the IJT. PSF too was a resurgent force on Karachi campuses after years of harassment and repression by the Zia regime and IJT violence. The PSF was being led in Karachi by Najib Ahmed, who was a leading voice opposing an alliance with the MQM.

After the gun battles between the two student organisations at the University of Karachi, Urdu College and Sindh Medical College killed activists from both sides, an ugly round of kidnappings began in which both organisations kidnapped, tortured and then killed their opponents.

Meanwhile, Punjab was facing political challenges as well. The province was being run by the staunchly anti-PPP (and ‘Ziaist’) Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). The PML’s student-wing, the Muslim Students Federation (MSF), had heavily armed itself and tried to dislodge the IJT from various universities and colleges in Punjab. Meanwhile, in Jhang, regular riots and clashes between the SSP and various Shia groups exploded in which both sides used sophisticated firearms.

If the 1980s was a violent decade in Pakistan, the 1990s were worse.

During Sharif’s reign in 1991, violence between student groups shifted from Karachi to Punjab’s campuses, where the MSF and IJT fought deadly gun battles, enough for IJT’s mother party, the JI, to quit Sharif’s coalition government at the centre.

The JI also accused Sharif of not implementing shariah laws as promised by him before the 1990 general election.

Back in Sindh, Sharif’s chief minister Jam Sadiq Ali courted support for the Sharif government from the MQM. In the process, Jam also used MQM and APMSO’s militant muscle in his battle of ego against the PPP.

Jam had been a PPP man until the mid-1980s when he had a falling out with Benazir Bhutto and was expelled from the party. He further armed MQM and APMSO to tackle ‘terrorists’ whom he claimed belonged to the Al-Zulfikar Organisation and were “disturbing peace in Sindh”.

However, during the summer of 1991, two high-ranking members of the MQM, Afaq Ahmad and Amir Khan, were expelled by the party chief, Altaf Hussain, on charges of corruption.

Both were also leading members of MQM’s militant wing, the Black Tigers. They at once formed the breakaway MQM – Haqiqi (MQM – H), allegedly patronised by the Pakistani security agencies.

Then, in June 1992, the Pakistani army intervened in a government-initiated military crackdown code-named Operation Clean-up, in order to quell the chronic ethnic unrest and rising cases of kidnapping and murder in Sindh.

It soon became obvious, though, that MQM militants were the main target of the military operation.


Nawaz Sharif with MQM chief Altaf Hussain in 1991. Sharif's government would eventually order a military operation against the MQM in 1992.
Nawaz Sharif with MQM chief Altaf Hussain in 1991. Sharif’s government would eventually order a military operation against the MQM in 1992.


Jam’s tactics had become increasingly controversial and the way he was using the MQM started to alarm the intelligence agencies and the army, both of whom advised Sharif to take action.

Hundreds of MQM and APMSO militants were killed and arrested in the operation. A large number of AK-47s and pistols were recovered.

In 1994, the second Benazir Bhutto government began a fresh operation against the MQM, convinced that the first operation had failed to break the party’s back. Clashes and gun fights between MQM and MQM-H increased, as MQM tried to secure the control of areas snatched from it by MQM-H.

Hundreds of MQM, APMSO, MQM-H activists and members of paramilitary forces and policemen fell in violent battles during the three-year operation. It saw the infrastructure and the economy of Karachi collapse and dozens of businessmen and industrialists moving their families, money and businesses to Punjab. The operation and violence continued until the fall of the second Sharif government in 1999.

While violence between MQM, MQM-H and paramilitary forces was taking place, it created an opening for various Islamist and sectarian organisations to eventually move from KP and Punjab and set up shop in Karachi. Some of these Islamists posing as ‘scholars’ and clerics moved openly with bodyguards armed with the now ubiquitous AK-47s. Karachi was also a city where it was easier to make quick money and hide.

With the government busy in trying to reign in the MQM by force, many of the Islamist groups in Karachi started taking over mosques and madrassahs.

Many of these Karachi-based Islamists were instrumental in helping the Pakistani government and intelligence agencies in the indoctrination, support and creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan who took power in Kabul in 1996.

Abruptly, with the coming of Pakistan’s fourth military dictator Pervez Musharraf in Oct 1999, ethnic violence in Sindh came to a sudden and surprising halt.

The operation against the MQM was stopped, Sharif and the PML-N’s vendetta against the PPP was suspended.

Heavenly fire

The Kalashnikov culture was well ingrained by the time Pakistan entered the new millennium. By now, the AK-47 was also pulled out in times of celebration. This tradition began in the mid-1980s, but became widespread in the early 1990s. Since then, the sound of the AK-47 rings out the loudest when thousands of guns are let loose on New Year’s Eve. The AK-47 is also fired during weddings.


A poster of a Punjabi film showing a woman holding an AK-47.
A poster of a Punjabi film showing a woman holding an AK-47.


During the Musharraf regime, gun battles on campuses and in urban areas decreased, and the AK-47 was primarily seen in the hands of private security guards and bodyguards.

However, militants from various Islamist organisations also began to carry arms openly, especially as a reaction to the Musharraf regime’s operation against them after Sept 11, 2001. Unlike the student militants of yore, none of these organisations had to struggle for their share of AK-47s.

A number of clerics and Islamic scholars (both Shia and Sunni) assassinated in the last 10 years have been gunned down by AK-47s. During Islamabad’s Lal Masjid debacle in 2007, most of the militants operating in the radical mosque and madrassah in Islamabad could be seen brandishing AK-47s long before the government decided to take its haphazard and much-delayed action against them.

In May 2007, protests against Musharraf’s decision to depose now former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had not gone down well with the general’s allies in Karachi, the MQM.

And when Chaudhry and his supporters in the PPP, PML-N, ANP, JI and the lawyers’ community brought their movement to Karachi, mayhem ensued.

Shortly before Chaudhry landed in Karachi, militants belonging to the PSF, APMSO, PkSF and IJT could be seen with AK-47s taking up positions along Shahrah-i-Faisal, Bandar Road, Guru Mandir and Golimar. The truth behind the clashes that took the lives of dozens of men was drowned in accusations and counter-accusations that the involved parties pitted against one another.


A man gunned down during the May 12, 2007 violence in Karachi. He was hit by a full-on burst of an AK-47.
A man gunned down during the May 12, 2007 violence in Karachi. He was hit by a full-on burst of an AK-47.


That incident, one of the deadliest battles on the streets of Karachi, shows that the AK-47 had remained the weapon of choice.

However, since 2005, gun battles involving the ubiquitous Klashni have seemed softer events compared to the rising number of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and insurgencies perpetuated by terrorist groups in Pakistan.

The AK-47′s price (on the black market), has come significantly down, as the country’s gun culture began fattening itself with American pistols and rifles stolen from Nato trucks that load weapons and other products for Nato soldiers in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.

These trucks are then driven from Karachi all the way up north into Afghanistan. On the way, some of their merchandise is stolen or nicked away by corrupt officials and then sold in the black market.


Religious extremists with AK-47s in North Waziristan area of Pakistan.
Religious extremists with AK-47s in North Waziristan area of Pakistan.


Observers have thus noticed that the demand for rifles and pistols stolen from Nato trucks has risen and that of the AK-47 has fallen. More lethal weaponry is used by Islamist and sectarian organisations, whereas US-made rifles and pistols have now become the weapons of choice of gangsters and assassins.

Nevertheless, the fall in the AK-47′s usage has not meant the receding of Pakistan’s gun culture. Quite the contrary, actually.


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Hidden hands unhidden

Some Pakistanis mock the whole idea of hidden or foreign hands in most political disasters and ills that this unfortunate country has experienced in the last many decades.

In spite of the fact that hidden hands are pretty obvious in stirring up trouble in Pakistan (so that this strategically placed Islamic atomic power would shatter and wither), sceptics have always asked for evidence.

Where is the evidence, they ask? All the troubles in Pakistan are because of us and us alone. How naïve, negative and defeatist is their attitude. Always quick to blame their own innocent and well-meaning, hard-working and muscular people.

They do not realise that by doing this they too might have become unknowing puppets in the hands of hidden/foreign hands.

Well, the true patriots know on an instinctive level that hidden hands have always been behind a number of tragedies and destructive episodes in Pakistan.

And alas, some of these patriots, after decades of research and hard work, have finally managed to unearth some very telling evidence. is proud to be one of the first websites with whom some of these unearthed evidences were shared. And here we share them with you …

Jinnah’s 12 August, 1947 speech

Liberals love waving Jinnah’s speech that he made at the Constituent Assembly on the 12th of August, 1947.

They point out the following portion of the speech to supposedly prove that Jinnah wanted a progressive and democratic Muslim state instead of an Islamic one:

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.

Well, fresh evidence has now appeared that suggests that this portion of the speech was altered by some liberal editors working for English newspapers when the text of the speech arrived at their offices to be published in the next day’s newspapers.

The most glaring evidence is in the shape of an old 1947 photo of a little American girl posing with a typewriter on which a Pakistani editor (possibly an early US agent) had altered the speech.

The girl, Jane, is the daughter of the editor’s American wife, Joan, and behind the photo the editor has scribbled the actual text of that portion of the speech that he then altered.


The unearthed photo. As can be seen, behind the photo is the real text of Jinnah’s speech.
The unearthed photo. As can be seen, behind the photo is the real text of Jinnah’s speech.


According to the notes written by the editor behind the photo, the following is what Jinnah actually said:

“You are free; preferably Sunni. Free to go to your mosques, free to go to your madressahs or to any other place you want to take over and build a mosque or madressah on in this Super Islamic Caliphate of Pakistan. You are only allowed to belong to just one creed that has absolutely, unquestionably, undeniably everything to do with the business of the State. All else is treachery.”

The 1971 break-up of Pakistan

Our media and some historians insist that Pakistan lost its eastern wing (former East Pakistan) because of the way people of the country’s western wing (former West Pakistan) treated the Bengalis of East Pakistan.

They believe that the Bengalis were treated unfairly, were oppressed and not given their democratic rights, in spite of the fact that they were the majority ethnic group in Pakistan.

Yes, it is correct that a few foolish Pakistanis did look down upon the Bengalis, but the majority of those residing in West Pakistan actually considered the Bengalis to be innocent, honest fish-eating villagers that were in need of the West Pakistanis’ superior intelligence, charm and social, political and economic acumen. And most Bengalis knew that and were very appreciative.

Then between 1970 and 1971 when India began meddling in the affairs of Pakistan and started to fund Bengali nationalists, the world was told (by the nationalists) that the Bengalis wanted their own independent country.

However, recently, some historians belonging to the General Niazi Institute of Historical Studies have discovered pages from the Hamoodur Rehman Report that went missing during the Z A. Bhutto regime (1972-77).

The report documented an inquiry conducted by Justice Hamood into the reasons behind Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the subsequent separation of East Pakistan. But some pages of the report had vanished.

It is not known who extracted the pages from the document but they contain some startling revelations about the war and the East Pakistan debacle.

For example, according to these pages, not only were most Bengali nationalists Indians posing as East Pakistanis, the founder of Bangladesh (former East Pakistan), Shiekh Mujeebur Rehman, too was an Indian national.


Mrs. Mujeebur Rehman.
Mrs. Mujeebur Rehman.

According to the documents of the report that went missing, Mujeeb’s real name was Agarwal Kalicharan Chakraborty and he was born in what today is West Bengal (in India) into a staunch Hindu family.


At college in Kolkata, he was recruited by the Communist Party of India (CPI) and asked to change his name and religion and settle in what became East Pakistan in 1947.

The party wanted him to pose as a Muslim and recruit other influential Bengali Muslims to the party’s cause. But Chakraborty (who had changed his name to Mujeebur Rehman), quit the party after falling in love and marrying a Chinese waitress who had escaped Mao Tse Tung’s revolution in China in 1949.

The woman, whose real name is unknown, took on a Muslim name and introduced Mujeeb to the pleasures of jazz music, beat poetry and chicken corn soup.

It was during this period that Mujeeb bumped into an Indian jazz saxophonist, Deepak Deepak, at a jazz club in a village in East Pakistan.


Recently discovered photo showing Shaikh Mujeeb playing the banjo with some British and Indian jazz musicians at a village in East Pakistan in 1951.
Recently discovered photo showing Shaikh Mujeeb playing the banjo with some British and Indian jazz musicians at a village in East Pakistan in 1951.


According to the report, Deepak Deepak was actually an Indian agent sent to East Pakistan to recruit Mujeeb, his Chinese wife and the couple’s children.

In a recruiting ceremony held at a Hindu temple in the East Pakistani city of Dhaka, Mujeeb and his wife declared their allegiance to the Indian government and to Hinduism, and vowed to help India break Pakistan. However, he refused to share his wife’s chicken corn soup recipe with the Indians. Hehe.

Many pages of the Hamood report are still missing, but the ones that were discovered also mention how Mujeeb’s party, the Awami League, manipulated the 1970 election results – an election that many believed were swept by Awami League in East Pakistan but were actually won by the Jamat-i-Islami.

The report offers two photographs to prove this …


A massive 1970 election rally of the Jamat-i-Islami in Dhaka.
A massive 1970 election rally of the Jamat-i-Islami in Dhaka.



A tiny 1970 election rally of the Awami League in Chittagong.
A tiny 1970 election rally of the Awami League in Chittagong.


The newly unearthed pages of the report also mention Abdul Kadir Mulla, the Jamat leader who was recently hanged by the government of Haseena Wajid – Mujeeb’s daughter (real name, Shakuntali Ramparkash). He was accused for committing acts of murder and rape against Bengali nationalists in 1971.

The truth is that Kadir, who was a college student at the time, was not a murderer or rapist. He was only active in stopping Awami League from converting East Pakistanis to Hinduism, secularism, Marxism, liberalism and post-modernism.

Pakistan’s current Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, also confirmed this, as tears rolled down his rose cheeks and bombs went off in Peshawar, Fata and Rawalpindi, but he rightly ignored this and concentrated on the more important issue of condemning the hanging of a convicted killer and rapist in another country.


Pakistani Interior Minister was shocked after told that Abdul Kadir Mulla had been hanged by the Bangladeshi government.
Pakistani Interior Minister was shocked after told that Abdul Kadir Mulla had been hanged by the Bangladeshi government.


A photo clipped to one of the discovered pages of the Hamood report shows Kadir Mulla slaughtering a cow that he suspected of being an Indian agent.

It was this crime that got him into trouble with the Awami League and then hanged after 40 years.


A young Abdul Kadir attacking a cow that he accused of being an Indian agent in Dhaka in 1971. He was hanged to death by the Awami League for this.
A young Abdul Kadir attacking a cow that he accused of being an Indian agent in Dhaka in 1971. He was hanged to death by the Awami League for this.


The July 1977 Military Coup against Z A. Bhutto

On 5 July 1977 the elected government of Z A. Bhutto was toppled in a military coup masterminded by General Ziaul Haq.

Most political historians are of the view that the Pakistan military had become weary of Bhutto’s polarizing policies and his insulting attitude towards the military.

There are also those who have accused Ziaul Haq of being a cunningly ambitious and conniving character who on the behest of the Americans toppled Bhutto because the Americans were angry at Bhutto for initiating Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Last November, a former member of the PPP (name withheld on request) cautiously produced a photograph that that he took during Bhutto’s talks with Indian Prime Minister, Indra Gandhi, in Simla in 1974.

The photo that was never made public shows Bhutto shaking Indra’s hand and is surrounded by his daughter Benazir and some Indian and Pakistani diplomats.

However, one of these people in the photo is famous pop star and icon, John Lennon! According to the former member of the PPP, he is slowly making this photo public now because he wants to tell the real reason behind the military coup against Bhutto.


The revealing photograph.
The revealing photograph.


He told our reporter: ‘Bhutto was toppled because he was about to dismantle the nuclear program that he himself had started.’

The reason?

‘He was a huge John Lennon fan,’ the former PPP member told our reporter. He added: ‘Bhutto had secretly invited Lennon to Pakistan on a number of occasions. Lennon was a committed pacifist and one day while performing one of his most famous hits, ‘All we need is Love,’ for Bhutto in Larkana, Lennon urged Bhutto to dismantle Pakistan’s nuclear program because it would be ‘a groovy thing to do, like far out, man.’

In January 1977 Bhutto finally agreed to heed Lennon’s advice and was about to announce the dismantling of Pakistan’s then nascent nuclear program when General Ziaul Haq stepped in and removed Bhutto in a military coup.

Thinking Zia to be loyal, Bhutto had not kept Lennon’s trips to Pakistan a secret from him. In fact, according to the former PPP member, Zia, a conservative Muslim, could often be seen discussing politics, the mysteries of the cosmos and Yoko Ono’s hair style with Lennon. He also gifted Lennon copies of books authored by founder of Jamat-i-Islami Abul Ala Maududi that Lennon found to be groovy and, like, far out, man.

The former PPP member also claims that though the world thinks that a mentally disturbed young American assassinated Lennon in New York in 1980, he was actually shot dead by a member of the Al-Zulfikar – the left-wing urban guerrilla organisation that Bhutto’s son, Murtaza Bhutto, had formed after Zia executed Bhutto through a sham trial in April 1979.

‘Murtaza was informed that Lennon was about to tell the Rolling Stone magazine that he had convinced Bhutto to stop Pakistan’s nuclear program,’ the PPP member explained. ‘So Murtaza used Al-Zulfikar and got Lennon killed to stop him from outing the secret.’

When contacted Lennon’s killer, Mark Chapman, (who is still in jail) for a comment on the above claim, he said: ‘Yes. I was hired by Ali Baba of Al-Jazeero. I am glad the truth is now coming out. The Martians will be mighty pleased.’

Ziaul Haq’s demise

Our exclusive discussion with John Lennon’s assassin, Mark Chapman, also revealed some interesting insights into the death of General Ziaul Haq.

Haq, who had ruled Pakistan as a military dictator for 11 years, died in a plane crash on 18 August, 1988.

Much has been commented about the crash. Most analysts agree that there was a bomb that went off while Zia’s plane was in the air, but they differ about the identity of the culprit.

Some suggest that the bomb was placed by the American CIA thwart after using Zia wanted to eliminate him; while some analysts believe that it was the Soviet KGB who was behind Zia’s death.

There are also those who claim that Al-Zulfikar got the bomb planted in the plane.


A prison photo of Lennon’s assassin and possible member of the Al-Zulfikar, Mark Chapman.
A prison photo of Lennon’s assassin and possible member of the Al-Zulfikar, Mark Chapman.

Chapman points at the third theory: ‘Yes. Ali Baba of Al-Jazeero bombed David Bowie. The Martians were mighty pleased.’ He also claimed that he could eat 50 eggs in an hour.


Famous security analyst and equally famous patriot, Ahlmo Qureshi, has requested the Pakistani media not to dismiss Chapman’s claims as those of a nut’s.

Qureshi, who was once close to another famous security analyst, TV personality, revolutionary and Twitter handler, Zard Hamid, wrote in a recent article of his: ‘The truth is always dismissed as a conspiracy theory. This is one such truth. No bomb killed Shaheed Zia. It was the Martians working on the behest of CIA, KGB, RAW, Al-Zulfikar, Mossad and Hollywood.’

Qureshi went on to produce a draft of a 1988 discussion between an alien race and CIA, KGB, RAW, Al-Zulfikar and Mossad. The discussion took place at a secret Nasa station in the Amazon.

Though the draft just contains millions of numbers and digits, it was recently decoded by the Vice Chancellor of the Punjab University (a brilliant physicist).

He is the same man who revealed that the Americans have put computer chips in our brains to hear our thoughts and control our behaviour.

Though much of the media had dismissed the claims, it began to show greater interest when Qureshi produced a picture taken by an American satellite of Zia’s crash.

The photo was taken moments before the crash and shows an unidentified flying object near Zia’s plane.


The rare photo showing a UFO near Zia’s plane.
The rare photo showing a UFO near Zia’s plane.


Qureshi adds that this is the same flying object that was later used by the American CIA to develop drones that have killed millions upon millions Pakistani Muslims. He texted this to us while on his way to New York for a vacation.

OBL’s capture

Almost two years ago Osama bin Laden was supposedly killed by the American Special Forces in a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

But fresh evidence is now emerging that suggests that there was no Osama in that compound. The Americans killed a look-alike of Osama. The real Osama died of gall-bladder failure in a bush in Sudan in 2002.

What’s more, OBL’s wives who were supposedly captured from the Abbottabad compound too were look-alikes, and so were his children. They were all look-alikes.

This was claimed by famous Pakistani TV anchor and investigative journalist, Mobstere.

But it doesn’t stop here. Mobstere further claims that Pakistanis know that the news about Osama’s death from gall-bladder ailment in Sudan in 2002 is also suspected.

That guy too was a look-alike. Thus, one can now safely suggest that the guy they killed in Abbottabad in 2011 was actually a look-alike of a look-alike.

So when did Osama die if not in 2002 and/or 2011?

According to a famous investigative scholar, Arya Stark Maqbool, who interviewed Osama in Kandahar in 1998, Osama was actually dead at the time of the interview.

Arya said that that the man he talked to was actually a person called Al-Yamni, an expert Osama-look-alike who told him (off the record) that Osama actually died in 1991 of malaria in the jungles of the Republic of Congo. He also showed him a photograph in which Osama is seen trying to blend in with the ways and people of Congo.


OBL in Congo, 1991. OBL is third from left.
OBL in Congo, 1991. OBL is third from left.


Nevertheless, Arya adds that there is every likelihood that the Congo guy was an Osama look-alike as well.

So, in other words, the guy who the Americans claimed to have killed in Abbottabad was really a look-alike of a look-alike of a look-alike of a look-alike.

Mobstere agrees. He says that the actual truth is that there was never an Osama at all. He was never born. It was all an American concoction.

Arya, who is also an expert on history, weighs in by suggesting that the character of Osama Bin Laden was first conceived by America’s 15th President James Buchannan in 1859 when, along with the Queen of England, he decided to begin a crusade against the Muslims of Mughal India.

Arya points out that according to one of the most famous historians of Pakistan, late Nasim Hijazee, the British monarchy had accused a man called Osama Bin for financing and instigating the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British imperialists.

The Americans and the British then claimed to have suppressed the mutiny by killing Osama Bin in a daring raid. He was said to have been hiding in a compound near the palace of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Zafar had denied the accusations, saying that no such man was seen on his radar. The British exiled Zafar to Burma and destroyed the radar, saying there is no such thing as a radar.

Arya added: ‘The man the British claimed was Zafar was not exiled to Burma. He was only a look-alike. The real Zafar died of fever in Guatemala where he had gone to raise an army against the British and study plants. Famous author, Tariq Ali, confirmed this.

According to Tariq Ali, the Americans had originally planned to use OBL as a bogey to invade Canada, but changed their plans and decided to invade Afghanistan after they got jealous of all the amazing and unprecedented economic, cultural and military progress taking place in Afghanistan (under the Taliban) and in Pakistan (under handsome military men).

Thus, not surprisingly, the 9/11 episode happened. We all know who was responsible. Not a single Jew died in that attack.

Neither did any Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, animists and pagans. Only Muslims died.

New evidence is finally proving that there was never any Osama Bin Laden. Just like there is no Mullah Omar, no Taliban, no al Qaeda. They’re all American concoctions. There’s only Coca-Cola, the real thing.


There’s only Coca-Cola, the real thing.
There’s only Coca-Cola, the real thing.

Furthermore, America never won the war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union’s break-up too was a concoction. The Soviet Union is still alive and thriving.


Tariq Ali and Mobstere claim that we don’t hear about it because the Jewish controlled media and GeoTV blocked all news about the Soviet Union. That is because the Afghan and Arab mujahideen who fought against it, liberated Afghanistan and then conquered Soviet Union, turning it into an Islamic caliphate. That’s why America’s next target will be Valdimir Putin (real name Abdul something).

So, if one day you hear that Americans have assassinated Putin, don’t believe it. The real Putin died of a kidney ailment in 1045 AD.

Handsome Pakistani politician Imran Khan says that regarding the OBL raid, the Army is not to be blamed. The radar that failed to pick up American helicopters on May 2 was not a radar. It was a look-alike of the real thing that the Americans didn’t give us.

He’s now planning a dharna against this outrage.

An Exit

This is the second part of the blog ‘An election‘ in which I shared my experience of joining student politics at college during the Ziaul-Haq dictatorship.

In this blog, I relate to you my exit from student activism.

My association with student politics lasted till about 1990. I enrolled as a master’s student of Political Science at the Karachi University in early 1988.

At the university, I joined the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF), but I hardly ever went to any class because I had also taken up a side job as a copywriter at an advertising agency.

Then, Zia died. On August 18, 1988, the plane he was travelling in (C-130), blew somewhere over Bhawalpur in the Punjab province.

In the election that took place after his death, Benazir Bhutto led the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to become the largest party in the National Assembly.

I returned to the university in December 1988 and this time I was persuaded by the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) chapter there to join the outfit. I quit the NSF and joined PSF – the PPP’s student-wing of which I had been a member at college (Saint Patricks Government College) from 1984 till 1987.


The entrance of the Karachi University. It is one of the largest universities in Pakistan and was also the most politicised between the 1960s and early 1980s.
The entrance of the Karachi University. It is one of the largest universities in Pakistan and was also the most politicised between the 1960s and early 1980s.


The PSF’s Karachi president at the time was the volatile and hot-headed, Najeeb Ahmed.

I had still to meet him when during a party meeting at the university, I suggested that PSF and the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement’s student-wing, the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO) form an alliance of secular parties to vote out the influence that the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT – Jamaat-i-Islami’s student-wing) still had on the campus. I wanted to repeat the St. Pat’s tactic at the university (see ‘An Election’).

But IJT’s influence was already waning in Karachi with the gradual rise of the APMSO. Sensing this, both APMSO and PSF tried to muscle in to fill the void left behind by IJT’s pullback.

It was during a PSF car rally that was taken out to celebrate the PPP’s victory in the 1988 election, where I first met Najeeb.

I was in a jeep owned by the brother of a dear friend (who was with the PSF at the Sindh Medical College). APMSO had also organised a rally because the election in Karachi had been swept by the MQM.

At one point (at the Two Swords area in Clifton), the two rallies came face to face, creating a terrible traffic jam.

Leaders of both the rallies decided to merge the rallies because Benazir and MQM Chief, Altaf Hussain, were set to form coalition governments in Islamabad and Sindh.

But as if out of nowhere, a tough-looking guy with a stubble jumped out from a car and began to shout: ‘PPP-MQM ittihad na-manzoor!’ (No to PPP-MQM alliance).

He was Najeeb Ahmed. As he and some of his buddies tried to block the APMSO rally’s way with his car, he turned around and saw the jeep I was travelling in.

Before I could ask my friend whether that was Najeeb, he was upon us: ‘Paracha, jeep ghumah ..!’ (Paracha, turn the jeep).

He knew who I was. He seemed to be well briefed about me and my past with the PSF at St. Pat’s College.

Kyun, Najeeb bhai,’ (Why, Najib?), I asked. ‘Let’s let go now, we’ll fight them another day.’

He shouted (in Urdu): ‘Don’t be a fool, Paracha! These people did not help us in our struggle against Zia. You know that. Our people went to jails, were killed and flogged, and these people did nothing. And now they want a piece of the pie? They won’t get any. Nothing in politics is free.’

I didn’t turn the jeep. Or, rather, my friend did turn it, but only to head back home.

The next morning I received a call from some guy called Multani who told me that Najeeb wanted to see me at the university.

‘You breached the party discipline yesterday,’ he said, in a thick Pushtu accent. ‘You disobeyed the party President. Go now and apologise.’

It was 15 January, 1989. I took the KU bus to the university, expecting to be ‘disciplined.’


PSF flags at a convention at the Karachi University.
PSF flags at a convention at the Karachi University.


I went into the university’s canteen where I found some PSF guys huddled together at a table.

One of them saw me and mocked (in Urdu): ‘Here he is, guys. Nadeem Farooq Paracha. The man whose father was a real Bhuttoist. Whose father was blacklisted by Zia. But his son, Mr. Nadeem Farooq Paracha, is the man who dumped the PSF and formed his own party at St. Pat’s College to form his own group …’

I interrupted: ‘Yes, a group who voted out IJT and made sure that Zia’s influence and agents are never allowed to take-over the college unlike you guys who just sat there and gazed at your navels …!’

Kadu!’ (Bulls***t!) He shouted. ‘I was picked up by the cops from this very university in 1981 and tortured. Najib suffered jails and torture, while you were smoking dope at St. Pats …’

‘I was locked up in the 555 (a notorious police station in Saddar), getting punched and kicked by the cops…’ I proudly responded. This was turning into a silly game of boasts.

I decided to change the topic. ‘I was called by Najeeb Bhai. Where is he?’

‘He won’t meet traitors like you. Why don’t you join APMSO, instead,’ the guy answered.

‘Why don’t you tell the same to Mohtarma (Benazir), who has formed a coalition with the MQM?’ I replied.

I went back home without meeting Najeeb. I wrote a letter to Benazir stating that the PPP-MQM alliance won’t last because hawks in both the parties’ student-wings were making sure that it doesn’t.

I didn’t get a reply, but someone from Bilawal House (her residence and office in Karachi) did call to say that she had received the letter.

By early 1990 the nature and intensity of the clashes between PSF and APMSO turned even more violent with both the parties using sophisticated weapons.

The bloodiest episode of the already gory tussle took place at the gymnasium of the Karachi University where six PSF boys were gunned down.


PSF Karachi President, Najeeb Ahmed (1989).
PSF Karachi President, Najeeb Ahmed (1989).

The incident shocked the city. Instantly a fresh round of gory violence broke out between the two groups in almost all major colleges of the city. A number of students from both sides were killed.


The violence put a tremendous strain on the already shaky PPP-MQM ruling alliance. The MQM finally decided to quit the alliance.

Even though dozens of students lost their lives in the violence, the most prominent casualty was Najeeb Ahmed. He was (allegedly) ambushed by a group of APMSO men and shot multiple times. He died a few days later at the hospital.

Those were the most paranoid days of my life.

I finally consulted the situation with my father. I even told him I was driving around with a pistol and that I had quit the university.

‘You are at an important crossroad,’ he told me. ‘If you take a wrong turn, you will become the man of the gun. Such men don’t survive long. Throw it all away. Your struggle is over. It’s in the past’.


My father, Farooq Paracha, Urdu journalist and ‘jeeyala’ advised me to quit student politics. This is a 1988 picture of his. He passed away in 2009.
My father, Farooq Paracha, Urdu journalist and ‘jeeyala’ advised me to quit student politics. This is a 1988 picture of his. He passed away in 2009.


We both agreed that I had to leave Karachi until the tensions in the city cooled down a bit. We also agreed not to tell my mother.

Telling her that I was going to Lahore for a holiday, I left Karachi on a train for Lahore. I stayed with one of my mother’s cousins and his family for a bit and then took a bus to Islamabad to stay with a college friend who had joined the Quaid-e-Azam University there.

From Islamabad I travelled to Peshawar and stayed at a cheap hotel. Here I ran out of money, so I called my sister whose in-laws had relatives (all Jamaat-i-Islami supporters, mind you), in that city.

I borrowed Rs.500 from them and then took a bus back to Lahore. From Lahore I hopped onto another bus that took me to Shewan Sharif, the colourful little city in the Sindh province famous for hosting one of the most boisterous, musical and populist festivals around the shrine of the famous Sufi saint, Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai.

I just had my small backpack, a half-pack of Gold Leaf cigarettes and Rs.17 when I reached Shewan Sharif.

I spent almost a week here in different jhugis (straw houses) populated by roving, roaming malangs/fakirs (vagabonds).

I ate what they ate (dates and roti given to them as charity); drank what they drank (muddy water and lots of bhang – a beverage prepared from cannabis plants); and smoked what they smoked (lots and lots of hashish).


A fakir dancing outside the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai at Shewan Sharif.
A fakir dancing at Shewan Sharif.


Losing weight and now running a fever, I asked a Sindhi cop to let me use the phone from a police station so I could call home.

Saeen, paray likho ho tum …yahaan kya kerahey ho, (You look educated, what are you doing here), he asked, looking at me curiously.

I lied to him. I told him someone stole my wallet on the bus and that I got down here because a friend lived here but that he had moved to Karachi.

He let me use the phone. I called my mother and told her I was still in Islamabad and staying with a friend.

Then a malang advised me to hitch a ride on one of the many trucks that transported fruits, sugar and wheat to Karachi after stopping a bit at Shewan Sharif. I did just that.

A truck carrying sugarcane dropped me off at Sorab Goth, a congested area in Karachi with a huge Pushtun and Afghan population. By then I had even run out of cigarettes.

I took a taxi and was home after another hour or so. I took money from my grandfather’s driver and paid the taxi fare.

After reaching my room, I just collapsed on my bed.

I must have slept for two whole days. I woke up, took a long, hot bath, ate lunch with my grandparents and waited for my father to come back from the office.

When he did, I walked into his room. He looked at me and smiled: ‘Jaag gaye?’ (You have woken?).

‘Indeed, papa,’ I smiled back. Then exhaling an animated sigh of relief, I said: ‘End of the past, papa. End of the past.’


At home only days after my return to Karachi (1990).
At home only days after my return to Karachi (1990).


Later that year (1990), I applied for, was interviewed, and managed to bag the job of a reporter for the time’s largest-selling English weekly, MAG. I never went back to the university.

Alcohol in Pakistan: The prohibition and after

One of my favourite pastimes is sharing a drink with close friends and talking late into the night about a million things, in spite of the fact that I’m not a big drinker – or rather haven’t been one for over a decade now.


Unlike most fans of sinful beverages in Pakistan, I only seldom keep alcoholic drinks at home. But those who do (in Karachi), this is perhaps one of the only reasons they like living in this city.

After all, Karachi (and the rest of the Sindh province) is the only place in Pakistan where one can buy alcoholic beverages rather easily.

Licenced ‘wine shops’ are a plenty and bootleggers (dealing in smuggled whisky, vodka and beer brands) operate freely.

When I turned 10 in 1977, religious political parties had spun alcohol into a national issue.

I remember thinking what all the fuss was about because as a child I’d seen nightclubs, bars and roadside cafes in Karachi (that served alcohol) operating like any entertainment business would.

But, of course, such thinking was emanating from a 10-year-old boy who could not understand the political and theological aspects behind the religious parties’ crusade against alcohol.

Once while coming back from a marriage ceremony that I had attended with my grandparents (during the height of the religious parties’ movement against the Bhutto regime in March 1977), our car got caught up in a riot at Karachi’s Lucky Star area.

All I remember of the episode was dozens of youth with sticks smashing traffic signals and then breaking into two liquor stores there. They had already destroyed the huge neon sign of Pakistan’s Murree Beer that stood on top of an apartment building in the same area.

This is what I saw that day: A few young men would raise slogans while breaking whiskey, gin, vodka and beer bottles in the two shops. But most young men, I remember, would go into the shops and come out carrying as many beer and whiskey bottles they could lay their hands on and run away with them into narrow lanes.

But the starkest memory I have of the episode is that of young men breaking into the two liquor stores, coming out with a bottle or two of Pakistani whisky, and swigging the stuff down their throats right there on the pavement outside the shops, before the stores eventually went up in flames.


A mob gathers outside the Karachi University during the religious parties’ movement against the Z A. Bhutto regime in April 1977.
A mob gathers outside the Karachi University during the religious parties’ movement against the Z A. Bhutto regime in April 1977.

Obviously, as a 10-year-old I just couldn’t understand why men who were supposedly against the sale and consumption of alcohol in Pakistan (on religious grounds), would steal the merchandise of liquor stores for their own consumption and even drink it right there before putting the shops on fire.


Despite the violence and the eventual prohibition on the (open) sale of alcohol and bars in Pakistan in April 1977, Pakistanis never did stop drinking.

In fact according to many surveys, cases of alcoholism grew two-fold in the 1980s and so did cases of death and disease caused by tainted whiskey (‘moonshine’).

Illegal and shady breweries producing cheap whiskey for the consumption of those from the working and peasant classes were not a new phenomenon in Pakistan.

But when alcohol was legal in Pakistan, bars, cafes and liquor stores kept and sold alcoholic beverages from established breweries. These produced whiskey, vodka, gin and beer brands that came with various price tags.

For example, a bar or a liquor store would store both expensive brands, as well as inexpensive ones, but both would come from established breweries.

After the ban however, when liquor stores were only allowed to sell their products to non-Muslims, prices of alcoholic beverages skyrocketed.


August 2013: Police in Faisalabad stand over confiscated bottles of toxic whiskey that was brewed by illegal brewers and killed over 15 men. Such brewers mostly use empty bottles of established whiskey brands.
August 2013: Police in Faisalabad stand over confiscated bottles of toxic whiskey that was brewed by illegal brewers and killed over 15 men. Such brewers mostly use empty bottles of established whiskey brands.

Though the beverages were still in the reach of upper and middle-class Pakistanis who drank, drinkers from the working and peasant classes could not keep up with the rising prices.


They began to squarely depend on liquor being produced by the shady moonshine makers and many poor and working-class Pakistanis continue to lose their lives due to the tainted and underprepared whiskey (Katchi Sharab) produced by illegal brewers.

However, over the decades, and with Pakistan continuing to face the ever-growing issues of religious and sectarian violence, burgeoning crime rates and political and economic upheavals, alcohol as a burning moral issue has greatly receded into the background.

Though it is still banned, it is easily available in ‘wine shops’, some restaurants and from bootleggers, especially in the Sindh province and its capital, Karachi.

What’s more, Pakistan’s oldest and largest brewery, Murree Brewery, continues to do roaring business and is one of the biggest tax-paying set-ups in Pakistan.

Nobody throws up their arms anymore and shouts out loud moralistic platitudes if they find out that someone drinks. It’s an issue that is just not talked about much anymore.

For example, some religious parties have attempted to trigger a number of campaigns against liquor stores in Karachi, but have failed to generate any worthwhile momentum and support from the people. A far cry from what these parties achieved in this regard in 1977.

The only time the debate on alcohol is revived (in the media) is when people die from consuming cheap tainted whiskey.

And even then, newspaper reports and analysts do not shy away anymore from alluding that moonshiners thrive mainly due to the alcohol ban in the country that has greatly jacked-up the prices of good quality alcoholic beverages available in the legal ‘wine shops.’

The message is that the 1977 prohibition failed to stop many Pakistanis from consuming alcohol. In fact, the ban continues to drive a number of poor men into consuming poisonous whiskey, or they end up becoming drug addicts.

When the sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in April 1977 in Pakistan, it was more of a political decision than a moral one.

Under pressure from an animated protest movement by an alliance of various right-wing political parties (Pakistan National Alliance [PNA]), Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to pragmatically address and agree to some of the demands made by the PNA leaders.

Bhutto’s government had come to power through the popular vote and had made a number of socialist promises.

However, by 1977 the government was facing harsh criticism from its right-wing opponents (especially in the major urban centers of the country).

By the time Bhutto went in for a reelection in 1977, his government was embroiled in grave economic problems (triggered by the international oil crises, subsequent inflation, and the failure of the Bhutto regime’s nationalisation policies that had seen a number of industries, banks and educational institutions suffer from incompetent management and rising corruption.

During his tenure he had also tried to mix populist socialist and secular notions of social democracy with certain aspects of Political Islam (that the party’s ideologues called ‘Islamic Socialism’).

Though the idea was to blunt the opposition coming from the right-wing religious groups, the careless fusion actually regenerated these groups that had otherwise been swept aside during the 1970 general elections.

For instance, as a catch-all slogan, the PNA, led by fundamentalist parties demanded that Pakistan be governed by a ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (Shariah).

Even though this was explained with the help of modern writings of Islamic scholars such as Jamat-i-Islami chief, Abul Ala Maududi, Bhutto’s Islamic Socialism had unwittingly given credence to certain myths that began being advocated as historical facts.

The historical explanation of PNA’s Nizam-e-Mustafa was rooted in one such myth: That Pakistan had come into being through divine credence so that it could become the bastion of Islam in the world.

Secondly, when in 1973, Bhutto purged his own party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), by expelling a number of its left-wing ideologues, he (like Anwar Sadat in Egypt), overestimated the threat posed to his government by the pro-Soviet far-left groups.

And again like Sadat, Bhutto thought that he could deflect opposition from the Islamists by giving them a free hand on university campuses that were until then hotbeds of left-wing thought and action.

By 1973 college and university campuses in Karachi and Lahore had witnessed a surge in the popularity and influence of the JI’s student wing the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT).

However, it was also true that in the event of the ineffectual and divided opposition against Bhutto in the parliament and the streets, his opponents, especially in the shape of the mohajirs (Urdu speakers) in Karachi and the right-wing anti-Bhutto bourgeoisie in the Punjab, largely expressed their opposition to Bhutto’s populist regime through the IJT in educational institutions.

During the campaigning of the 1977 election, the PNA accused Bhutto of being a drunk and a womaniser, and resolved that if the people voted PNA into power it would ‘rid the society of the evils of alcohol.’

During a rally in Lahore the same year, Bhutto responded by telling the crowds: ‘Haan mein sharab peeta hoon, laikan awam ka khoon nahi peeta!’ (Yes, I drink, but I do not drink the people’s blood).

He was lashing out at the PNA leaders who were being facilitated and funded by those industrialists whose businesses he had nationalised.


During a rally in Lahore in 1977, Bhutto mocked his opponents by telling the crowd that, ‘Haan mein sharab peeta hoon .. laikan awam ka khoon nahi peeta!’ (Yes I drink, but I do not drink the people’s blood).
During a rally in Lahore in 1977, Bhutto mocked his opponents by telling the crowd that, ‘Haan mein sharab peeta hoon .. laikan awam ka khoon nahi peeta!’ (Yes I drink, but I do not drink the people’s blood).


This was not the first time that the right-wing religious parties had blamed alcohol for the economic, political and social sufferings of the people.

The youth wing of the fundamentalist Majlis-e-Ahrar had attacked coffee houses serving alcoholic drinks in Lahore during the 1954 anti-Ahmadi riots.

Then, in the late 1960s, the student wing of the JI, (the IJT) began a movement against liquor stores and bars in Karachi when (in 1967) the progressive Islamic scholar, Dr. Fazalur Rahman Malik, claimed on TV that according to the hanafi mathab(jurisprudence) that the majority of Pakistan’s Sunni Muslims followed, only some alcoholic beverages were haraam (unlawful) in Islam. He then went on to suggest that there was nothing wrong in consuming beer.

In response to Rahman’s statement, JI asked him to be exiled and IJT activists attacked a number of liquor stores, hoardings and billboards advertising the Pakistani made Murree Beer in Karachi.

Nevertheless, the IJT campaign did not resonate with the public that was already embroiled in the largely left-wing student and labor movement against the Ayub Khan dictatorship, even though Rahman did leave the country and settled in the US as a Professor of Islamic Studies at the Chicago University.


Famous leftist poet Habib Jalib (left) enjoys a drink with a few journalists and intellectuals at a restaurant in Karachi in 1975.
Famous leftist poet Habib Jalib (left) enjoys a drink with a few journalists and intellectuals at a restaurant in Karachi in 1975.


After the loss of East Pakistan (that broke away and became Bangladesh) in 1971 and the subsequent defeat of the Pakistan army at the hands of their Indian counterparts, JI accused the Pakistani Generals’ liking for ‘wine and women’ as one of the main causes of Pakistan’s defeat in the war.

In 1974, Prime Minister Bhutto banned alcohol in the army mess halls, although no such action was taken against bars, nightclubs, coffee houses and liquor stores in the cities.

Throughout the Bhutto regime, IJT tried to initiate various campaigns against liquor stores and nightclubs but it failed to find much public support – until the 1977 PNA movement.

After Bhutto’s PPP swept the National Assembly polls in the 1977 election, PNA claimed that the results were manipulated and that there were widespread cases of fraud undertaken by government agents during the polling.

After boycotting the Provincial Assembly elections, the PNA began a tense protest movement.


Display window of a liquor store in 1976.
Display window of a liquor store in 1976.

The movement demanded Bhutto’s resignation. The movement got its strongest support in Karachi where thousands of right-wing students, shopkeepers, businessmen and professionals agitated in the streets and clashed head-on with the police. The working classes largely stayed away.


A number of liquor stores and nightclubs were also attacked and looted. So when Bhutto got into a dialogue with the PNA, he agreed to close down all bars, liquor stores and nightclubs.

Just when it seemed that a breakthrough was on the horizon between the PPP regime and the PNA, General Ziaul Haq pulled off a military coup in July 1977.

Although he also arrested PNA members along with PPP ministers and Bhutto himself, Zia adopted the PNA’s Islamic overtones and then invited the JI to help him turn Pakistan into becoming a “true Islamic state.”

The bans imposed on alcohol by Bhutto remained, but Zia added a punishment of 80 lashes to anyone defying the ban.

The prohibition has held. However, ‘wine shops’ licensed by the government to cater to Pakistan’s non-Muslim communities are allowed to function but only if they sell local beer, whisky, gin, vodka and rum brands and only sell them to foreigners and the country’s Christian, Hindu, Zoroastrian and other non-Muslim consumers who have a permit issued to them by the government.

Nevertheless, almost 90 per cent of the consumers of the brewery’s products are Muslim.

Some religious parties have continued to try initiating campaigns against even the licensed ‘wine shops’ but these campaigns have failed to generate any public momentum or backing whatsoever.

Some observers suggest that such campaigns have been a failure due to the bigger problem of heroin addiction in the cities.

It is also interesting to note that the use of deadly drugs such as heroin increased (almost tenfold) in Pakistan after the ban on liquor went into effect.

For example until 1979 there were only two reported cases of heroin addiction in Pakistan (reported at the Jinnah Hospital in Karachi); but by 1985, Pakistan had the world’s second largest population of heroin addicts.

Also starling is the fact that there has been little or almost no action by the country’s mainstream religious parties on the issue of heroin usage and sale.


Cases of heroin addiction increased dramatically after the prohibition on alcohol in Pakistan and its entry into the ‘anti-Soviet Afghan jihad.’ Interestingly, those religious parties that campaigned to ban alcohol in 1977 have taken little or no action on heroin addiction and sale.
Cases of heroin addiction increased dramatically after the prohibition on alcohol in Pakistan and its entry into the ‘anti-Soviet Afghan jihad.’ Interestingly, those religious parties that campaigned to ban alcohol in 1977 have taken little or no action on heroin addiction and sale.


I have been fortunate enough to travel across Europe and much of Asia in the last 10 years or so. One learns so much by engaging with and experiencing a variety of cultures and cuisine but, at least with me, there always comes a time (as a visitor in a foreign country), when I start craving good old Pakistani/Indian food.

In 2005, while traveling across Holland, Germany and France, the pangs and cravings for desi food struck me in the middle of a busy shopping district in Paris.

Luckily, I was able to spot a restaurant whose doorman was dressed in a traditionalPushtun dress. I don’t exactly remember the name of the place, but on inquiry, I was told it was owned by two middle-aged gentlemen – one an Indian (from Bangalore), and the other a Pakistani (from Lahore).

What’s more, the waiters too were a colorful South Asian mix: Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. It was a fantastic environment, and I was able to speak Urdu for the first time during my brief stay in a city where people even struggled with English. It was a joy looking at a menu that I could actually understand.

After ordering some biryani, nihari and a couple of rotis, I turned to the drinks section in the menu. I was delighted to note that the restaurant was also offering Indian beer, which I ordered right away.

Lighting myself a cigarette, I waited in enthusiastic anticipation. It took just five minutes for the waiter to bring the beer and lo and behold! I looked at the bottle and it was Murree Beer!

It was a pleasant little surreal moment discovering Pakistani beer in Paris. I, at once, called back the waiter and asked him what was the name of a Pakistani beer brand doing under ‘Indian Beers’ on the menu?

The middle-aged man was from Pakistan (Punjab), and he gave me a puzzled look: ‘Sorry, what did you say?’ he politely asked.

From Urdu, I switched to Punjabi: ‘Friend, this is a Pakistani beer brand …’

But before I could continue he interrupted: ‘Sir, goras (Caucasians) usually ask for Indian beer … you want an Indian brand?’

‘Absolutely not!’ I said. ‘I love Indian beer, but Murree has its moments too. Ask your bosses to put it under the heading of ‘Pakistani Beer,’ will you?’


Murree Beer bottles that are served in restaurants in Europe and the US are slightly different than the ones available in Pakistan.
Murree Beer bottles that are served in restaurants in Europe and the US are slightly different than the ones available in Pakistan.


Murree Beer is made by Murree Brewery Co., Pakistan’s oldest brewery. It was established in 1860 near the famous resort town of Murree in the Punjab province of what is now Pakistan.

In the 1920s the brewery was moved to Rawalpindi where it still stands. In the 1960s, Murree, which until then was famous for its beers, introduced malt whisky, and by the early 1970s, it was also producing vodka and gin.

Before prohibition on the sale of alcohol was imposed in Pakistan in April 1977, various foreign whisky and beer brands were available in bars, liquor shops and clubs in the main urban areas of the country; but Murree remained to be the leading (and most affordable) brand.


Former Pakistani opening batsman, Sadiq, and captain Mushtaq, celebrate Pakistan’ cricket team’s victory against Australia in 1976. With a pint of beer.
Former Pakistani opening batsman, Sadiq, and captain Mushtaq, celebrate Pakistan’ cricket team’s victory against Australia in 1976. With a pint of beer.


In fact Murree’s popularity (especially among young urban middle-class Pakistanis) was such that it started to advertise its beer in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Hoardings and billboards carrying images of Murree Beer went up, mostly in Karachi, with the biggest being a neon sign put on top of a six-storied building in Karachi’s Lucky Star area in the shopping vicinity of Saddar.


An early 1970s ‘Wine & Spirits’ menu of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). PIA was considered to be one of the 10 best airlines in the world between 1965 and 1979.
An early 1970s ‘Wine & Spirits’ menu of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). PIA was considered to be one of the 10 best airlines in the world between 1965 and 1979.


In the 1970s, Murree was competing with various imported beer and whisky brands, but it continued to do well because it was mostly catering to a growing middle-class market to which imported alcoholic brands were an expensive luxury.

There were a few other local brands as well, but none of them survived the prohibition on alcohol in April 1977.

Apart from the fact that more than 90 per cent of the customers of the ‘licensed wine shops’ were/are Muslims, the 1980s and 1990s also saw a dramatic rise in cases of heroin and tranquilizer addiction.

What’s more, though quality Murree brands are available in these shops, their prices have risen, leaving many lower-middle and ‘underclass’ Pakistanis to consume inferior and dangerous underprepared alcoholic beverages sold by shady bootlegging mafias operating in the impoverished areas of urban Pakistan.

Also, ever since the ban on alcohol, liquor smugglers and dealers have been turning a profit with contraband alcoholic drinks.

Trucks bring vodka in from China across the mountains along the country’s northern border, while ships unload cargos of beer and whiskey from Europe at the port of Karachi.

Though the disruptive growth of heroin and bootlegging mafias has been a natural consequence of the long ban, the irony is, ever since the 1980s, the number of chronic alcoholics in Pakistan has witnessed a rapid increase.


This ad began to appear in Pakistani newspapers from 2011.
This ad began to appear in Pakistani newspapers from 2011.


Murree Brewery is one of the biggest tax-paying companies in Pakistan. Ever since 1977, it has survived the various waves of imposed piety and convoluted expressions of state-sanctioned faith, which, on most occasions, has only managed to spell political, cultural and even spiritual dichotomies in Pakistan.

Most Pakistanis usually remain silent on the issue of the prohibition on alcohol and the mostly negative effects that this ban has had on a society in which the consumption of alcohol (among large sections across all classes in both urban and rural areas) remains to be a common occurrence and habit.

Of course, the conservative elements simply refuse to look for a more moderate solution, whereas others have suggested that the lifting of the ban will not only gradually rid the country of bootlegging and heroin mafias, the rate of alcoholism and the deaths caused by inferior quality liquor in the large shanty towns of the country will come down as well.

The conservatives just cannot link alcohol anymore with a number of political, economic and spiritual issues that have continued to rain in on the people of Pakistan for past many decades.

The anti-alcohol campaign managed to succeed in the late 1970s because the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was convolutedly propagated as one of the main reason behind the country’s many ills.

However, after the ban not only have these ills (such as crime) grown but newer ones such as sectarian violence, cases of religious bigotry, violence against women, and extremist terrorism have emerged.

Alcohol in Muslim-majority countries: 1



• Algeria (Completely legal) 2
• Albania (Completely legal)
• Azerbaijan (Completely legal)
• Bahrain (Conditionally legal) 3
• Bangladesh (Partially legal) 4
• Bosnia (Completely legal)
• Brunei (Completely banned)
• Burkina Faso (Completely legal)
• Chad (Completely legal)
• Comoros (Completely legal)
• Djibouti (NA)
• Egypt (Completely legal)
• Gambia (Partially legal) 5
• Guinea (NA)
• Indonesia (Completely legal)
• Iran (Completely banned)
• Iraq (Conditionally legal) 6
• Jordan (Completely legal)
• Kazakhstan (Completely legal)
• Kosovo (Completely legal)
• Kuwait (Completely banned)
• Kyrgyzstan (Completely legal)
• Lebanon (Completely legal)
• Libya (Completely banned)
• Malaysia (Conditionally legal) 7
• Maldives (Conditionally legal) 8
• Mali (Completely legal)
• Mauritania (Completely banned)
• Mayotte (Completely legal)
• Morocco (Completely legal)
• Niger (Completely legal)
• Oman (Partially legal) 9
• Pakistan (Partially legal) 10
• Palestinian territory (Completely legal)
• Qatar (Partially legal)
• Saudi Arabia (Completely banned)
• Senegal (Completely legal)
• Sierra Leone (Completely legal)
• Somalia (Completely banned)
• Sudan (Partially legal) 12
• Syria (Completely legal)
• Tajikistan (Partially legal) [13]
• Tunisia (Completely legal)
• Turkey (Completely legal)
• Turkmenistan (Completely legal)
• UAE (Partially legal) [14]
• Uzbekistan (Completely legal)
• Western Sahara (Completely legal)
• Yemen (Completely banned)

1 Alcohol use in predominantly Muslim regions of the world increased by 25 per cent between 2005 and 2010.
2 Alcohol sales are prohibited during the month of Ramazan.
3 Consumption only allowed at bars and designated restaurants.
4 Though alcohol is banned in Bangladesh but in 2010, the government allowed the sale of beer that has 5 (or less) per cent alcohol content.
5 Sale only allowed to non-Muslims.
6 Only legal in large cities.
7 Banned in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu. Legal only in licensed restaurants and bars. 8 Legal only at tourist resorts.
9 Legal at licensed hotel bars in the city of Muscat.
10 Available to non-Muslims at licensed liquor stores and hotel bars. Sales (through stores) not allowed in the month of Ramazan and on Fridays.
11 Available to non-Muslims at licensed hotels.
12 Legal only in the Christian-majority areas in South Sudan.
[13] Available in hotels, stores and bars but only to non-Muslims.
[14] Legal in hotels, restaurants and bars in Dubai.
-Source: Brookston Beer Bulletin

References & Sources:

W Haider, MA Chaudhry, Prevalence of Alcoholism in Pakistan (Biomedica, 2008).
Santosh C. Saha, Thomas K. Carr, Religious Fundamentalism in Developing Countries (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001) p.21
S. Akbar Zaidi, Issues in Pakistan’s Economy (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Nafisa Hoodbhoy, Abroad the Democracy Train (Anthem Press, 2011) p.xxix
Christopher Candland, Labour, Democratization & Development in India & Pakistan(Routledge, 2007) p.85 L Michalak, K Trocki, Alcohol and Islam, (Hein, 2006) p.523
Ale under the veil’: Jonathan Foreman (The Telegraph, 24 March, 2012).
Alcoholism booms in Pakistan’: Declan Walsh (The Guardian, 27 December, 2010).

Mistaking Maududi for Mao

In July 2007, during their visit to Iran, iconic Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara’s son and daughter were invited to Tehran University by an Iranian Islamic organisation.

The organisation described itself as an Islamic revolutionary internationalist outfit and it was its ‘academic wing’ that had invited Guevara’s off-springs.

The founder of the organisation began quoting from a Persian book on Che’s life, saying that the ‘martyr Che’ was also an internationalist and would have been their comrade in arms had he been alive today.

Then, the founder actually went on to suggest that Che was in fact ‘a Godly man’ who finally met God.


Che’s daughter speaking at the seminar in Tehran just before she was escorted back to the airport.
Che’s daughter speaking at the seminar in Tehran just before she was escorted back to the airport.

But, alas, when the chair invited Che’s daughter to come up to the podium and speak, she immediately put aside the speech she had prepared for the occasion and decided to speak extempore.


With a tense frown cutting across her forehead, Che’s daughter angrily insisted: ‘I don’t know what book you are quoting from but my father was a Communist who did not believe in God and as far as I know, never met God in the end either!’

Contrary to what the founder of the organisation had expected, the audience at the university, mainly made up of students, began to cheer and applaud and a minor scuffle broke out between the students and members of the Islamic organisation.

Che’s daughter was surrounded by the Iranian secret service and hastily escorted (along with her brother) to the Tehran airport.

This episode is symptomatic of the way numerous rightist forces have begun to adopt revolutionary leftist postures and rhetoric, especially in Muslim countries.

Many of these elements are doing this in a rather cynical manner, but curiously and as was exemplified by the Iranian organisation, such men and women actually believe that their Islamist ideals are close to those that were upheld by Marxist ideologues of yore.

It is true that the 20th century saw the emergence of certain leftist and progressive thinkers and politicians in Muslim countries who did attempt to fuse ‘political Islam’ with socialist and secular ideals (‘Islamic Socialism’ ‘Arab Socialism,’ ‘Ba’ath Socialism’, etc.).

However, not only did their experiments in this regard meet with gradual political and economic failures, these thinkers and politicians were (rather ironically) opposed by exactly the forces who began adopting leftist rhetoric after the Cold War.

Take for example what happened soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is a fact that much of the groundwork for that revolution was done by various leftist and communist organisations in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The radical clergy only directly plunged into the movement after 1976, and that too after initially basing their revolutionary message on the thoughts of Ali Shariati – an Islamic revolutionary thinker who had heavily punctuated his thoughts on ‘political Islam’ with Marxist concepts and symbolism.

After the revolution in which the clergy managed to eventually overshadow other forces involved in the revolution against the autocratic Shah, the Islamists were able to enact an ‘Islamic regime’.

But the regime soon went into overdrive against the leftists, many of whom had actually fought in the streets alongside the Islamists during the uprising.


Women members of leftist and Islamic organisations protest together against the Shah of Iran in 1978.
Women members of leftist and Islamic organisations protest together against the Shah of Iran in 1978.


Between 1981 and 1988, Amnesty International claimed that over 10,000 leftist opponents of the regime were executed in Iran. 1988 was the worst year when in a matter of five months, the Islamic regime executed 4,482 political prisoners, most of them belonging to leftist outfits such as the Mujahideen-i-Khalq and the communist Tudeh Party.

Of course, the Islamic organisation at the Tehran University conveniently failed to mention this when it over-enthusiastically equated Che’s ways with those of the Islamists.


Members of Iran’s elite Islamic force execute leftists (1988).
Members of Iran’s elite Islamic force execute leftists (1988).


Almost all of the Islamist outfits across the Muslim world that have been adopting leftist revolutionary rhetoric ever since the 1990s, played a major role in assisting the United States in curbing leftist forces in their respective countries during the Cold War (1949-1989).

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist outfit across the Arab world, was strategically aligned to the political interests of the United States (mainly through the Saudi regime) during much of the Cold War.


Arab nationalist Gamal Nasser (right) talks to a member of the Muslim Brotherhood soon after taking over power in Egypt in 1952. After falling out with Nasser, the Brotherhood attempted to assassinate him. Nasser ordered a brutal crackdown against the outfit’s leaders and members that only ended after his death in 1970.
Arab nationalist Gamal Nasser (right) talks to a member of the Muslim Brotherhood soon after taking over power in Egypt in 1952. After falling out with Nasser, the Brotherhood attempted to assassinate him. Nasser ordered a brutal crackdown against the outfit’s leaders and members that only ended after his death in 1970.

Between the 1950s and 1970s it actively resisted secular, quasi-socialist and pro-Soviet regimes in Arab countries and also dismissed the whole concept of Arab nationalism in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Algeria and even in the otherwise pro-West (but secular) Tunisia.

Today, the Muslim Brotherhood has moulded itself into a democratic expression of ‘political Islam’ in Egypt and Tunisia, whereas its main benefactor and patrons, the Saudi Arabia, continues to be under the thumb of a decadent reactionary monarchy.

But the Muslim Brotherhood does not disown the role it played in the past against socialism and secular Arab nationalism on the behest of a jittery Saudi monarchy.

It explains it as being a ‘tactful’ (as opposed to being an ideological) partnership with the United States to eliminate ‘atheistic communism’ from society.

However, more interesting is the rhetoric of the overtly militant factions that emerged from the Brotherhood, especially after Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, officially recognised the state of Israel in1977.

Many of these organisations took part in the US and Saudi funded ‘Afghan jihad’ against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (in the 1980s).

Though angry with the way Egypt had recognised Israel, the revolutionary Islamists’ main target remained to be leftists.

It was only after the end of the ‘Afghan jihad’ and the Cold War that many such organisations came together under the umbrella of Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda and began fusing puritanical and radical Islamist rhetoric and action with symbolism and imagery once associated with far-left Marxist and anarchist groups of the late 19th and early 20th century.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism, the Islamists who found themselves suddenly orphaned by their Western allies, filled the vacuum created by the receding forces of the left.

Three prominent developments followed such a scenario:

1: Whereas between the 1950s and 1970s many progressive Muslim thinkers and regimes had tried to reconcile secularism and socialism with ‘political Islam,’ after the Cold War, right-wing Islamists (both militant and mainstream) who had opposed such manoeuvres began colouring their puritanical and ultra-conservative line of thinking and action with populist leftist rhetoric. And/or the same rhetoric that was once used by radical leftists against the US and Arab monarchs but rejected by the Islamists as being ‘atheistic.’

2: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, most Cold War leftists shifted their ideological focus from aspiring to revolutionising societies and states on Marxist/Maoist models. They now moved to work towards achieving social democracy and respect for the post-modernist ideals of ethnic, sectarian, religious and social diversity and pluralism. They suggested that Muslim societies that had generated right-wing radicalism from within were threatened more by this tendency rather than by ‘western imperialism’. However, there were (and are) Cold War leftists who were only willing to reconcile with the idea of Communism’s collapse by actually romanticising Islamists as being a new expression of anti-US ‘liberation.’ Tariq Ali and George Galloway are stark examples in this context.

3: After the Cold War and then 9/11, though the US and Saudi patronage for their old protégées in the shape of anti-left Islamists began to dramatically recede, this did not mean that the patronage shifted towards the more progressive forces. For example, the US continued to engage with those who had helped it distribute funds to the Islamists during the Cold War (such as the Pakistani security forces); whereas, in spite of the fact that Saudi Arabia began to lessen the funds it was providing to militant Salafi outfits during the Cold War, it has still to completely withdraw from the proxy war it is fighting (through puritanical Sunni outfits) against the Shia Muslims. Also, mindful of the fact that its anti-Soviet Cold War policies in Muslim countries actually gave birth to radical Islamic outfits, the US is still looking past progressive forces and instead now trying to aid the so-called ‘moderate’ Islamists.

The case of the red muffler

One of the most interesting (and at times downright silly) battles being fought between rightists mouthing leftist rhetoric and the liberals is taking place in the mainstream political arena of Pakistan.

Take the example of how a simple thing like a red coloured muffler has become a symbol of revolutionary commitment in Pakistan, especially after cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan began wrapping his neck with one.


Revolutionary Khan?
Revolutionary Khan?


When journalist, publisher and TV personality par excellence, Najam Sethi, was asked last year whether he had begun to wear a red muffler after being inspired by Khan, Najam laughed off the question, suggesting he’d been wearing one ever since his student days in the 1960s.

Sethi, who today is considered to be one of leading liberal voices in Pakistan’s media, has had a history of being a Marxist as a college and university student.

And I doubt that a man of his intelligence would actually wear a red muffler to prove his leftist credentials. But yes, there are grown-up men in Pakistan who are using the red muffler (and in one case, a red cap), to actually advertise their revolutionary disposition.

The funny thing is all of them can quite easily be categorised as being entirely right-wing.


Capped in red but nowhere to go: Right-wing TV personality and ‘security analyst’ Zaid Hamid.
Capped in red but nowhere to go: Right-wing TV personality and ‘security analyst’ Zaid Hamid.

Though, one can convincingly argue that red caps in Pakistan (and then mufflers) were first adorned (as leftist revolutionary statements) by Bacha Khan’s Pushtun nationalists, it was one of the first popular Pakistani politician who turned the idea of wearing something red to reflect leftist orientation into a popular fad. He was late Z.A. Bhutto.

Chairing a progressive populist democratic party (and then regime), Bhutto was a staunch admirer of Chinese Marxist ideologue and leader, Mao Tse Tung.


Z.A. Bhutto with his trademark ‘Mao cap.’
Z.A. Bhutto with his trademark ‘Mao cap.’


When he emerged as the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967, Bhutto began to adorn a red ‘Mao cap.’

As a reaction, Islamic parties began adorning the ‘Islamic green’ to counter Bhutto’s ‘leftist red.’

Red caps and mufflers remained a constant with progressive Pushtun nationalist groups, members of the PPP’s student-wing (PSF) and some small Communist parties across the 1980s. Beanzir Bhutto too, wore a red Maoist cap when she returned from exile in 1986 and held huge anti-Zia rallies.

After the end of the Cold War when the US withdrew its patronage and funds from Islamist groups, who were used by the US to restrict the influence of the leftists in Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif and leader of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was perhaps the first mainstream politician in Pakistan to begin adorning a red muffler.

Though a protégée of military dictator Ziaul Haq and right-wing in his views, he (and his party) became more populist in orientation after being downed by a military coup in 1999.

PML-N became one of the first right-wing outfits in Pakistan to begin using leftist symbolism.

The trend was soon followed by the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI). Though no JI leader could be seen wearing a red cap or muffler, many of them did begin to mimic the radical anti-US and populist lingo of (ironically) the same leftists whom the party had vehemently opposed during the Cold War.


After the end of the Cold War, Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami began to mimic the radical anti-US and populist lingo and symbolism.
After the end of the Cold War, Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami began to mimic the radical anti-US and populist lingo and symbolism.


Same is the case with men like former ISI chief, Hamid Gul, a staunch anti-Soviet and pro-US crusader in the 1980s.

These days, Gul too, can be found with a red muffler around his neck with jargon that mixes militaristic Islamist rhetoric with clichéd leftist sloganeering – even though ISI under him was busy torturing anti-US leftists in the 1980s.

What about Imran Khan then? He’s a classic example of those men who had found Z. A. Bhutto repulsive in the 1970s and 1980s, but have now suddenly found a liking of sorts for Bhutto.

It won’t be surprising to find a member of the JI or Imran Khan’s party today, who now believes that the man that they agitated against was actually closest to what they have been promising the masses these days: To make Pakistan an ‘Islamic welfare state.’

Of course, an Islamic welfare state is almost entirely a meaningless term. In theory, it simply means a welfare state in a Muslim majority country. But since all these new red muffler fans just cannot disengage from their faith-heavy interpretation of politics and the society, the ‘Islamic’ suffix is used.

But the fact remains, no amount of red mufflers and lefty rhetoric can change the reality that many of these men fought a concentrated war on the behest of the US with leftists throughout the Cold War and those who didn’t are simply mixing up their Maududi with Mao.

The 1974 ouster of the ‘heretics’: What really happened?


The sole culprit?


The legacy of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is a mixed bag of praise, platitudes and panning.

Where, on the one hand, he is hailed as being perhaps the sharpest and most dazzling politicians ever to grace the country’s political landscape, he is also panned for being a megalomaniac and a demagogue, readily willing to sideline his democratic principles in pursuit to retain political power.

Applauded for successfully regenerating a demoralised and fractured country’s pride (after the 1971 East Pakistan debacle), and igniting within the working classes a sudden sense of political consciousness, Bhutto is also remembered as the man who (to remain in power) continued to play footsie with reactionary political outfits and (thus) ultimately betraying his own party’s largely secular, democratic and socialist credentials.

Not only did he attract fierce opposition from the right-wing Islamic parties, over the decades, the left and liberal sections of the Pakistani intelligentsia have also come down hard on him for capitulating to the demands of right-wing parties on certain theological and legislative issues that eventually (and ironically) set the tenor and the tone of a reactionary General (Ziaul Haq) who toppled his regime.

With the ever-increasing problem of religious bigotry and violence that Pakistan has been facing ever since the 1980s, many intellectuals, authors and political historians in the country have blamed the Bhutto government’s 1974 act of constitutionally redefining the status of the Ahmadiyya, formerly recognised as a Muslim sect, as the starting point of what began to mutate into a sectarian and religious monstrosity in the next three decades.

The Ahmadiyya community was (almost overnight) turned into a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan.

Many observers correctly point out that by surrendering to the demands of the religious parties in this context (especially after they had resorted to violence), Bhutto unwittingly restored their confidence and status that was badly battered during the 1970 election.

But I believe panning Bhutto for introducing legislative and constitutional expressions of bigotry has become too much of a cliché. It’s become a somewhat knee-jerk reaction, and an exercise in which the details of the 1974 event have gotten lost and ignored in the excitement of repeatedly pointing out the starling irony of a left-liberal government passing a controversial theological edict.

I will not get into the theological aspects of what was then called ‘the Ahmadiyya question,’ because I’m not academically qualified to do so.

Nevertheless, it is important that one attempts to objectively piece together the events that led to the final act. Events that seem to have gotten buried underneath the thick layers of polemical theological diatribes exchanged between orthodox Muslim scholars and those associated with the Ahmadiyya community; and also due to the somewhat intellectual laziness of the secular intelligentsia that has exhibited a rather myopic understanding and judgment of and on Bhutto’s role in the episode.

This article is by no means an attempt to judge the theological merits or political demerits of the bill that constitutionally relegated the Ahmadiyya community as a non-Muslim minority.

It is just an attempt to bring to light certain events that culminated in the relegation of the Ahmadiyya community.

To do so I did go through some literature produced by orthodox Sunni and Shia ulemaand those associated with the Ahmadiyya community during the commotion, but that literature is largely theological.

So I have ignored it because I lack the theological training to comment on it, and anyway, it is hardly helpful in understanding the day-to-day on-ground happenings that led the Bhutto government to turn a demand of his Islamic opponents into a law.

Instead, my findings in this respect are squarely based on, and culled from the writings of historians and authors who, I believe, have transcribed the history of the event in the most objective and informed manner.

I have also used a plethora of information available in the day-to-day reporting of the commotion by certain Urdu and English newspapers of the time (especially between May 1974 and July 1974).

The schism

A series of modern, as well as puritanical reformist Muslim movements emerged after the complete fall of the Muslim Empire in India in the mid-1800s.


Mirza Ghulam Ahmed
Mirza Ghulam Ahmed

The Ahmadiyya movement was one of them. The Ahmadiyya community was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed he was under divine instruction to fulfil the major prophecies contained in Islamic and other sacred texts regarding a world reformer who would unite humanity.


He announced to Christians awaiting the second coming of Jesus, Muslims anticipating the Mahdi, Hindus expecting Krishna, and Buddhists searching for Buddha, that he was the promised messiah for them all, commissioned by God to rejuvenate true faith.

When Mirza died the Ahmadiyya split into two sects: the ‘Qadianis’ and the ‘Lahoris’. The Qadianis claimed that Mirza was a prophet, and accused all Muslims who did not accept him as being non-Muslims.

Claiming prophethood is regarded to be a major and unpardonable sin by a majority of Muslims, even though the Lahori faction believes that Mirza never claimed prophethood. Orthodox Muslim sects in South Asia believe that he did.

As the 19th century reformist movements competed among themselves to gather and organise the Muslim community in India, they often clashed with each other and in their polemical publications and literature denounced their counterparts as either being ‘bad Muslims’ (fakir) or outright heretics/infidels (kafir).

For example, the Sunni Muslim reformists emerging from seminaries in the Indian city of Deoband (the ‘Deobandis’) denounced another Sunni Muslim sub-sect, the ‘Barelvis,’ of introducing questionable innovations in the practice and rituals of Islam. The Barelvis, a less puritanical Sunni sub-sect, responded in kind.

Both, however, were on the same page when it came to Shia Islam and accused the Shias of heresy.

Interestingly, the more conservative sections of all three sects in the region vehemently criticised the modernist/rationalist reformist Muslim movements of the time led by scholars such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali.

Till about 1913, the Ahmadiyya movement was seen as a spiritual and evangelical branch of the modernist reformist Muslim initiatives triggered by the likes of Sir Syed and Syed Ameer Ali.

In fact, for a while, a number of Indian Muslim intellectuals were closely associated with the Ahmadiyya movement and considered Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a modern redeemer of faith in India.

Brilliant poet and philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal, too was once a great admirer of the movement.


Iqbal (left) takes a walk with prominent Ahmadiyya leader in the Muslim League, Zafarullah Khan, in London. Iqbal was a great admirer of the founder of the Ahmadiyya community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, before breaking away from the movement in 1935. Zafarullah went on to hold a top position in the Pakistani government after the country's creation in 1947.
Iqbal (left) takes a walk with prominent Ahmadiyya leader in the Muslim League, Zafarullah Khan, in London. Iqbal was a great admirer of the founder of the Ahmadiyya community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, before breaking away from the movement in 1935. Zafarullah went on to hold a top position in the Pakistani government after the country’s creation in 1947.


Contrary to popular belief, agitation against the Ahmadiyya movement (by the orthodox Muslim sects and sub-sects in India) was not an immediate happening that emerged right after the formation of the community in 1889.

The more vocal accusations against the community first arose 24 years later in 1914 when an influential Ahmadiyya leader, Mirza Muhammad Ahmad, began to publicly declare that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a messiah and those Muslims who disagreed with this were infidels.

This further split the movement, with the so-called ‘Qadianis’ sticking to Mirza Muhammad Ahmad’s assertions and the ‘Lahori’ faction denouncing him and accusing him of inferring something that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had not claimed.

Nevertheless, the schism within the Ahmadiyya community and Mirza Muhammad Ahmad’s unabashed claims left the movement vulnerable against accusations of being heretical.

The accusations began piling up in earnest from 1915 onward and by the 1940s the orthodox ulema began to pressurise Muslim leadership in India to address the ‘Ahmadiyya question.’

Interestingly, the Ahmadiyya movement allied itself with Jinnah’s All India Muslim League (AIML).

For example, during the crucial 1946 election in the Punjab, the main opposition to the Ahmadiyya came from Islamic groups allied to the Indian National Congress or from Islamic scholars who did not recognise the League to be the sole representative of Indian Muslims.

The League at the time was a mixture of modernist Muslims, secular democrats, pro-Jinnah ulema and even Marxists.

In fact, the League’s manifesto for the 1946 election was largely authored by socialists and Marxists, whereas much of the campaigning was done by the pro-League Islamic lobbies.

The latter in fact advised Jinnah to dissociate himself from the party’s Ahmadiyya members because Islamic outfits that were being backed by the Congress were using the issue to question the party’s Muslim credentials.

Jinnah ignored the suggestion.


Volunteers from Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community train to take part in Pakistan’s first battle with the Indian military in Occupied Kashmir in 1948.
Volunteers from Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community train to take part in Pakistan’s first battle with the Indian military in Occupied Kashmir in 1948.


In 1951, three years after the creation of Pakistan, due to a failed ‘communist coup’ attempt by some left-wing military men in league with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and a group of progressive intellectuals, the government initiated an intense crackdown and bans against left-leaning officers in the military, the CPP and affiliated trade, student and labour unions.

This created just enough of a void for some radical rightist forces to seep in.

This opportunity was further widened by the disintegration of the ruling Muslim League (ML) that was by then plagued with infighting, corruption and exhaustive power struggles among its top leadership.

In 1953 after smelling an opportunity to reinstate their political credentials, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Majlis-i-Ahrar gladly played into the hands of the then Chief Minister of Punjab and veteran Muslim Leaguer, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, who was plotting the downfall of his own party’s prime minster, Khuwaja Nazimuddin.

With a burning ambition to become the Prime Minister after former Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan’s enigmatic assassination in 1951, Daultana was bypassed when the ML government chose the Bengali Nazimuddin as PM whom Daultana considered to be incompetent.

As Chief Minister of Punjab, Daultana was being criticised for the rising rate of unemployment and food shortages in the province.

Anticipating protests against his provincial government’s failure to rectify the economic crises in Punjab, Daultana began to allude that economic crises in the province were mainly the doing of the Ahmadiyya community.

The Ahmadiyya had played a leading role in the creation of Pakistan and were placed in important positions in the military, the bureaucracy, the government and within the country’s still nascent industrial classes.

Daultana did not accuse the Ahmadiyya directly. Instead, he purposefully ignored and even gave tactical support to JI and the Ahrar who decided to use the crises in the Punjab by beginning a campaign against the community and demand their excommunication from the fold of Islam.


General Azam Khan: He led the crackdown in Lahore against anti-Ahmadiyya agitators and leaders.
General Azam Khan: He led the crackdown in Lahore against anti-Ahmadiyya agitators and leaders.

As JI and Ahrar members went on a rampage destroying Ahmadiyya property in Lahore, Daultana was able to shift the media’s and the nation’s attention away from his provincial government’s economic failures. 

But his ‘victory’ was short-lived. The Nazimuddin government with the help of the military crushed the movement and rounded up JI and Ahrar leaders.

It then went on to dismiss Daultana. The demand to throw the Ahmadiyya out of the fold of Islam was rejected.

The brutal crackdown against the protesters and the arrest of the movement’s main leaders (on charges of instigating violence against the state) seemed to had buried the Ahmadiyya question once and for all.

No significant move to reignite the issue was made for the next 20 years. But when the move did come, it took everyone by surprise.

The ouster

Along with the working classes and the petty-bourgeoisie of the Punjab, the Ahmadiyya had overwhelmingly voted for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the province during the 1970 election.

The community’s members were well entrenched in the country’s economy and had not faced any major acts of persecution from the orthodox Islamic parties and the ulemaever since 1954.

On May 22, 1974, some 160 members of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT — the student of the Jamaat-i-Islami), boarded a train headed for Peshawar in the former NWFP.

On its way to Peshawar, the train stopped for a while at the Rabwa railway station. The city of Rabwa was predominantly an Ahmadiyya town and also housed the community’s spiritual headquarters.


A religious gathering of the Ahmadiyya in Rabwa in the 1960s.
A religious gathering of the Ahmadiyya in Rabwa in the 1960s.


As the train stopped at Rabwa, IJT students got out and began to raise slogans against the Ahmadiyya and cursed the community’s spiritual figurehead, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

The train then left the station taking the charged students to Peshawar. No untoward incident was reported apart from the slogan-chanting and cursing.

However, when the incident was related to some Ahmadiyya leaders in Rabwa, they ordered Ahmadiyya youth to reach the station with hockey sticks and chains when the train stops again at Rabwa on its way back from Peshawar.

After finding out that the students would be returning to Multan from Peshawar on the 29th of May, dozens of young Ahmadiyya men gathered at the Rabwa station.

As the train came to a halt, the men fell upon the bogeys carrying the IJT members. A fight ensued and 30 IJT men were severely beaten for insulting the religious sentiments of the Ahmadiyya.


A group of Ahmadiyya youth in 1973.
A group of Ahmadiyya youth in 1973.


A non-Ahmadiyya man who witnessed the commotion at the station told reporters that both the incidents (the slogans and retaliation) were unprecedented.

‘Someone wanted this to happen,’ he said, without saying who that someone was.

Interestingly, whereas the first incident had only been briefly reported by the newspapers, the news of the attack on IJT was prominently displayed in the country’s conservative Urdu press.

JI demanded that the culprits of the attack be apprehended or the party would hold countrywide protest rallies.

Police arrested 71 Ahmadiyya men in Rabwa and the Punjab government headed by the PPP’s Chief Minister, Hanif Ramay, appointed K M Samadani, a High Court judge, to hold an inquiry into the incident.

But this did not stop the JI from launching a protest movement. It was soon joined by other opposition parties which included the centre-right Muslim League, the right-wing Majlis-i-Ahrar and even the centrist Tehrik-i-Istiqlal headed by Asghar Khan.

Joining the protests were also various bar associations of the Punjab, orthodox ulemaand clerics and the student wing of JI, the IJT.

They demanded that Ahmadiyya members be removed from the bureaucracy and the government; Ahmadiyya youth outfits be disarmed; and that Rabwa be declared an open city because it had become ‘a state within a state.’

The protests turned violent and spread across various cities of the Punjab. Mobs attacked houses and businesses owned by the Ahmadiyya and also attacked Ahmadiyya men and women. Dozens of members of the Ahmadiyya community lost their lives, most of them dying in Gujranwala and Sargodah.

The leaders of the protest movement then demanded that the Ahmadiyya be excommunicated from the fold of Islam.

On June 4, while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Bhutto refused to allow opposition members to speak on the Ahmadiyya issue. He accused the opposition of being ‘hell-bent on destroying the country.’



His party had an overwhelming majority in the assembly and protests from the members on the opposition benches were briskly subdued.

Then, when the riots escalated, Bhutto gave the Punjab CM the green signal to use force to quell the riots. The police came down hard on the rioters and managed to reduce the intensity of the turmoil after a week.

On June 14, opposition parties called for a wheel-jam strike. It was successful in the Punjab and in some cities of the NWFP, but was largely ignored in Sindh and Balochistan.


A café owned by an Ahmadiyya Pakistani set on fire after being looted.
A café owned by an Ahmadiyya Pakistani set on fire after being looted.


On June 19, newspapers quoted Bhutto as saying that the government was committed to protecting the lives and property of all Pakistanis and that his government was even willing to use the army for this purpose.

He was reminding the opposition how the army had brutally cracked down against anti-Ahmadiyya rioters in 1954.

Bhutto then appealed to the opposition that the ‘Ahmadiyya question’ can be settled in a more civilised manner without resorting to violence and bigotry. He said now was not the right time.

He appeared on TV and radio and insisted that he will not allow ‘savagery and cannibalism’. He said the Ahmadiyya issue had been around for 90 years and could not be solved in a day. He suggested that the issue be referred to the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology (ACII) — a non-legislative advisory body that was formed by the Ayub Khan dictatorship in the early 1960s and was mostly headed by liberal Islamic scholars.

After the June 14 strike, Bhutto allowed the issue to be discussed in the assembly and told the press that his party members in the House were free to vote on the issue according to their individual conscience.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) chief, Maulana Mufti Mehmood, who was heading the opposition’s stand on the issue, responded by accusing Bhutto of trying to put the ‘Ahmadiyya question’ in cold storage.

‘A mere resolution in the assembly will be an eyewash,’ he told reporters. ‘Bhutto is trying to sweep the issue underneath the carpet.’

Religious parties, the fundamentalist JI, the Deobandi Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and the Barelvi Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) had formed an ‘Action Committee’ with the centre-right Pakistan Democratic Party (of Nawabzada Nasarullah) and Pagara’s Muslim League. They called it Qadiyani Muhasbah Committee (Committee for the Exposition of Qadyanism).

Opposition parties such as the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP) remained silent.

Mufti Mehmood demanded that a bill be passed in the assembly that would once and for all declare the Ahmadiyya community as a non-Muslim minority.

Jamaat-i-Islami’s Mian Tufail demanded the same and warned Bhutto that ‘his double-talk on the Ahmadiyya issue would trigger his downfall.’

The centre-right PDP also joined the chorus and demanded that a bill be introduced in the Parliament declaring the Ahmadiyya as non-Muslim.


JI’s Mian Tufail and the party’s founder, Abul Ala Maududi, holding a press conference in June 1974.
JI’s Mian Tufail and the party’s founder, Abul Ala Maududi, holding a press conference in June 1974.


Opposition parties and clerics again threatened to take to the streets to force the government to introduce the suggested bill.

Bhutto maintained that declaring the Ahmadiyya a minority and pushing them out from state and government institutions would be detrimental to the economy and political stability of the country. He also protested that the issue was a religious one and hence the National Assembly should not be used to resolve it.

The religious parties disagreed. They reminded him of the constitution all the political parties had approved only a year ago (1973). They told him that the constitution had declared Pakistan as an Islamic Republic so how could he claim that a religious issue had no place in the National Assembly?

It was about this time that some advisors of Bhutto warned him that if the crises was allowed to simmer or be sidelined, the party might lose some members in the Punjab and National Assembly who were sympathetic towards the demands of the opposition.

On Bhutto’s orders, one of his ministers, Kausar Niazi, led a government delegation that held a series of meetings with the ulema belonging to Sunni (both Deobandi and Barelvi) sub-sects, and the Shia sect.

They agreed to form a parliamentary committee to look into the demands of the parties that were leading the anti-Ahmadiyya movement.

The government convinced the opposition members of the committee that the spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya community also be given the opportunity to present his thoughts and opinion on the issue.


A heavily edited version of the report authored by the parliamentary committee.
A heavily edited version of the report authored by the parliamentary committee.

After weeks of intense dialogues among the parliamentary committee, the ulema and the head of the Ahmadiyya community, the committee decided to finally introduce the bill in the assembly.


Sections of the press reported that a majority of PPP legislators were unwilling to vote for the bill. But even though the report that was prepared by the committee was never made public, parts of it were leaked to the legislators and the report allegedly recorded the head of the Ahmadiyya community telling the committee that he only considered those who were Ahmadiyya as Muslims.

On Sept 7, 1974, the bill was passed and the Ahmadiyya became a non-Muslim minority.

Though the violence stopped after the passage of the bill, a large number of Ahmadiyya who were actively involved in the fields of business, science, teaching and the civil service began to move out of Pakistan, leaving behind the less well-to-do members of the community who till this day face regular bouts of violence and harassment.


A collage of Urdu newspapers (all dated Sept 8, 1974) with headlines announcing the excommunication of the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan.
A collage of Urdu newspapers (all dated Sept 8, 1974) with headlines announcing the excommunication of the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan.

In another series of ironies, in 1977, the parties that had rejoiced the excommunication of the Ahmadiyya in 1974 were out on the streets again — this time agitating against the very government and the man who had agreed to accept their most assertive demand.


In the final act of this irony, in April 1979, the same man was sent to the gallows (through a sham trial) by the military dictatorship of Ziaul Haq, who decided to stay on to ‘turn Pakistan into a true Islamic republic’, and would go on to explain how Bhutto had become ‘a danger to both Islam and Pakistan’.

In 1984, the Zia dictatorship further consolidated the state of Pakistan’s stand against the Ahmadiyya by issuing an ordinance (Ordinance XX) which prohibited the Ahmadiyya from preaching or professing their beliefs.

The ordinance that was enacted to suppress ‘anti-Islamic activities’ forbids Ahmadiyya to call themselves Muslim or to pose as Muslims.

Their places of worships cannot be called mosques and they are barred from performing the Muslim call to prayer, using the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quoting from the Quran, preaching in public, seeking converts, or producing, publishing, and disseminating their religious materials.


Anwar H. Syed: The Discourse & Politics of Z A. Bhutto (McMillian Press, 1992)
Aysha Jalal: Self & Sovereignty (Routledge, 2000)
Hassan Abbas: Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism (M E. Sharpe, 2005)
Nawa-e-Waqt, May 31, 1974
Jang, June 9, 1974
Pakistan Times, June 1, 1974
Dawn, June 15, 17 and September 9, 1974


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