JOURNEY THROUGH PUNJAB UNIVERSITY

Punjab University Alumni launch had a lovely twist, thanks to the Organizers led by Dr. Niaz, the VC and orchestrated by Dr. Khalid, Registrar and Dr. Hadi, Director Alumni. Before the start of the program the Alumni were invited to their mother departments for a departmental Alumni event. I got a call from Dr. Mumtaz, head of Economics department inviting me to attend. It sent a flutter through my heart, I had not visited this location in over 3 decades.

The function was simple yet elegant. I received a bouquet of my weakness, beautiful flowers. A tool I have deployed to woo my lady friends and for last 3 decades my lovely wife Rakhshanda. Introductions were made, got a briefing of planned new Institute building and then was invited to speak to students in the lecture room. It was the theatre where stalwarts like Dr. Rafiq, Professors Orakzai, Khalid Mehmood, Dr Mangla and others had attempted to train us as economist! It brought to mind another bitter sweet memory. I was appointed a lecturer after my Masters and had delivered lectures there. However I was unceremoniously fired after 45 days by none other than my beloved teacher Sheikh Imtiaz, then the VC under pressure from the political Government for my views. But the most endearing memory was jogged by our Alumni Finance Secretary Tahir Nawazish. I had launched my Presidential election campaign in 71 from this room.

Upon leaving and walking through the campus corridors it felt as if a dam has broken and there was a gush of faces and events that rushed at me.  My honours class fellows included ever smilling dynamite Bushra Rehman and her gentle soulmate, later her husband Monim who were great friends. They played cupid when they saw my desperation at one stage.  Dr.Khalida Zaki is now a professor at a prestigious University in USA.  Azra Tasneem, who I hope is enjoying her kids.  Hassan Nisar, whose attendance was poorer than mine, largely due to his friendships with delightfully naughty motorbike fiend Taji roaring through campus corridors which was outrageous yet cute, with Malik Nazir of Mubarak cinema whose horse rides and convertible Chev moved and burnt many a heart. My Economists group included soft spoken yet brilliantly sharp mind Rauf Chaudhry, who was an outstanding federal secretary, Zia ur Rehman who I believe set standards of uprightness in civil service. The gregarious five,  Malik Mushtaq, former federal secretary, the brilliant Tax Commissioner, L.A Khan whose sad departure still wrenches my heart, impressively spike moustached Chaudhry Maqbool, my close friend and supporter Sarfraz “Pital” Cheema (based on the colour of his hair), and retired IGP Shaukat Javed who still has not disclosed to me the elixer he consumes for his youthful looks till today. They were buddies with some of whom I still interact till today. My class fellows also included at roll no.1 Saira Nizami scion of Nawa e Waqt and daughter of its founder Hameed Nazimi, and at roll no 2 Neelam Minhas. Hope life is kind to them. Some of my seniors were trend setter in their own ways. They include retired IGP Azhar Hassan Nadeem and brilliant poet and entrepreneur Daud Azm. Talking of Police friends, there is one person who makes my eyes mist, a tall mountain of affection, our departed friend Javed Noor who is sorely missed and fondly remembered by everyone, and of course my dear friend, Retd IGP Jahangir Mirza who was my savior in many scrapes in my younger and brashful days. 

Over the years memory fades, but what is still fresh in my mind is the pure crisp morning air of New Campus that would lift your spirits, the quietness in which you could hear the birds chirping and parrots seeking their companions amongst the lush green fruit orchards surrounding the Campus, with the blissful sound of gushing canal waters dividing the academic and residential sections.

Today the same place is a concrete jungle with noise pollution levels that jar your ears. The hara kiri driving with everyone in a contemptuous rush to do nothing when they get home! Disastrous time wasting traffic congestion that requires strong survival skills. What a sad deterioration within a few decades! I was taking my evening walk with Eeman Anwar, Hassan Nisar’s nephew the other day. I asked him what do you think is the pollution level in Lahore? Being a part of the tech savvy generation, he said “wait a minute Uncle,” pulled out his phone and dramatically announced “It  is over 500ppm in Lahore today. It is the most polluted city in the world, New Dehli being a distant 2nd in 300s!”

What a shame, what have you done to my Lahore you Lahoris? Why is the governance missing? Where is the Government? Where is the Establishment? Where is the Judiciary? Where is conscience of the civilized world? Their money guzzling NGOs? Where are the emergency plans to prevent this slow poisoning? All this leads to severe diseases and eventual slow motion, painful death by a thousand cuts? I have the opportunity to escape to Canada to prevent my Asthma attacks, but what about those who don’t have this option and cannot leave? And those who can, but choose and refuse to abandon Lahore? It needs a strong wake up call.

Pondering over the causes of pollution, it clicked in my mind that Lahore’s disaster is just one of the facets of a deep rooted sickness. The real disaster is in the political pollution and systemic rot of our systems of governance that our leaders have brought onto us. We the people have endured the highway robbery of PPP and the loot of white collar criminals of PML (N), both seeking self enrichment over the betterment of much abused Pakistanis. PTI gave us hope. Having laid a few bricks in its foundation and believing in the integrity of Imran Khan, I was convinced of better future for this hapless populace. But during my 3 months of stay this time I am alarmed at the poor execution and management of some great initiatives. There are tall claims and promises but it begs the question of this simple US farmer “Where is the beef” while deriding false ads of a burger company. I pray my concerns are wrong.

But back to safer grounds, the safety of my cocoon of memories, back to yester years. There are so many beautiful people I came across during my extended stay at Punjab University that listing them could easily become a directory, but before signing off this post I want to share the joys of some my friendships. My Flamboyant Pervez “Paiji” Shah of Hong Kong fame and former Ambassador. Shahji  thank you for staying in touch from all corners of the world along with Dr. Mujahid Kamran our former PU VC and now Rector of largest private University. Shahji was our original bastion in “masters land” hostel 4. His smile has been a beacon of light all my adult years. We all have had trials and tribulations in our lives but remember they happen only to make you soar higher. Shahji we love you, we respect you.   TO BE CONTINUED.      

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