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On book-launch of Fauzia H. Qureshi’s Multan: A Spiritual Legacy, 2013.

 May I begin by thanking Fauzia Qureshi for her kind invitation to speak at this launch of her book Multan – A Spiritual Legacy.  For years, I have been a great admirer of Fauzia’s talents - as an architect, an administrator, and as a conservationist. To these talents, I should add now her talent as an author.

The one talent I should not ignore is her power of attraction. She has not only brought all of us here together. But who else - other than a person of her special magnetism - could have attracted our former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to appear before her today?  She has achieved what even the officials at NAB could not manage.

Gilani sahib’s presence here is a tribute to Fauzia’s professionalism and endeavour. It also underlines Multan’s importance as an integral element of our cultural history. And, it is a reminder to us as Pakistanis that Multan’s heritage belongs to us all, not just to those who happen to live there.

I am from Lahore and therefore I was delighted to come across new references about the connection between Lahore and Multan. For example, Fauzia’s information that the course of the river Ravi originally divided Sikka and Multan. Here, upstream at Lahore, the flow of the Ravi created the mound upon which Government College now stands.

Or that Aurangzeb had applied the then considerable revenues of Multan to complete the Badshahi Masjid. 

The work that Fauzia and her team at Unicon have done in documenting and charting the numerous shrines and monuments of Multan is in the tradition of the extensive mapping done by the Archaeological Surveys of pre-1947 India and post-1947 Pakistan. Monographs on Wazir Khan’s mosque or Tile Mosaics in the Lahore Fort were published to record the state of the monuments at the time. To that extent, they are invaluable for they provide a model, a template for subsequent conservationists.    

A recent effort in this field has been the work done on the city of Shikarpoor by Dr Anila Naeem and her colleagues at NED University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi. Their work was published as a monograph earlier this year. What interested me in Dr Anila’s book - apart from the conventional listing and methodology - were the invaluable Appendices. They gave details of Demolished Buildings, properties by value, and those buildings which they classified according to threat level. It was almost as if they were anticipating future depredation.

Both Shikapoor and Multan share a long ancestry. Their histories began before recorded time. Both, because of their location became busy centres of commerce. And both contained monuments that reflected the essential spirit of the city – Shikapoor by its havelis and carved wooden balconies, and Multan by its dramatic dargahs and shrines.

The oldest part of Multan is understandably the military Fort. Fauzia has indicated that it was begun in the 5th century – before the arrival of the Arabs and Muhammad Bin Qasim. The Fort remained a key military stronghold for centuries. It saw rule by the Ismailis, the Hindu Shahis, the Ghaznavids, the Delhi Sultans, the Khiljis, the all the Mughals, the Saddozai Afghans, the Sikhs, the British and now finally us.

The monuments that Fauzia has documented punctuate a 1500 year long narrative that begins with the tomb of Shah Muhammad Yousaf Gardezi (1152 AD) within the Walled City, the spectacular shrine of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya (1260-67 AD), and then their successors and imitators stretching into the 19th century.

The British, like the first Arabs, did not send saints and scholars to Multan. They sent soldiers.  Not surprisingly, the most notable monument of British times is the memorial to Alexander and Anderson, whose murder in April 1848 indirectly sparked off the Second Sikh War of 1849. And the Ghanta ghar, built in 1884, which stands a mute reminder today of Britain’s vain attempt to teach us punctuality. 

It would have been very easy for Fauzia to have excluded buildings such as the Prahladapuri Temple, the Jain Mandir, the Gopal Mandir or the Dharamsala of Dhyan Singh. She knew that by excluding them, she would be as guilty of cultural vandalism as those extremists who have sought to demolish them. Therefore, thank you, Fauzia, on behalf of those minorities who are not even aware that those buildings still exist.

The residual impression I had after closing Fauzia’s book was how much money in Multan was devoted to the dead and how little to the living. Except for the Eidgah (and that was built in 1735), most of the monuments classified in her book are either mosques or shrines. It seems that Multan’s dead got better accommodation than its living.

Her book is replete with fascinating detail. The story that appealed to me most was of Shah Muhammad Yousaf Gardezi, a 12th century Afghan who settled in Multan. After his death, he would give his benediction to pilgrims by extending his hand through a hole in his grave. I am not sure how many of them actually appreciated his unique brand of posthumous hospitality.  

I could go on complimenting Fauzia and her team on a superb job. I know I speak for all us when I say that she has done Multan proud.

Let me conclude by appreciating the contribution of Mr Sami-ur-Rehman, whose brilliant photographs illuminate the book. The Arabs and the British sent soldiers to Multan; Fauzia sent a former DIG. If I had to choose one photograph that is especially memorable, it would be of the decorated ceiling fan in the tomb of Hafiz Jamal [p. 207]. Only a photographer with a painter’s eye would have noticed that special feature.

My compliments also to Mr Naseer Baluch of Topical Printers on yet another outstanding work of art that happens to be a book.

 And my final bouquet goes to PQ.  As an author married to an author, I know from experience how difficult it is to share one’s spouse with a book in gestation.


F S AIJAZUDDIN, 20 December 2013


21 December 2013
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