Shahid Batalvi Speaks

with apology to Black Elk for he speaks first

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

City of Memories

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“Reh ja’oon ga chal’tay chal’tay
ShaMa ke ma’nind jal’tay jal’tay”

“One day I will stop for I can walk no more
Like the burning candle that glows no more”

Ijaz Husain Batalvi
September 7th, 1923 – March 7th, 2004


Written by Shahid Batalvi

March 8, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Personal, poetry

How do you run from a C-4 explosion ?

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You Don’t. You Can’t.
The shockwave of exploding C-4 travels at 26,000 feet per second.
At Peshawar Pearl Continental perhaps 1200+ lbs. was used.
At Islamabad Marriott maybe a similar amount.
At the FIA office in Lahore, I would guess it was close to 900 lbs.
At my home, I think it was about 150 lbs.
The back draft of a C-4 explosion will live with you forever.
I started writing the following piece on my plane journey, more than a year ago.
It hasn’t ended yet. You may ask what ?
The journey, the story, the explosion, the ending.
Tell the story before you forget the story or more likely the story forgets you.
Here I am traveling to the other side of the globe to provide solace to everyone affected by what transpired on the morning of March 11th, 2008 but I am looking for solace myself. I find it in my mother’s words which she has said to my grandmother, at her grave. She repeated the words to me over the phone in her very pragmatic way, which is the strength of her character that comes out at times of need. She told me that she stood at my grandmother’s grave and said “Ammi ji, SaNon mAaf kRnaN aSi TuHaDay gHr di hiVazat Naen kR sKay, SaNon apni dUaVan viCh sHamil rKhNan”. (Ammi ji, forgive us, for we could not protect your house; please keep us in your prayers.) This, for all practical purposes, is her closure. The rest are the logistical details that need to be, and will be, managed.



83-F photo1    IMG_0242

IMG_0168   IMG_0175

I stood there and looked at what used to be our ancestral home for the last sixty years; my grandmother’s home, our parents’ home, Salman and Shahid’s home and of late SB&B Market Research and Advertising Office run by Salman and Batool. It was to become the legacy that carried forward to become Myra, Zara, Yasir and Kamil’s home. Now it was nothing more than ruins. It reminded me of the dead ruins of so many forts that I had seen in my wanderings around the world. But these were the ruins of my own home, not some Roman, Scottish, Greek or Mughal fort destroyed in a battle and lying in ruins for centuries for the wanderer to perpetually visualize the nature of mankind.

It was an early spring day twenty eight years ago when my father’s elder brother, Ashiq Batalvi and I were sitting outside in the front lawn of 83-F Model Town. Ashiq Batalvi had made his yearly trek to Lahore to avoid the harsh winter of London as he continued to live his self exile years in England since early 1950s. It was a Saturday and it had turned out to be a nice day. Abdullah Malik had just left after a three hour, extremely charged and enjoyable discussion in which everything past, present and future vis-à-vis Pakistan had been addressed. One of the then present issues talked about was how the US economic aid, initially provided in cash at twenty five USD per day per refugee, to support the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, had mostly been unaccounted for in the bowels of the Pakistani military and civilian support structure that was responsible for managing the entire program.

Ashiq Batalvi was still in his high excitation mode when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Shahid BeTa, Hun iK VaBa Afghanistan tOn Aae Ge”. (Shahid Son, an epidemic will now come from Afghanistan.) For the reader to understand this in context, he made the statement in 1980. People who are familiar with Ashiq Batalvi’s writings only know him as a historian but others who spent time in his company and paid attention to his layered words knew him to be a seer. He foretold many an event that over the years of Pakistan’s gradual socio-cultural and socio-political decline have come true.

That epidemic did come and over the last almost three decades has taken over the life and blood of the entire living organism that we used to know in somewhat better years as Pakistan. Nonetheless, what Ashiq Batalvi could not have imagined is that the epidemic that he predicted would reach pandemic proportions worldwide and would one day annihilate the very house that he sat in and foretold of this impending scourge.

83-F Model Town Lahore is hallowed ground for me and my atomic and extended family. The home that stood on that ground had been a living friend to multiple generations of our family as well as friends and their families. That home had molded personalities of many Batalvis and their friends. Now we have nothing to carry forth for our next generations.

On the morning of March 11th, 2008 that hallowed ground was desecrated and our home, our living friend was destroyed and felled to its knees in a battle that was not his doing nor his calling. In the process we suffered loss of life, loss of livelihood and loss of personal property. The staff gardener and his two innocent children were killed. What do you tell his wife who had gone to 84-F, just ten minutes prior to the incident. This is fate; deal with it?

I am not politically inclined, religiously influenced nor am I emotionally challenged. I am a very simple man who only believes in the mystical aspects of human life. The perpetrators of this incident, those dead and those still alive, have burned their own graves from the inside out for all lifetimes henceforth. Nothing worse can befall them, for this is now their fate in the synchronicity of mankind.

Whomever the perpetrators and whatever their intentions, they are without doubt responsible for this act. Nevertheless, the accountability for this act resides elsewhere. Investigative reports now substantiate that the intended target of this nefarious act was the safe house behind 83-F. A cell of the SIU which belongs to the Home Department had rented this house. The house itself was being used by the SIU to interrogate captured miltants. An entity of the Punjab Government, by placing an SIU safe house at this location knowingly jeopardized the lives of its citizens in a residential area. The act that caused the desecration of my hallowed ground and resulted in loss of life, loss of livelihood and loss of personal property could have been averted had this safe house not been placed in this location. The accountability and the liability, be it compensatory or punitive, of this action and its consequences, lies with the Home Department and consequently the Punjab Government.

All I can say is that history will teach us nothing if we choose to remain ignorant, if we choose to remain passive, if we as a nation choose not to question the establishment, whatever and whomever that maybe; if we as a nation choose not to hold accountable those who are our public servants and whose salaries are paid by our taxes; those who we either elect through a democratic process or those who come to power by usurping executive, legislative or judicial powers unconstitutionally.

As they say, accountability starts at home. Let it start from my home. Farewell 83-F Model Town.

The author is Vice President of Telecom and Technology Strategy at Nexius Inc., a telecommunications consulting company based in metropolitan Washington DC area. He can be reached at his personal email address at

Written by Shahid Batalvi

June 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Personal

Trash Heap of Time

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Translated from the transliterated punjabi section of "In The Name of The Father":
Murshid, where is that home
Murshid, it is that home, where few
Receive the honour
To reside
It is that home, to where
The journey
Is arduous
Murshid, when I awake, during the night
And lie whimpering on the trash heap of time
And think, perhaps this round
Might also be won, by the trash heap’s dogs
That I see
The doorway, to that home
Where you reside
There is never enough courage to knock
Lest permission is not granted, to enter
Or the door may open and I am told
The congregation is over
And another lifetime’s wait
Is my fate
Till the door opens, again
And the congregation begins
In these thoughts
Day turns to night and night to day
The trash heap of time waxes and wanes
I stumble, forward, sometimes backward
The trash heap’s dogs look at me, as if
I have the answer to their hunger
Man, having known, the answer
To man’s hunger
Does not act upon it
What will he do for a mere dog’s hunger
And then, the first light of morning
The trash heap of time gets left
Far behind
I walk, as always
The sound of the dhol
Friend, Murshid
The issue or
The soujorn
Is not a real challenge
But without you
The pain is immense
April 23, 2009

Written by Shahid Batalvi

April 23, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Personal

Khalid Hasan – Dead or Alive, deserves the same obituary

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First Law of Human Synchronicity: If you have an issue with someone, address it with them directly. Second Law: Don’t speak ill of those who have passed on. Third Law: If someone does insist on doing it and continues to do it, give them the opportunity to recant, especially if the information they are presenting is defamatory and false. Final Law: If they don’t, return the favour.

I had written the following pre-posthumous obituary for Khalid Hasan, perhaps a year before he actually passed away, but had chosen not to publish it. I waited four years for Mr. Khalid Hasan to think about what he had written. Instead of recanting he had decided to further build upon it, in his later articles.

Its a pity, Mr. Khalid Hasan that you made your exit, for I was planning to file simultaneous defamation lawsuits against you in Washington DC (your last place of residence) and in Pakistan where under the auspices of The Friday Times, you had published the said article. I guess now can read your obituary and consider the favour returned.

Out there on the other side of the door, Internet access is truly ubiquitous,  RF propagation is in free space but without attenuation and Shannon’s Law falls apart. So you will see this post as soon as I put it on my blog. Have a nice life after life.

Khalid Hasan’s pre-posthumous obituary: first written on March 3rd, 2008

Every year as March 7th approaches, I think about the article that Khalid Hasan published in The Friday Times (TFT April 16-22, 2004, Batalvi and Bhutto: A Case to Answer) and every year I try to forgive him, based on my upbringing and training in civility, gesture and discretion. This year, I changed my mind. Since Mr. Khalid Hasan so eloquently structured this obituary for my father that I would like to return the favour pre-posthumously, lest I take pity on his soul when he actually passes on. So here goes.

Mr. Khalid Hasan, what still surprises me the most about your article is the series of questions that you tangentially posed and for which the real and factual responses could only have come from Ijaz Batalvi himself. You had many an opportunity to ask these questions to him directly and your last opportunity was when you visited him in Lahore shortly before he passed away. His health was failing but his mind was still sharper than a sword. What stopped you?

Why did it conveniently take you a month after his passing away to pose these questions? He is not here to respond to your insinuating nonsense. I, for one, am not going to answer for him and neither will anyone else from his family. I guess you will have to ask him when you do meet him on the other side. I am not going to justify his professional actions. He would have done an excellent job of that had he been around and chosen to do so himself. You have a right to your opinions just like everyone else. My only challenge Sir is that you had the audacity to suggest that Ijaz Batalvi compromised his professional and moral integrity by taking on the prosecution of the murder case of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan in which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and four FSF officers were the accused. Anybody who knows Ijaz Batalvi’s name will vouch for both his personal and professional integrity without hesitation based on his life’s record. So let’s address yours’ for a moment by browsing your self-serving advertisement on Wikipedia.

It states that you “ … resigned in protest when the Bhutto government was overthrown by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq…”. On that somewhat humid July morning in 1977, for right or wrong, when the tanks rolled towards 70 Clifton to counter the FSF enforcement sitting in front of the gate, for all practical purposes, a Martial Law had been imposed in the country, if not in name yet, and the establishment that you worked for, became defunct. Resigning at that point only sounds romantic to the naïve reader but seems rather oxymoronic, wouldn’t you say. And what would you Sir, know about protest, even if it smacked you in the face. If you want to protest, go and join the legal community in Pakistan today and find out what real protest means when the Lathi makes solid contact with your ribs.

Your Wikipedia advertisement also states that, “…worked in London with the Third World Foundation and the Third World Media before leaving to join the newly-established OPEC News Agency (OPECNA) in Vienna, Austria ….”. It’s a pity that this statement conveniently leaves out the fact that you were fired from your job due to gross professional misconduct. I could elaborate but civility takes the better of me.

It is also a pity that despite having the opportunity to spend time with all those literary giants whom you ever so often mention in your reminiscing articles, you acquired nothing of human value from them and remain a diminutive man. Lower level mammals will acquire more in lesser time through social instinct and micro-organisms will acquire yet more through osmosis.

You Sir, who has nothing constructive to offer to society, are simply spinning around the axle of history, driven only by some emotional context of events and individuals through association. You are perhaps trying to justify that your own meaningless life may have some worth, if somehow associated with that big event or that appropriate person in history. People like yourself who don’t understand professionalism, or have no sense of who a professional person is and have no profession themselves, undermine the sensibility to profess anything that they are stating as their public or private views.

It is sad that I have to stoop to your level to give you the baptism of fire that you need and deserve. This response is disproportionate for obvious reasons. A civil and proportionate response would not awaken you from your cognitively lacking and emotionally driven slumber that drives you to make unsubstantiated claims about someone’s professional and moral integrity. In closing, let me honour you by presenting an epitaph that I would be more than happy to etch on your grave should you chose to have one.

Here lies a two bit copy writer from The Pakistan Times who posed as a journalist by writing “this and that”. He reached the epic level of his incompetence and like any dysfunctional lottery winner, could not best utilize his fifteen minutes of fame. He never compromised his professional or moral integrity, for he subscribed, to neither.

Next time you decide to suggest, under the guise of a journalistic piece that is emotionally tainted, politically biased and factually subject to hearsay, that someone compromised their professional and moral integrity, think about something you may have heard growing up on the streets of Sialkot, “PhLay ApNae ManJay THlay DanDa PHaer”.

The score with TFT is not settled yet. If the editorial management of a newspaper condones and facilitates the publication of defamatory statements then their liability is not limited.

Perhaps when courses in journalistic integrity were being taught at the prestigious university of their academic evolution, they were out sipping coffee at Copper Kettle. Maybe it was Latin that did them in. convicium contra bonos mores.

The author is the Vice President of Telecom and Technology Strategy at Nexius Inc., a telecommunications consulting company based in metropolitan Washington DC area. He can be reached at his personal email address at

Written by Shahid Batalvi

March 12, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Personal


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Fear and intimidation are tactics that have been used forever in human society. Access to information dictates fear and intimidation but use of information at the right place and the right time is the ultimate equalizer; especially when used in a court of law in a system where accountability still holds some sway. A life lived in fear is a wasted life; be it taliban’s fear, CIA’s fear, martial law’s fear, ISI’s fear or any other such intimidation. For then, I have truly failed. Sometimes the circumstances dictate that you have to shove your arm down fear’s throat and yank its tongue out because that is the only language it understands. This may come at a cost, for you may lose your arm. Sometimes choices have to be made to reconcile with your purpose in life and your obligation to human society.
Feburary 14, 2009

Written by Shahid Batalvi

February 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Personal

Ijaz Batalvi (1923 – 2004)

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Republished from: The Dawn, March 9, 2004
By: Staff Correspondent
LAHORE, March 8: Ijaz Batalvi, a jurist par excellence and litterateur, will be laid to rest at the graveyard at G-Block, Model Town, on Tuesday. He died late on Sunday night after a protracted illness at the age of 80. He is survived by a widow and two sons.
Ijaz Batalvi, who suffered from a prostate cancer, was first treated at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and then in a New York hospital during the three-year ailment.
The Lahore High Court didn’t work after midday on Monday in memory of one of the finest lawyers. The Lahore High Court Bar Association also cancelled its session, and its office-bearers issued a statement to the press, paying homage to the jurist, who had been the teacher of about half of the bar members.
A graduate from the Government College, the late Mr. Batalvi called on Lincoln’s Inn for his Bar-at-Law degree, which he secured in 1954. During his stay in England, he also served on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a broadcaster and anchorperson for many a programme.
He was among the pioneers of the Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq in the city soon after his family migrated from Batala, where he was born in 1923. He was among the earliest visitors of famous Coffee House on The Mall, which later turned to the Pak Tea House, another centre of the people of literature.
The late Batalvi was a short-story writer and a critic, whose contemporaries included Mira Ji, Noon Meem Rashid, Syed Abid Ali Abid, Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mukhtar Siddiqui and Qayyum Nazar.
Born to the house of Ghulam Akbar Khan, Mr Batalvi had five other brothers, including historian Ashiq Batalvi, whose "Iqbal Ke Aakhri Do Saal" has become a reference book now. The family migrated to Lahore in 1947 and he took admission to the Government College and also associated himself with the Radio Pakistan.
He remained a broadcaster and wrote scripts for a good number of radio programmes till 1950. The late Mr Batalvi will be remembered also for his contribution to the Radio Pakistan during the India-Pakistan war in 1965. Subsequently, he left for England for higher education in law. He specialized in criminal law. Later, he showed similar eminence at the high court and the Supreme Court level.
The famous cases he contested in superior courts included the one in which he represented the government as special public prosecutor against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. One of his last cases was for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The late Mr Batalvi joined the Punjab University Law College as a lecturer at a very early period. He remained on the college rolls until about fours years back when he was almost bed-ridden. There his contemporaries included Manzoor Qadir and Ghulam Mujadad Mirza. No less than 50 per cent of the bar and bench members were his students at the PULC. Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Justice Iftikhar Husain Chaudhry, was among his pupils.
His funeral will be taken out from his residence at 73-Shadman, Lahore. Funeral prayers will be offered at the Shadman Masjid and he will be buried at Model Town. Qul will be held on Wednesday at 83-F, Model Town, at 5.30pm.

Written by Shahid Batalvi

July 15, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Personal

Ijaz Husain Batalvi (1923 – 2004)

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Republished from: Daily Times, March 10, 2004
By: Abid Butt

LAHORE: Ijaz Husain Batalvi, one of the subcontinent’s most eminent jurists, died here on Sunday from cancer. He was 81 years old.

Born in 1923 in Punjab’s Batala, Mr Batalvi was the youngest of six brothers. Mr Batalvi’s father, Khan Ghulam Akbar Khan, was a jail warden at Lahore. After taking his bar exam from Lincoln’s Inn, Mr Batalvi returned to Pakistan in 1953. His BBC Radio broadcasts during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war made him the voice of a nation.
The wit and intellectual prowess of Mr Batalvi, a polyglot and writer, was universally acknowledged. He made friends with intellectual giants, poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ezra Pound and authors Patras Bokhari and Henry Miller. British actor David Niven and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were both among his intimates. But it was former premier Huseyn Shaheed Suherwardy who “inspired” him, he had said.
Like Abdul Hayee, Jaganath Agarwal, Bhagat Rampuri and M. Anwar, Mr. Batalvi was counted among the legal greats of the subcontinent. Mr Batalvi was one of the prosecutors arguing the case in 1977 against the then prime minister and his former peer from Lincoln’s Inn, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. After the coup that brought Gen Pervez Musharraf to power, Mr Batalvi represented his former student, the jailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against charges of murder and treason.
Some of his other most famous cases include the Rashmi Rumal case of Allama Almashraqi, the Grenada Gardezi case and the Attock Conspiracy case.
Mr Batalvi is survived by his wife and two sons Salman, who runs an advertising company here, and Shahid, who is an engineer working in the US. Mr Batalvi was laid to rest Tuesday. His memorial service is being held today at 83-F Model Town at 4.00pm.

Written by Shahid Batalvi

July 15, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Personal