Journey from Habib ur Rehman to being Qalandar Momand

Sahibzada Habib-ur-Rahman Qalandar Momand (September 1, 1930 - February 4, 2003) was a well known Pashto scholar, poet, critic, short story writer, journalist, linguist, lexicographer, and academician. He was also a trade unionist, nationalist political activist and a member of the Communist Party of Pakistan.

Qalandar Momand was one of the crown poets of Pashto language with a beautiful and tasteful language, He was jailed by Field Marshal Ayub Khan since he symbolized the potent Pukhtun voice
Article By Afzal Hussain Bokhari

It was in the fitness of things that the local branch of Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) and the cultural wing of Peshawar Press Club jointly arranged a get-together in memory of the Pukhtun scholar Habib ur Rehman more popularly known as Qalandar Momand.

The speakers were unanimous in their opinion that Qalandar Momand was a progressive and ideologically committed writer. He had so many facets to his personality that the common reader found it difficult to decide whether to describe him a critic, research scholar, translator, short story writer, poet or a journalist.

Majeedullah Khalil, the general manager of Peshawar Television Centre, who incidentally also presided over the literary get-together, was naturally all praise for the late scholar. The other speakers like Dr Zubair Hasrat, Dr Yar Mohammad Maghmoom Khattak and Dr Mustafa Kamal all paid glowing tributes to the great scholar. Apart from Majeedullah Khalil, those who were seated at the stage included Dr Mohammad Azam Azam, Ismail Awan and Saadullah Jan Barq.

Malik Sakhawat Ali Sakhi, a retired employee of the Pakistan Air Force, who remained for many years the coach of Pakistan's junior hockey team, was mentally prepared not only to attend but also speak in the get-together. However, being a heart patient, minutes before the event, he felt indisposed and his doctor advised him to miss out on the function.

Malik wanted to tell the audience that Qalandar Momand had been his school-mate and class-fellow. Like some other adolescent boys of his age group, Qalandar Momand in his school days was fond of listening to old film songs.
Despite being a publicity-shy person, Qalandar Momand never disappointed others in case a friendly radio or television producer invited him to take part in a talk show. In nine out of 10 cases he showed up for the recording of the programme at the stipulated time.
During the days of General Ziaul Haq, Qalandar Momand once arrived at the main gate of Peshawar Television Centre but in spite of the fact that most of the security men on duty personally knew the guest, they insisted that he should be subjected to the usual body search with his arms raised up in the air above his head and the semi-literate guards running the metal detector all over his body.
At this the guest somehow felt that instead of observing the security rules, the guards deployed at the television centre's main entrance were probably trying to insult him. He, therefore, refused to allow any more of the body search and went back home.
It was way back in the early 1980s that your diarist interviewed Qalandar Momand for the newspaper. He used to live in the Municipal Flats near Gur Mandi behind the Roadways House where the General Transport Service (GTS) once had its terminal in ZA Bhutto's days. His sons Zalan, Jhalawan and daughter Dur-i-Nayab Sahib Zada were then studying in various classes.
He spoke at length about his achievements in various fields. When Sheikh Salimullah used to bring out his six-page tiny English-language newspaper the 'Khyber Mail', Qalandar Momand and Askar Ali Shah were among some of the early editorial writers.
I did not feel it necessary to get the fact confirmed from others but Qalandar Momand said he had written the manifesto of Khan Abdul Wali Khan's National Awami Party when it broke off as a splinter group from Abdul Hameed Khan Bhashani's mainstream party of the same name.
It was very seldom that Qalandar Momand delved into practical politics but since he symbolized the potent Pukhtun voice, Field Marshal General Mohammad Ayub Khan's security sleuths shut him up into the dungeons of the notorious Lahore Fort, where the detainee wrote some of his remarkable poems.

After release from detention, his honour and self-respect was duly restored when the government appointed him as director of the Pushto Dictionary Project. He worked on the project with enviable devotion and painstaking research. He had an in-depth study of both the ancient and modern Pushto literure.
Although all his children are associated with journalism but Zalan Momand appears to be some sort of an extension of his erudite father. After working for a television channel and two local newspapers, Zalan started some months back his own daily newspaper in Urdu titled 'Such' (truth).

Despite being diabetic and with a failing vision, Qalandar Momand, never restricted himself to the four walls of his house. For many years, he successfully ran a Pushto literary organisation called 'Maraka', which used to hold its weekly sessions in Shoba Bazaar.

He used to take a serious note of those who failed to attend its meetings. It was during such meetings that he randomly discovered the potential writers and groomed them in the art of writing.
Top Pushto writers Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Ajmal Khan Khattak, Ghani Khan and Afrasiab Khan Khattak showed love and affection for Qalandar Momand. If he had been alive today, he would very likely have opposed the merger of Pushto Department and Pushto Academy or the idea of merging the Persian

Department into Urdu Department and calling them Oriental Languages or whatever.
In the Peshawar Press Club get-together, one could appreciate the enthusiasm of Qalandar Momand's admirers like Abasin Yousufzai, Sher Alam Shinwari and others. Awami National Party still has among its followers some of the highly motivated and committed members. It has been ruling the province for almost 19 months but none of its ministers has even once dropped hints that it was high time the party revived its newspaper called 'Shahbaz'.

People like Ajmal Khattak and Lala Murtaza Shaheen used to be associated with the paper.
The party no doubt has a cultural wing but genuine party activists are not very happy with the way the wing is following the same old policies of the erstwhile rulers. Men like Afrasyab Khattak, Hashim Babar and Majeedullah Khalil can probably sit together and brainstorm on how to revamp the party's neglected areas

Article By Afzal Hussain Bokhari
Source: Daily STATESMAN


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