Quietly through our cities of quiet
MR Shahid has documented the accounts of police department’s sacrifices by the district.
Researchers have always been at home in Lahore. So many of them have made the city proud with their excellent contributions, particularly to the Urdu literature, it is just amazing.
Visit the Oriental College even today and you will find one under every proverbial rock. But the researcher I have on my mind today has been hiding at a department that has nothing to do with the College, or with the literary world. The world he has chosen for his efforts too is quite apart if not entirely disconnected from our own.
The man is MR Shahid, known best probably to those resting in the graveyards of Lahore and Islamabad.
Starting with the Miani Sahib, the largest cemetery in Lahore, he has been to every graveyard in the city and accounted for every grave. Once he was finished with Lahore’s graveyards, he started visiting those in Islamabad. His Shehre Khamoshan ke Makeen is a who’s who of those interred in Islamabad. Considering there were too many important people buried in Lahore for a single tome, Lahore mein Madfoon Mashaheer is in two volumes.
But Shahid’s work is not limited to the dead. He is also a connoisseur of newspaper columns. Ask who wrote what and when and he is the person most likely to remember. If I need to look up a column I wrote long ago, it is usually he who digs it out of his collection. Abdullah Malik, who appreciated his strengths better than anybody else, left him his papers. Excerpts from his dairy have already been published as Aik Muslim Communist ke Shab-o-Roz and Shahid remains determined to do similar justice to the rest of Malik’s papers.
Shahid – let me reveal it – works for Punjab Police. You may be aware of the CID, the police wing famous, some would say notorious, for chasing the living. I think that is where Shahid’s inspiration came from. He realised that none of his colleagues were following the dead and took it upon himself. And the dead are not complaining. In fact, they appear to be quite content with his visits.
Gradually, as is bound to happen, the department discovered his talent and I suspect some officers protested against his apparent discrimination against his colleagues. This, I believe, persuaded him to follow up his Shaheedan-i-Watan, an account of soldiers who laid down their lives for the country with Shuhada-i-Punjab Police. Tell you what, I believe, it is only fair to acknowledge the patriotism and sacrifices of the policemen at par with the soldiers.
The police have had a bad press but they are after all a national institution. They too have served the country and some of them have laid down their lives in the process. In recent days particularly the terrorists have frequently targeted the police. Many a policeman has given a great account of himself and some have willingly sacrificed their lives rather than abandon their duty.
MR Shahid has documented the accounts of police department’s sacrifices by the district - what the police faced on every occasion, who were the people assigned to the job and how they faced the terrorists; how, when and where a constable, a head-constable or an officer was killed and where he came from.
Having read the book I thought may be we have been a bit too hard on the Punjab Police. They have, after all, had such dutiful and dedicated men and officers among their ranks.
*Translated from Urdu
Published in The Express Tribune.