“For other people, General sahab’s era must have been difficult and hard to relate to, but for me it was a good time — I literally had so much less to write!” stated Anwar Maqsood cheerfully, with a hint of light-hearted satire at a talk he delivered at the Aga Khan University auditorium on Thursday evening.
The well-attended event was lined with humorous puns and comments, as Maqsood highlighted instances on the trials and travails he faced during his career under different governmental regimes in Pakistan.
Reminiscing about the creation of Pakistan, Maqsood spoke about how his family migrated from Bombay to Karachi and his experiences following partition. It had hardly been a month since the founder of the nation had passed away, and while visiting his tomb with his mother, Maqsood had asked her, “How big is Pakistan?” She gestured with both her hands saying it was very big indeed. However, today when Maqsood’s grandson asks the same question, he opens up only one hand to show that it’s only so big, as we lost the other portion back in 1971.
In the same line of thought, Maqsood added that while 1971 wasn’t a good year for Pakistan as it lost one of its limbs, he humorously remarked that it was also the year Imran Khan joined the Pakistani cricket team, so there was some gain and all was not lost.
At this point, Maqsood narrated the humorous incident of the retirement party for the cricketer in 1986, where he was the presenter. The event was to be held for half an hour, as General Ziaul Haq had a French dinner party to attend but it went on till the wee hours of the morning.
The General was not pleased and confronted Maqsood on the delay as it ruined his other plans. To this he wittily said, “Sir, what can I do? You only promised to come for a short time; but you over-stayed at the event. Just like you promised to leave after 90 days, but stayed on for eight years!” This remark even made the General laugh out loud, said Maqsood.
Apart from political satire, Maqsood also spoke about the simple pleasures of life like buying a good painting, which has become immensely expensive in Pakistan, or finding an interesting new book to read. To the delight of his audience, Maqsood also recited the poetry of Shakaib Jalali, Zehra Nigah and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
When asked whom he takes inspiration from, Maqsood amusingly said Rehman Malik, but on a more serious note said that he was inspired by Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, the highly revered satirical Urdu writer. He also added that he dearly missed Moin Akhtar, saying that he was the best comedian that the subcontinent has ever produced.
Maqsood further added that he is supportive of Imran Khan’s political party and hopes that the change will come from the youth of this country. He wishfully stated that it would be great if the older generation would take a back seat now and let the youth of the country do the job.
Conclusively, when asked what that one hidden element is that shines in his personality, Maqsood humbly stated, “I have always respected my elders, no matter what the situation is.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.