An Inspiring Life:
An Interview of
Dr. Tariq Rahman
An Interview of
Dr. Tariq Rahman
AN INSPIRING LIFE:
Dr. Tariq Rahman
Distinguished National Professor & Director
National Institute of Pakistan Studies
Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad
TARIQ RAHMAN: Please describe your childhood experiences?
DR INAYATULLAH: I was born in a small village called Bavrakona in the Hafizabad district. It is about four miles from the headquarter of the town. My grandfather was a headman (numbardar) but in those days this did not mean that the family was rich or educated. Indeed, except for a few Hindus, there were hardly any educated people in the village. My father died young leaving his young widow in the care of his parents. My grandfather, no doubt with the best intentions, married off my mother to my uncle. My uncle remained close to his first wife and my mother and her children were neglected. I passed my childhood in this state of neglect.
In the beginning I was not particularly fond of education and a man had to bring me to the school forcefully. However, after my primary education I developed a liking for books and even my grandfather valued the help I would give him in the accounting work he trusted me with. This used to be in Persian but the numbers were not difficult to understand. I did primary with a scholarship and my maternal uncle (Mumun) and my grandfather encouraged me to study by giving me a generous sum of eight rupees out of which as many as five came from Mamun. Despite my precociousness, they did not expect me to study beyond what was required for becoming a patwari (revenue clerk)—for the villagers this was the epitome of scholarship.
As there was no secondary school in the village, I had to go to Hafizabad from where I passed my matriculation in 1948. Here I had become such an avid reader of books that Sardar Giani the school librarian, considered me a nuisance on the grounds that I was the only student who actually asked him to issue the books. At last we struck a deal. I gave him sugar, a valued product in that age of rationing, and he gave me books. But even then I remained something of a nuisance in his view.
TARIQ RAHMAN: How were your college days?
DR. INAYATULLAH: The most important consideration about the choice of college was that it should charge no, or very modest, tuition fees. This brought me to Government College Faisalabad in 1949 and I stayed there till 1951. Then I went to Lahore and here I was admitted in Mayo College which was the only one not charging fees. Of course, the famous Government College, the dream of most students of my generation, was beyond my wildest hopes. So it was from Mayo that I received my B.A. Then I went to the Punjab University for an M.A. in Economics but left after a year. This disruption in my studies was the result of an emotional entanglement. Actually I wanted to marry my present wife and the families would not initially agree. This brought me to such a crisis of nerves that, due to depression, I had to take a year off from my studies. However, I returned after a year and completed my M.A. in three years rather than the customary two graduating in 1956.
TARIQ RAHMAN: Please tell me something about your initial work experience?
DR. INAYATULLAH: My first job was related to research. I was hired as a research assistant in the Punjab University where the Asia Foundation had begun a project on village development. My job was to collect data from villages for writing reports. One of the advisers for the project was from Berkeley and he was much impressed by one of my papers on the 1951 elections in my village. He advised me to send it to an international journal in Germany which I did and it was published. Then I got other papers published too. Meanwhile Punjab University recommended me for a Ph. D. However, this did not mature. Meanwhile rural academies, funded by the Ford Foundation, were established in Comilla and Peshawar. I was hired as a research associate in the Peshawar one. Here I edited a number of books on bureaucracy, development, district administration and other similar topics.
It was because of this job that I was sent for training to Michigan State University. Here I did course work for the M.A. degree in sociology but had to leave it without the final viva voce examination which, luckily for me, was conducted by my American professors in Peshawar when I was back home in 1959-60.
TARIQ RAHMAN: How was your experience in the rural academy?
DR. INAYATULLAH: I was invited by Akhtar Hameed Khan to Comilla and was impressed. I reported this to the Peshawar Academy. We used to help the village people but my experience of a Pakhtun village was not good. I wrote all this experience in a book called Dynamics of Rural Development in a Pakistani village (1963). Every year I used to publish something or the other. I also evaluated basic democracies and surveyed two districts for local government and other variables.
TARIQ RAHMAN: How did you do your Ph. D?
DR. INAYATULLAH: Dr Ralph Braibanti was an advisor of the Civil Service Academy. He invited me to Duke University. I also got a fellowship with the help of Professor Harry Friedman to work at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii. So I had a choice between two fellowships. I accepted the Hawaii one since it gave enough money to take my family to America. However, I did not go to Hawaii. In those days Fred Riggs was famous for theory—social science theory (Prismatic model). He was at Indiana University and I worked under him and got my Ph. D from Indiana in 1968.
But before actually obtaining my doctorate, I spent six months at the United Nations. This happened when a United Nations executive heard me at a seminar in Hawaii and invited me to join the UN. I joined only for 6 months and then went back to Indiana from where I completed my Ph. D. I then returned to the UN job in New York in 1968.
Life at the UN Headquarters in New York was by no means congenial for me. It was a matter of traveling by subway, working in offices and being cramped up in an apartment. I hated it. However, life became better when they posted me to the Social Development Institute in Geneva in 1969. I stayed there two and a half years working on development issues in Iran, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and producing reports on cooperatives. These studies were highly commended.
TARIQ RAHMAN: You were also an academic at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU). How was that experience?
DR. INAYATULLAH: Well, part of it was exciting as I was the first chairman of the International relations department and helped establish it. However, on the whole I do not consider it a very happy part of my life. Well it happened like this that Dr. Raziuddin Siddiqui, then the Vice-chancellor of the University, had come to Europe to look for competent faculty. He invited me to QAU which, he said, would be the Harvard of Pakistan. I was appointed associate professor in 1971. I wrote the constitution of the Academic Association of the University. We also established a group for discussion. At that time the University was polarized between the liberals and the conservatives and there was much politicking between the groups. I also wrote papers including one on the survival of Pakistan which I sent to the VC and to the Prime Minister who was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Information Secretary rang me to discuss the paper which, he said, Bhutto had shown an interest in. The Secretary wanted to meet me but, being young and having much academic pride in those days, I said that since he wanted something from me he should come over to my office. He did not come over but he did send an officer from his Ministry. This gentleman straightaway promised me money if I were to change a few things in the paper. I refused and nothing was heard about the paper from the Government.
Then Dr. Kaneez Yousuf became the Vice-chancellor of QAU. She basically changed the orientation of the university from a research university to a teaching university. Moreover, in my view political interference increased and merit was not observed in academic appointments. I was quite frustrated. Thus, when the UN offered me a job again in 1972 I accepted with alacrity. My academic career came to an end.
TARIQ RAHMAN: So how was the second tenure in the UN?
DR. INAYATULLAH: It was most fruitful. Indeed, I regard it the high point of my productive career. I was working for the UN, based in Kuala Lumpur, from 1973 till 1983 when I took early retirement. During this period I studied development in different countries. One of the studies I published was entitled: Land Reforms in Asia. It was a time of great personal growth but, unfortunately, my son developed schizophrenia and would leave home for long periods. We got alarmed and it is one reason I returned home. I then came to Islamabad and since then I have lived here. Much earlier, I had applied for a plot and got one of 3.5 canals. It cost only for Rs 25,000 and the house I built cost 2 lacs in 1972. It was rented by the National Bank.
Upon return to Pakistan, I was initially depressed. Whether it was because of my son; or because I was on my own in childhood (lacking a caring father) or the guilt of not looking after my village and its inhabitants – I do not know. But I was depressed and it was only after a year and a half that I started participating in the social and intellectual life of Islamabad.
TARIQ RAHMAN: So how did you participate in the intellectual life of Islamabad?
DR. INAYATULLAH: Well, there were many things I did. For instance, there used to be a Society for International Development. Sartaj Aziz, who knew me, asked me to revive this society and I managed to do so. Zia’s martial law was lifted in 1985 and Asma Jahangir and Dorab Patel began the HRCP. I also joined it and helped it develop in Islamabad with Nasreen Azhar. This was most satisfying as I felt I was contributing my bit towards the establishment of humanitarian values in Pakistan.
The quest for peace was a major imperative for me. Thus, when Dr. Mubashar Hasan launched the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy, I also joined it. At the same time I started the anti-nuclear movement. Drs A.H. Nayyar and Pervez Hoodbhoy also joined and we spoke against the possible destruction of South Asia. This was a very difficult stance to take under the circumstances and we remain a very marginal group even now. However, we remain committed to our stance of looking at nuclear weapons as sources of insecurity rather than security.
TARIQ RAHMAN: When did your work to provide forums for the social sciences begin?
DR. INAYATULLAH: Dr Shafiq Hashmi, once a Dean of Social Sciences at QAU, wanted me to join the University so as to find ways and means to improve the social sciences. He even gave me an office in the University although I was not employed there. Initially we wanted to establish an Institute of Social Science. In addition, we also planned a conference on the social sciences in 1988 and this actually took place. The papers read out during it are now available in a book on the social sciences in Pakistan. Later, under the auspices of the Council of Social Sciences, an entirely new book on the developments which had occurred in this decade or so was also published.
This Council of Social Sciences, which I have mentioned, was planned then but did not get off the ground. Then Dr Hashmi left and the idea went into hibernation. Another idea, of having a social science forum, was, however, implemented with the help of Tariq Banuri and Anis Dani in 1990. I am running it even now. It used to be rotated to different places but then came to the TVO with the kind help of Iqbal Jafar who runs that office.
The Council of Social Sciences (COSS) also began in 1994 I think. I ran it from my house for some time. We wanted it to be independent and not a subordinate office of the University Grants Commission (UGS). Thus, after much altercation, we broke away from the UGC and met outside. For several months I ran it from my house investing my own resources in it and then we got a grant from the UNESCO which enabled us to hire an office and staff it. Then we began a research program which social scientists and several bodies including Action Aid also supported. Now there is less aid but the National Rural Support Program remains the major grant-giver even now. That is why we give the Akhtar Hameed Khan Memorial Award for the best books on Akhtar Hameed Khan’s interests with help from the NRSP.
TARIQ RAHMAN: You have also given scholarships and funded philanthropic ventures. Please tell us a little about that.
DR. INAYATULLAH: Well, only a little [laughs modestly]. I mentioned the guilt I had so I did contribute to my village. My brother asked me to get the mosque repaired and I put in a hundred and fifty thousand rupees into it. I also got houses in the village repaired for Rs 5000 each. I also built a village school for about 7 lacs. Yes, I do give scholarships for peace studies. I established one for Rs 20, 000 but it was only for studies to promote peace and the QAU students could not avail of the opportunity. Even now the award lies somewhere in the University treasury. All extra money goes into ventures like COSS. I am also trying to build a foundation for peace to which I will give me personal contribution. This is very satisfying. In a sense the last few years of Islamabad have brought peace and better health to me personally. I am happy with life except for the worries I have because of the son I mentioned before and a daughter who is of weak health. But then there is the other son, Sohail Inayatullah, who has made a name for himself in the world of scholars and whose son, Kamal, I dote on. I remember showing you poems about the visit of my grandson.
TARIQ RAHMAN: Yes they were touching poems. You do write other poetry too?
DR. INAYATULLAH: I do but I do not claim to be a poet. I will publish a few things with some changes. [He told me the deletion but I advised him against them although he was expunging some stereotypical verses about the mullah which are commonplace in our poetic tradition. His concern was merely sensitiveness to other people. I told him to include it since it represents a stage of his poetic thought but to render his apology in the form of a note along with it].
TARIQ RAHMAN: So what are the future plans?
DR. INAYATULLAH: To run the present concerns and to develop those which have been planned. The gist of the matter is that there is little funding even for COSS. The International Islamic University has given 2 lacs, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research has given 1 lac but that is not enough. I am old now so I cannot run it forever. Personally I want younger people to take over. Among them are Ilhan Niaz, Noor Fatima and Khadim Hussain. Some books on the social sciences – such as one on the pioneers of the social sciences in Pakistan and the theses written on them - are in the pipeline. Others have been published. There is also the idea of a new award for the social sciences in general. This is because the Akhtar Hameed Khan cannot cater for all kinds of subjects. The bulletin will also continue to be published. The website will also be updated. Monographs will be written. There is much to be done and I have not started even talking of the Peace Foundation which will not only do research on issues of war and peace but also raise the consciousness for the desirability of peace. Indeed, if we do not think about such issues we will die as a race!
TARIQ RAHMAN: Thank you Dr Sahib. I think yours is an inspiring life.