Friday, January 20, 2017 EDITORIAL

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 EDITORIAL 

LAUDABLE VERDICT ON N’GANJ 7 MURDERS

RAB, police et al: Stringent discipline a must

 Laudable and much hoped-for, the judgment on the spine-tingling macabre case of sensational seven murders at Narayanganj has given some relief to the bereaved near and dear ones of the murdered people.  The court has convicted 19 former Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members and others in the sensational murder case.

On January 15, District and Sessions Judge Syed Enayet Hossain sentenced to death 19 RAB personnel and 7 others for abduction and murder of seven people including an ex-city councillor in N’ganj. Lt Col (retd) Tareq Sayeed, the son-in-law of Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, and two other RAB 11 officers – Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander Masud Rana—- were given the maximum penalty.
Even in the worst-case scenario it was inconceivable and beyond belief that the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers having served for a considerable time in the Bangladesh Army, which has a covetable glorious legacy of fighting and winning the Liberation War, could be involved in the basest skullduggery of contract killing of 7 innocent persons plus 4 others at Narayanganj, 24 km off Dhaka city.
Much to the chagrin of the crime-busting law enforcement agency RAB, the abhorrent criminalised officers and their rank and file have brought extreme ignominy and disgrace for the force.
Convict Noor Hossain, the main accused, was brought into Awami League politics by Shamim Osman, whose perceived complicity in criminality has been extensively reported in the media. When the 1/11 Caretaker Government took over, Shamim Osman ran away, the Weekly Probe reported. Till 2008, Shamim’s photo was hung as a most wanted criminal in the Narayanganj RAB office. It is a matter of concern for the locality people—-on 19 January it was reported in the media that that accomplices of Noor Hossain are in perfect order in the latter’s empire—-and some of them have even been elected in the recent NCC polls.
Seven people, including former city councillor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar, were abducted on April 27, 2014. Their decomposed bodies were found floating in the river several days later.  Nazrul’s family said former Awami League leader Nur Hossain had bribed RAB officers Tk6 crore for perpetrating the crimes.
No less than a dozen allegations of abduction, enforced disappearance and murder are there against the former RAB-11 commander Tarek Sayeed, who has been sentenced to death in this case.  Allegations have it that members of RAB-11 have been involved in countless illegal acts in Narayanganj, Comilla, Munshiganj, Chandpur, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Narsingdi and Nababganj and Dohar areas of Dhaka district. What is shocking is on many occasions, no cases were filed—-and even if cases were filed, police investigators said no proof of their involvement was found. Families of the victims of other incidents of atrocities now expect some other mysteries will be unravelled and justice delivered. [Vide Allegations of abduction against Tarek Sayeed galore dated Jan 19, 2017, en.prothom-alo.  com/bangladesh/news/ 136373]
Pointing to the terrible state of the rule of law and law enforcement agencies, a different incident resembles the horrific crimes of Mafia organised syndicate gangs and villains in crime thrillers. Saiful Islam Hiru, a former Member of Parliament and president of upazila BNP, and Humayun Kabir Parvez, president of town BNP, were abducted on their way to Comilla from Laksam in an ambulance. Their relatives filed a case afterwards, mentioning Tarek Sayeed as the number one accused. Badiul Alam, lawyer of the complainant, said a team of RAB-11 intercepted the ambulance that night and picked them up.. The Laksam police denied taking an abduction case. Afterwards, they filed a case with a Comilla court, which asked the police to investigate the incident. [Ibid]
When the police said they did not find any involvement of the RAB members, then the court asked the CID to investigate the case—-but after long 18 months the CID has not reported any findings.  The court acted again, seeking an explanation, to which the CID said they were yet to get a permission to speak to the accused.  Furthermore, they did not get documents regarding the previous investigation officers’ interrogation of the witnesses. The police did not submit a copy of the general diary the family had filed either.  [Ibid]
Besides, five years ago former RAB-7 commanding officer Lt Col Zulfiqar Ali Majumdar, later sacked, was arrested after some plainclothes members of RAB-7 on Nov 4, 2011 year had entered the Talsara Darbar Sharif in Anwara Upazila and allegedly looted money.  Four months later, the driver of the shrine Idris Ali on Mar 13 filed a robbery case with Anwara Police Station accusing Zulfiqar, several of his subordinates and three of their informers for committing the robbery. The RAB authorities sent its accused personnel back to their parent forces after a departmental investigation found them guilty of robbery.
When all is said and done, for the sake of espousing and upholding the concept of the Rule of Law, the RAB, police and all other law enforcement agencies have to be made accountable for which stringent discipline is a must in RAB, police and other agencies. With this end in view the Government may constitute a commission for drastically overhauling the agencies so that elements with the slightest propensity to criminality shall be identified and brought to justice.

 
Deplorable errors in textbooks
 
Appalling errors in primary-level textbooks for primary school children have become a matter of serious concern, but the authorities do not feel much urgency, it seems.  But Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told the media, “Give no importance to textbook mistakes,” adding that the people involved in the mistakes in government textbooks would be punished.
Thanks to the Education Minister, the past six years have seen a deluge of GPA-5 scorers in SSC and HSC levels, but, pitiably, they could not prove their worth in the varsity admission tests. What is more, hundreds of aspirants sat for test exam for150 seats in English department of Dhaka University, and only 2 candidates qualified!  Around 92 per cent of sixth graders don’t have the required competence in English, and 89 per cent of them lack proficiency in Bangla, according to a government survey.

Comment

 Laudable and much hoped-for, the judgment on the spine-tingling macabre case of sensational seven murders at Narayanganj has given some relief to the bereaved near and dear ones of the murdered people.  The court has convicted 19 former Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members and others in the sensational murder case.

On January 15, District and Sessions Judge Syed Enayet Hossain sentenced to death 19 RAB personnel and 7 others for abduction and murder of seven people including an ex-city councillor in N’ganj. Lt Col (retd) Tareq Sayeed, the son-in-law of Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, and two other RAB 11 officers – Maj Arif Hossain and Lt Commander Masud Rana—- were given the maximum penalty.
Even in the worst-case scenario it was inconceivable and beyond belief that the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers having served for a considerable time in the Bangladesh Army, which has a covetable glorious legacy of fighting and winning the Liberation War, could be involved in the basest skullduggery of contract killing of 7 innocent persons plus 4 others at Narayanganj, 24 km off Dhaka city.
Much to the chagrin of the crime-busting law enforcement agency RAB, the abhorrent criminalised officers and their rank and file have brought extreme ignominy and disgrace for the force.
Convict Noor Hossain, the main accused, was brought into Awami League politics by Shamim Osman, whose perceived complicity in criminality has been extensively reported in the media. When the 1/11 Caretaker Government took over, Shamim Osman ran away, the Weekly Probe reported. Till 2008, Shamim’s photo was hung as a most wanted criminal in the Narayanganj RAB office. It is a matter of concern for the locality people—-on 19 January it was reported in the media that that accomplices of Noor Hossain are in perfect order in the latter’s empire—-and some of them have even been elected in the recent NCC polls.
Seven people, including former city councillor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar, were abducted on April 27, 2014. Their decomposed bodies were found floating in the river several days later.  Nazrul’s family said former Awami League leader Nur Hossain had bribed RAB officers Tk6 crore for perpetrating the crimes.
No less than a dozen allegations of abduction, enforced disappearance and murder are there against the former RAB-11 commander Tarek Sayeed, who has been sentenced to death in this case.  Allegations have it that members of RAB-11 have been involved in countless illegal acts in Narayanganj, Comilla, Munshiganj, Chandpur, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Narsingdi and Nababganj and Dohar areas of Dhaka district. What is shocking is on many occasions, no cases were filed—-and even if cases were filed, police investigators said no proof of their involvement was found. Families of the victims of other incidents of atrocities now expect some other mysteries will be unravelled and justice delivered. [Vide Allegations of abduction against Tarek Sayeed galore dated Jan 19, 2017, en.prothom-alo.  com/bangladesh/news/ 136373]
Pointing to the terrible state of the rule of law and law enforcement agencies, a different incident resembles the horrific crimes of Mafia organised syndicate gangs and villains in crime thrillers. Saiful Islam Hiru, a former Member of Parliament and president of upazila BNP, and Humayun Kabir Parvez, president of town BNP, were abducted on their way to Comilla from Laksam in an ambulance. Their relatives filed a case afterwards, mentioning Tarek Sayeed as the number one accused. Badiul Alam, lawyer of the complainant, said a team of RAB-11 intercepted the ambulance that night and picked them up.. The Laksam police denied taking an abduction case. Afterwards, they filed a case with a Comilla court, which asked the police to investigate the incident. [Ibid]
When the police said they did not find any involvement of the RAB members, then the court asked the CID to investigate the case—-but after long 18 months the CID has not reported any findings.  The court acted again, seeking an explanation, to which the CID said they were yet to get a permission to speak to the accused.  Furthermore, they did not get documents regarding the previous investigation officers’ interrogation of the witnesses. The police did not submit a copy of the general diary the family had filed either.  [Ibid]
Besides, five years ago former RAB-7 commanding officer Lt Col Zulfiqar Ali Majumdar, later sacked, was arrested after some plainclothes members of RAB-7 on Nov 4, 2011 year had entered the Talsara Darbar Sharif in Anwara Upazila and allegedly looted money.  Four months later, the driver of the shrine Idris Ali on Mar 13 filed a robbery case with Anwara Police Station accusing Zulfiqar, several of his subordinates and three of their informers for committing the robbery. The RAB authorities sent its accused personnel back to their parent forces after a departmental investigation found them guilty of robbery.
When all is said and done, for the sake of espousing and upholding the concept of the Rule of Law, the RAB, police and all other law enforcement agencies have to be made accountable for which stringent discipline is a must in RAB, police and other agencies. With this end in view the Government may constitute a commission for drastically overhauling the agencies so that elements with the slightest propensity to criminality shall be identified and brought to justice.

 
Deplorable errors in textbooks
 
Appalling errors in primary-level textbooks for primary school children have become a matter of serious concern, but the authorities do not feel much urgency, it seems.  But Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told the media, “Give no importance to textbook mistakes,” adding that the people involved in the mistakes in government textbooks would be punished.
Thanks to the Education Minister, the past six years have seen a deluge of GPA-5 scorers in SSC and HSC levels, but, pitiably, they could not prove their worth in the varsity admission tests. What is more, hundreds of aspirants sat for test exam for150 seats in English department of Dhaka University, and only 2 candidates qualified!  Around 92 per cent of sixth graders don’t have the required competence in English, and 89 per cent of them lack proficiency in Bangla, according to a government survey.

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Understanding Narendra Modi’s monarchical frame of history

Dilip M. Menon
 
In the many critiques of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mode of political functioning, one of the knee-jerk characterisations has been to call him a fascist. This reaching for historical parallels from elsewhere shows a lack of introspection, and of imagination, regarding India’s own cultures of authoritarian rule, brutal hierarchies, and forms of political imagination.
Demonetisation was presented as a yajna through which the nation would be reborn through public suffering. In this exercise, Parliament was seen as merely an advisory body rather than representing the sovereign will of the people. Just as Parliament was not consulted, neither was the Reserve Bank of India. The actions of the government were presented as proceeding from the will and whim of the prime minister himself.
 
Monarchial mindset
There is something very monarchical about this form of functioning, which draws upon the memory of Hindu kingship. Kings, ascending the throne, announced the new era with the introduction of a new currency.  Starting afresh meant an effacement of the past, of history and of the achievements of previous rulers. We live now in the Modi era where images of him performing service (sweeping, spinning), meeting with world leaders, and unerringly looking at the camera are constantly produced and circulated in the media. It is the art of being a monarch in the age of the democratisation of technology.
The latest usurping of history has been in the replacement of Mahatma Gandhi by Modi in the Khadi and Village Industries Commission calendar for this year. It is quite clear from the photograph that Modi has little knowledge of spinning khadi: an exercise that requires complete absorption in the creation of the fragile thread. What for Gandhi had been a lesson in mindfulness and the subduing of the ego has become in Modi’s hands an exercise in sheer absence of mind. It is not enough to say that there have been other instances where the commission’s calendar has dropped Gandhi’s image. What we are witness to here is the ongoing replacement of all other images and sources of authority by the image of the new monarch.
 
Evacuation of history
Woody Allen’s film Zelig had the eponymous character present at watershed events in world history. The Hollywood film Forrest Gump riffed on this and inserted the character played by Tom Hanks into the events of 20th-century American history. These were examples of the longing to be part of history working creatively with the desire to say I-was-there. What Modi is engaged in is the evacuation of history and the stripping of its events of any resonance. It is an example of history-is-me. This is not about an erasure or airbrushing of people out of history alone. Joseph Stalin merely removed all evidence of the Marxist revolutionary and politician Leon Trotsky from historical photographs. He did not put himself into every photograph, morphing into every known hero of the Russian Revolution.
Modi’s monarchical frame of all history – past, present and future –being a record of his life and achievements has three distinct elements to it. The first is the stopping of time and restarting it: an “exploding of the continuum of history”. An act that would have been revolutionary had it arisen from a social churning, is now merely a narcissistic and conservative one since it is the decree of one individual. The second is the condensing of all historical achievements in the life of one person: Modi has appropriated all existing historical legacies from Nehru and Indira to the achievements (such as they were) of the United Progressive Alliance government and presented them as his own. If Atal Behari Vajpayee was the yugpurush (man of an era) to LK Advani’s lohpurush (iron man), Modi has cannibalised both images. Finally, there is the question of what might be termed teleology: that idea that all history was leading towards the coming of Modi. He, therefore, presents himself as the perfected form of all previous avatars of public service, excellence, and of heroism. There is no need for other heroes in this theological dispensation. As Krishna says to Arjuna on the battlefield, “Maamekam sharanam raja.” (Take refuge in me alone). We have transitioned from the ethos of democracy to that of surrender and bhakti.
 
Road to dictatorship
However, we must also think about the ironic continuities with a Gandhian performance of politics even as Modi seeks to transcend Gandhi. Gandhian politics was about his being the sole spokesperson of the Indian people against colonialism. BR Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose and many others were sidelined through moral persuasion as much as realpolitik. Gandhi was the exemplar who performed politics on behalf of the Brahmin, the Dalit and the Muslim; the masses could only watch with admiration and applaud.
Modi taps into this deep strain of bhakti that is immanent in the political psyche of the Indian. Ambedkar warned the Constituent Assembly in 1949, “In politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” And to a performance of kingliness, one might add.
 
Dilip M Menon is the Mellon Chair of Indian Studies and the Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand. — Scroll

Comment

Dilip M. Menon
 
In the many critiques of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mode of political functioning, one of the knee-jerk characterisations has been to call him a fascist. This reaching for historical parallels from elsewhere shows a lack of introspection, and of imagination, regarding India’s own cultures of authoritarian rule, brutal hierarchies, and forms of political imagination.
Demonetisation was presented as a yajna through which the nation would be reborn through public suffering. In this exercise, Parliament was seen as merely an advisory body rather than representing the sovereign will of the people. Just as Parliament was not consulted, neither was the Reserve Bank of India. The actions of the government were presented as proceeding from the will and whim of the prime minister himself.
 
Monarchial mindset
There is something very monarchical about this form of functioning, which draws upon the memory of Hindu kingship. Kings, ascending the throne, announced the new era with the introduction of a new currency.  Starting afresh meant an effacement of the past, of history and of the achievements of previous rulers. We live now in the Modi era where images of him performing service (sweeping, spinning), meeting with world leaders, and unerringly looking at the camera are constantly produced and circulated in the media. It is the art of being a monarch in the age of the democratisation of technology.
The latest usurping of history has been in the replacement of Mahatma Gandhi by Modi in the Khadi and Village Industries Commission calendar for this year. It is quite clear from the photograph that Modi has little knowledge of spinning khadi: an exercise that requires complete absorption in the creation of the fragile thread. What for Gandhi had been a lesson in mindfulness and the subduing of the ego has become in Modi’s hands an exercise in sheer absence of mind. It is not enough to say that there have been other instances where the commission’s calendar has dropped Gandhi’s image. What we are witness to here is the ongoing replacement of all other images and sources of authority by the image of the new monarch.
 
Evacuation of history
Woody Allen’s film Zelig had the eponymous character present at watershed events in world history. The Hollywood film Forrest Gump riffed on this and inserted the character played by Tom Hanks into the events of 20th-century American history. These were examples of the longing to be part of history working creatively with the desire to say I-was-there. What Modi is engaged in is the evacuation of history and the stripping of its events of any resonance. It is an example of history-is-me. This is not about an erasure or airbrushing of people out of history alone. Joseph Stalin merely removed all evidence of the Marxist revolutionary and politician Leon Trotsky from historical photographs. He did not put himself into every photograph, morphing into every known hero of the Russian Revolution.
Modi’s monarchical frame of all history – past, present and future –being a record of his life and achievements has three distinct elements to it. The first is the stopping of time and restarting it: an “exploding of the continuum of history”. An act that would have been revolutionary had it arisen from a social churning, is now merely a narcissistic and conservative one since it is the decree of one individual. The second is the condensing of all historical achievements in the life of one person: Modi has appropriated all existing historical legacies from Nehru and Indira to the achievements (such as they were) of the United Progressive Alliance government and presented them as his own. If Atal Behari Vajpayee was the yugpurush (man of an era) to LK Advani’s lohpurush (iron man), Modi has cannibalised both images. Finally, there is the question of what might be termed teleology: that idea that all history was leading towards the coming of Modi. He, therefore, presents himself as the perfected form of all previous avatars of public service, excellence, and of heroism. There is no need for other heroes in this theological dispensation. As Krishna says to Arjuna on the battlefield, “Maamekam sharanam raja.” (Take refuge in me alone). We have transitioned from the ethos of democracy to that of surrender and bhakti.
 
Road to dictatorship
However, we must also think about the ironic continuities with a Gandhian performance of politics even as Modi seeks to transcend Gandhi. Gandhian politics was about his being the sole spokesperson of the Indian people against colonialism. BR Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose and many others were sidelined through moral persuasion as much as realpolitik. Gandhi was the exemplar who performed politics on behalf of the Brahmin, the Dalit and the Muslim; the masses could only watch with admiration and applaud.
Modi taps into this deep strain of bhakti that is immanent in the political psyche of the Indian. Ambedkar warned the Constituent Assembly in 1949, “In politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” And to a performance of kingliness, one might add.
 
Dilip M Menon is the Mellon Chair of Indian Studies and the Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand. — Scroll

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 VIEW POINT 

Si monumentum

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin
 
Who was it who said: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines”?  It had to be another architect. It was: the American doyen Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright’s aphorism would have appealed to Habib Fida Ali. Habib had seen enough mistakes by well-meaning Pakistani architects litter our country’s urban landscape not to lament the truth in Wright’s remark.  Habib conjured his life, as he did his ideas, out of nothing. An Ismaili from Karachi, he protected his identity in the overt Punjabi classrooms and campus at Aitchison College, Lahore. He was later to exact his revenge by designing a sports complex in his alma mater.  In 1956, at the comparatively late age of 21, he joined The Architectural Association in London, where he learned his craft. After qualifying as a Member of ARIBA (Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects), he returned to Pakistan in 1964. Here he developed his practice, initially within the circumference of Karachi.  Habib found himself on the bottom rung of a ladder not overcrowded with talent. Good architects, like good cooks, came and went – some to Canada, a few to the Gulf, others to oblivion. Habib stayed. Gritting his teeth, he satiated the demand of fluttering, frothy society belles who wanted their houses designed by ‘Habib Fida Ali’. They sought status; he provided the symbol.  Habib’s first major institutional work is best typified by the now iconic Shell building, in Clifton. Some criticised it as an all ‘too too solid’ mass of grey concrete, a sort of Fida’s Folly. Those with taste interpreted it as an innovative architectural play of texture, light and volume. Almost subconsciously, Habib had given form to the influence of his artistic guru, a man incidentally only ten years older than himself - the American architect Robert Venturi - who won the Pritzker Architectural Prize (the architect’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize).
Habib followed Venturi’s dictum: “When I was young, a sure way to distinguish great architects was through the consistency and originality of their work...This should no longer be the case. Where the Modern masters’ strength lay in consistency, ours should lie in diversity.”
Habib dedicated himself to diversity. He experimented with spaces, with surfaces, with silences. Ironically, his very diversity settled into a pattern which became recognisable as his style, his signature.
I met Habib soon after he moved into a ramshackle old house in Clifton. It belonged to some elderly Parsi ladies who felt that Habib could maintain it better than they could afford to. Gradually, he converted it into a wife-less home for himself and a mini-museum of artefacts that reflected his ineffable taste. Like most green collectors, he began with the obvious – the odd piece of Gandharan sculpture, some Gardener bowls, token miniature paintings.  He asked my opinion of them. I advised him that, instead of collecting disconnected ephemera and mediocre miniatures, he should build up a collection of 19th century architectural drawings of sub-continental monuments done by local artists during the British Raj. From an incipient hobby, that became a passion. He pored over sale catalogues, he attended auctions in London, he scoured the vaults of dealers, and amassed an enviable collection.  He sold it within his lifetime. It was not because there was nothing more to buy, or that he had lost interest in the subject.  He knew that after him there would be no one who would appreciate his collection with the fidelity and concern that he had done. He preferred, like Queen Elizabeth II, to see his corgis die during his lifetime.
Whenever I visited Karachi, I would make his house a point of pilgrimage. Whenever I gave a lecture, he would ensure that he was in the audience. We were a mutual admiration society with no office address – simply the premises of his open, omnivorous mind.  If there was a jewel in Habib’s crown, it must be the renovation that he undertook with such sensitive brilliance of the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi. If only Mr Mohatta - the Marwari businessman who had built it and abandoned it in 1947 - could have lived to see it now. That heartbroken parting would have converted into the sweetest sorrow.
Few architects have the opportunity to design a complete university. Individual buildings, yes, but never an integrated, organic campus. Habib was given that responsibility by the Lahore University of Management Sciences. From his drawing board in Karachi, Habib’s ideas flew northwards the length of Pakistan and took solid form to become LUMS’ campus.
Habib, like anything good in Pakistan, has gone. LUMS’ main building is now covered with vines, but not to hide his mistakes. LUMS will remain Habib’s enduring epitaph, as St. Paul’s cathedral is to Christopher Wren. Si  monumentum requiris, circumspeci.
— Dawn, Karachi

Comment

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin
 
Who was it who said: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines”?  It had to be another architect. It was: the American doyen Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright’s aphorism would have appealed to Habib Fida Ali. Habib had seen enough mistakes by well-meaning Pakistani architects litter our country’s urban landscape not to lament the truth in Wright’s remark.  Habib conjured his life, as he did his ideas, out of nothing. An Ismaili from Karachi, he protected his identity in the overt Punjabi classrooms and campus at Aitchison College, Lahore. He was later to exact his revenge by designing a sports complex in his alma mater.  In 1956, at the comparatively late age of 21, he joined The Architectural Association in London, where he learned his craft. After qualifying as a Member of ARIBA (Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects), he returned to Pakistan in 1964. Here he developed his practice, initially within the circumference of Karachi.  Habib found himself on the bottom rung of a ladder not overcrowded with talent. Good architects, like good cooks, came and went – some to Canada, a few to the Gulf, others to oblivion. Habib stayed. Gritting his teeth, he satiated the demand of fluttering, frothy society belles who wanted their houses designed by ‘Habib Fida Ali’. They sought status; he provided the symbol.  Habib’s first major institutional work is best typified by the now iconic Shell building, in Clifton. Some criticised it as an all ‘too too solid’ mass of grey concrete, a sort of Fida’s Folly. Those with taste interpreted it as an innovative architectural play of texture, light and volume. Almost subconsciously, Habib had given form to the influence of his artistic guru, a man incidentally only ten years older than himself - the American architect Robert Venturi - who won the Pritzker Architectural Prize (the architect’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize).
Habib followed Venturi’s dictum: “When I was young, a sure way to distinguish great architects was through the consistency and originality of their work...This should no longer be the case. Where the Modern masters’ strength lay in consistency, ours should lie in diversity.”
Habib dedicated himself to diversity. He experimented with spaces, with surfaces, with silences. Ironically, his very diversity settled into a pattern which became recognisable as his style, his signature.
I met Habib soon after he moved into a ramshackle old house in Clifton. It belonged to some elderly Parsi ladies who felt that Habib could maintain it better than they could afford to. Gradually, he converted it into a wife-less home for himself and a mini-museum of artefacts that reflected his ineffable taste. Like most green collectors, he began with the obvious – the odd piece of Gandharan sculpture, some Gardener bowls, token miniature paintings.  He asked my opinion of them. I advised him that, instead of collecting disconnected ephemera and mediocre miniatures, he should build up a collection of 19th century architectural drawings of sub-continental monuments done by local artists during the British Raj. From an incipient hobby, that became a passion. He pored over sale catalogues, he attended auctions in London, he scoured the vaults of dealers, and amassed an enviable collection.  He sold it within his lifetime. It was not because there was nothing more to buy, or that he had lost interest in the subject.  He knew that after him there would be no one who would appreciate his collection with the fidelity and concern that he had done. He preferred, like Queen Elizabeth II, to see his corgis die during his lifetime.
Whenever I visited Karachi, I would make his house a point of pilgrimage. Whenever I gave a lecture, he would ensure that he was in the audience. We were a mutual admiration society with no office address – simply the premises of his open, omnivorous mind.  If there was a jewel in Habib’s crown, it must be the renovation that he undertook with such sensitive brilliance of the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi. If only Mr Mohatta - the Marwari businessman who had built it and abandoned it in 1947 - could have lived to see it now. That heartbroken parting would have converted into the sweetest sorrow.
Few architects have the opportunity to design a complete university. Individual buildings, yes, but never an integrated, organic campus. Habib was given that responsibility by the Lahore University of Management Sciences. From his drawing board in Karachi, Habib’s ideas flew northwards the length of Pakistan and took solid form to become LUMS’ campus.
Habib, like anything good in Pakistan, has gone. LUMS’ main building is now covered with vines, but not to hide his mistakes. LUMS will remain Habib’s enduring epitaph, as St. Paul’s cathedral is to Christopher Wren. Si  monumentum requiris, circumspeci.
— Dawn, Karachi

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