A literary reference held on Sunday for late author, scholar, linguist and lawyer Sirajul Haq Memon (1933-2013) renewed calls to set up a modern university the late editor of Hilal-e-Pakistan had envisioned.
Memon had even donated his property in Hyderabad, where Sindh Education Trust was housed, and also deposited Rs2million as seed money for his dream project in the 1990s, speakers at the Arts Council pointed out. They urged the provincial government to set up a memorial in name of the prominent intellectual who passed away on February 2.
Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the late writer was a courageous personality who could dare to say “no”. He recalled that his role in journalism was full of commitment. “Journalism without sensitivity and consciousness of the people’s problems would be superficial,” he added.
In his brief address, the Sindh Assembly speaker said he had just come to pay his tribute to a personality that was committed to the province.
Prominent short story writer Amar Jalil said Memon had written editorials from 1972 to 1977 and wrote weekly columns in the 1990s, which should be published now as they were the “living history” of Pakistan.
He recalled that it was on the advice of Siraj, who was the editor of Hilal-e-Pakistan in the 1970s, that he started writing daily columns and was given the task to determine who was responsible for the trouble in Sindh.
“Sindh’s downfall started when the British unchained wolves [feudal] after 1947,” the former vice chancellor of Allama Iqbal Open University added. “After Partition, others may or may not have got independence but the waderas got unbridled independence to destroy Sindh.”
Referring to his recent visit to rural areas to make a documentary on Moenjodaro, the educationist said the feudal were “adversaries” of Sindh who could easily get away with murders as no one was willing to give evidence against their cruelties.
Once ZA Bhutto referred the complaints from some feudal to the editor over his columns but Memon replied by saying that there was only “one voice of dissent” in the newspaper full of government’s praise and this should be appreciated as a “plus point,” Jalil recalled.
He also referred to an alleged treason case against him for writing a short story book in the mid-1970s and issuance of non-bailable warrants as he was creating “disaffection” against the government among the youth.
As a Supreme Court lawyer, Memon excelled in the field of taxation laws, said Anwar Mansoor Khan, a former attorney general of Pakistan. He regretted that the government did not take advantage from his expertise in the tax regime as he could have helped the government to overcome financial difficulties by increasing its tax net.
He also shared some memories starting from his first meeting with Memon in 1975, Khan’s very first day in the legal profession. “I considered him as my elder brother,” he added.
The late Sindhi writer’s intellectual capacity was evident from the fact that he wrote his first book in 1964 when he was still young man, Sindh University’s former vice chancellor Mazharul Haq Siddiqi said. His novels also demonstrated his deep knowledge of history about the invaders who plundered Sindh at different times. “There was at least one character in all his literary writings, which gave hope and courage to the people to fight for their legitimate rights,” Siddiqi said.
Memon’s elder son, Arshad Siraj Memon, in his brief speech said his father was a humanist, a reformer and a tolerant personality, who loved education.
Sindhi Language Authority chairperson Dr Fehimda Hussain said her brother struggled against the injustices meted out to Sindh. He never, however, lost hope and stressed upon sustainable struggle to achieve justice and fair play.
Dr Fehmida became emotional while recalling some moments of affection of her elder brother with all family members on every weekend at his residence.
Memon was instrumental in the emergence of a “civil society” in Sindh and called for enhancing its role, said prominent TV dramatist Noorul Huda Shah. She also recalled the anger from some powerful quarters in 1970s, when she wrote a short story on the “secrets of Haveli”, but Memon made it clear he would not ban her writings come what may.
Dr Suleman Sheikh, the founder of Sindh Graduates Association, said the late editor had revived a “think tank” by the name of Servants of Sindh Society to bring reforms in 1980s though this society was first established in 1926 but became inactive later.
Memon had envisioned a modern university and even helped to establish the trust, for which some land was also surveyed but unfortunately his dream could not materialise in his lifetime, he said.
Sheikh recalled that Siraj had also filed a petition when the Federal Shariat Court declared the quota system un-Islamic. Though the Supreme Court issued a stay order against the judgment, yet his petition was never disposed of.
Memon being a linguist also helped Sheikh to translate medical terms in Sindhi language to spread awareness about common diseases, he said.
Senior lawyer Rochi Ram pointed out that the Sindhi lawyer also strived to understand the language of the people of Mohenjodaro and approached foreign experts to consult them on hieroglyphs of Egyptian pyramids. So far only three to four words of Mohenjodaro’s language have been understood, which Sheikh considered to be of a huge service to Sindh.
Memon was the pioneer of research on the history of Sindhi language, renowned linguist Dr Qasim Bughio said. After exhaustive research, he came to the conclusion that Sindhi language did not derive from Sanskrit or Arabic and instead was the mother of Sanskrit.
Novelist Ghulam Nabi Mughal said Memon was the founder of modern short story form in Sindh and his literary works helped the resistance movements in Sindh.
Poet Imdad Hussain said the late scholar played a significant role in the movement against imposition of One-Unit in the country. He considered this period as the golden period of Sindhi literature.
Literary critic Mazhar Jamil said Memon’s literary works were marked by understanding of the history.
Jang Editor Nazir Leghari said Memon led the second generation of journalists in Sindh who emerged after the creation of Pakistan and gave new dimensions to journalism. (The first generation emerged during the colonial period.)
Arts Council of Pakistan president Syed Ahmed Shah, Karachi Bar Association president Naeem Qureshi, poet Sahar Imdad, lawyer SM Sibtain, journalist Ahfaz Rehman and columnist Dr Ayub Sheikh also spoke at the event. They termed Siraj Memon a multi-dimensional personality who excelled in literary works, law and journalism.