Interview: Keeping the legacy alive
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, his wife Alys Faiz and daughters Salima and Moneeza can all be categorised as distinguished individuals in their own right, though indeed the larger than life and legendary persona of Faiz Sahib still continues to outshine them all.
However, this overshadowing is more like the benevolent shade of a strong and leafy tree that serves to protect and nurture, and which also has space within its branches to allow its beneficiaries to look beyond the confines and find their own guiding stars.
While Alys was the quintessential supportive and indomitable wife-cum-activist, as children, Salima and Moneeza braved whatever came forth in the struggle of their parents, and imbibed their sterling values along the way. The tribulations of their childhood have long been overtaken by the privileges and honours that come with being the offspring of the one who since long has acquired international fame and respect. But they have kept the legacy of their father alive in many ways, both professionally and as human beings.
Yes, we are here to talk primarily about Moneeza, but this can be done more effectively with the distinguished family picture as the backdrop. In this context it is to be mentioned that while Salima devoted herself vociferously to the fine arts and art education, Moneeza evolved into an effective administrator and executive in organisations that have to do with mass communication and the ever growing electronic media networks, at home and abroad.
She feels that while she has a good relationship with her sister, even managing to advantage the fact that they ‘shared the same mother-in-law’, (mother of the Hashmi brothers), they are ‘poles apart’ in terms of personality and inclinations.
For one, Hashmi feels she has no aptitude for fine art, and her style of working and getting things done are considerably more aggressive and authoritative. She admits to being almost abrasively upfront and easily agitated, and the one who does not suffer fools gladly.
Nonetheless, in the course of the interview, she somehow came across as a very reasonable and pleasant individual, easy to communicate with, and with no haughty airs that often tend to go with people who are accustomed to exerting authority.
Hashmi’s professional credentials are impressive, almost daunting. Besides many other professional commitments, and high accolades, she is currently the elected president of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), and this honour has been bestowed upon her for the second time now. The fact that she is the first ever woman to attain this prestigious post is an honour for Pakistan and she is helping to promote her country to the best of her abilities.
The other significant achievement is that she is helping PTV to initiate an English channel that will be aired by the end of this year. At this point one must be reminded that Hashmi has had a long and distinguished career at PTV in the not too distant past, and she eventually rose to become the first ever (and the only) woman general manager, as well as the longest serving one, of this important national organisation.
Many popular and acclaimed programmes were produced by her during those years, including Akkar Bakkar, Aik Do Teen and Qissa Char Dervaish, which made their way into international media forums.
Hashmi credits her indefatigable energy in part, to her genes, especially from her British-born mother Alys, as well as to her having developed a positive attitude to life, wherein one always considers ‘the glass to be half full, rather than half empty’. She manages to juggle her multifarious professional commitments, and her family life with aplomb, and of course through the understanding and tolerance of her husband who is a psychologist, her two sons and their wives and children, who all live with her and accept her as she is, perhaps even succumbing with good humour, to her authoritative personality.
Hashmi continues to have her fingers in many pies, what from being the president of an NGO The Himmat Society focusing on the elimination of gender bias and promotion of human rights, to being at the helm of various professional training programmes at home and abroad. Both the electronic media and education are her focus, and in fact her formal qualifications are specifically related to the latter field.
Gender issues and the promotion of women’s rights are of special interest to her and she has on various occasions made a special effort in this regard. For example, her production of Khawateen Time, a daily women’s transmission on PTV was the first ever public-private partnership between PTV, NGOs and civil society organisations to promote awareness regarding gender issues, human rights, rights of minorities, reproductive health, education, economic empowerment, violence against women and their legal rights.
Hashmi has a positive outlook on life in general and this spills over in her attitude towards Pakistan. She is convinced that the majority of our people are hardworking, intelligent and aware of what is right or wrong, and she is particularly appreciative of the resilience of the working classes belonging to the lower income group, especially the womenfolk who show immense courage in coping with adversities in life.
She also does concede that the educated and privileged classes have been too apathetic in their response to the injustices in our society, and if we have bad leaders, we have only ourselves to blame. It is high time, she feels that civil society should unite against what is wrong and especially not wield space for obscurantist forces. If Pakistan has to become a just and tolerant society, we will all have to play our part and not look the other way.
As for the scourge of terrorism in the country, she concludes that it is a complex and multifaceted problem, but we can overcome it if those who govern this country can succeed in “cutting off the life lines, of these forces, that is, their roti, paaani, and also by educating our masses”. The menace of violence in society upsets her, almost on a daily basis, but she brushes off negative emotions with the belief that in life one has to go on undaunted by the perils that may occur.
It does appear that this dynamic lady subscribes to the philosophy that jo dar gaya, voh mar gaya (he who succumbs to fear will die), and has, over time, developed the ability to bulldoze over obstacles with force and resilience. Also a deeply religious person, she feels that her faith plays a role in giving her strength and courage.