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Monday, June 11, 2007

The forgotten ZAB

The initials, since Mr Bhutto's arrival on the scene in Pakistan, became his ... for his audience was far wider. But the ZAB to whom I am referring was Z A Bokhari, Radio Pakistan's first Director General. He was the younger brother of the more well-known and amazing Patras - a mixed blessing that earned ZAB the unenviable nickname (Ghalat Bokhari) among friends.

ZAB was an enigmatic person. A fascinating conversationalist, he was disliked by many for his blunt remarks that often balanced precariously on the wall between rudeness and witticism. I am amazed at not being able to find any photos or enough references to him on the internet to share with you. Being in Lahore at the moment, I am also not in possession of my own resources among which, I am sure, I would find a picture or two. I had requested his daughter (wife of Mr Hakim Ali Zardari), during a chance meeting in the early 90s, to help me with the compilation of his works. Sadly, I could not follow this up because of the turmoil in Karachi that followed and the project was shelved. Guess I need to find a link to her again ...

Apart from Bokhari sahab's barbed wit and brilliant conversation, his theatrical recitations, dramatic and powerful voice, and unmatched rendering of marsiaas, what really fascinated me about him was his superb poetry that, too, seems to have received far less attention than it deserved.

Lost, also (since no trace of it seems to exist in Radio Pakistan, unless they just ignored my request for it), is the delightful rendering by some unknown singer of his ghazal with the matla':

güzree hae üsee tarah bahaar abkay baras bhee
ho gee nah bahaaroñ mayñ shümaar abkay baras bhee

What reminded me most of ZAB, recently, was a ghazal of his I which I often recite to friends. It is as hasbé haal as can be. Here is a shayr of his from another ghazal (recited at one of the Ghalib Centenary tarahee mushaeraas) that makes an apt preamble to the themes in the ghazal I shall treat you to:

shahr vaalo, maeñ payambar nah vali thaa, laykin,
maeñ nay jo küchh bhi kahaa ho kay rahaa mayray baad


So, without further ado, dear readers,
here iz ZAB, in his own voice.

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Blogger Raza Rumi said...

the last shayr is superb. I tried to leave a comment earlier but it seems to have vanished as the blogger was processsing it.

It is a pity that legends such as ZAB are fast fading into oblivion - the values, talents and committments have changed dramatically in a few decades. Commercialism seems to be the primary motive of media..What ZAB left as an institution has been relegated to a mediocre mouthpiece of the government and replaced by even more ghastly FM culture..

11 June, 2007 12:48

Anonymous Ghazala said...

@Zakintosh, what a marvelous post on the real ZAB, The entire piece was a treat to listen to, please do dig up more from your limitless prose/ poetry resources and lets have much more of such wonderful poetry.
Yaqeenan hasbe haal!

11 June, 2007 13:38

Blogger mystic-soul said...

wah wah...maza aa gaya..

What a precious audio !!!

12 June, 2007 04:57

Blogger kinkminos said...

"ghalat" ka laqab notwithstanding, the (perhaps not so) tenuous link between the two ZABs would be fascinating, if it weren't so sad. It prompted one iconoclastic wag to comment:

Pappu, yaar, tung na kar

13 June, 2007 02:47

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I could never thank you enough for posting this!

13 June, 2007 14:02

Blogger Fawad said...

ZAK, as always we can count on you to provide that beautiful literary perspective amongst the mayhem. I knew almost nothing of ZAB as a poet. Perhaps I will look for his poetry the next time I am in Pakistan.

I have to say I have had a generally unfavorable view of ZAB, his erudition and a commendable job at Radio Pakistan not withstanding. My mother gave me his autobiography "Sar Guzasht" as a gift many years ago and despite the incredibly rich life that he led I couldn't get past his pretentious writing. It did not have a whiff of authenticity. (By comparison when I think of Lutfullah Khan Sahib's book "Sur ki talash", I was overwhelmed with its warmth and sincerity.)

I think he does suffer in comparison with his brother who was more talented and better liked. For those who read Urdu, one of the more interesting profiles of Patras is by Aashiq Hussain Batalvi in his collection of essays called "Chand Yadain Chand Tasurat".

14 June, 2007 03:00

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Fawad, you are not alone in holding an unfavourable view. ZAB (like his initial-sharing politician) was vindictive and revengeful, often rude, and always egoistic. And this is just what his 'friends' say :-)

His favouritism and rewarding of sycophants at Radio Pakistan was as well known as his mistreatment and sidelining of those who refused to bow their heads. Pakistan's great loss of Ba∂é Ghulam Ali Khan - who re-migrated to India - was a result of ZAB's actions.

On the other hand, his efforts to promote classical music and mushaaerah on the air, as well as the quality of the publication, Aahang, that Radio Pak brought out under him cannot be forgotten.

His prose, I am afraid, held no interest for me. Amusingly, I too was gifted a copy of Sargüzasht by my mother. [Hmmm. Wonder what one can read into that.] But I really enjoy his poetry and the recitation of marsiaas that survive.

Incidently, one of my cherished possessions is an EMI 33 1/3 RPM LongPlay record (I am sure some readers are thinking "what the hell's that?"). It was produced by Lutfullah Khan sahab: Tilaavaté Surah Al Rahman. Featuring qir'at in the voices of 4 of the Qasmi brothers and their sister (less often heard but equally impressive), it has Shaikh al-Hind Mahmoodul Hasan's translation read by ZAB. The cover art - something that has lost a great due to the smaller size of CDs and cassettes - featured 40 calligraphic work of the Surah by Sadequain. The tafseer, in the unlikely case that someone is interested, was by Shah Baleeghuddin, a very popular religious scholar/orator and the cause of some controversies of that time.

14 June, 2007 09:37

Anonymous the olive ream said...

Bohat Khoob!

18 June, 2007 12:38

Anonymous Syed Ayaz Bokhari said...

Thank you for this post. Hope you can pull out more material on ZAB and expand the Blog. For those interested in his brother Patras Bokhari, check out the website

20 June, 2007 20:52

Anonymous Zulfikar Khan said...

Assalamu Alaikum
My Name is Zulfikar Ali Khan.
This name was kept by the Great Z A Bokhari(Bukhari Saab as we called him)
Bokhari Saab was a good friend of my father Qazi Ahmed Saeed. He visited our house in Peshawar and in Pindi many times. We do have his photographs and some recordings. Allah willing on my next trip to Pakistan I will get some materials. Bukhari Sahib named my mother as "mister" I dont know why? But I will try to find out from my elder sisters.
I remember his white hair and his white very bushy eyebrows and his majestic voice deep and with authority.
Regards and salams
Z A Khan
Manchester England

19 January, 2008 18:19

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Ayub Aulia and knew Z A Bokhari quite well. I met him in late 50's at Majeed Lahori's place in Karachi. He wrote for me....
" Ayub Aulia! jeetey raho..tumharey
Liqe koi shayr yaad naheeN aA rahA
aur aatA bhi to chashmey ke baghair
likhna muhal hai...utkal se likhtA huN..
jis per shahr ka shahr hay barham baat woh itni hay..
apni apni sab kehtay the bol uthA deewana bhi..."
Z A Bokhari (signed)
Does somebody know the whole ghazal? Will be grateful, regards,
Ayub Aulia, London

23 April, 2008 18:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever one might say about ZAB, both him and his brother led prolific lives and contributed much to the cultural landscape of a young Pakistan.

Interestingly enough, I was reading a biography of George Orwell and found ZA Bukhari's name mentioned in it. Apparently he was Orwell's boss while he was working for BBC India.

It's sad that we don't have comprehensive information on individuals such as himself.

28 September, 2008 01:32

Blogger Shayan said...

Salaams, Kidvai Sahib.

So interesting to read these posts, and views on ZA Bokhari, who was my Nana (I am the daughter of his elder daughter, Parveen). I have actually started to undertake some research on my grandfather, and would love to get any information available on him, should you have any. My Khala is still in possession of some of his writings, and is trying to get some of them published. any help would be greatly appreciated.

I have to say, its curious to hear Daddy (as we called him) described as arrogant and disliked -- my sister and i were lucky enough to have grown up living with my nana and nani, and while I remember him as a strong presence, I also recall very clearly the enriching atmosphere of our home that came from all his friends, and people who gathered around him every evening. They consisted of people that ranged from writers, poets, singers, artists, to people he helped and supported, despite not having much money himself. Infact, I can remember clearly as yesterday that at his death our home was flooded with people we did not even know that he knew, some whose children he had been educating, others whose families he had been supporting. I remember even as a young teenager, learning from his life and death that his generation of 'pakistanis' had the enviable ability to reach across fake boundaries of class and status -- what did matter greatly to him was creativity, talent and education, though, so perhaps that was where the arrogance stemmed from.

Anyway, obviously mine is a very subjective view. What I do know is that he was able to make a significant contribution which I also believe should not go unrecorded. You can get in touch with me through our mutual friend Beena Sarwar, who I had asked earlier to put us in touch on another issue.

I really look forward to hearing from you and anyone else who has information on ZA Bokhari.


Shayan Afzal Khan

26 February, 2010 04:45

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Shayan

Thank you for such a lovely comment. Two other commentators also seemed to know him well and may also help you ...

My comment on Bokhari sahab, whom I admired immensely in many ways, did say that his 'friends' had a lot of negative things to say about him. However, those were the things that they felt. I am sure that growing up with him must have brought you into a much closer view of the man. Would love to read more about him from you.

Radio Pakistan (I have just been told that) has over an hour of him reading his works. Perhaps they may respond to your request better.

My phone is 0300-823-7911

26 February, 2010 14:02

Blogger Bukhari said...

Dear Shayan
Big thanks and Salaam to Kidwai sahib who started this chain. No doubt, Bukhari brothers "Chottay Bukhari and Baray Bukhari" have earned great fame. They were pioneers of the Radio and have done eonrmous work in Urdu. They left behind memorable stories. I have read the "Surguzesht" his autobiography and have one in my collection.One of the best book, I really feel very relaxed when read it."Kuttey" by Patras Bukhari is still fits here in UK in todays life. I also own a harmonium in excellent condition which his brother Patras Bukhari used to play. Its nice to discover those who have blood relations but never met in life.I might be able to contribute something about ZAB.I am aslo working on my family history. I would have written you an email directly but unfotunately, couldn't retrieve your email from this blog.
Anyway, my email is, if interested get in touch. Inshallah, we will discover a lot more.
Kind regards
Shahid Bukhari

26 November, 2010 03:51

Anonymous Kamil Rextin said...

Scanning and putting up old pictures of ZAB on flickr for now and then a website archiving his life.

24 July, 2011 23:50


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