Exploring the Early History of Pakistani Civil Aviation

A year or two before the Partition, Jinnah would tell the Muslim industrialist Habib Rahimtoola that he wished to form a Muslim airline:

‘Habib’, he said, ‘I want an airline which will be the reserve for the Pakistan Air Force. By starting an airline you will employ technical staff. You will have pilots. You will have navigators. You will have all these people, all trained technicians. They will be my reserve for my Air Force’.

Or so recalled the one-time senior PIA executive Enver Jamall in his 1980s memoir. One cannot be certain if Jinnah ever said those words—civil aviation remains so intertwined with nationalism that the two are difficult to disentangle, even today. But that is exactly what my new research project on the early years of Pakistani civil aviation sets out to do. Using private and public sources both in Pakistan and abroad, my project explores the contours of civil aviation in Pakistan in its early years, and its relationship to the state and the nation-building project.


Passengers and bystanders with an Orient Airways Douglas DC-3 on the occasion of the arrival of the Burmese High Commissioner to India at Calcutta, October 1947.

The outline of the early years of Pakistani civil aviation are well known. The first airline to operate out of Pakistan was Orient Airways, formed in late 1946 by a group of leading Muslim industrialists, prominently Mirza Ahmed Ispahani. Initially based in Calcutta, the airline shifted its operations to Karachi in October 1947, and remained Pakistan’s leading airline until it was folded into the newly formed Pakistan International Airline Corporation in 1955.

The period from 1947 to 1955, I am discovering, was an exciting and turbulent time for Pakistani aviation.  The fledgling Pakistani airlines–which included, as well as Orient, Yusuf Haroon’s airline Pak Air Limited and the non-scheduled charter airline Crescent Airways–struggled through a wide range of challenges. On the technical front, civil aviation had to contend with a shortage of trained personnel and spare parts, challenging maintenance logistics and rapid technological change. Other than Karachi, civilian aerodromes were crude and increasingly unsuited to the new generation aircraft entering service by the early 1950s. The relationship with the state was a difficult one—there were heavy government demands in times of emergency, and following several prominent crashes, increased government and public concerns over safety. Pakistani aviation moreover could not function without foreign assistance. British, and later American, technical support was crucial to the running of aircraft and aerial facilities. Perhaps most galling for the country’s civilian and military leadership, aeroplanes connecting East to West Pakistan needed to land and resupply in India.

The era of private civil aviation officially ended with the formation of the state- controlled Pakistan International Airline Corporation in 1955. How and why this came to be is an important aspect of my project. What pressures and opportunities pushed the state toward the creation of a state airline, and what was its relationship to the nation and nationalism more broadly? The project also explores the international context, particularly technical assistance programs by the United States, and international civil aviation (including in post-colonial states).



Waqar Zaidi is Assistant Professor at the MGSHSS.




This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

Teaching Economics Like the Last Thirty Years Matter

Three economists from the MGSHSS— Faisal Bari, Ali Cheema and Rashid Memon—have been involved in the teaching of CORE, ‘an open- access platform for anyone who wants to understand the economics of innovation, inequality, environmental sustainability and more’. As a free, open-access courseware, it is available for pedagogical use in economics classrooms and helps students get a taste of how real-world economics is done. 

CORE achieves this through content innovation and question formulation that is based on evidence and economic debates in the real world today. As a collaborating institution of CORE, LUMS has been a global forerunner in adopting the curriculum as part of its undergraduate program. Not only are Faisal Bari, Ali Cheema, and Rashid Memon engaged with the teaching of CORE at the Department of Economics, they also serve as peer reviewers of the CORE curriculum whose suggestions have been incorporated into the courseware.

In the sterile world of textbook economics, agents are individualistic in the extreme, rational to the point of being robotic and moved into action only by financial concerns. This view served a particular purpose: If all these assumptions were met, the market mechanism could achieve as efficient an outcome as a socialist/planned economy.

With the cold war over and markets firmly in the driving seat, the time was ripe to question the axiomatic foundations of this type of economics. At least three Nobels have been awarded for introducing germs from the real world into economic models. George Akerlof, Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz for introducing informational asymmetries, Daniel Kahneman for integrating insights from psychology and Richard Thaler for continuing in Kahneman’s tradition and ‘making economics more human’.

Despite these strides, textbook economics has remained religiously devoted to its roots, rendering it anachronistic and uninspiring.

CORE offers much respite by breaking away from this tradition and presenting ‘modern’ economics in an accessible format. First, CORE takes a behavioral approach to economics. This means that we are no longer interested in models that contribute to grand debates such as markets versus socialism, but are simply interested in modeling localized human behavior. As a corollary, the text takes behavioral facts as points of departure and teaches one how to construct models that could potentially explain said behavior. This deep connection between theory and behavioral fact is a remarkably important pedagogical tool.

acAli Cheema teaching a class.

Second, the text allows for a nuanced institutional context by moving away from the binary of capitalism/socialism to degrees or varieties of capitalism. From a modeling perspective, this allows a student the flexibility to locate economic agents in a context as close as possible to the reality being modeled but without cluttering the model with unnecessary detail.

Both these features permit the CORE to develop models of markets that are ‘imperfect’ in terms of mobility of agents and in the information and rationality they possess and allow students to explain numerous every-day behaviors. For example, whereas standard models argue that workers are paid according to their productivity, CORE’s models bring bargaining power to center stage. Students find the latter to be much more realistic. Equally importantly, the new model is constructed such that if neither the worker nor the employer had any power, the new model would collapse into the standard model. Introducing students to how economists model power in an introductory setting is CORE’s most important contribution in terms of substance as well as the tools (strategic games) required to build such models.

Finally, for the truly passionate, CORE offers a number of video clips from famous economists as well as ‘enrichment’ boxes that provide snippets from the life of eminent economists – for one must not forget the intellectual giants on whose shoulders we stand today.  




Rashid Memon is Assistant Professor at the MGSHSS.




This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

Diwali at LUMS

By Hafsa Khawaja

For the past two-three years, the student society, Hum-Aahang, at LUMS has celebrated Diwali. LUMS has a small group of Hindu students, most of whom are unable to return to their homes for this religious festival. Hum-Aahang tries to create an atmosphere of festivity and celebration for them on campus, which is their home away from home.

diwOn October 19, 2017, the entire LUMS community was invited to the Festival of Lights in the Central Courtyard. The event began with the creation of the traditional rangoli by students in the middle of the Courtyard, followed by enthralling live performances by the Music Society, a series of dances prepared by various students, the distribution of pamphlets detailing the history, meaning and significance of Diwali and the distribution of mithai to all those who were present there, which included several faculty members, the Dean of MGSHSS and hundreds of students from across the batches and schools. Abbas Moosvi of Hum-Aahang captured the atmosphere of the celebration in the following words:

diw2The lights, the candles, the sweets, the flowers, the colours, and the decorations each played their part in cultivating the spirit of the Hindu festival in all its magnificent glory. It was a night on which the LUMS community truly united to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair – values that Rama-chandra (the 7th incarnation of Vishnu) worked so hard to inculcate; values for which he battled Ravana, the demon-king, and emerged victorious following 14 years of fierce battle. In a time of grave intolerance and dismissiveness for diversity, we collectively proved that it doesn’t have to be that way – that together, we can rise above and celebrate one other’s opinions and outlooks. In the words of the great Sun Tzu, “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.” So let’s play!

diw1The event came to be a resounding success due to the overwhelming response it garnered. We were told by our Hindu friends and peers that not even for a minute did they feel they were away from home on such an important occasion. We were told by many others that the event was a much-needed respite from the mounting stress of academic pressure. And we were told by the rest that they had not enjoyed a university event as much as this Diwali in the longest while. Everyone at LUMS truly did come together as one community in the spirit of interfaith harmony, diversity and festivity on the day.

diw4Along with the festivity and fun, the event provided everyone with a moment to reflect on the message that resides at the heart of our tradition to hold Diwali at LUMS: inclusiveness, interfaith harmony, tolerance and an acceptance and appreciation of the diversity among us. The event intended to act upon these values not only by organizing celebrations for the Hindu community but by also attempting to expose the rest of the student body to the idea of the campus as a pluralistic space. It was an attempt to promote an openness of mind and heart towards those who may not share the beliefs of the majority but who belong to this community; and to whom each of us owes the responsibility and respect of demonstrating this in our acceptance, inclusion, consideration and celebration of them. We earnestly hoped that people would recognize the significance of these ideas and how much they matter even if the ideas are applied in a much less exciting manner because beyond the LUMS bubble, we live in a society where such notions are anything but accepted and the subsequently grim realities are for all to see.


The espousal of these ideas does not necessarily pass through grand efforts and events alone. It is important to learn to possess and demonstrate these noble ideas with conviction and courage in our beliefs, in our conversations and in our actions; in ways that may be small but that certainly are not insignificant.

Hafsa Khawaja is a student in the batch of 2018 and President of Hum-Aahang (2017–18).

This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

In the Streets of Lyari

I first visited Lyari in August 2012 when a colleague of mine, Laurent Gayer, invited me to help conduct a focus group discussion with members of a community-based organization that worked with youth in the area. Until this visit I had only heard snippets about this part of the city in terms of its reputation for violence and criminality, but I knew very little of substance about this supposed ‘no-go’ area. The members of the community organization talked about how Lyari had been maligned by the media, how people in Lyari were discriminated against in employment and how the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in particular had waged a campaign against the people of Lyari. The themes that they discussed— marginalization, stigmatization, political manipulation and state neglect—were issues I had explored before in my previous work on Muslim women, and my interest in the area grew from here.


Entrance to Lyari, Karachi

One of the city’s original settlements, Lyari has been the site of an on-going conflict between rival gangs, political parties and law enforcement agencies over the past two decades. Over the past five years, my research in this area has focused on the dynamics of everyday life, examining how diverse residents cope with, strategize around, and resist multiple forms of violence by state and non-state actors and in public and private spaces. My research also looks at the impact of structural forms of violence that result from economic deprivation and discrimination faced by marginalized urban citizens.

Because of the periodic conflicts taking place in this area and in the city as a whole over the past two decades, fear has become a way of life for many of the residents. In my work, I analyze how young men belonging to the Baloch community learned to navigate through the periodic bouts of violence by adapting their movements within the city and even at times by migrating outside the country. This research demonstrates the ways that the insecurity and fear caused by violence reinforces social and economic marginalization.

I approach the residents of this area not as passive victims of violence but as active citizens negotiating multiple constraints. Residents assert their agency in a variety of ways—from everyday coping strategies to outright resistance. I have conducted extensive research on a series of street protests that took place in Lyari from 2012 to 2014 organized against law enforcement agencies, political parties and the gangs. This research highlights how acts of resistance are constrained, determined by and constitutive of particular relations of power.

Laurent Gayer and I have also collaborated on a paper investigating the local media’s relationship with the conflict, focusing on Lyari’s most popular newspaper, Janbaz. This research explores the ways residents engage with the local newspaper as a means of negotiating the conflict, as a form of entertainment, and as means of establishing a sense of community. It also draws attention to the newspaper as an arena where local state and non-state actors compete for power. I have also worked with a local filmmaker from the area to produce a short documentary based on these findings. My research on Lyari challenges the division that exists within the literature between public forms of violence, such as the violence between criminal gangs, political parties and law enforcement agencies, and private forms of violence, such as that which is experienced by women within their homes. In this regard, I have conducted interviews with women working in a variety of fields exploring the relationship between their involvement in paid employment and their experiences of violence in multiple spaces—at home, in public and at their places of employment. This research draws attention to the shifting sites of potential violence for women depending on their social, economic, and political circumstances. It also explores how changes in the economy have affected gendered power relations.

In the coming year, I plan on developing my research on Lyari into a full-length manuscript, which will explore the relationship between gender, marginality and urban violence in greater depth. The manuscript will make a series of important interventions in the fields of gender and urban studies. Firstly, it will contribute key insights to the understanding of violence in Pakistan, highlighting its links with economic, social and political factors. Secondly, it will focus on a part of Karachi that, despite being one of the city’s oldest and most conflict-ridden settlements, has received relatively little scholarly attention, thus contributing to the understanding of urban marginality in South Asia and in the Global South more broadly. Thirdly, it will highlight the gendered experiences of urban violence—an area that has received very little scholarly attention in the region or elsewhere. Finally, by analyzing instances of everyday and organized resistance, the project will frame the city as a key site for the assertion of citizenship rights among marginalized populations.



Nida Kirmani is Associate Professor at the MGSHSS.



This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

Muslims Against the Muslim League: An Interview with Ali Usman Qasmi

Ali Usman Qasmi is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the MGSHSS. He works primarily on the political history of Muslim South Asia. His book The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan won the Karachi Literature Festival Peace Prize in 2015, and his latest book Muslims Against the Muslim League was published with Cambridge University Press in 2017. 


Cambridge University Press recently published your co-edited volume, Muslims Against the Muslim League. Did your previous work lead you to this?

 Well, there is no consistent pattern as such with one project leading to another. My main focus has certainly been Muslim South Asia, especially in the modern period, and I’m looking at various reform movements, contestations with the idea of modernity, colonialism and the way it has shaped the discourse on Islam in contemporary South Asia. My doctoral research was on a set of movements, called Ahl al-Qur’an, and afterwards I started working on a project looking at the history of the Shi‘a community in the Punjab. The Ahmadi book was, in a way, accidental. I hit upon this large cache of really exciting material in the archive that hadn’t been explored before and I thought that this was something that needed to be utilized.

Muslims Against the Muslim League emerged from my active interest in trying to move the gaze away from the Muslim League to include all the other things happening in the context of Muslim South Asia in the first half of the 20th century. I was, and still am, working on a biography of Ataullah Shah Bukhari, a very famous political leader and polemicist through whose life I wished to look at various political processes of the colonial period. It was during this that it occurred to me to have an edited volume bringing together various political figures and ideas that were prominent in Muslim South Asia beside the Muslim League. In a way, I thought of the title before the content.

Naturally the title is an indication of the contents, but what was the thought process behind the selection of contributions? What makes it thematically cohesive?

I partnered up with Megan E. Robb, who was at Oxford at the time, and we were very lucky in terms of contributions. A lot of people liked the idea and were willing to contribute. Of course, it could have been better. There is so much we didn’t cover that could have enriched our understanding of what happened. But the central premise is that there’s a rich complexity when it comes to the political events of the 1940s, especially the debates around the idea of the Muslim qaum, and the kind of political petitioning being made on behalf of that qaum. All the chapters coalesce on the point of needing to explore this complexity. The Muslim League narrative has been most popular because it was successful, but this doesn’t mean there weren’t other alternatives to it. Even other narratives that conceptualized the Muslim qaum but approached it differently, or envisioned a different future for it. In a way, from my perspective, the idea was to enrich the meaning attached to the notion of that qaum, rather than reduce it to the League’s version of the two nation theory, and perhaps begin a much-needed conversation.

A lot of your work seems to be on extremely delicate subjects? How do you negotiate the controversy around the things you write about?

Well the first thing is that the books are in English, and not many people read in English. The second is that they’re not available in Pakistan. Of course, I’d rather they were, because, as I said, part of the endeavor is to begin a discussion. I’m not polemical in my arguments, and I try to remain very academic in my approach. My aim is to have critical engagement with these different texts, and that is what makes academic works useful in this sense. Because they’re not polemical or sectarian, even if they are provocative, they can act as conversation-starters. As academics and faculty members at LUMS, an institution that espouses certain values of contribution to society through research and teaching, this is part of what we’re supposed to do.

How does teaching tie into all of this? Are your courses usually connected to your research work or are they completely independent?

In my case, my work tends to be related to what I teach—I teach a course on Islamic Movements, and one on Regional Histories of Pakistan. But it’s more than that I think, because it forces you to read a lot, and in fact read more broadly, stuff you won’t otherwise read and move beyond your area of expertise. It also helps you become more articulate, and helps you improve the way you communicate your point. In both these ways, I feel that teaching complements my research.

Now that this book is out, what are the projects we can expect to see in the future?

In terms of my research and teaching I’m moving towards vernaculars and literature. So, I have developed a course that covers the Urdu literary history in the 19th century, and hopefully there will be a follow-up course focusing on the 20th. I’m also drafting a course with Zahid Hasan in the Gurmani Centre, where we’ll teach the Punjabi genre of Waar. Waars are basically poetic renditions of war or mythical traditions. The idea is to give an introduction to the form, its contents, diction, themes. It’s an alternative imagination of what history can be: an entirely different way in which people have approached the past, talked about it and passed it on. More generally, when I’m done with my current projects, I feel like it will be time to move toward cultural studies (enough of political history for now). For instance, I’m very interested in the tradition of Punjabi marsiya, because it is something that is very close to my heart.

Sara Saleem Khan, Research Fellow, conducted this interview.

This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

News Shocks and Teaching Methods: An Interview with Syed Zahid Ali

Syed Zahid Ali is Professor in the Department of Economics at the MGSHSS. He has an extensive record of high quality research. He has published extensively in internationally recognized journals, including well-regarded journals such as Economics Letters, International Review of Economics & Finance and Economic Modelling, as well as in leading Pakistani journals.

Macroeconomics is a rather broad field; could you explain in which areas of macroeconomics you mostly work? 

In the past, my research has touched on a wide range of topics in open economy macroeconomics. I have, for example, done research work that sought to provide explanations of the well-known price puzzle, namely that an increase in policy interest rate could paradoxically raise inflation. In much of my work, I have also looked at the concepts of exchange rate pass-through and cost channel of monetary policy.

sf Are you interested in theoretical or empirical macroeconomics?

In general, my work is informed by advanced mathematics and shares a macroeconomic policy context. A common theme is the role of interest rates and/or exchange rates to deal with economic distortions. I have also, however, published work related to trade, productivity, intangible capital, and unemployment issues.
Can you briefly tell us about your recent research contribution?

I have recently become increasingly interested in news shock models. My papers, ‘Degree of Openness of the Economy, Habit Persistence, News Shocks and the Price Puzzle’ and ‘Anticipated vs. Unanticipated Currency Depreciation and the J-curve Phenomenon’, for example, would fall under the category of open economy business cycle literature with news shocks. This is still a nascent literature and most contributions have focused on anticipated (news) shocks to total factor productivity. In my own work, I have tried to move beyond this traditional use of anticipation effects and apply them to other sources of exogenous fluctuations like terms of trade shocks and shocks to monetary policy. Beyond novelty, the aim has been to show that these types of anticipated movements can have important implications for explaining outstanding puzzles in the literature. For example, the introduction of anticipated movements in the terms of trade of an economy can help explain why a J-curve exists whereas the same economy without news shocks would be unable to explain this phenomenon. Similarly, the introduction of anticipated changes in monetary policy can help resolve the ‘price-puzzle’, which refers to the empirical finding that prices increase after contractionary monetary policy.

You are passionate about teaching. How do you integrate research with your teaching responsibilities?

Teaching is important to me, and I have taught courses in a number of modules
and streams within the economics major. I think I have taught nearly fifteen
different courses, including those at the very basic level (Principles of Micro and Macro) and advanced Masters level courses. In designing and developing courses, I have tried to include my own research into the course material, and also to reduce the gap between courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. Where I can, I try to keep my approach technology-driven, and employ a blended learning strategy (by using MATLAB and Dynare in Macroeconomics courses) to create a work-integrated learning environment for my students. I have also taught courses in the MBA program and attempted to diversify by teaching focused quantitative courses such as
Econometrics and Financial Econometrics. I also supervise both undergraduate
and post-graduate research projects, which I consider an important responsibility since they are often key contributing factors to my students’ admission prospects for universities.


Kashif Zaheer Malik, Assistant Professor (Economics), conducted this interview.

This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.


Neither. Nor. Trans*: Dispensable Masculinities and the Uneasy Promise of Trans* in Pakistan

Recording from February 13th, 2018
Speaker: Omar Kasmani

Organised by the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative, LUMS.


Omar Kasmani’s work discusses third gender grammars and the parallel emergence of trans* in Pakistan, which offers an anxious and unsettled mode of futurity. The talk explores the task of tentatively mapping an unfolding landscape in transformation; disclosing the perils as well as the promises that trans* as a language holds for third gender politics in Pakistan; and taking note, especially of its dynamics—the expansion and contraction of categories in particular situated contexts.

28166516_1794968630523610_915138501506799426_nA particularly salient subject in the light of the ongoing state institutionalization of three additional gender categories in Pakistan since 2011, and the inadvertent revitalization of queer publics. Curbing this site of futurity, however, is the issue of how contemporary trans* activism in Pakistan is particularly burdened by khwaja-sira realities and how progress is potentially courted by risks, especially, that of sanctioning a singular trans* logic.


Photos and video courtesy the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative, LUMS.