Conferences at MGSHSS Spring 2017

International Punjabi Conference

Tabinda M. Khan

On February 16 and 17, 2018, the Gurmani Center for Languages and Literature and the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences hosted an international Punjabi conference on the theme “Punjab’s Cultural Identity: Past and Present.”This was the first time that a Punjabi conference was held at LUMS and the hosts, Moeen Nizami, the Director of the Gurmani Centre, and Kamran Asdar Ali, the Dean of the MGSHSS, expressed their hope that it would become an annual event and would stimulate scholarship on Punjabi language, literature, and politics. Picture7The conference was conducted almost entirely in Punjabi, rather than English, which was a path breaking development for LUMS. In his concluding remarks, Syed Babar Ali, the guest of honor, exclaimed that never before had this much Punjabi been spoken inside a LUMS auditorium!

The conference began with a keynote speech by Mushtaq Soofi, an eminent writer and President of the Punjabi Adab Board, followed by five panels, one on Friday and the remaining four on Saturday.

The first panel was on “Socio-economic and cultural transformations of the Punjab [“Punjab vich samaji, maali tay rehtali kayapalti”] with Tahir Kamran (GCU, Lahore), Manzur Ejaz (USA), and Mahmood Awan (Ireland), and was moderated by Sarwat Mohiuddin (Islamabad). Picture2.5Tahir Kamran analyzedthe changes in the Punjabi oral tradition produced by the adoption of print technology and the use of Urdu as a symbol of Muslim nationalism. Mahmood Awan recalled that the British army recruited primarily from the Punjab, making it a foremost beneficiary of military spending on salaries; he used Punjabi folk literature to demonstrate that the army was perceived as a benefactor and army jobs as a path for social mobility. Manzur Ejaz explained that urbanization and the adoption of modern technology had transformed villages in Pakistani Punjab and had displaced many of the activities traditionally associated with village life. On Friday night, the conference concluded with a Punjabi Qawwali performance, which drew on the poetry of Waris Shah, Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid and Amir Khusro.

The second panel, “Punjab: Language and Identity” [“Boli tay Shanakht”], featured Tariq Rahman (BNU, Lahore), Amarjit Chandan (England) and Gurmeet Kaur (USA), and was moderated by Ali Usman Qasmi (LUMS). Picture1Tariq Rahman compared the Punjabi language movement with movements in other countries, and noted that it was a deviant case because it entailed a dominant ethnic group conceding the right to have its language serve as the basis for government and education, in the interest of nationalism. Amarjit Chandan asked conference participants why no one spoke of the Punjabi nation; he tried to uncover the reasons why Punjabis had been unsuccessful at organizing a movement for their linguistic rights. Gurmeet Kaur spoke about the need toacquaint children, in the Punjab and the diaspora, with Punjabi folk tales because they were based on a spirituality grounded in oneness with nature, which not only united people across religions and national borders but also countered the materialism of modern consumerist societies.

The third panel, “Classical Literature: Gender Question” [“Classical adab tay nar naari da sawaal”], analyzed the representation of women in Punjabi folk literature and in plays by (and about) the Punjabi diaspora in Canada. Anne Murphy, who heads the Punjabi Studies Program at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, narrated the story of Komagata Maru. In 1914, a group of 376 passengers from the Punjab attempted to emigrate to Canada on board the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru; all but 24 were denied entry because of an immigration law that allowed exclusion on the basis of race. Murphy argued that “the past is still present” and that thoughCanadians have come to recognize the Komagata Maru incident as a dark period in their history, discrimination persists in other forms, against immigrants but also against women. She analyzed three plays on the Komagata Maru incident and compared two which showed the perspective of the sole woman aboard the ship (her perspective was excluded from earlier productions). The other two panelists, Saeed Bhutta (GCU, Lahore) and Jamil Pal, analyzed the representation of women in Punjabi folk stories, and described how characters such as Heer in Heer Ranjha celebrated women as strong, feisty, courageous and bold. Zubair AhmaPicture3d moderated the panel and there was a lively discussion after the presentations. Audience members debated whether the “daadi” woman of Punjabi folk tales was a creature of the past and suggested that in future panels on the gender question, Punjabi women activists and artists should be invited to share their perspective.

The fourth panel, “Partition: The killers and the killed” [“Wandd: kaun qatil, kaun maqtul”] with Pervaiz Vandal (UCA, Lahore), Mazhar Tirmizi (UK) and Nadhra Naeem Khan (LUMS), was moderated by Kamran Asdar Ali (LUMS), and the fifth panel, “History owned fully or selectively” [“Tarikh de wirasat, puri ya adhuri?”] with Mushtaq Soofi, Qazi Javaid and Iqbal Qaiser, was moderated by Nadhra Naeem Khan (LUMS). Both panels discussed how colonial, communal and nationalist biases were present in historiography and considered whether it was possible to have an “objective” representation of historical events or if it was inevitable that history would be distorted to serve the needs of ideological movements.

Picture2The discussion was impassioned, and sometimes combative, but it demonstrated that the conference had successfully inspired participants to reflect deeply on difficult and controversial issues related to Punjabi historiography, linguistic rights and communal divisions (particularly the division between Muslim and Sikh Punjabis over the choice of Shahmukhi or Gurmakhi as the script for Punjabi scholarship).

A recurring question throughout the conference was how Punjabis could preserve and celebrate their shared language, history: and culture, while the territory of the Punjab was divided between two nation-states, and while the community structures of Punjabi diasporas often reproduced these national and communal divisions. It was perhaps fitting that the conference concluded with the launch of Gurmeet Kaur’s book for children, Fascinating Folktales of Punjab, at the Gurmani Foundation in Gulberg. In this beautifully illustrated book, Kaur presents Punjabi folk tales, in side-by-side Shahmukhi and Gurmakhi scripts with an English translation, and also provides a conversion table that can help children learn both scripts. By introducing children to the sights, sounds and tales of pre-partition Punjab in this linguistically pluralistic way, she demonstrated that it was possible for Punjabis to celebrate their shared cultural heritage without losing their distinctive identities.

Tabinda M. Khan is post-doctoral fellow at the Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature, LUMS.

Courts and Politics in Pakistan

On March 14 and 15, Prof. Mohammad Waseem, Director of the Political Science program in the HSS department, Prof. Martin Lau, Dean SAHSOL and Dr. Asma Faiz, Assistant Professor of Political Science, organized the LUMS annual conference on “Courts and Politics in Pakistan”. This conference was a joint collaboration between SAHSOL and MGSHSS. The two-day event focused on the crucial and controversial relationship between courts and politics in the country in the past and at present.Picture4

The keynote speaker, Senator Raza Rabbani, delineated the major stumbling blocks on the way to harmonious relations between the two institutions. Pro Chancellor, Syed Babar Ali, chaired the inaugural session of the conference. This was followed by seven working sessions that directly addressed the leading issues and interactions between the courts and the parliament, the constitution, Islamization of laws and the evolving complex relations between the Bar and the Bench, the specific case of KPK in the matter of judicialization of politics, as well as the courts’ attitude towards the mass mandate in general.

Picture5Leading scholars in the field participated in the conference from within Pakistan and abroad and shared their scholarly and professional experience in law and social sciences. This conference drew upon the intellectual input of academics, lawyers, justices, media personalities, and the civil society members as speakers, chairpersons and participants. The faculty and students of LUMS as well as other universities turned up in numbers to listen to what turned out to be a high-quality discourse.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Culture, Economy, and Society in Pakistan

Conference jointly organised by LUMS and the University of Nottingham.

The conference attendees came from Canada, UK, China, Singapore, Denmark, Malaysia, and all over Pakistan. The conference brought together a mosaic of complementary expertise and for three days there was intensive discussion which was theoretically informed and empirically rich examining CPEC at multiple levels— macro, mezzo, and micro, as well as comparatively. It moved the discussion from hyperbole, conjecture, and sensationalism to a more nuanced and critical understanding of this complex project and the multiple ramifications that are implicitly or explicitly connected with it. Also, how similar developments are being played out in other countries, thus giving a yardstick to compare developments in Pakistan.Picture6

The presentations were followed by a half day discussion on how to carry forward this cutting edge research agenda. This multilateral collaboration reflected on developing a large scale comparative project on the BRI, introducing new partners that can make this feasible as well as considering a publication strategy for the various presentations. The next year will see the development of a large scale comparative project and the selection of presentations for publication.


Event report – MGSHSS Invites You to Meet Our Alumni

By Bismah Azhar & Uzair Khawar

“What will I do after I graduate?”
“Which majors get the most employment opportunities?”

“How important is it to have a good GPA?”


These are some of the questions that every undergraduate student asks themselves at some point during their time at LUMS. The best way to get answers would be to reach out to the extensive and invaluable network of LUMS Alumni, who are excellent role models for current students and well placed to offer practical guidance regarding life at LUMS and after graduation.

To facilitate student-alumni engagement, the Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS) organized an Alumni Meet to give current students an opportunity to hear from and interact with a diverse group of alumni, about their experiences at graduate school and in the professional world.

The event was organized at LUMS on May 16, 2018. In attendance were the Dean of MGSHSS, Dr Kamran Asdar Ali, and several faculty members, including Dr Ali Khan, Dr Sadaf Ahmed, and Dr Waqar Zaidi. Dr Sameen Ali served as the moderator for the event. The auditorium was packed with excited and curious students, and the event generated fruitful discussion that students continued to talk about over the rest of semester.

The floor was opened by Mr Adnan Asdar Ali, CEO Multinet, with a discussion on the significance of multi-disciplinary approaches to education. Mr Ali encouraged students to step outside of their comfort zones and take courses from disciplines they were unfamiliar with.

“It’s important that you take the time to know what’s happening next door,” he said, referring to the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering (SBASSE).

Dr Sameen Ali then requested each of the guests to share insights from their careers, and talk about how their experiences at LUMS facilitated them in the professional world. Ms Sajjad, Batch of 2009, who works as a research consultant in the Cities & Infrastructure Programme at the University of Edinburgh, stressed the importance of critical reading and writing skills. She also shared her experience of choosing Urban Planning as the area of interest for her Senior Year Project and how it eventually led her to pursuing a Masters in the field. Students were encouraged to take up projects in their respective areas of interest for the host of opportunities they could potentially open up.

Ms Saadia Qayyum, Batch of 2010, serves as the Chief Energy Economist in the Government of Punjab, and while talking about her experience of working in various governmental offices, she debunked certain myths surrounding social science majors and employment opportunities. “There’s this widely held notion that MBA holders get paid more than someone with a masters in social sciences, but this is not true, it really depends on your skills and what you bring to the table,” Ms Qayyum clarified.

Students have always dreaded choosing between a career path that offers financial stability and “doing what they love.” “If I’m really passionate about what I do, but I’m afraid it’s not going to make me a lot of money, should I still do it?”

Mr Imran Ahmed Khan, Batch of 2014, who is the head of Player Acquisition & Management at Pakistan Super League, and Mr Hissan ur Rehman, Batch of 2007, who works for the Pakistan Cricket Board, addressed these concerns. Picture2Mr Khan pointed out that the “sweet spot” between your passion and a career that will pay the bills is not as elusive as students might think. “Trust me, you want to be doing something you love, in order to do your best work. That desire will make you more creative and more resourceful and therefore more valuable to your employer.” Mr Hissan ur Rehman added “At the end of the day, it’s all about waking up excited to go to work – if you have that, you know you’re in the right place.” A collective sigh of relief from the students followed.

Mr. Hashim Zaidi, Batch of 2008, who works for Oxfam GB, further enunciated that doing what you love pays off in the long run. He recounted his own experience of quitting his corporate job to work for an NGO. Crediting the range of social sciences courses offered at LUMS for his success, he went on to explain how the skills he acquired in the program allowed him to excel in the development sector. Rather than worrying about the rat-race of the job market, students’ time is better spent honing the skills that MGSHSS equips them with.

When it comes to stories about applying to graduate school, Ms Zahra Zaheer Mirza’s is one of resilience. While working with Adam Smith International and McKinsey & Company, Ms Mirza, Batch of 2013, applied abroad for graduate studies for three successive years and is now on her way to Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. Reflecting on her own experience as a field officer at Adam Smith, where she surveyed 2,500 schools across Punjab, Ms Mirza urged students to invest in studying and engaging in qualitative and quantitative research.

All of the speakers agreed that the academic rigour of LUMS and wide range of extracurricular activities that the university offers played a pivotal role in their personal development, and helped them stand out to employers as well as graduate school admission boards. They recommended that students make the most of what LUMS has to offer by visiting the Academic Writing Lab, being active in student societies, and of course, studying what they love.

Towards the end of the Meet, the floor was opened to questions from students. They raised a wide variety of queries ranging from finding a balance between academic and personal life at LUMS, choosing a major, and applying to grad school.

Many students expressed a desire to have easier access to all the valuable insights and experiences that LUMS Alumni have to offer. While the speakers encouraged students to be more proactive and use forums such as LinkedIn to connect with their seniors, it was also agreed that more Alumni Meets should be organized in the future, perhaps individually for each major. Picture3

This particular event materialized as a result of a discussion on student-alumni relations in Dr Sameen Ali’s Comparative Politics class, a testament to the need for better communication between the student body and the School so that student voices can be heard.

Once the event had concluded, students also had the opportunity to network and chat informally with the guests. About the event, an attendee, Naseer Ahmed, Batch of 2019, said, “I think I learned a lot of new things about life after graduation today. I was very anxious about what I would do with my Politics and Economics degree, and it helps to know that there is a huge network of seniors that we can reach out to for advice.”


Bismah Azhar and Uzair Khawar are students of the batch of 2019. Bismah is a Political Science major and is currently pursuing an independent study project on public attitudes towards violence in Lahore. Uzair is a Politics & Economics major.


Guest Speakers

Adnan Asdar Ali, CEO Multinet

Hissan ur Rehman, Pakistan Cricket Board, BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 2007

Fizzah Sajjad, Research consultant, Cities & Infrastructure Programme, University of Edinburgh, BSc (Hons) Social Sciences 2009

Zahra Zaheer Mirza, Former consultant, McKinsey & Company, BSc (Hons) Economics & Politics 2013

Imran Ahmad Khan, Head of Player Acquisition & Management, PSL, BSc (Hons) Economics & Politics 2014

Saadia Qayyum, Chief Energy Economist, Government of Punjab, BSc (Hons) Economics 2010

Hashim Zaidi, Global Urban Work Lead, Oxfam GB, BSc (Hons) Economics 2008

Remembering Saba Mahmood

Recording of an event held at LUMS to remember the life & work of

Professor Saba Mahmood.

Professor Saba Mahmood (1962-2018) was one of the foremost anthropologists of her generation.

Born in Quetta and raised mostly in Karachi, Mahmood studied at NCA, Lahore before moving to the United States in 1981 to study architecture and urban planning at the University of Washington in Seattle. She subsequently received an MA in architecture and urban planning from the University of Michigan and after practicing as an architect for some years, she went on to get an MA in Political Science from the University of Washington.

In the early 1990s, she joined Stanford University’s Anthropology program as a graduate student. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1998 and taught at the University of Chicago before joining the University of California at Berkeley as a faculty member in 2004, where she offered her last seminar in fall 2017.  At Berkeley, in addition to the Anthropology Department, Professor Mahmood was affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Critical Theory and the Institute for South Asia Studies (where she was instrumental in creating the Berkeley Pakistan Studies Initiative, the first of its kind in the United States).

Mahmood held visiting appointments at the American Academy in BerlinCenter for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Leiden University. She taught at the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, the Venice School of Human Rights, and Institute of Global Law and Policy. She was a co-convener of the Summer Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, Irvine. Mahmood served on the editorial boards of Representations,[5] Anthropology TodayL’HommeComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and Journal of the American Academy of Religion.[6]

Her book Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject received the 2005 Victoria Schuck Award from the American Political Science Association and was an honorable mention for the 2005 Albert Hourani Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association. Her second single authored book, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report received the 2016 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Her work has been translated into Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Polish.

Saba Mahmood was a visiting scholar at LUMS in March 2016, while here she gave a two-day seminar to faculty and students. She had planned to return to Pakistan later that year to start her new research project in her native land. She passed away on March 10, 2018 after bravely struggling against a malignancy for the past two years.

A full obituary can be read here.

Kamran Asdar Ali



Three Post-Doctoral Fellow Positions Open

ABR_1674_DxOThe Gurmani Center for Language and Literature (GCLL) and the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS) at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) announces three Postdoctoral Fellow positions for the academic year 2018-2019 (ten- month duration).


More details are available on the MGSHSS website.

You can read more about the Gurmani Center’s work here.


Reflections of an Exchange Student

by Hasan Hameed

‘Can you please tell us where the M-2 is?’ I asked a girl as I entered LUMS.

‘Ask a guy’, she responded angrily.


It was only many weeks later when it dawned upon me that M-2 was the male dorm. By then, asking for directions had become something of a norm, for every building looked exactly the same: a mass of red surrounded by a sea of green. Confusing though it was, the built environment had a special air about it: vast, green fields; red-bricked buildings coated green with creepers; narrow paths shadowed by trees on either side, their branches bending inwards to form archways—within days of arriving, I had fallen in love with the campus.

I soon found other things to like. Hostellites could come in whenever, and there was no dress-code for students. Such policies ensured a (relatively) much greater degree of freedom compared to IBA and most other universities in Pakistan. And then there was the cafeteria, the Pepsi Dining Centre, where one option each of chicken, sabzi, or daal was available at every meal, as was fresh salad and dahi, all at the most reasonable of rates. It was the warmth of the HSS faculty, however, that really made me feel at home. Senior year is perhaps the worst time to come on an exchange, abandoning the familiarity of your home institute just when grad school applications and senior year projects hang ominously. But the HSS faculty in general and my instructors in particular were welcoming and friendly, pushing me to think harder about both my academic projects and my career plans. I remain deeply indebted—personally and intellectually—to their kindness.

I was equally inspired by the richness of the academic culture at large. Almost every other day the Dean’s office organized a talk by some reputed scholar, and many of the foreign scholars such as Dr Margrit Pernau and Dr Akbar Hyder stayed on or near campus to give students a chance to meet with them in person. Literature, poetry and languages were greatly promoted through weekly seminars and other events, complemented by an impressive Urdu, Persian and Arabic collection in the library. While the LUMS library has been fortunate to receive the enormous Khalid Ishaq Collection, the immaculate way in which it has been catalogued and the well-trained and accommodating staff are equally important in making the library a buzzing center for research.

Unfortunately, most of my class-fellows were not as participative as those at IBA. The appalling way Class Participation points are generally marked, with fixed points for every session, in addition to the divisive relative grading system could be potential reasons for the lack of dialogue between students. Another reason could be the absence of a core curriculum that would ensure that all students receive a shared grounding across a range of disciplines. Beyond the classroom, however, student life was a dynamic affair, and it was heartening to watch students

that would ensure that all students receive a shared grounding across a range of disciplines. Beyond the classroom, however, student life was a dynamic affair, and it was heartening to watch students unequivocally call out the administration for its shortcomings, their vocal criticisms of authority unimaginable at a place like IBA.

I felt that student life was marked by wide-spread anxiety and depression with many students struggling to adjust in a space where there is almost as much pressure to ‘party hard’ as there is to ‘study hard’. In the long run we must think critically about the deeper values and aspirations that underlie these problems. At a personal level, becoming a little more sensitive to the people around oneself by going up to that freshman eating alone in PDC and knocking on your neighbors’ doors just to say salam and enquire about their day might be some of the little steps that go a long way in combating the increasing alienation among some students and transforming it into the empowering, life-changing experience that is a university education.




Hasan Hameed, a senior in the Social Sciences and Liberal Arts department at IBA Karachi, was an exchange student during the Fall Semester 2017 at MGSHSS, LUMS




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