I left Pakistan from Karachi Airport on August 29, 1980, and landed in New York the next day. Thanks to Anis Dani I was able to meet Saqib Jaffrey on the flight. Saqib dropped me at Iftikhar Ahmad’s flat in the vicinity of Columbia University. We walked through parts of Harlem in the evening. Iftikhar was a former member of Student Bureau of NSO. He put me in touch with Manzur through a phone call. It gave me a sense of community in a foreign land. I stayed with him overnight and on the evening of August 31, I checked into my room at 109 Harkness Hall, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Aurangzeb Syed another member of NSO’s Student Bureau was in Buffalo. Soon afterward Khalid Mahmood moved to New Orleans, Louisiana and a couple of years Nazeer moved from Germany to Houston, Texas. This was the Old Boys network that was of enormous support to all of us in dealing with various ‘existential’ issues.
Next day I visited economic department and International Centre at Queen’s University, my new found home. Queen’s University was home to many starry-eyed young revolutionaries from places as far away as Chile, South Africa, Bangladesh, Ireland, Turkey, Pakistan, and Canada. International Centre provided us excellent opportunities to get in touch with other like-minded students and activists. Activist students’ community at Kingston consisted of Kingston Solidarity Committee, Amnesty International, Catholic Church and other similar organizations. Susan Steele, Director of International Centre was herself a committed activist; through her, I got to know Kim Grieg, Laurie Aitkin, Steve Piper, Bev Schakowsky and Hugo. Bev Schakowsky was active in local trade union movement; Hugo was a young revolutionary in exile from Chile and Steve Piper was editor of student magazine Yaketee Yak, Don’t Talk Back. Another community I found was of revolutionary intellectuals who did not take part in activism but cherished revolutionary ideals; they included Marxist Shams ul Alam and Abu Bhuyian from Bangladesh, Nelofar Asghar from Pakistan, Askoglus’s from Turkey. I had another dear Bangladeshi classmate Mansoob Murshid, who was the son of Justice Mahboob Murshid, a prominent opposition leader in East Pakistan the last days of Ayub Khan’s government. Mansoob was a close friend of mine and had unique insights about politics and culture of Britain and its colonial rule in India.
Outside the Solidarity Committee, I came across Barbara Neuwelt, granddaughter of a Jewish Polish Ambassador in Hitler’s Germany. Her grandfather had to run for life as things took an ugly turn in Germany. The family finally converted to Catholicism and Barb was active in community work through the Church and local charities. We struck good friendship due to our common dreams and this friendship continues to this day. Monique Bontje was of Dutch parentage and was a student of Nursing School. She was active with Amnesty International and was a great inspiration to me due to dedication and commitment to community service. Two undergrad students Sandy Goundry and Elizabeth Jones developed a close interest in Pakistan due to their close interaction with me as teaching assistant and wrote their term papers on Pakistan. I also became part of a very small Siraiki community consisting of an Indian Student whose parents had migrated to India from Dera Ghazi Khan and a Ph.D. student Mehta who was Professor of Mathematics in Delhi, and who migrated from Multan to India at the age of 5 at the time of partition. Another good friend of mine was Sunil Bakhshi, President of International Students Union at Queens who became a close friend and when a correspondent of Queen’s University’s Journal Caroline Roberts approached him for an interview, he suggested my name and had my interview published to reflect views of South Asian students at Campus.
An important part of my life was Pakistani community at Queen’s. It consisted of well known Pakistani Professors Khaled Bin Saeed, Fayyaz Ahmad, and Mohammad Qadeer. Professor Saeed and Qadeer were prolific writers and highly respected in the academic community. Professor Qadeer is a true Lahori; a loving, hospitable and cultured person and a people’s intellectual. He is a man of very big heart and during my stay at Queen’s his love, affection, and hospitality was a great source of strength for me. Professor Qadeer was a close friend of Dr. Feroz Ahmad who visited Kingston during my stay and I had a delightful meeting with him at Qadeer Sahib’s home. Faiz Sahib visited Kingston sometime earlier and stayed at a Pakistani high school teacher Jamil Rashid, who for some queer reasons is mistaken for a Professor of Queen’s University by many people. During my studies, a Pentagon Officer came to deliver a public lecture on Balochistan’s situation on the invitation of Political Studies Department. I served as a Teaching Assistant under a delightful man Mahinder Chaudhry who taught Development Economics at the undergraduate level. During 1980 two remarkable movies on resistance Gandhi and Missing were shown in local cinemas and generated interesting discussion among our circles. I shall write in detail about some of the episodes mentioned above in the next post. I would also like to say a few words about my teachers Richard Lipsey, Dan Usher and Frank Flatter and the circumstances that led to my transfer to the University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA.