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Living in Pakistan from April 1985
to September 1990
As I noted on my page ‘My reversion to Islam - in depth' I lived in Pakistan from April 1985 to September 1990 under the name of Yahya Abdullah. However, I want to stress that I do not recommend that reverts to Islam should travel to Pakistan seeking religious knowledge unless they are willing to be guided by the teachings of respected scholars such as Mufti Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, who is one of the leaders of Darul Uloom Karachi.
Darul Uloom is a madrasa (college, school) in Karachi that was founded by Mufti Shaykh Muhammad Shafi, the father of Mufti Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, after the family migrated from Deoband in India to Karachi in 1948.
Mufti Shaykh Muhammad Shafi was one of the leading lights at the Darul Uloom in Deoband – the seat of learning for the Chisti Tariqa. The latter is one of the main schools of tasawwuff (sufism) in Sunni Islam.
If a revert strongly feels in need of travelling to Pakistan for religious guidance then I would urge them to make contact with the Darul Uloom in Karachi on their arrival and be guided by their advice about where to go and stay.
Rasoolullah (sall-Allahu alayhi wa-sallam - may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) warned believers to keep good company and it is essential for reverts to heed that advice if they are visiting Pakistan.
While living in Pakistan, I concluded that even though the vast majority of the people believed in Islam there were some who, though professing Islam, were secretly fighting the religion.
If you go there you do not under any circumstances want to fall into the hands of such people. They can do untold damage to your Imam (faith).
I should explain that I had gone to Pakistan with the intention of migrating there. I believed it was a Muslim country and that I would be safe. Unfortunately, as I have set out below, events proved otherwise.
I should also add that my application for Pakistani citizenship was rejected, probably because I didn’t have enough money. The Pakistan Government wanted a surety – or deposit if you wish – of 500,000 Rupees and I could not afford to pay it.
The reason I warn reverts against visiting Pakistan is because while I was living there from April 1985 to September 1990 I was repeatedly targeted by somebody. I am not certain who that was, but among other things:
My name was blackened with lies, including claims that I was a Qadiyani or Ahmadi, a Communist and even a paedophile – none of the claims were true.
To clarify one point Qadiyanis or Ahmadis are members of cults who claim to be Muslims. However, they do not adhere to the teachings of Islam and as such are classed as heretics. They are hated in Pakistan and for someone to spread claims that I was a member of such a cult was very dangerous.
I was assaulted from what I recall about half-a-dozen times. On two occasions I was attacked so viciously I had to flee for my life.
Somebody also tried to frame me for committing murder – once in Islamabad and on another two occasions in Rawalpindi where I had gone shopping. Even though I believe the incidents were hoaxes and nobody was killed the whole matter was disconcerting to say the least.
On one occasion in Islamabad I was chased around by armed men in a car, one of whom put his arm out the window and fired a shot in the air to frighten me. Needless to say I had not done anything wrong. I was doing nothing more than walking in the evening from my flat in G7-Markaz to the shops at Aabpara to get a coffee and a meal.
Somebody also tried to deliberately get me into debt while I was living there. My mother sent me the money to pay my debts so I could fly home, but the money she sent was withheld from me sometimes for weeks on end. I cannot now be sure – but I think on at least one occasion I did not receive the money for a couple of months.
The end result was that I left Pakistan owing money. Even though I tried to repay most of my creditors on my return to Australia some could not be contacted.
Eventually, after consulting an Imam in Melbourne about the outstanding monies, it was decided I should give the money to charity and pray that the reward for the gifts should be transferred to my creditors. This is a legitimate path in Islam.
I want to emphasise that I forgive those who harassed me providing they were sincere Muslims who simply made a mistake – they may have thought I was a spy or even believed gossip that I was a Qadiani or Ahmadi.
I do not bear them any grudge. I am well aware of Pakistan’s history and understand they have good reason to be wary of foreigners.
ORGANISED CRIME RESEARCH
One complication to the whole matter of me living in Pakistan is that I wondered at the time if the harassment could be linked to research I did on organized crime while working as a journalist in Melbourne.
This is because there was an incident in Islamabad where someone tried to frame me for being a Communist.
I was puzzled by the incident and wondered if it was linked to my research in Melbourne because while I was working there as a journalist a colleague warned me that stories were being spread about me that I was a Communist.
At the time in Melbourne I knew the allegations were completely untrue and laughed the matter off, but they took on greater significance when I realised something similar was happening in Islamabad.
However, I must admit I was not the only one in Pakistan to be defamed by claims I was a Communist. Later, while working in Karachi, I interviewed a renowned filmmaker by the name of Mushtaq Gazdar for both Dawn – Pakistan’s most successful independent English newspaper - and MAG.
Gazdar was a well-known documentary filmmaker and had won various awards. The story I wrote for Dawn was about a documentary called The Killer. It highlighted the social effects of heroin addiction, focussing on the poor in Pakistan. It was published in Dawn’s Friday Magazine on December the 08th 1989. A copy of the story appears on my page headed Dawn interview Mushtaq Gazdar.
The story I wrote for MAG was about another documentary he had made about the lack of educational opportunity for girls. It was published in MAG on the 14th of June 1990.
What is not included in either story are off-the-record remarks Gazdar made that he had been accused of being a Communist – a slur he said on his reputation which had arisen only because he was trying to highlight social injustices in Pakistan.
At the time I said I would not publish his remarks because he feared retaliation, but it does not matter now because he is dead. He died on the 15th of November 2000. A copy of the story I wrote for MAG about his documentary appears on my pages headed:
· MAG interview Mushtaq Gazdar – 1
· MAG interview Mushtaq Gazdar – 2
· MAG interview Mushtaq Gazdar – 3
· MAG interview Mushtaq Gazdar – 4
Another reason I thought the harassment in Pakistan was linked to my research in Melbourne was because in Karachi I was told by someone that he had been told I was a paedophile.
Needless to say I am not a paedophile – I have never touched a child wrongfully in my life – but the claim took on a sinister light because among other things before travelling to Pakistan I had been investigating allegations in Melbourne in the early 1980s that a senior politician was being blackmailed because he had been filmed having sex with a child.
The politician in question was Rupert Hamer, who was premier of Victoria from 1972 to 1981. Hamer did not like his given name, Rupert, and he was popularly known as ‘Dick Hamer’.
It was alleged that Hamer was being blackmailed after he was filmed having sex with a child in a hotel room in Pusan, South Korea, in July 1979. The claim was made that he had been set up by somebody in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States who knew about his predilection for extra marital sex.
Hamer had gone to Pusan to jointly open the Commodore Dynasty hotel with the local mayor. The Commodore Dynasty was part of an Australian hotel chain that was expanding into Asia.
However, I want to stress that the allegations were nothing more than just that – claims that could not be proven in court and as such as a professional journalist I abandoned the investigations. Suspicion is not enough and the making of unsubstantiated allegations can be extremely damaging.
None of the informants were willing to testify in court and my evidence about the matter was worthless in the eyes of any judge. All my knowledge about the matter was based on testimony by other people and as far as the courts were concerned that was not enough.
Unless I could produce the informants before the courts so they could be examined as to the truth or otherwise of their claims my evidence would be dismissed as nothing more than hearsay – “information received from other people which cannot be substantiated; rumour”.
Note that I have used the words ‘professional journalist’, which is what I was in Australia. Even though I had held clerical positions and did casual work as a taxi driver to supplement my income, most of my working life had been spent as a journalist.
I had my first story published as a freelance journalist in The Age in Melbourne on the 19th of October 1968. It was headed ‘An actor’s dream’. Click on the link ‘The Age An actor’s dream’ to read a copy.
Another story headed ‘A LONG WAY FROM 3 QUID A WEEK’ was published in The Age on the 18th of January 1969. To read a copy click ‘The Age A long way from 3 quid’.
Because of my age I was too old for a cadetship and started my career in the media as a freelance. I was a sub-editor for much of the time, but also worked as a reporter.
The man who said he had been told I was a paedophile was the colleague of the Karachi Amir of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Syed Munawaar Hasan. I had interviewed the Amir for MAG, a popular weekly magazine that was published in Karachi.
The interview was published in MAG on the 17th of May 1990. A copy of the story can be seen on my pages MAG interview Karachi Amir 1- 4. The links are:
· MAG interview Karachi Amir - 1
· MAG interview Karachi Amir - 2
· MAG interview Karachi Amir - 3
· MAG interview Karachi Amir - 4
Other stories I wrote for MAG include:
· An interview with the Mayor of Karachi, Dr Farooq Sattar, headed ‘Water key issue facing Sattar’. It was published in MAG on the 12th of April 1990. Click the links 1-5 MAG Mayor of Karachi to read the story.
I think on reflection that the vilification and harassment of me in Pakistan probably had nothing or little to do with my research on organised crime in Melbourne, but at the time I believed that was at the heart of the matter.
The harassment of me that had started in Islamabad continued in Karachi. I had caught the bus from Islamabad to Karachi in late 1989 – from what I recall I arrived in that vibrant, bustling seaport in October.
I had decided in Islamabad that it was hopeless trying to settle in Pakistan. The persecution was too ongoing and on occasions too intense for me live there.
After I arrived in Karachi I contacted Dawn and was offered work as a freelance journalist. I wrote several stories for them. The first was:
Antiquarian books at risk KMC needs funds urgently. It was published in DAWN’s Friday Magazine on the 17th of November 1989.
Since DAWN was a broadsheet and I don’t have an A3 scanner I have scanned the story in two files.
The links to the story are:
· DAWN Antiquarian books - 1
· DAWN Antiquarian books – 2
Because at the time I suspected that the harassment was linked to the research I had done on organised crime in Melbourne I decided to write a story for Dawn headed ‘So, you don’t like Pakistan, eh?’ It was about some of the crime issues I had investigated as a journalist in Melbourne, including allegations that a Minister of the Crown, a man named Arthur Rylah, had murdered his wife Ann in 1969 and got away with it. The links to my pages carrying the story are:
· So you don’t like Pakistan - 1
· So you don't like Pakistan - 2
Other stories I wrote for Dawn were:
· ‘Command performance at auction rooms’: 24 November 1989. To read the story click DAWN command performance.
· ‘Drugs – a dirty word, a dirty war’. It was published in the paper’s Live Issues column on the 15th of December 1989. To read the story click DAWN Drugs – a dirty word, a dirty war.
· ‘If you want to get steamed up – travel PR’. It was published as the lead story for Dawn’s Friday Magazine on the 30th March 1990. To read the story click DAWN travel PR - 1 and DAWN travel PR - 2.
Today I’m inclined to think I may have just been the victim of some racist people who didn’t like foreigners - that the attempt to frame me for being a Communist and the claim I was a paedophile were nothing more than coincidences.
On the other hand I admit that I still wonder about what came to pass, but have surrendered it all to Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala - glory be to Him, the Most High). He knows best.
The mere fact that I was a Westerner who had reverted to Islam was enough to make some people jump to the wrong conclusions.
I recall one man in Islamabad telling me that as a child he had been told by his parents that his enemies all had fair hair and blue eyes.
Even though I don’t have blue eyes in those days, in the 1980s, I had plenty of fair hair. The way he looked at me after relating his parents ‘warning’ left me in no doubt as to what he thought.
This man pretended to befriend me when I first arrived in Islamabad from Lahore where I had been staying. I was very ill with amoebic dysentery when I arrived in the capital. I had contracted it in Lahore. Being a Westerner my body wasn’t adjusted to the heat and conditions and I quickly fell sick.
When I first met him I thought he was being a good Muslim, showing concern for a sick traveller. Sadly I was to find out later it was nothing more than a charade and he was actually spying on me.
His spying would have been of no consequence except that on one occasion he misunderstood a comment I made and passed it on to someone, who I assume was in the intelligence services.
An innocent remark on my part had been completely misconstrued and as a result I was nearly beaten up.
I only escaped by lying when later in the day – or it may have been the following day, I’m not sure now - someone jumped out of a car in a menacing manner and demanded to know if I was ‘Yahya Abdullah from Australia’.
Realising I was at risk I said I was an Englishman and told them I knew Abdullah and had seen him not long ago at the Pomy Restaurant in Aabpara.
Thinking they were on the right track they immediately hopped back in their car and sped off in the direction of Aabpara.
What I have set out above are just some of the incidents that befell me. All I can say is that if you have reverted to Islam and you are hoping to find a Shaykh who will guide you rightly I would try to find one in Australia.
There are many pious Muslims in Sydney and Melbourne who can set you on the straight path in Islam – there is no need to go overseas to learn the religion.
Needless to say after what happened to me I would never go to Pakistan again. Whoever targeted me made it more than obvious that I was not welcome and I am simply too old to cope with any more distress or anxiety.
I will add this, whoever was responsible for the persecution and harassment of me did immeasurable damage. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, which given certain circumstances can be a nightmare that can lead to suicide.
I’ve had it since I was a young man. It was possibly triggered by arguments I had with my father over his treatment of my mother.
Whoever hounded me, turned something beautiful and good – namely the worship of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala - glory be to Him, the Most High) – into something ugly and evil.
People like this can do enormous damage by poisoning others against Islam. It’s important to check your facts first before jumping to conclusions that are completely unjustified.
If it wasn’t for Allah’s mercy in sustaining me I could have turned away from Him. As it is I still believe He is the One and Only God and that His beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu alayhi wa-sallam - may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) is His Messenger – the Last of the Prophets – but that belief is only due to Allah’s Grace.
Ian C. Calderwood:
Formerly published on quran-e-hakim.com at Newcastle, NSW on 05 May 2022.
Restored at Lakemba, NSW, on quran-e-hakim.net on 02 March 23.
Rewritten and reposted at Lakemba, NSW, on quran-e-hakim.net on 30 March 23.
Amended and reposted at Lakemba, NSW, on quran-e-hakim.net on 01 April 23.
This latest edition published at Lakemba, NSW, on quran-e-hakim.com on 01 April 23.