The Pakistan Society Award was inaugurated in 2004. Its object is to recognise a person or group who has contributed significantly to the advancement of public knowledge and understanding of Pakistan in the UK.
Humayun Mughal - 2004
The first winner was Humayun Akhter Mughal, the founder of Akhter Education Trust which promotes exposure of multicultural British youth to Pakistan its people, customs and history through an original and most successful scheme ‘Experience Pakistan’. Humayun is the co-founder of Akhter Group plc. He graduated in electronics from University of Liverpool and originally worked as a research engineer for ITT Components Group prior to setting up Akhter Instruments Limited in 1979.
The Experience Pakistan project now in its seventh year, takes the form of a competition for pupils of Year 9 and 10 (i.e. about 15 years old). It is open to all schools in the UK. Working in small teams, pupils have to put together a computer-generated presentation about some aspect of Pakistan choosing from a selection of topics. Not only is the Experience Pakistan Project entirely consistent with the teaching of ICT in schools but also the ‘focus on citizenship’ in education.
The prize for the winning teams is 10 day trip to Pakistan, all expenses paid. You can find out much more about this innovative project from its website: www.experiencepakistan.org
Isobel Shaw - 2005
The recipient of the Award in 2005 was the renowned travel writer Isobel Shaw, who has significantly contributed to spreading knowledge about Pakistan in Britain – as a pioneer of modern guidebooks about Pakistan.
Isobel was born in Ireland; and now lives in Switzerland. She studied Archaeology and Anthropology at University of Cambridge, as well as English Literature. She fell in love with Pakistan when she lived there between 1978 and 1981. Since then she has been back countless times.
When Isobel first arrived in Islamabad less than 30 years ago, she was dismayed to find that there seemed to be no modern guidebook to help newcomers learn about the country. So she set out with characteristic energy and determination to fill this gap. The result was her Pakistan Illustrated Guide, which was so popular that it ran to five editions. Much fuller, and absolutely packed with fascinating information, was her Pakistan Handbook which has appeared in two editions. She has returned to the great mountain ranges in the North, the Karakorums, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas, year after year for adventurous trekking and exploration with her son Ben; together they wrote the first comprehensive book about trekking in Pakistan: the Pakistan Trekking Guide.
She has also written many articles on Pakistan, as well as chapters in various books such as Old Roads New Highways which was published to mark the 50th Anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence. Isobel Shaw has successfully brought knowledge about Pakistan to a great many people in this country – as well as in other countries. Her love of Pakistan, its people, the variety of its scenery and its rich history, shines out from every page of her books.
Dr David Mathews - 2006
Last year’s Award was presented to Dr David Mathews for his contribution to the promotion of Urdu language and literature, teaching, research and writing in the UK. For six years he served as Chief Examiner in Oriental and African Languages for the International Baccalaureate. He frequently participates in the activities of the Urdu-speaking communities of the UK and Europe, and has a special interest in the teaching and examining of Urdu in British schools. He has also examined doctoral dissertations for a number of Pakistani universities, as well as for the Sorbonne and the University of Oslo, where he was appointed examiner in Urdu.
David was born in London. His subjects at Grammar school were French, Greek and Latin. At University College, London, he gained a first class Honours degree in Classics and Comparative Philology. After graduating, he was invited to Downing College, University of Cambridge, where he carried out research into the relations between Mycenaean Greece and the civilisations of the Ancient Near East. For the examination of archival material it was necessary for him to embark upon a study of several ancient Semitic languages, including Babylonian, Assyrian and Hebrew. At the same time he began to learn Arabic.
In 1965, he was appointed to the Department of Linguistics and Phonetics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in order to teach the phonetics of South Asian languages. From this began his interest in Urdu and in the following year he transferred to the Department of South Asia in order to specialise in Urdu language and literature. In 1968, he made his first extensive tour of Pakistan and India, where he was able to visit many of the prominent universities and also to make the acquaintance of the greatest living Urdu writers of the subcontinent.
In 1975, he submitted his doctoral thesis on the history of the early Urdu literature, which was produced mainly at the courts of Bijapur and Golkanda between 1500 and 1700 AD. Over the last thirty-five years, during which he has worked exclusively in SOAS, he has frequently visited the areas of his academic interests, and maintains constant contact with the major institutions of Pakistan, India and Nepal. In relation to his interests in Urdu and Nepali literature he has addressed international conferences and lectured in Europe and other parts of the world.
His activities have centred upon classical Urdu verse and the works of Iqbal. He has also maintained an interest in Indo-Persian and the Islamic civilisations of Central Asia. So far he has published seventeen books on Urdu and Nepali language and literature including Anthology of Urdu Verse in English, and has contributed many articles to learned journals. Dr. Matthews has constantly endeavoured to bring Urdu literature to the attention of Western readers, and his translations from Urdu into English include works by Rusva, Anis, Hali, Iqbal, Ibn-e Insha and Shaukat Siddiqi. Future plans include a study of the Persian works of the poet Amir Khusro.